In Memoriam: Clarence Gass, 1941-2019

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Travis Butler
Travis Butler Senior Member • Posts: 1,393
In Memoriam: Clarence Gass, 1941-2019
10

https://www.legacy.com/obituaries/kansascity/obituary.aspx?n=clarence-alvie-gass&pid=194572220&fhid=20447

This is long after the fact... but I just found out, and since I've seen him mentioned here before, I wanted to share this.

Clarence was one of the classic camera repairmen - born and bred in the manual film era, but willing to do at least mechanical repair all the way up to recent digital models. He closed his shop in 2013 and retired, but continued to do occasional work out of his home after that.

Images from when he was cleaning/closing the shop. His love for cameras stood out everywhere you looked.

I first met him after buying a couple of cine lenses that needed a little work; the person I bought them from recommended Clarence as the best repairman he knew. He was interested in the idea of adapting cine lenses to the Q, and later helped me find classic K-mount lenses for the K-01 I'd recently purchased. I always enjoyed talking photography with him.

After he closed the shop, I lost touch with him for several years, until I heard he was still accepting work at home; I didn't want to disturb him in his retirement. The last time I saw him was last summer, when I took him a Takumar 400 that had the rear baffle plate come loose. He took care of it quickly, and we had fun chatting for a while after that; among other things, about whether digital had matched the resolution of high-quality film. He showed me some of his prints; I resolved to print some of my favorites out to show him the next time we got together.

I never had the chance, because I didn't want to intrude on him without the excuse of having some more work for him. ;_; According to the obituary, he passed away at the end of November last year, a few months after I last saw him.

I miss him.

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MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 41,270
Vale Clarence

I sometimes wonder how optical repairmen could make money out of their repair activities considering how time consuming my stumbling attempts usually are.

I suppose it is because it is a skilled craft and experience makes it easier.

Our own modest steps never really give us enough experience to make our work easy.  At least my experience tells me “I have a fair chance of fixing” on one hand and “I should leave well enough alone” for others.  I have a few “I should not have tried to fix”, but the essence still is - if you have never failed then perhaps you have never tried.

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Tom Caldwell

Travis Butler
OP Travis Butler Senior Member • Posts: 1,393
Re: Vale Clarence

Tom Caldwell wrote:

I sometimes wonder how optical repairmen could make money out of their repair activities considering how time consuming my stumbling attempts usually are.

I suppose it is because it is a skilled craft and experience makes it easier.

Our own modest steps never really give us enough experience to make our work easy. At least my experience tells me “I have a fair chance of fixing” on one hand and “I should leave well enough alone” for others. I have a few “I should not have tried to fix”, but the essence still is - if you have never failed then perhaps you have never tried.

Amen to that.

I'd spent at least 3-4 hours messing with that Takumar 400 before taking it to him.

He had it fixed in about 15 minutes.

79 years old. And he had it fixed in 15 minutes.

It was a pleasure just standing there and watching him work. He knew the tools, he knew how to use them, and his actions were fast and precise.

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Flickr at https://www.flickr.com/photos/the_prof67/ Warning: Heavy Learning in progress.

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fferreres Veteran Member • Posts: 5,331
Re: Vale Clarence

Yes, it's not easy. It is only easy when you have done it so many times, you can read the lens assembly logic by just looking at it, by observing, you get to see how it all likely works. But I can't think anyone will do it as a job without liking lenses. Every nut, spring, lens surface, screw, level, blade - just about anything there, can break, bend, scratch, deform, probably also turn into a fairly tale... at any moment. And that's even if everything is done with calm and skill. And there's are absolutely no spare parts of anything.

Any time I do any lens, I wonder about a surgeon's work. If I feel so strongly about doing any lens, for what I mention above, a surgeon's work may be the most complicated job in the world.

SQLGuy Veteran Member • Posts: 9,362
Re: In Memoriam: Clarence Gass, 1941-2019
1

Thanks for posting this and sharing.

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A7R2 with SEL2470Z and a number of adapted lenses (Canon FD, Minolta AF, Canon EF, Leica, Nikon...); A7R converted to IR.

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MOD Tom Caldwell Forum Pro • Posts: 41,270
Don’t call me an expert

But even non-experts have opinions.

I have found out by hard experience and little learned skills that getting into the lens In the first place is the hardest thing to know.

Like Sonnars usually simply screw apart - but other lenses need to be approached from the front or from the back or both. Some have the front screw off and an occasional little devil locking screw that prevents this happening until you realise this.

Maybe once there was an apprenticeship system from a master operator - maybe once lens repair manuals were available. Mostly such useful tools were (and still are) only available to factory authorised repair centres.

Without this backup we can only stumble along and develop “experience” and of course mutual help can be invaluable.

I even suspect that many lenses were never really intended to be repaired as these very complex devices were one way assembled on a bench by dextrous hands familiar with the process. Coming apart again might be much more difficult than putting it together with the undoubted trays of spare parts, screws, springs, ball-bearings and specialised stampings in front of the assembly operator.

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Tom Caldwell

fferreres Veteran Member • Posts: 5,331
Re: Don’t call me an expert

Tom Caldwell wrote:

But even non-experts have opinions.

I have found out by hard experience and little learned skills that getting into the lens In the first place is the hardest thing to know.

Yes

Like Sonnars usually simply screw apart - but other lenses need to be approached from the front or from the back or both. Some have the front screw off and an occasional little devil locking screw that prevents this happening until you realise this.

Totally

Maybe once there was an apprenticeship system from a master operator - maybe once lens repair manuals were available. Mostly such useful tools were (and still are) only available to factory authorised repair centres.

Yes, although maybe we are a little better today due to youtube examples, and the advance of search engines.

Without this backup we can only stumble along and develop “experience” and of course mutual help can be invaluable.

Yes totally. I've had tremendous help early on with some lenses, and mikonos youtuber, for good or bad, goes so slowly and shows some very basic tools, that was super helpful.

I even suspect that many lenses were never really intended to be repaired as these very complex devices were one way assembled on a bench by dextrous hands familiar with the process.

I think so too, and the trend is very clear starting around 1970.

vivaldibow Contributing Member • Posts: 784
Re: In Memoriam: Clarence Gass, 1941-2019

Thanks for sharing. People with years of hands on experience and craftsmanship have become scarce and scarce.

In my work place,  a lady retired at the age of 83. She did microelectronics assembly, soldering tiny surface mount chips to the circuit board. Her hands were much steadier than younger one when handling those tiny components.

fferreres Veteran Member • Posts: 5,331
Re: In Memoriam: Clarence Gass, 1941-2019

vivaldibow wrote:

Thanks for sharing. People with years of hands on experience and craftsmanship have become scarce and scarce.

In my work place, a lady retired at the age of 83. She did microelectronics assembly, soldering tiny surface mount chips to the circuit board. Her hands were much steadier than younger one when handling those tiny components.

I am not sure how the electronic lenses will be preserved. I think most will just die slowly until there are only a few working, as the electronics may be obsolete or just stop working. We have to be optimistic that a lot of collectors and engineers have this as a passion, and most lenses will be preserved, even as their numbers start to go down rapidly for lack of service options.

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