Grahame N's Web Pages


from Grahame L. Newnham B.Sc.

Advert in the Pathéscope 1936 9.5mm film catalogue

Many of us ninefivers started in our youth with the little 9.5mm Pathéscope "Ace" hand turned cine projector. In fact reading biographies of many great names in the film industry like Ken Russell, they also got their first interest in movies with this long lived UK designed and manufactured product. Launched in 1935, the 9.5mm Pathéscope "Ace" cine projector was still on sale in the early 1960's, although over the years some subtle changes had taken place, including the price, which rose from only 37 shillings and sixpence (£1.88) in 1935 to £7.17.6d (£7.88) in 1961.

Pathéscope Second Edition 1938 Home Movie equipment catalogue

Although the October 1935 issue of the Pathéscope Monthly magazine contained the cryptic note "Aces Are Trumps" on many of its pages; the 9.5mm "Ace" was actually first advertised in the November 1935 edition, proudly announced as 'British Made', for most previous 9.5mm Pathéscope products had been designed and manufactured in France for, or by Pathé-Baby, the home movie section of the giant Pathé-Freres company. Described as a 'scientific instrument designed on the best cinematographic principles' it certainly had one major attraction - the price of 37/6d (well £1.88 these days). The original design was hand turned, weighed 4.5 lbs and measured 10 x 5 x 3.5 inches. Constructed of high-pressure 'mazak' die castings, with black crackle finish, this first model was only designed to accept the then current, closed cassette type 30 foot and 60 foot films which were clipped into the special holder on top of the projector. The film wound into a lower chamber. After projection the film was rewound into the cassette by means of a little loose rewind handle (generally lost these days!).

The intermittent mechanism was very simple - the claw arm was pivoted at a 2.5 inch radius, with an ingenious double action cam giving both the pull-down and claw withdrawal. On the same shaft was a shutter with a pull-down blade of 90 degrees and two other flicker blades of 20 degrees. The only other shaft was that for the handle, 7:1 ratio helical gears providing the drive. The mechanism support was a die-casting, secured to the base of the projector body by two 4BA bolts.

"Ace" mechanism

The "Ace" was initially supplied with a Lumax 16 volt 8 watt 0.5 amp round lamp with an E10 MES (miniature edison screw) base mounted in a small cylindrical bakelite holder which fitted into a hole in the side of the projector. This first 'Ace' lamp was known as type 'A'. The protruding bakelite enabled easy adjustment for optimum light output. A bakelite mounted lens of around 32mm focal length and perhaps f3 aperture produced an acceptable picture up to 18 or 24 inches wide in a fully darkened room. It was powered from the mains via a separate dropper resistor adjustable for 110 to 250 volt mains supplies. Nowadays this type of power supply is considered somewhat dangerous and complicated (it will only work correctly for a lamp of the same current rating, similar style lamps of different current ratings either burn out or are too dim!). However at the time mains electricity supplies (if any at all!) were of rather varied specifications. Some were DC ('Direct Current') instead of the more usual AC ('Alternating Current'), which meant a safer and more efficient transformer could not be used.

Harold Abbott in the "Complete 9.5mm Cinematographer" book included a review of the "Ace" saying "this is a cheap and very simple projector but projects a remarkably good picture up to a width of about 24 inches ...... the "Ace" projector cannot be regarded as an ultimate machine for the really keen amateur, but it is, nevertheless, distinctly above the normal 'toy' class and is suitable for the projectionist whose aspirations are limited to 60 foot films".

A month later, in the December 1935 Pathéscope Monthly a special little 2 foot wide "Ace" roller projection screen was offered by Pathéscope, complete with side stretchers, at a cost of 4 shillings and sixpence (22.5p). Incidentally at this time the little 9.5mm closed cassette films, were 3 shillings and sixpence for the 30 foot films and 6 shillings for the 60 foot films. Walt Disney Mickey Mouse cartoons being threepence and sixpence dearer respectively.

By March 1936, "Ace" users must have been asking for more light, as this month's Pathéscope Monthly announced a brighter lamp (I guess 18 volts 9 watts, to keep the 0.5 amp current rating to suit the dropper resistor) with coiled-coil filament. This lamp, designated type A.C., cost 3 shillings. New projectors were still supplied with the old type lamp, now designated type A.

Pre-war 9.5mm Pathéscope Ace lamps - these are type 'AC' - 18 volts 9 watts E10 MES base.

