A Day With Mr. Ye, Leica Repair Expert

A couple of weeks ago a friend and I took the hour long trip to Canton MA to visit Mr. Youxin Ye an expert Leica repair professional. I have been meaning to do this for quite some time as I have some older Leica lenses and an M3 that needed to be cleaned (CLA’d). 

We were met at the door by Mr. Ye’s wife who made us feel right at home. The first order of business was the lenses. Mr. Ye takes the lenses apart and cleans and lubricates the focusing mechanisms and his wife does the cleaning. A very efficient operation. 

 

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Mr. Ye cleans one of my lenses after disassembly.

 

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The insides of my Leica 21mm SA from 1961.

He made quick work of some minor issues like a lose front element on my Leica 35mm Summicron and his wife put the red dot back on my Leica 50mm Summilux. After all the lenses were apart and being worked on by his wife we broke for lunch. We were lucky enough to have Mr. Ye spot us to lunch at his favorite Chinese Rest. a few miles away. He drove us over there to pick it up and we had some great conversation about our families, cameras, Leica etc. a true joy to talk with someone about great stuff like this. After lunch Mr. Ye got to work on my Leica M3 built in 1955. We all laughed a bit as the bottom plate still has the sticker from the camera store in Germany it was purchased from. Piece by piece the camera started to come apart. This camera is a double stroke model with the serial number starting with 781 so it is one of the older models of the M3.

The amazing thing was that he knew where every screw went. He just took the parts off and put them in front of him. It was great to see how he disassembled it and the tools he used. It was just the coolest thing. My friend and I marveled at how he was gentle but yet forceful at removing such small finely machined parts. He said to us when we asked “how do you know where all the parts go?” He commented “I have been doing this for the last 12 years and have taken apart and put back together over 1100 Leica M cameras, by now I think I know.” Amazing is all I can say!

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My M3 had some things that needed to be fixed up. The focusing prism needed some work and the rangefinder needed some adjustment but over all a good cleaning and lubrication was needed. After some re-cementing of the prism and good overall cleaning Mr. Ye handed the top plate over to his wife to replace the windows with scratch resistant coated glass. I had a ding in the main window so it was a welcome addition.

 

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Mrs. Ye cements the new glass in place.

The next order of business was to clean off the metal casing the camera goes into. Earlier Mr. Ye had removed the old leatherette as it was all dried out. He chipped it off with a small knife after heating it up. I was put to work cleaning off the old glue with acetone with a cotton ball. A bit of scrubbing and it was clean as a whistle.

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Chipping off the old dried out leatherette.

 

Now that that was all done the assembly of the camera began. All the parts started to flow back together again. All right where they were supposed to go. Incredible!

After assembly Mr. Ye put the new leatherette onto the camera. Looks just like new!

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The new leatherette being placed onto the camera shell.

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I have now been shooting with this camera for about a week. It’s pretty incredible the work that was done. It focuses beautifully, the shutter is so quiet, and the advance and film rewind are so smooth. An incredible job. Mr. Ye thanks so much for an inspiring day. We had a great time learning about the Leica and what it takes to clean and preserve these wonderful pieces of history. My dad gave me this camera when I was 15 years old and I really stopped using it about nine years later when I picked up his M5 with the meter in it. I used the M3 all the way through high school for everything from ROTC camp to yearbook shoots. Then in college it went everywhere with me. Ski meets in a backpack (where it got the ding in the focusing window) and trips, it was my companion. It was and still is my pride and joy! My very first interchangeable lens camera.

It was an incredible day at Mr. Ye’s!

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