Resident antique photography expert Brenton West brings his expertise to bear on a camera that survived the First World War but hasn't taken a picture in over a hundred years.
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Welcome to The Repair Shop,
where cherished family heirlooms are brought back to life...
This is the workshop of dreams.
..home to furniture restorer Jay Blades.
Nowadays, everybody spends a fortune on stuff that, once it's broken,
they just bin it. But everybody has something that means too much to be
thrown away, and that's where we come in.
Working alongside Jay will be some
of the country's leading craftspeople...
Every piece has its own story.
It's amazing to think that some of my work becomes part of that story.
I've always played with things,
I've always repaired things, and I just love it.
There is a real pleasure in bringing people's pieces back to life again.
..each with their own unique set of skills.
-The right tool for the right job.
-They will resurrect...
-I'm warm, man!
..and rejuvenate treasured possessions
and irreplaceable pieces of family history...
Wow, she's fantastic!
..bringing both the objects...
-This is what I remember.
-..and the memories that they hold...
-..back to life.
Oh, my God!
In The Repair Shop today, it's a team effort to revive a modern
Hold on, hold on, hold on. I can see it.
That's it. Yeah, do that one next.
-Who do you reckon's going to get to the end first?
-Well, I think...
I think I've got my money on Jay.
..and something to test the skills of antique photography expert
-It's a box of bits...
-A box of bits.
-..at the moment.
-What do you reckon?
But first, The Repair Shop is about to take receipt
of a very special item.
Hello, you all right?
Yes, thank you.
Natalie Cumming from Shropshire is here
with a precious family heirloom.
So, what is this, then?
-It's a violin.
-It's a violin, yeah?
Restorer John Dilworth is a violin specialist.
He's worked on some of the world's most valuable instruments.
It's in a pretty poor condition.
There we go.
Wow! Yeah, that's seen better days.
-A slight obvious problem there, yeah.
-There is a bit, isn't there?
So, what's the story behind this, then?
Well, the violin belonged to my grandfather
and it was passed to my aunt,
who was sent to Auschwitz in 1939.
That's some history.
My Aunt Rosa is a very well-known violinist,
and she was invited to play in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in the mid-30s.
Unfortunately, being Jewish, she was arrested,
and they were all sent to Mauthausen Concentration Camp.
And then, in 1939,
Auschwitz was opened and she was immediately transported there.
Because she played the violin and she played very well indeed,
that was her lifeline.
She was able to be part of the women's orchestra in Auschwitz,
which lulled the new intakes coming in
to a false sense of security.
This was what kept her alive for the whole of the war,
then she finally returned home to Leeds, and she died in '47.
The violin then passed to Natalie's father, also a musician.
He didn't just use the violin as a means to making a living,
he lived the violin.
That was his life.
And, fortunately, I've got those memories.
That's what the violin represents to me.
I'm afraid it's just stayed in the attic all these years
and never been played.
Well, this was, I'm sure,
made in Germany towards the end of the 19th century.
-But this is rather alarming, isn't it?
-I would think that that damage probably occurred in the camps.
-Oh, that's... Yes.
-So someone's repaired this, then,
-is that correct?
-Yeah, it's a very crude repair, I'm afraid.
Yeah, that is, yes.
It would just be so great if it could be restored.
-If it could be played again, it would be such a bonus.
John's been restoring violins for decades,
but even the most seasoned of craftsmen would feel apprehensive
handling an instrument with such an incredible history.
The first job is to take the top off,
open up the instrument, so I can
actually see what's going on underneath.
This is where you find out whether it's going to be an easy job
or a...or a tricky one.
You have to find out which way the wood is splitting,
and if the wood is splitting in your favour, that's great.
OK. Plan B,
we're going to go round the other way and attack from the other side.
-Yes, you're winning.
There it goes.
-I can't look.
-I can't look, either!
-You can't look?!
Yeah. Oh! There we go.
It's finally given way. This, actually...
this little hole here, there's a lot more original wood
-surviving underneath that patch than I feared.