The next news for 9.5mm "Ace" users was in the November 1936 Pathéscope Monthly when the original type 'Super Attachment' was announced. Costing 10 shillings and sixpence (52.5p), I understand it had actually been designed by a 9.5mm enthusiast who sent the idea in to Pathéscope. I wonder how much he was given for his trouble? This first Super Attachment held the 300ft Super reels at the top front of the projector, the now famous three roller offset device fitted at the lower front of the machine to feed the film from the bottom of the gate back to the take-up spool. At last 9.5mm "Ace" users could show the longer SB titles!

Mk 1 "Ace" Super Attachment

By April/May 1939, Pathéscope had introduced the 60ft open spool (termed the "O" reel), although for a while users could have the short films and home movies still supplied on closed spools on request. In the March 1940 Pathéscope Monthly a special "O" spool attachment was announced for the "Ace". For the princely sum of 2 shillings (10p) the user got a small bracket with feed spindle and roller, which clipped onto the top of the existing closed spool arm. Incidentally the feed spindle was tilted, to stop the spool falling off, don't be tempted to straighten it!

Mk 1 "Ace" 'O' spool attachment

Pathéscope "Ace" instruction sheet for 'O' spool attachment

The little "Ace" projector itself however, in it's original form, had been phased out during 1939, the Pathéscope price list omitting the machine and listing "Ace" lamps under 'for obsolete machines'. Dealers still had stocks though, for Penrose Cine advertised new "Ace" projectors even in 1941, and my late father mentioned finding a couple still for sale in a central London chemists in the early 1940's (one being bought as my brother's Christmas present).

After the second world war, it took Pathéscope some time to get volume production under way, but signs that things were stirring "Ace" wise, could be seen from dealers' adverts in the Amateur Cine World from around the Autumn of 1947 when the "Ace" was re-advertised, then in the Pathéscope News Sheet for July/August 1949, a motor drive was announced - a fixed speed shaded-pole induction motor, it fitted at the rear of the projector. It was reviewed in the December 1949 Amateur Cine World. The projector handle was replaced by a 3.5 inch diameter pulley and this was driven directly from the motor pulley by a rubber belt. The projection speed turned out to be about 19 frames per second - a compromise between sound and silent speeds. Designed for AC mains 200-250 volts, the motor came with flex and switch and cost £5. (I do have replacement "Ace" motor drive belts on my sales lists - gln Jan2018)

In the September 1949 Pathéscope News Sheet another lamp for the "Ace" was featured. Still 0.5 amp (so that those dropper resistors would still work correctly), this new lamp was 20 volts 10 watts, but tubular, similar to the lamp used in the original "Baby" but with the "Ace" E10 MES base. To fit the new lamp in the pre-war "Ace" a hole had to be drilled in the internal bakelite lamp housing and a new protruding lamphouse cover allowed the tubular lamp to poke through the original bakelite housing. One could send the piece back to Pathéscope for modification. This new lamp promised more light.

Pathéscope "Ace" boxes - is the red one pre-war and the plain one just post-war or the other way round?


Mk 2 "Ace" projector (with motor attachment)

The 'Mark 2' "Ace" 9.5mm projector was finally illustrated in the November 1949 Pathéscope Monthly - now supplied with a choice of dropper resistor or transformer for the lamp supply. Price was now £5 - 10 shillings (£5.50), reflecting the massive inflation caused by World War 2 and its devastating economic aftermath in the UK. The same mechanism, lamp optics and basic castings were used, but the closed spool fitting at the top was dispensed with and replaced with a plate with a lug to which a new type super attachment was fitted, and a front mounted sprung brake arm and feed roller. The lower internal take-up was closed off by a metal plate - all films being taken up on the 300 foot top mounted take-up spool. Finish was still in black crackle.

Post-war 9.5mm Pathéscope Ace lamps - still E10 MES base, but tubular,
rated at 19 volts 19 watts or 20 volts 20 watts - type AD (A1/158)

In the February 1950 Pathéscope Monthly yet another improvement for the "Ace" was announced - a 19/20 volt 19/20 watt lamp - type AD (A1/158). This lamp needed a more powerful transformer; Pathéscope offered an exchange service for those with the earlier model. All "Ace" machines were now delivered with this new AD lamp and transformer. An Amateur Cine World reviewer was amazed that the new lamp gave about two and a half times more light than the earlier 10 watt version.

