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Should we store our classics in those lovely leather cases?

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#1 markb

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 07:21 PM

I made the mistake today of starting down the rabbit hole of duplicating research I did a couple of years back on whether or not leather binocular cases are a good place to store the binoculars.

 

As I accumulated a lengthening list of classics, I noted that beautiful looking, externally, binoculars that have been carefully stored for decades in leather cases had a much higher incidence of prism fogging and fungus infestation. With particularly bad ones the cases also freaked of mold, but not always.

 

Somewhere along the way it struck me that my father's 1951 6x30 Steinheils (great binos incidentally, for their era) have not seen a case since the 1960s or so, and while they showed heavy honest where they had no trace of fogging or infestation.

 

When trying to pick up a pair of multicoated late DDR CZJ Delltrintems, I found it nearly all the ones coming in from the UK, carefully stored in cases in a damp country with little home AC, had fogging or infestation issues, and it took some time to find ones in the United States that were guaranteed to be crystal clear.

 

Unfortunately, many non astro folks store binoculars out in garages that are non-air-conditioned and poorly ventilated.

 

While researching my first B&L WWII binoculars and the government publications regarding servicing I also happened upon period publications indicating that the molding of binoculars while still in cases and wooden shipping boxes during World war II had been researched, and the cases had been blamed for the problem.

 

Of course I did not keep a copy, so I redid this today, and I think it is of general interest to collectors.

 

I have been storing my binoculars out of their cases with the cases stored separately, although Arizona is unlikely to be a place where problems might develop, but we do get our monsoon season, so better safe than sorry.

 

Here is much of what I found (and placed in an obscure thread)

 

 

 

 

I located a 1946 Nature paper that (comment unattributed) noted that

 

"... new instruments awaiting issue in depots were  found to be rapidly deteriorating on the shelves due to fungal attack. In fact, instruments in store were more affected than those in use, and the trouble was greatest when they were housed in leather cases and stored in wooden boxes."  p469

 

From:

TURNER, J. S.; MCLENNAN, E. I.; ROGERS, J. S.; MATTHAEI, E. (1946). Tropic-Proofing of Optical Instruments by a Fungicide. Nature, 158(4014), 469–472. doi:10.1038/158469b0

 

Obviously a month in the tropics is the worst scenario, but many of our collector binoculars have sat for years in on the air conditioned houses, closets, or even boats (boat storage fogged and diminished a lovely Zeiss marine pair kept onboard a family friends cabin cruiser).

 

 

Looking for earlier, direct , material I found a once-classified 1944 document

 

Fungi and Tropical Deterioration: A Manual
By Selman Abraham Waksman, 1944 O.S.R. Report #4101, N.D.R.C., O.S.R.C.

 

available from Google Books (sorry if I'm not check my citation format)

 

https://www.google.c...tsec=frontcover

 

See p 9:

 

"Leather cases and straps , unless fungus - proofed , offer

abundant opportunity for the development of fungi . The relative

ly high humidity inside cases and chests favors extensive fungus

growth and sporulation , that serve thus to contaminate the bi

noculars . Mites feeding upon the fungi as well as predatory

mites feeding on the fungus eating forms may contribute to the

infestation of the instrument with fungus spores . The entry of

these mites into instruments is common and the problem of whether

mites are responsible for carrying the fungus spores or whether

they follow the fungus mycelium feeding upon it has attracted

considerable attention . Mites are found readily wherever fungi

occur and the conclusion reached by Canadian investigators was

that " although they tend to aggravate the trouble , they can

hardly be blamed to any greater extent . "

 

The Australian report referenced is in the citations but was not directly available:

 

"Australian Report on the conditions of service materials under tropical conditions in New Guinea".

 

So I'll be keeping my classics apart from those lovely 50s and 60s leather cases (those German ones are so nice, too. Unfortunately.

 

But I'll use the cases when I travel or have them out for a while.


Edited by markb, 19 September 2021 - 12:35 AM.

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#2 markb

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Posted 18 September 2021 - 07:27 PM

I forgot to include a helpful Wikipedia article, it was unexpectedly helpful and found late in the search

 

https://en.m.wikiped...iki/Lens_fungus

 

Links in the article include two interesting ones on fungus removal, essentially a 50:50 household hydrogen peroxide ammonia mix, followed by ethanol cleaning. Isopropyl should be at least as good.


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#3 ECP M42

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 01:29 AM

In my opinion, the leather cases are not cases where to keep the binoculars, but they are just transport bags, so the binoculars once at home must be removed, cleaned and placed in a dry place, not too hot, but not even too cold, protected from dust.

 

But it is the same thing I do with the clothes in the suitcase after a trip.



#4 Senex Bibax

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 05:40 AM

Looking for earlier, direct , material I found a once-classified 1944 document

 

Fungi and Tropical Deterioration: A Manual
By Selman Abraham Waksman, 1944 O.S.R. Report #4101, N.D.R.C., O.S.R.C.