-So we can take that off...
-..fill that hole,
but if this repair was actually done in the prison camp,
-I'd rather keep this piece and just fix it, so that it's...
-Make it look good.
-..it fits better.
-What's this? Just a bit of fluff?
-Well, that is known in the trade as the mouse.
-The mouse, yeah.
That's just accumulated bow hair and all sorts of things, odds and ends.
And some people collect them, and when they make a new violin,
they'll put that inside, just for luck.
Next into The Repair Shop...
-How do you do, gents? I'm Phil.
-..Phil Jones has brought a piece of
his family history for Will
and antique photography expert Brendan West.
So, what's in the box?
This is my great grandad's
old plate camera.
As you can see, it's a bit worse for wear.
It looks more like a box of wood.
-It's a box of bits.
-A box of bits.
-It's a box of bits at the moment.
-There's a lot of bits.
-There's a lot of bits.
-What do you reckon?
So, this is a half plate camera from
the turn of the last century, so 1900, 1910, something like that.
Yeah. My great grandad used to take pictures for the War Department...
-..during World War I.
He was... That's his belt buckle off his military belt.
-Oh, wow, that's nice.
-That went through World War I with him.
-Yeah. The Battle of Hill 62 at Ypres, and...
So this has actually seen the trenches?
-Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.
-It's been in the trenches.
So if that's been to Northern France, it's in good condition,
-Yeah. I would like, in an ideal world, to use it again.
If not, just to have it displayed properly.
-Well, we'll get cracking with that, and we'll give you a call
-once it's ready. Thanks very much.
-Nice to meet you.
-Nice to meet you.
Brenton's been overhauling antique cameras for over a decade,
but this 110-year-old example is really going to test him.
So we're going to be taking the bellows from this camera...
..carefully, so that we can have a pattern for remaking them.
There we go. So, that's your bellows.
Got holes in them everywhere, and if you held them up to the light,
they'd probably leak light like a sieve,
which is not very good for photography.
Over on his workbench,
John is cooking up a plan to revitalise Natalie's beloved violin.
This is my mother-in-law's old bain-marie.
It's been in our family for generations.
This is the hot melted glue.
The violin's long and arduous life,
which included spending the war in a concentration camp,
has taken its toll.
This rib, that was, I believe,
donated to the violin while it was in the prison camp from another
instrument. I would like to keep this as part of the violin now.
You know, cos it's part of its history.
While the body recovers from its structural surgery,
John turns his attention to repairing the damage to the top...
The whole thing's resonating nicely.
..before the two parts can be married back together again.
As I say, once we start gluing, we're committed.
And we want a good, strong joint here,
especially at the neck,
because that's what determines everything about the instrument.
It won't be until John has completed
the restoration that he'll find out
if his repairs have also restored the violin's voice.
If you get any stage of this wrong, it'll compromise the sound.
Getting everything in correct alignment,
getting all the tensions even,
all adds up in the end to giving the instrument
the right voice, the right sound.
With the repairs dry, John can press on with his sensitive renovation.
The next thing to do is the fingerboard.
And this, I think, is very moving, really.
You can actually see fingerprints in it, and to think that was happening
in the prison camp and all through the long history of the violin.
But, unfortunately, that's all got
to be smoothed out to make it playable.
It's...quite an emotional thing,
getting rid of these...
the last traces of the family that have owned it.
It's now ready to play on for another 100 years or more.
A new item is on its way into The Repair Shop.
Chris and Tim have brought something that's got Will and Steve scratching
-What have we got?
-I'll take that.
-It's a screen, but obviously it's seen better days.
-So it stands on its end...
..and you have to have it, obviously, in a sort of...
-Snake - good word, yeah.
To keep it from falling over.
Yeah. So you can hide things behind it, you can divide a room with it.
I mean, you could do that tantalising French fan dancer, dance
-about behind it, and get changed behind it if you want to!
-I've got an image of Steve doing that!
-I'm guessing more of a room
divider kind of thing, or hiding your big TV, or something!