Pathéscope advertisement in the UK amateur movie magazine "Amateur Cine World" Nov 1953


Sometime in the early/mid nineteen fifties an interesting attachment was produced for the "Ace" but was never advertised in the Pathéscope Monthly or Pathéscope price lists. The device was a continuous run attachment - yes some 40 years ahead of cinema 'cakestands' - here was an ingenious device that enabled up to a 100ft (30 metres) of film to be run over and over again. Talking to cine dealers of the time, it was intended for a pre-Christmas promotion in dealers' windows and came complete with the special Pathéscope advertising film "A Lifetime In Four Minutes" a 100foot film advertising the range of Pathéscope 9.5mm cameras and projectors with special emphasis on filming the family on 9.5mm.

"Ace" continuous run attachment Actually working!

The attachment consisted of a cast 'mazak' tray with a flat mild steel table driven by a (spring?) belt from a supplied pulley from the main drive shaft. Another thin mild steel arm supported a front top roller to guide the film up from the gate and back to the continuous run attachment. (It is easier to look at the illustration from the instruction leaflet than describe the thing! Close inspection shows it is fitted to the Mark 3 "Ace" which helps to more accurately date the device.) Oddly enough I had never seen or even heard of this little item until one turned up around 2005. Just like buses, another incomplete example turned up soon after and thanks to Dave Wyatt it is now in my collection. I have replaced rollers etc. and hope shortly to actually test it on an "Ace". One person I spoke to remembers the device in use inside and in the window of their camera shop and just being left running with no problems! Recently another enthusiast described how a few years later they used one in a cinema foyer running a home made 9.5mm trailer for the next film presentation! (This is the example now in my collection.) It is interesting that the device was mainly a 'mazak' casting, but I suppose in those days a few hundred were made for the various larger Pathéscope dealers.

The Pathéscope "Ace" fitted with the continuous run attachment for up to 100 foot films

See Felix demonstrate the Pathéscope "Ace" continuous run attachment
(thanks so much - Colin Cowles!)


The final change to the little "Ace" came sometime around 1954, when I assume supplies of the 'Mark 2' castings had run out. The new look Mark 3 "Ace" casting was very similar but the rear had a 'modern' rounded finish and the base was fully enclosed. The front feed roller was now mounted on a longer sprung arm which enabled 200 foot spools to be braked in the same way as the 300 foot spools with the previous design. Initially the finish was still black crackle, but sometime in the mid nineteen fifties, the colour was changed to a gilt/bronze in line with a new image for Pathéscope products.

Mk 3 9.5mm Pathéscope "Ace" cine projector

Colourful box for this Mk.3 9.5mm Pathéscope "Ace" projector

It was during the 1950's that John Foster, then chief engineer at Pathéscope, designed an 8mm version of the "Ace". For whatever reason it never went into production.

The 9.5mm "Ace" was still on sale when Pathéscope (Great Britain) Ltd went into receivership in 1960. (At that time supplied with super attachment, transformer, lamp and one 60ft film - normally "Trigger Law", for £7-17sh-6d). Although Pathéscope (London) Ltd was resurrected by new owners Great Universal Stores in the early 1960's, the remaining stocks were bulk purchased by the main ninefive Pathéscope dealer Micheal Bentley (trading as D.M. Bentley) who told me that the profit from the sales of these final "Ace" machines went a long way to setting up his successful photographic business. These last "Ace" machines, new and boxed, were sold off at 59/6d (just under £3) - a bargain for collectors!

So the little "Ace" was no more, but provided many generations with a start in home movies. Although of simple design, it gave quite a good picture and with careful use did not damage films unduly. (Some of my early amateur 9.5mm filming attempts were originally projected on my "Ace" and are still in good condition!). Already sought after in countries like France, perhaps one day the little 9.5mm Pathéscope "Ace" will become a collectors' item in the UK too!

95gearpat1ace/gln/23July2005 ©MM5 Grahame L. Newnham

This article appeared abbreviated in the Spring 2006 (No.125) copy of '9.5', magazine of UK Group 9.5
Updated for Ace continuous run attachment 18June2006 - ©MM6 Grahame L. Newnham
This article also appeared in "Flickers" magazine Sept2008 (No 125) complete but some prices were shown incorrectly

PATHESCOPE 9.5mm "ACE" - Quick Fixes

1. To centre the claw in the film guideway or to adjust the depth of penetration of the claw into the film, just slacken the two bolts (4BA spinner required) under the base of the projector and move the entire mechanism as required.

2. If part of the sprocket hole appears in the frame when the projector is running correctly, then unscrew the inspection cover on the front of the projector, loosen the claw arm pivot (6BA spinner required), adjust as necessary and gently retighten.

3. To avoid the sprung brake arm scratching film if it comes off smaller spools loosely, just slide a piece of plastic or rubber tubing over the arm.

