Not sure where this is finally going to end up, but it has all these machines, none of which have I ever seen.

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The only Alef I have ever seen in the flesh was in the possession of the late Peter Spooner.  It has a lot in common with the above machines, especially the Bilcin, but I think may be later. The blue ones are a toy 9.5 Alef, courtesy Dave Humphrey.

Alef 9     Alef1DH     alef2dh


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These are ones I have acquired. The first one has nothing to say it is Alef, tho' the mech part looks a lot like the Dave Humphrey one above. As for the other, it has a strong resemblance to the Bilcin listed in the above catalogue

It is this second Alef on which I am focussing here - it is a strange admixture of quality and idiocy.


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The quality I shall come back to, the idiocy is obvious - that ludicrously tiny lamphouse, the restriction in the size of reel it can take and the very small diameter lens - all the same faults as the Pathé Baby. And of course, also like the Baby, it has no feed or take-up sprockets, but this has to be viewed in the light of the fact that there is an intermittent sprocket and, although it is not in an oil bath, it is far from the loose, clattery affairs seen in 35mm toys. As I suggested in the context of the LaPierre, this may obviate some of the worst problems of sprocketlessness. (Note I do not seem to have the upper spool arm, so I shall have to make one.)

One other thing, however, makes the Alef stand out from the ruck. It seems to have a mechanism for handling notched films, a rarity outside Pathprojectors. I shall explain.


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This first group of pix shows the heart of the notching mech. The main reasons I started on this projector were;-

a) the rust you can see on the base in the first two pix at the top of this piece. Luckily, it seems to be restricted to the side, and I have been able to re-paint up to the rim only - you can hardly see the join;-

b) I found a piece inside which I later identified as the pivot arm - see pic 1 just above - was flopping around loose and also the main gear was not turning over. I just could not see what was going on without a fairly thorough dismantling. What I figured out was that the pivot was not there, so I had to make a new one. Bit tricky since, as you see from the third pic, there is no room for any fixing on the other side as it would foul the Maltese cross mech. So it has to be a force fit cum friction hold - which is probably what went wrong in the first place. Hopefully it will work well enough, as the machine is unlikely to get a lot of use after all.

Anyway, the way this works (I think; not put it back together yet!) relies on the fact that the gear in pic 1 is not directly connected to the disc in which it is mounted - it is free to rotate - or, rather, the disc is free to rotate without taking the gear with it. The gear is only driven when the tongue drops into the docking station. This means that the pivot arm has two positions, which are controlled by the activating tongue. The tongue is tipped to the stop position for a notch, then is manually re-set for continued projection, ie with the gear locked in step with the disc. This is the default position, with the tongue held in the docking station (sorry - modern technological term) by the spring. The guide stud (which has a smaller diameter bit below what you see so the pivot arm slips underneath) acts to hold the pivot arm so it cannot lift away from the disc. In a further complication, the slit marked at the top (and I think there may be another near the guide stud) seems to engage with a spring mounted on a post that can be seen in one of the pix below. This acts as a sort of ratchet. All v. complex and I'm not entirely sure I've got my head fully round it yet. A slight worry is that I had to replace the spring - the one there when I started is too long to do the job my replacement is doing .......


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This set of pix is largely to show the quality of the construction - quite thick metal sheet, lots of bearings and chrome, bevel gears, glossy paint and whatnot. I must re-build to see if it does actually work!

Aaaaaargh! I got the Alef mech back together and confirmed my thoughts about how it worked. Then the activating tongue broke off! This not only undoes my work making the new pivot, but it is going to be an absolute devil to replicate the pivot arm. Les choses sont contre moi.

I did actually manage to make a new pivot arm, not as good as the original but it does seem to work tho' I have yet to try film. I Bilcinshave also looked again at my Alef pix and it now seems to me that, certain minor differences aside, my machine is a Bilcin and the one with sprockets is a Bilcin 100. I am in the process of making a temporary upper arm; to make one to take cassettes seems a bit complicated right now - I've already spent a lot of time on this machine. It is however shiny and pretty. Must now get back to re-assembling the 200B Plus I've been working on!

I have now done pretty much all I am going to do for the time being with the Alef.


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I have included a "before" pic at the beginning. The top spool arm will just about take a 400' reel, tho' obviously the bottom won't. I found a bit of ready-bent metal that just cried out to be adapted for this job, and the more dedicated may recall that a long time back I made a spool spindle with flip-over end thingy to prove to myself I could do it, and that has come in handy, too. I want to move on, so do not propose to make a cassette holder yet - I did try using one mounted on a spindle thru the core, but it just didn't allow enuff freedom of rotation and led to the film being torn. The cassette needs to be held by its body, leaving the core free to rotate jerkily as required. I can't really see any smoothing for the feed on the Bilcin but I think it's probably needed. But the notching system worked!


You may recall Illustra Enterprises. I remember Peter Spooner telling me of his frequent visits there; he described it as something of an Aladdin's cave, piled high with cine stuff. The proprietor was obviously a bit of a wheeler-dealer, as evidenced by the items in his lists. Later, he bought the 17.5mm Library from Pathescope when they lost interest in it after the successful launch of 9.5 sound. Peter wrote about Illustra in Flickers, many years ago. Here are some adverts of Illustra wares and a projector review.

acwnov35005a     acwoct35016a  acwnov35004a   


The "Illustra" projector reviewed by ACW is not only obviously an Alef, it actually says so on the side.I saw one once (see photo) and my impressions of it were rather better than the Reviewer's. I suspect the 35mm machine is also an Alef.