-It's articulated and it's wired together.
So there's wires running through the whole of it from one end
-to the other?
-And this has broken off?
-Is there anything else that's broken?
There's a piece of damage on one of the ends.
One of the end pieces has snapped off.
Oh, I think I've just found the broken piece here.
-There it is, yeah.
-Right. Whereabouts did you get it from?
-Well, it's not ours...
-..it's our daughter Rosie's.
When Rosie was a student in London, about 13 years ago,
there was a chap throwing it out and it was on the pavement, and she
asked the chap if she could take it.
-So he said, "Well, you can have it for six quid."
And, being a student, you know, six quid was a lot of money, but she
gave it to him because she just loved it, and to make it so it will
last and it won't degenerate into a pile of firewood, you know,
it would just be fab for her.
It transpires the screen that was destined to be scrapped is, in fact,
the creation of Finnish architect and designer Alvar Aalto.
He is considered by many to be a pioneer of 20th-century design.
That is really stiff wire, isn't it?
-Really stiff wire.
-It's no wonder it's pulling through.
-On that end there, that...
-It's really, really tight.
It's actually ripping through this section, isn't it?
Yeah. OK, what I'll do is, I'm going to try to force this flat.
It's going to break in places, but if you can order or get me some
-..I can make a start
on the woodwork and then take it from there.
-OK, I'll get that sorted for you.
Over on his workbench,
Brenton's about to make a new screen for the World War I camera.
This is a clear piece of glass,
and what I've got to do is, I've got to grind one side of it
to make it opaque.
It needs to be opaque because this screen,
the equivalent of a viewfinder,
is what the image is projected onto when taking a picture.
You just start
to make circular motions.
So this process takes about half an hour.
You feel it in your hand - it's like sand, very fine sand.
You can actually feel it grinding the glass.
And that's looking quite good. As soon as that's dried off...
It looks pretty good to me. Yeah, that's good.
Excellent. So that goes in there.
To make sure the light hits
Brenton's newly created plate correctly,
his next job is to get the mechanism working.
So I've just cleaned this shutter up and it hasn't been shot for probably
100 years. So the next thing to do now is to fire it and see if we're
-going to get an activation...
..and brilliantly, we do.
While Brenton overhauls the 100-year-old mechanism,
The Repair Shop's leather expert, Suzie, is working on a secret
project for the camera's owner, Phil.
He brought a belt buckle that belonged to his relative,
that he'd had in the war, and we
thought it would be a nice idea as a surprise
to make the belt buckle up into a usable belt for him.
What I'm doing here is staining the edge of the leather.
And the key is not to drip the edge stain down.
Meanwhile, repairs are underway on a more contemporary classic.
Having sanded the screen's 82 slats three times each side,
then polishing and varnishing them both sides,
Will can now turn his attention to the broken piece.
I found some pine which sort of matches pretty closely to the piece
that I need. So I'm just working out a way to join both pieces together.
Now comes the task of transforming the individual slats
back into a Nordic design classic.
-Are you ready?
-Have you got the wire?
-I have, look.
-Let's give it a whirl.
-Now, let me just get this right.
-Steve, you're going to feed his wire through this?
-All right, let's see this.
-Let us begin.
Hold on, I've got to find this hole first.
Well, that's the thick one. Come on, I'm in the lead.
-OK, Steve, it's not a race, you're not going to win anything!
I'm just doing it! I just...
-Give me, give me some of that.
-Yeah, go, go.
-Thanks for taking over, Jay.
You're more than welcome, sir. You're more than welcome. That's it.
Whoa, whoa, whoa, we've missed one, we've missed one. Missed two.
-Why don't have some sort of rhythm going, like...
-.."heave-ho," or something?
-Then you could do it in time.
-I totally agree with you.
At the beginning we didn't have a rhythm,
-but now we're like the Commodores.
-No, no, Steve's got it. Look, look, look.
-He won. I let him win.
Antique photography expert Brenton
has been overhauling a century-old camera.
