D.I.Y re-skinning a Canon Canonet in Santo Rosewood Veneer: a step by step tutorial.
I’ve been shooting digitally for many years but early last year I picked up a real film camera again and since then my collection has grown very quickly. But the camera I’ve always been drawn to and wanted in my collection was a Canon Canonet.
After a short while of hunting (and a few bad buys off eBay) I finally found a decent Canonet whilst on holiday over a New Year’s break in Whitby (a small seaside holiday town in North Yorkshire in the UK.)
I picked it up for a bargain £30. After testing a few rolls on holiday, I got them back from the lab with good results. I decided this was my favorite go-to 35mm camera, but somehow it didn’t quite feel right – not quite me.
I had seen a few (very, very expensive) restored Canonets online with some gorgeous wood veneer coverings. My first thoughts were “I could do that myself and save a hell of a lot of money.” So I scoured the Internet for a company that sold thin veneer wood.
At first I didn’t know what wood I wanted, I just wanted something with some nice grain. I found a UK based website The Wood Veneer Hub that sold veneer in large rolls and discovered Santos Rosewood – wood that is usually used for guitars. It had gorgeous grain and the rich warm tones I wanted. For around £40 a got a 3 meter roll just 0.6mm thick (much more than I needed) I figured if it worked I had a few vintage cameras I could re-skin.
When the veneer came it was perfect – The grain was a little larger than I expected, but I had plenty of choice of where to cut the perfect grain from along the 3m length.
First I took the old leatherette off the camera off. It looked to have been re-leathered before. As it came off far easier than expected and there was a few pieces of the original Canonet leatherette underneath.
The back was the easiest piece to cut to size. I used the leatherette that I removed as a template and drew around it on the rosewood with a pencil then I cut it slightly bigger. The edges were then trimmed back by sanding with a dremel. After a few tries, I found the rosewood to be very brittle on the grain. Cutting with a craft knife, I easily split the wood.
The best way to cut was cover the edges with sticky tape and cut with large scissors. The tape protected the wood from splitting.
Because the wood was so brittle I had to soak it in hot water to make it supple (I just boiled the kettle of water, got a coffee and filled an extra mug with hot water) the wood naturally bent along the grain, so the grain had to follow the bend of the camera.
I dried with a towel and aligned it without glue on the camera. After I had the perfect fit I then applied epoxy glue – designed for wood to metal gluing (which I also bought from the store) to the camera body (using a small off cut of the rosewood as a spatula.)
The front of the camera uses the same method, draw around the old leatherette – sticky tape over lines – then trim with a sand tool on the dremel. Trim a little at a time and align when dry to check the fit. No glue should be used until the fit is good.
The hole for the flash-sync was a little challenging, after using the old leatherette as a template for hold placement, I use a very small drill bit on the dremel and used it to slowly sand outwards little by little until the hole aligned well.
The Finished Re-skinned Canon Canonet