4. It may be useful to sometimes lubricate the simple mechanism of the "Ace" - a little grease (Castrol LM or similar) can be applied to the bevel drive gears and the cam drive of the claw mechanism, plus a few drops of light oil (3-In-One or similar) to the rotating spindle bearing ends and where the handle spindle passes through the mazak casting.

5. 'Ghosting' or smearing of the projected picture most likely means that the rotating shutter is out of sync with the claw film pull-down (ie the larger shutter blade is not fully covering the movement of the film between picture frames). Undo the two screws holding the shutter in place on its spindle and carefully rotate it on the shaft until the large shutter blade covers the projected area whilst the claw is forwards and just moving downwards.

6. Original "Ace" lamps are long obsolete but many collectors fit a modern halogen type lamp. (Lamps sold as domestic spot lighting etc. are not really bright enough.) The special optical use lamp M/29 6 volt 10 watts is quite suitable. A new base can be fitted on the end of the existing bakelite lamp holder with the wires coming out through the centre as with the original lamp. A new transformer will be required to supply the 6 volts 10 watts - sometimes an old type bell transformer will be suitable. The lamp can then still be adjusted for maximum brightness using the original bakelite lamp holder, and externally there is no change in the appearance. Try to avoid touching the M/29 lamp glass with bare hands by the way. (The M/29 lamps and base are usually on my sales lists.) There is now an "Ace" lamp conversion outfit on my lamp sales lists (gln Jun2017)

7. "Ace" lamp update (May 2014) - I have just been experimenting with modern halogen 12 volt G4 display lamps. Whilst many examples are not really bright enough, I have just sourced some G4 12 volt 20 watt lamps from Wilkinsons - these are rated at 380 lumens. With an electronic type transformer (fit a mains switch in the supply lead) I got rather brighter results than the original 20 volt 20 watt "Ace" lamp. A tiny G4 lamp base can be fitted directly into the existing "Ace" lampholder once the existing screw connection and wires have been removed. I fitted the lampholder in place with a rubber grommet. I hope to list the kit of transformer, switch, G4 lamp base and pack of two lamps on my lamp sales lists soon.

8. Enthusiast Mike Nicholls spotted that there is an open slot above the gate on his Mk2 "Ace". My example is the same. The original Mk1 "Ace" was just designed for those little 30 foot & 60 foot closed spools/cassettes - these dropped into this slot at the top of the projector. The next model, which had the 'super attachment' for 300 foot spools, had the top casting closed in, but I guess used the same front casting - hence the slot above the gate. The final Mk3 design, with curved rear body, has the area above the film gate closed off.

9. Mike also mentions that if the take-up is tight, then the film leaving the bottom of the gate just rubs on the gate pivot. Looks like the first feed roller to the take-up needs to be slightly nearer the projector body. When running, the natural curl of the film and slight take-up slackness, means that rubbing doesn't occur. I had never noticed this before!

10. As mentioned somewhere in the article above, the main body, spool arm and drive-handle were all made from high-density 'mazak' die castings. Don't try to bend this material - it will just fracture! I haven't noticed any problems with these castings from Pathéscope, unlike the Specto lens housing etc. If the spool arm or drive-handle is bent, maybe gentle heating will allow it to be moved into a correct position.

11. The take-up belt is (as on most other cine projectors) is a spring steel belt - these are still used on some mechanical models. Never use a rubber belt or even a leather belt as suggested elsewhere! The spring belt allows the take-up to slip smoothly as the film diameter on the spool increases. (I do have suitable spring belts on my Sales Lists).

gln/16July2010 (updated 16/17/28Nov2010) (updated again 19May2014/ 05Dec2016)

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Last updated: 02 January 2018 ..................... 95gearpat1ace.htm .......... ©MM5 G.L. Newnham
Quick fixes added 16July2010; updated 17Nov2010 thanks to an e-mail enquiry and 28Nov2010 with extra fix.
25March2014 - Pathéscope Ace ACW advert added & Quick Fix 6 added for new lamp modification.
18May2014 - Notes 7, 8 & 9 added. / 11March2015 - Extra early "Ace" Pathéscope adverts added
02Nov2016 - extra photos of continuous run attachment - thanks Colin Cowles!
04Nov2016 - "Ace" box photo addded / 05Dec2016 - extra "Ace" boxes photos added
22Jan2017 - YouTube link for the Continous Run attachment / 03Jun2017 - 'O' spool attachment instruction sheet added
24Dec2017 - Ace lamp photos added / 02Jan2017 - minor tidying