He's refurbished all the components,
now all he has to do is build a working camera from them.
So it's a bit of a jigsaw puzzle.
I just start at the bottom and work my way up.
Oh, there we go. I didn't think that
was going to fit for a minute.
Yeah, that's good.
The 100-year-old camera is rebuilt, but will it work?
Guys, we're going to take a picture. Are you ready?
Luckily, there's a motley crew of models on hand to test it on.
-So, just there you want us, yeah?
-Yeah, if you could just line up.
-We'll line up along there.
-Line up along there.
-What a pretty bunch.
-Is it, stay very still?
You'll have to keep quite still, yeah, please.
-Shall we pose?
-You look beautiful.
You don't have to do anything for a second.
OK. Are you ready, guys?
-OK, three, two, one...
-Fingers crossed, that's it.
-Thank you, thank you.
-You got that photo, yeah?
-Guys, have a look at this. Come and see this photo.
-What have you got?
-That looks old time, innit?
-Oh, look at that!
-Wow! That is absolutely brilliant.
-That's right, an old lens makes you look old-fashioned.
-I actually look like I'm a time traveller compared to you guys.
-Like, how can someone in those times have such white teeth?
-Or such knobbly knees.
Phil Jones came to The Repair Shop,
longing to take pictures with his great-grandfather's camera.
-How are we doing, Phil?
-Mr Blades, sir.
-You all right?
-Brenton, nice to see you again.
-Nice to see you.
-What was it like when you dropped it off?
-Oh, it was a box of bits.
-So, would you like to have a look?
-I would, yeah.
-OK. There is your camera, sir.
-Oh, my God!
It is absolutely amazing.
-Do you want to have a look?
-I don't want to drop it!
And it all works. The shutter works, everything works on it.
That's amazing. Absolutely amazing. I can't believe you did it.
I'm glad you like it.
-Thank you very much, sir.
-No problem at all.
So, how does it feel to have it all restored and working?
I'm lost for words.
I did not think it would be done. I was expecting a phone call,
-saying, "Look, we had a go..."
-But you're forgetting where you've come to -
this is The Repair Shop, mate. Yeah? We can't give you that phone call.
It's working as well! Oh, I'm...
-And we've got one more little thing for you.
-Well, when you came in, you left us a belt buckle.
I said to the missus when I left it here, you know, I said,
-"I left it with my photographs..." Oh, my God!
Suzie had the idea of making a belt for you.
-So that's your buckle, and that's Suzie's belt she made you.
-Thank you very much.
-Oh, bless you.
Brenton, thanks for everything - the belt, the camera.
-It's been a pleasure.
-Chuffed to bits, chuffed to bits.
-I'm glad you're pleased.
-Really, really good.
I feel...totally shell-shocked.
I'm just amazed at the work that they've done.
I did not think it could ever turn out that good.
And when I saw this belt...
I got a bit emotional. But, erm...
this is something I'm going to treasure.
I'm going to keep it forever.
Will and Steve have reached a crucial stage with the classic
Righty-ho, here we go.
..tightening the wires that keep the 82 individual slats together.
-So, if I pull this tight...
If I'm just tensioning...
Too tight and the screen won't be flexible enough to stand up.
Too loose and the screen will simply fall over.
-That should be it.
-Is it in?
-That's good, yeah.
Now we can tighten it,
-tension it even more the other side with the key.
But not too much tension. You keep on putting too much of this tension
on and it's causing some tension with me.
-Don't worry about it, my boy.
-You're making me feel tense.
-OK, moment of truth.
-Moment of truth.
Do you know, it's all going to go, "Whoa!", like this.
-It's not going to, Steve,
especially with that tension you've been putting on it.
-I'm really happy with that.
-It's great, isn't it?
-I don't know if you can...
Chris and Tim are back, this time
with the screen's owner - their daughter, Rosie.
I'm a little bit excited, but also a bit nervous, because it wasn't
in the best condition, and I know it wasn't.
So, yeah, I'm just full of trepidation, really.