Once-classified.. amazing. Good thing those Nazis and Commies didn't learn about our secret research into fungus on binocular lenses grin.gif


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#5 Thotmosis

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 06:18 AM

 

Very interesting! Now you got me thinking: is it safe to store the binocular for longer period with the lens caps on or not? I think it's safe but maybe some members here have different experience.


Edited by Thotmosis, 19 September 2021 - 06:19 AM.


#6 Foss

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 09:14 AM

A strong NO vote on storing classics in leather cases for prolonged periods.


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#7 markb

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 09:18 AM

Lens caps?

 

Interesting.

 

Modern caps are plastic or synthetic rubber, so no inherent organic material to support growth, and no constant absorption of moisture to keep conditions under the cap moist, well beyond just a small amount of humid air potentially trapped.

 

So I'd think no problem, and the dust protection is a plus.

 

But two of my 50s German binos have single piece leather caps secured with elastic.

 

Here in Arizona in a central air house I'll likely still use the snap on when out of storage, but, thanks to your query, I'll store them without the snap on cover for eyelenses.

 

In a tropical setting I'd think I'd store both leather caps as well as leather straps separate from the binos. I'm glad AZ is far from tropical (despite our 'monsoon' it does not approach what I grew up with in even NY), so one less concern.

 

The suitcase analogy is pretty apt, even to the point where clothes stored in suitcases always get musty or worse.

 

And constant temperature and low humidity seems to make everything last longer. Cold is a real killer, enhancing condensation as the atmospheres carrying capacity for water decreases markedly.


Edited by markb, 19 September 2021 - 09:24 AM.

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#8 markb

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 09:42 AM

Incidentally, my goal here was to make the hard to find wartime research on the fungal and fog problems accessible.

 

My own buying experiences triggered me to, personally, link case storage to optical issues, as well as the climate tie.

 

We've all been guessing on the issue, or have only our own limited experiences to go by.

 

The UK can be dicey for cross Atlantic binocular purchases, especially if returns are international and expensive.

 

Japan is way too risky for me, both camera lenses and binoculars frequently suffer from mild to heavy infestation due to humid conditions, and returns are impractical. Add collimation issues and hinge issues and risks escalate.

 

I have bought too many carefully stored classics that required a complete takedown and cleaning, or immediate return to online sellers too uneducated on the topic, too venal or too uncaring to properly describe the easily examined interior of a binocular.

 

One ebay seller gets an immediate hard-NO from me everytime a listing pops up, having argued to me on a return that crystal clear means 'relatively for its age, all these old binoculars have issues.'

 

Aaaargh.

 

I'm sure others can dig deeper and someone out there might even have the Australian study to share with all.


Edited by markb, 19 September 2021 - 09:43 AM.


#9 pat in los angeles basin

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 10:19 AM

Regarding "haze" - I thought haze came from outgassing of lubricant /paint on the interior. Not so?  It  is a fungal deposit? Two separate things??   Pat



#10 opticchase

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 10:57 AM

Particularly destructive to the external finish are the Sard leather cases.  They tannic acid used in their leather  curing process will destroy the finish if in contact. Note as an example the MK43s.  Have you seen a clean one recently?  The prism covers sitting for any length  of time on those internal shelves will succumb to erosion. I have a separate location for cases for my collection.  The rubber Hood cases seem to be harmless but they too are kept  separate. The binos sit without cases with a quarter coin placed carefully over the eyepiece as dust caps.  Haven't scratched a coating yet.


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#11 markb

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Posted 19 September 2021 - 11:47 AM

Great idea on the coins as dust covers in storage.

 

The is also some very light, 'breathy' synthetic cloth I've found used as a final wrap in some product boxes that might be appropriate for dust proofing. I think it is also used on boxed furniture.

 

But I have no clue what it is called, I'll have to see if I can track it down.



#12 Corcaroli78

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 08:41 AM

Maybe i will fall into heresy but i must admit that i do not like the vintage leather cases. To me, they are big, not ergonomic, and create the risk to touch the objective lenses when extracting the binos. I have some just accumulating dust in the garage. 

 

The only vintage leather cases that i like are those from the latest Zeiss Jena models. They have zipper and the case is connected (optionally) to the bino via the neckstrap. The black leather texture is pebbled instead of lustrous and shiny.

 

Carlos


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#13 markb

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 09:45 AM

Carlos, it's not heresy to me. I like the look and feel of the German cases, very pretty indeed, but they are bulky. I'd say they were best used for long-term storage, but the whole point of the current thread was to call for caution or even for abandonment of that usage. They are great for protecting the binoculars while in transit though.

 

I've been thinking of using Cordera/ballistic nylon soft cases. 

 

My leather soft cases were pleasing to the hands, but every one that came during my recent buying binge had very bad mildew problems so they went right in the garbage.

 

So I am avoiding the soft thin leather cases as well at this point.



