Recovering Leitz binoculars

Replacing the old vulcanite on your Leitz binoculars is not that different from replacing the same stuff on your Leica camera.

Although we do not offer anything that is the same as the original sulfured, hard rubber resin, the careful hobbyist can achieve a "like new" appearance and feel to the barrels on their beloved Leitz optics. There are a few things to keep in mind:

1) There is no short cut or easy way to remove all of the old vulcanite!

2) It is especially important to get every bit of vulcanite dug out of the crevice at the edges.

3) The various conical and "valley" contours require a special (but not difficult!) procedure to insure that the new covering parts are seated fully all around.

We only offer 2 types of materials, pre-cut to fit your specific pair of optics: The Griptac leatherette, and our heavy-pebble vinyl. The Griptac material (shown below) offers a superior bond to your hands (bare or gloved) and the heavy-pebble vinyl (shown at left) offers a very good grip, and appearance closer to the original factory surface. We do not offer genuine leather parts for this application, because putting leather on binoculars is a lousy idea!

The only dis-assembly you need to perform this job, is to remove the strap.

The best way to remove the old vulcanite is to chip away as much as you can first, and then if needed, use a chemical paint stripper to soften the remaining material. This procedure is more fully described at the Leica vulcanite page, and all the same precautions should be observed around your personal safety: wear approved eye protection, eliminate any source of ignition in your work area, observe all label directions and precautions on the paint stripper, and always direct any sharp tool away from any part of your body. It's especially important to keep any chemical stripper on the vulcanite only, so take care not to get the slightest bit on the adjacent painted areas, which can be etched quickly by the stripper. (This is not a problem for the chromed top/bottom plates on a Leica.)

The old vulcanite loves to hide in the corners on binoculars. You will need to look very closely at every edge to seek and remove all the bits. The edges are the first and only defense against lifting and peeling of your new covering, so make sure they are empty and clean.

The old adhesive used under the factory vulcanite is usually not as persistent as the glue on Leica cameras. You can usually remove it fully with a light application of the chemical stripper, which can be wiped off with a cloth within 10 minutes. A final wipe with a clean cloth dampened lightly with alcohol will prep the surface for your new parts.

The knurled machined surface of the bare metal may catch some tiny fibers of your cloth. These can usually be wiped away by hand or firm bristle brush, and any remaining will have no effect on the adhesion of your new parts.

You do not need--and should never attempt--to take apart your binoculars!

On binoculars, the "wet method" should always be used when placing your new covering. Getting the parts down just right is tricky and somewhat counter intuitive, and you will almost always need to peel back and re-adjust each part. We use an especially aggressive adhesive for our binocular parts, and they will put up a fight and make a mess if you try and peel them back "dry"!

Use your Purell (or compatible hand sanitizer) on the back of the new covering parts only--do not apply any Purell to the binocular barrel. This is best done by just peeling off each part from the carrier sheet, and inverting it, sticky-side up, and painting a film of Purell over the entire back, with a small, clean artist's brush.

In simplest terms, applying your new parts to binoculars is like putting up a roll of wallpaper: you need to go along incrementally and make sure your material is always in full contact at the point where the two surfaces meet.

If your binoculars have inboard and outboard barrels, like the 10X50 shown here, place the outboard parts first. Start placement at the inside (closest to the opposite barrel) so you will not leave your seam at the outer portion of the barrel where it gets more wear and tear.

The conical barrels present a disorienting approach to what would otherwise be straightforward, on a simpler form. You may find it more reliable to closely follow along just the larger (outer) edge as you go along since if you get this edge right, the smaller (inner) edge will take care of itself. It's normal to go through some trial and error here, as your part will, at some point, decide to "wander" outside of it's boundaries. This is where the wet method makes it easy to peel back and make mid-course corrections.

For the inboard barrels, start at the edge closest to the strap mount holes. As you apply, use the closer edge as your guide (since you need to get around the strap mounts) and make sure you get the covering fully pressed into the "valley". It's too easy to get ahead of yourself here, and think you are finished, when you notice that the covering is not pressed all the way to the bottom of the valley . . . you will have to peel the piece back and re-set, since you can't force it down!

To finish, look closely at the perimeter of your parts to make sure they're accurately set. You can lance any air or fluid bubbles with an X-Acto knife. The Purell fluid will evaporate over some days, however you can set your parts for immediate use in the field, by using the "peel back and blow dry" procedure . . . just peel up one end no more than 1/3 of the way around, and blow dry any fluid off the back of the part and the binoculars. Lay the newly dry piece down firmly, and repeat the process from the other end for the other 2/3 of the part. You will have to use the same level of care you did on your earlier wet application, and be sure the part is pressed in full contact with the metal as you go along.

How to buy parts only
We don't yet support all vulcanite-covered Leitz binoculars. And, there are some models that share the same chassis, with some differences. You should tell us what you have in an email, and it's helpful to provide a photo and (front-to-back) measurements of the depth of each section of vulcanite. The cost of each set is US$22 to US$52, depending on the model you have and the material you choose. Once we agree on exactly what you need, we can send you an online purchase form by email. You can pay with any card, or Paypal

Recovering service
We can recover your binoculars for you. The labor charge is $80 to $130, and parts are $22 to $52, depending on your model. The only other cost is return shipping. This service is subject to our existing work schedule, so please inquire.

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