-So, Rosie, I've heard a lot about you and your screen.
Have you ever had a chance to actually use it?
No. I'm already very surprised to see
that you've got something flat underneath...
-Well, you know.
-..the red sheets.
-Would you like to have a look?
Oh, my God! Look at that!
-Come and have a look.
-It's not the same one, is it?
-Shall we stand it up?
-Oh, look at that!
-Oh, I can't believe that!
Look at it, it's undulating at last! LAUGHTER
I can't believe it. It looks amazing.
-So, are you going to use it now?
Yes, yes, I think that would be very nice.
I'm so happy for you. That's wonderful.
I can't believe that I managed to get hold of something as beautiful
as this. I just never, ever imagined that it would ever look like that,
so I'm really thrilled. It's such a transformation.
Over at John's desk, he's fine-tuning Natalie's violin,
which survived the war in a concentration camp
with her aunt Rosa, before being played professionally by her father.
-That looks nice, John.
-You all right?
-How are you getting on?
-Well, it's job done.
-So, have you finished then?
So the last thing to do is put the mouse in, isn't it?
Yes, yeah, I guess so.
This little ball of fluff had been gradually building up
over the 100-odd years since it was made,
so it seems appropriate to pop it back in.
In you go. Back home. There you go.
The mouse has gone home, yeah, And the violin is finished.
John's labour of love is complete.
The violin has passed down the family line,
sustaining knocks and patches throughout its turbulent history,
and in recent years had fallen into total disrepair.
But John's biggest test remains -
has he got the violin looking and sounding as Natalie remembers?
-How you doing?
-All right, thank you.
-Nice to see you.
-Likewise. You've come for your violin?
John? Natalie's here.
-Hello, Natalie. Lovely to see you again.
-Yes, and you.
-There it is.
-All in one piece again.
It looks lovely, doesn't it?
Yes, we've put all the bits and pieces back in.
-And those parts there...
-That was the main challenge.
-I've kept the pieces that were put in.
-What a wonderful job.
-When was the last time you heard it played?
-Well, before my father died,
which...he died in 1983 or '84.
So, what do you remember most fondly of your dad's playing?
He loved the Hungarian music,
-the cigany violin music, that kind of thing.
So we do have someone who can play it. Chris, if you don't mind?
The honour of playing the violin for the first time
since Natalie's father falls to one of the country's leading violinists.
John has drafted in Christian Garrick,
who has also composed a special piece
in honour of Natalie and her family.
I think this is just the man to play your fiddle for you.
It would a great pleasure. It's very exciting.
HE PLAYS EASTERN-FLAVOURED MELODY
-What is that song?
It's a wee song which I imagined today,
reading a bit of your history,
and I thought we'd call it Rosa's Wishing Waltz.
-Oh! I can't believe it.
Thank you so much. It is wonderful.
It is wonderful. I don't have words to say.
I'm beside myself. I... You know, the history of this
violin, I'm grateful to be a part of it.
It's just incredible that you've been able to restore it as you have,
so thank you so much.
-I'm very pleased to have been able to help.
-Thank you for playing.
-That was wonderful.
I just feel overwhelmed.
I didn't realise it would be
restored to how I remember it being played 30 years ago,
and it was just beautiful - the melody, the tone.
I was suddenly transported back.
I could see my father playing.
It was beautiful, beautiful.
Join us next time as more items are given a new lease of life...
-..in The Repair Shop.
Today in the Repair Shop, Jay Blades and the team bring three treasured family heirlooms, and the memories they hold, back to life.
Resident antique photography expert Brenton West brings his expertise to bear on a camera that survived the First World War but hasn't taken a picture in over a hundred years, while leather expert Suzie adds a surprise touch that leaves the camera's owner Phil lost for words. Furniture restorer Will Kirk and horologist Steve Fletcher joins forces to get a 20th-century designer wooden screen back on its feet. And violin restorer John Dilworth works on a treasured instrument that spent World War II in Auschwitz concentration camp.