I say for fifty cents, but really this is an outside estimate. If you possess a few tools and the rudiments of a shop, by which is meant a few odds and ends of screws, brass and nails, you can really make this camera for nothing.
The camera box is the first consideration, and for this a cigar box answers every purpose. It is better to use one of the long boxes which contain a hundred cigars and which have square ends. This box should be cut down, by means of a saw and a plate, until the ends are 4 in. square. Leave the lid hinged as it is when it comes. Clean all the paper from the outside and inside of the box--which may be readily done with a piece of glass for a scraper and a damp cloth--and paint the interior of the box a dead black, either with carriage makers' black or black ink.
Illustration: Construction of Camera Box
Now bore in the center of one end a small hole, 1/4 in. or less in diameter. Finally insert on the inside of the box, on the sides, two small strips of wood, 1/8 by 1/4 in. and fasten with glue, 1/8 in. from the other end of the box. Examine Fig. 1, and see the location of these strips, which are lettered EE. Their purpose is to hold the plate, which may be any size desired up to 4 in. square. Commercially, plates come 3-1/2 by 3-1/2 in., or, in the lantern slide plate, 3-1/4 by 4 in. If it is desired to use the 3-1/2 by 3-1/2 in. plates. which is advised, the box should measure that size in its internal dimensions.
We now come to the construction of the most essential part of the camera--the pin hole and the shutter, which take the place of the lens and shutter used in more expensive outfits. This construction is illustrated in Fig. 4. Take a piece of brass, about 1/16-in. thick and 1-1/2 in. square. Bore a hole in each corner, to take a small screw, which will fasten it to the front of the camera. With 1/4-in. drill bore nearly through the plate in the center, but be careful that the point of the drill does not come through. This will produce the recess shown in the first section in Fig. 4. Now take a No. 10 needle, insert the eye end in a piece of wood and very carefully and gently twirl it in the center of the brass where it is the thinnest, until it goes through. This pin hole, as it is called, is what produces the image on the sensitive plate, in a manner which I shall presently describe. The shutter consists of a little swinging piece of brass completely covering the recess and pin hole, and provided with a little knob at its lower end. See Fig. 3, in which F is the front of the camera, B the brass plate and C the shutter. This is also illustrated in the second cross section in Fig. 4. In the latter I have depicted it as swung from a pivot in the brass, and in Fig. 3 as hung from a screw in the wood of the front board; either construction will be effective.
Lastly, it is necessary to provide a finder for this camera in order to know what picture you are taking. Make a little frame of wire, the size of the plate you are using, and mount it upright (see Fig. 5) on top of the camera as close to the end where the pin hole is as you can. At the other end, in the center, erect a little pole of wire half the height of the plate. If now you look along the top of this little pole, through the wire frame and see that the top of the little pole appears in the center of the frame, everything that you see beyond will be taken on the plate, as will be made plain by looking at the dotted lines in Fig. 5, which represents the outer limits of your vision when confined within the little frame.
Illustration: Pin Hole and Shutter Construction
Explanation of Action oŁ Pin Hole
When you want to use this camera, take it into an absolutely dark room and insert a plate (which you can buy at any supply store for photographers) in the end where the slides of wood are, and between and the back of the box. Close the lid and secure it with a couple of rubber bands. See that the little shutter covers the hole.
Illustration: Constructing a Finder for Camera
Now take the camera to where you wish to take a photograph, and rest it securely on some solid surface. The exposure will be, in bright sunlight and supposing that your camera is 10 in. long, about six to eight seconds. This exposure is made by lifting the little brass shutter until the hole is uncovered, keeping it up the required time, and then letting it drop back into place. It is important that the camera be held rigid during the exposure, and that it does not move and is not jarred--otherwise the picture will be blurred. Remove the plate in the dark room and pack it carefully in a pasteboard box and several wrappings of paper to protect it absolutely from the light. It is now ready to be carried to some one who knows how to do developing and printing.
To explain the action of the pin hole I would direct attention to Fig. 2. Here F represents the front of the camera, D the pinhole, AA the plate and the letters RR, rays from a lighted candle. These rays of course, radiate in all directions, an infinite multitude of . Similar rays radiate from every point of the object, from light reflected from these points. Certain of these rays strike the pin hole in the front of the camera, represented here by RRRR. These rays pass through the pin hole, and as light travels only in straight lines, reach the plate AA, forming an inverted image of the object, in this case a candle in a candlestick. Millions of rays are given off by every point in every object which is lighted by either direct or reflected light. To all practical purposes only one of these rays from each point in an object can pass through a minute opening like a pin hole. This being so, any screen which interrupts these selected rays of light will show upon it a picture of the object, only inverted. If that screen happens to be a photographically sensitive plate, which is protected from all other light by being in a dark box, upon it will be imprinted a photographic image which can be made visible by the application of certain chemicals, when it becomes a negative, from which may be printed positives. This camera is not a theoretical possibility, but an actual fact. I have made and used one successfully, as a demonstration of pin-hole photography.