#14 markb

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 09:58 AM

Pat, I missed that part of your post about the haze.

 

I really don't know, and haven't seen anything authoritative on it, certainly not anything that I kept and followed up on.

 

However, the haze does not appear to develop in the absence of moisture exposure, even on binoculars that are 60 years old. The binoculars that have arrived without cases, or where I know the storage history did not include a case, did not suffer from fogging, or any fogging was minimal. 

 

Old German magnesium alloy bodies tend to show external signs of moisture exposure, and there seems to be a tie between the amount of moisture exposure in the amount of fogging even if the despised fungus is not present. But that based on limited info.

 

I do recall seeing some mentions of haze being potentially being biological in origin.

 

Outgassing is a possibility, but the haze only seems to show up in binoculars that have been subjected to humidity. That would point to a biological origin, but it could be a bacterial film I guess. All of the molds all seem to have discernible filamentary structures. But I'm no mycologist.

 

I also would guess that it could be a reaction between paint or other chemicals inside the binoculars and the moisture. Heat could also play a role.

 

Alternatively, having seen the effects inside mostly closed tubes of moisture that managed to condense and then evaporate, leaving visible deposits behind, I wonder if a similar condensation and evaporation process could cause the fogging.

 

If you come across anything authoritative that sheds light on the fogging, post it here or send me a PM.



#15 opticchase

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 02:03 PM

Regarding "haze" - I thought haze came from outgassing of lubricant /paint on the interior. Not so?  It  is a fungal deposit? Two separate things??   Pat

 

Regarding "haze" - I thought haze came from outgassing of lubricant /paint on the interior. Not so?  It  is a fungal deposit? Two separate things??   Pat

That haze that develops on the inside of your new car window is from outgassing from plastics, paint and whatever.  Same phenomena with binos.   Use the wrong grease in making or fixing your binos and haze will develop  over time.



#16 Philip Levine

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 05:38 PM

For what it is worth, a fellow who used to be a regular here on the CN Binocular forum, suggests putting *dry* binoculars in a zip-lock plastic bag, when our beloved binos are to be stored away.

Phil



#17 ECP M42

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 07:32 PM

Maybe i will fall into heresy but i must admit that i do not like the vintage leather cases. To me, they are big, not ergonomic, and create the risk to touch the objective lenses when extracting the binos.

I really like all leather cases (such as shoes, gloves, jackets and the outer lining of the binoculars), but it is very difficult to find carrying bags that do not show the glasses of the binoculars (eyepieces or objectives).
What I have always lacked with these accessories is the possibility of placing the binoculars on the side, in order to retrieve them quickly as happens with the pistol (of course, a Colt 6-shot revolver, in holster and leather belt lol.gif ).



#18 Foss

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 07:52 PM

My pet theory: Assuming a vintage binocular was not manufactured to be airtight, a change in atmospheric pressure will cause a corresponding change in the binocular interior air pressure. (The same may be said of changes in air temperature). When that happens, air moves in and out. In essence, a binocular breathes, possibly hundreds of times per year, for 50, 75, or more years. If there is moisture in the air the binocular inhales, some of that moisture is left behind inside when the air is exhaled. So old-school thick leather cases that hold moisture, especially if brass-to-leather fittings harbor verdigris, are out for me.

I also agree with LA Pat on outgassing.

Foss


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#19 PKDfan

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 08:13 PM

My Russian binoculars were stored in their leather case for, I think, as I am not the original owner, for over 40 years and look and function like new and all the lens are pristine.

The leather case did get accidently wet and became unusuable with mold.

I now keep my bins in tightly wrapped plastic bags and never had any issues.

My ZOMZ2 12×40s were made in 1977.



Clear skies & Good seeing

Edited by PKDfan, 20 September 2021 - 08:14 PM.


#20 MT4

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 08:37 PM

I've lived smack in the middle of the tropical zone (that's Singapore) for a number of years.  I've seen first hand what heat and humidity can do to leather, and I've had to throw away some of my leather jackets and bags.

 

So personally for me, no leather cases thank you very much.  My prized optics, when not in use, are stored away in moisture-proof boxes.


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#21 ECP M42

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Posted 20 September 2021 - 09:24 PM

Assuming a vintage binocular was not manufactured to be airtight...

... I was very surprised to discover that both the Leitz that I bought, the Binux 8x30 (independent focus) and the Camparit 10x40 (central focus), were manufactured and sealed with wax, placed in each junction of the compartments, and that for this the interior was still quite clean, if not nearly perfect, after the nearly 70 years they have lived. 


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#22 Binojunky

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Posted 21 September 2021 - 10:43 AM

After storing a rather nice Laguile knife in its case and seeing what Tannic acid in the leather did to discolour the brass bolsters, my opinion is no to storing binos: in their case long term, the bolsters cleaned up with a bit of metal polish, binoculars won,t,  Dave.




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