Removing a Broken Filter Ring From a Lense

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Introduction: Removing a Broken Filter Ring From a Lense

15 years ago, on a whale-watching trip off the coast of Massachusetts, the rocking sea caused my father's camera to roll off of a table and hit the floor lense-first. Although the lense looked ok, the filter glass was shattered and the ring was bent out of shape. It was impossible remove it and it was also hard to tell if there was any damage to the lense barrel it's self.

It stayed that way until I inherited it a few days ago and figured, I could try and remove it my self. I had nothing to loose. As it turns out, with a little patience, it's actually quite easy. 

Step 1: Get Your Equipment Ready

All you need is different sizes of plyers. I used a paire of long nose plyers and a pair of spoke wheel plyers. Most importantly you need safety goggles.

Step 2: Remove the Glass Gently

Remember to wear your safety goggles at this point, for some reason flying glass always ends up in your eyes or so I learned.

Using the long nose pliers, gently remove the glass from the filter ring.

Step 3: Bend the Filter-ring Back Into Shape.

Using the spoke wheel pliers make sure you have a good grip (on the filter ring only) and gently bend the filter ring back into shape. By doing this you’ll most likely bend other parts of the ring inwards. That’s okay since were trying to fatigue the metal slightly.

Go around the filter and keep bending the filter back into shape until it actually loosens and it becomes possible to unscrew it. 

Step 4: Clean Your Lense and You're Done!

Do what you usually do to clean your lenses. I’d recommend using the blower to remove most of the glass fragments.

The entire thing took me little more than 15min and I ended up with minor scratches on the lense barrel but nothing seems bent and I’m sure that a new filter ring would fit perfectly on that lense.

Note, this wasn’t tested on plastic lenses. I’d be interested in hearing your comments. 
Have a look at my flickr page

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    32 Discussions

    I would also suggest covering the broken glass with tape before attempting to remove the filter--that way there is much less chance of injury to either the lens or the person! Having this problem now and was glad for this instructable--thank you!

    Another way that could be used (and this works with stripped screws and bolts etc., is to get a piece of metal (an old fork, spoon etc) that you will probably not be able to use again (not the silverware!!!) and superglue it to the ring. the longer the outer sides are, the more of a 'handle' you have, and using the lever principal, you can 'steer' it off with relative ease...
    for screws, you can superglue a nut or something to the stripped head, and use a spanner to get it out (rather than damage the expensive thing you are trying to open...) :)
    thanks for the 'ible, handy to know, I am sure I will need this some day :)

    5 replies

    The method described here is by far safer. Gluing something to get a better grip on the filter and trying to screw it off will probably end up in the bent part of the filter ruining the lens' thread.

    Superglue is NOT an option when you're working within several metres of optics. Its fumes are glue too, and they have a habit of finding optical surfaces and wrecking them. :)

    well, hot glue could be used, if careful... only stating a different option, thats all...
    (if the glass was not broken, but it was stuck in there good...) I have done it using my digital camera to remove the mounting ring bracket. seemed ok there, but obviously being very careful with the glue used...

    Superglue can go places you didn't intend. If you use superglue in tight spaces like that, you are playing the odds...

    Have you ever had an "easyout" snap off when trying to back out a broken bolt?

    of course, and I was only suggesting it as an option... it doesn't work in all situations, but it has saved me from using too much force and potentially damaging some equipment (sometimes I get carried away when something doesn't work how I want it!)
    so yeah, it isn't for all situations, but possibly could have worked here (depending on how badly it was bent out of shape... :)

    Excellent! The instructable plus comments allowed me to remove a long-jammed filter that I had been afraid to mess with. Thanks!

    1 reply

    Well done.
    As a camera repair man I have to do such a job regularly. I always bent de filter ring inside using a pipe wrench, eventually on more than one spot. This way the diameter decreases and the filter comes off easily, or even falls off ;-)

    2 replies

    After trying my technique out, I realized that bending the filter towards the inside into a "heart like shape" is probably faster.

    I have a Nikon filter that doesn't quite look like metal. Have you ever encountered issues with filter rings breaking?

    If the lens itself isn't damaged it normally doesn't break when removing the filter.
    But it still is possible that the thread is damaged by the impact on the filter when it was dropped.
    Modern lenses mostly have plastic bodies and filterrings... :-(

    Once the filter is off, I would install a daylight filter or UV Haze filter for no other reason than to protect the threads and the lens.

    Good idea to use the inner ring to bend the female threads back in shape!

    BTW, those pliers are also called water pump pliers.

    3 replies

    Great I'able, but why did you bend the ring back outwards? I'm seeing the potential for damage to very fragile (& usualy brass) threads by forcing the ring in that direction. one slip & you've trashed the lens as well with your pliers! I was taught when dealing with damaged threaded parts like this, to sacrifice the damaged side of the problem (IE: the filter ring) it's broken anyway. After removing the big pieces, just grab the outer ring & twist it INWARD, twisting it away from the lens threads. This negates much of the threat to your expensive lens.
    As for cleaning the broken glass from the lens; DON"T BLOW IT AWAY!! Once you've dumped the big pieces out; lay a dry tissue loosely over the lens (single layer) then spray with water until it is soaked and drops down onto the lens face. let it set for a few seconds, or press in gently with a fine brush (you probably have a lens brush in your photography bag). Once you;ve done this, gently lift the tissue (and the glass fragments) off the lens surface. Any other remaining pieces of glass may then be removed by using a moistened Q-tip or cotton swab to daub the glass fragments off of the lens face. NEVER NEVER EVER move anything across the surface of your lense!

    Honestly, I had to look it up on the internet; I usually call them "those pliers over there". Any type of pliers would do the trick as long as they have enough surface contact with the ring.

    Having quite a bit of photgraphy gear - i've run into this on occassion.

    the way you show here is a distructive way - comonly used as a last resort.

    but before anyone goes to this messure for removal you can try an it may have been suggested - facing the lens down on a piece of rubber - lens filter facing the rubber matt on a table face flat - then put downward pressure and turn the whole lens.

    The problem with trying to remove the filter is the more you try an apply pressure the more it squeezes the filter and warps it which causes further binding of the threads.

    The rubber matt will relieve that warping pressure by putting pressure along the front - and grip it enough to remove it.
    -  hopefully.

    btw a rubber matt can be one of those jar opener rubber grip things. Just lay it down and postition the lens barrel over it - lens filter facing it.

    I have had to do it the destructive way too - like you show here
    - and one problem can be ruined threads if you are not careful - as you mentioned.

    if you are lucky and you have a good filter - you can also just remove the inner ring to the filter and the glass will just come out with out breaking it or risk of further damage. Then take the pliers if you must and remove the lens ring itself - sometimes you can turn it off once the glass it out.
    Sometimes not.

    either way - happy shooting.
    and nice instructable

    - chase -

    1 reply

    Thanks Chase! Good comment! I didn't try your rubber matt idea but I'll definitely try it next time this happens.

    Also, this lens barrel is made of some kind of metal composite so the threads are quite strong. I'm not sure how well this instructable will work with a cheap plastic kit lenses that are sold today.

    So, folks, you should definitely try the rubber band or rubber matt idea first.

    Another option that you might try before destroying and removing the glass is to put a rubber band around the filter, then attempt to unscrew it. Of course with gloves to keep from cutting yourself. This would result in less flying glass.