top of page
1968 Karl Kurz portrait-Colorized.jpg

Karl F. Kurz

Aug 12, 1902 - June 19, 1984
81 years old

Co-designer of TDC Vivid and View-Master Personal cameras, V-M model C viewer and more

1978 Karl Kurz working on View-Master pr
1978 Karl Kurz working on View-Master prototype projector in his Portland, OR home by Susan Pinsky
View-Master Memories Book by Wolfgang and Mary Ann Sell and Charley Van Pelt.jpg
1978 Susan Pinsky, Karl Kurz and Norma Gruber outside
Multnomah Club Portland, OR
by Marilyn Felling

View-Master Memories 
book by
Wolfgang and Mary Ann Sell and Charley Van Pelt

Excerpts from this excellent, comprehensive book on the history of View-Master from Sawyer's through GAF, and the variety of owners. Used with permission from the authors. To order the "View-Master Memories" book directly contact Mary Ann Sell at:
by Mary Ann & Wolfgang Sell

Stereocraft Engineering was the marriage of two great minds--Karl Kurz and Gordon Smith. Together, these two men became responsible for many of the fine quality products associated with the View-Master name.

The first "reel" machine operated by Sawyers utilized seven women setting around a circular table and assembling the reels by hand in a sequential pattern. This was the system adopted to produce the early "hand-lettered" style reels. Because of the time and work involved in this process, the company felt it was necessary to develop an automated machine to do the job.

Karl and Gordon were both employed by the L.R. Teeple Company when that company received the commission to develop a reel- making machine for View-Master. Karl was working in the machine shop and Gordon was in engineering. So, in early 1943, the first automated reel machine was developed. The machine was built around the kind of mechanical movements that were developed for the player piano. It had a lot of patches, little leather liners and vacuum valves that made the machine work. This early machine was not very fast but it quadrupled the production realized by the hand machine.
View-Master reel-making machines.jpg
View-Master Reel-making machines in Beaverton, Oregon
1989 View-Master Factory reel making mac
1989_08_03 View-Master Factory reel making machine with David Starkman and two workers Beaverton, OR by David Burder
William Gruber and Karl Kurz had already become close friends by this time. Since both were German emigrants, they had a common background. Karl first met William at a friend's home in 1940, when William found out that Karl was a tool & die maker, they became very close friends. As a result of their friendship, Karl developed an early stereo camera that William used for all of his 
close-up work such as shooting photographs of wildflowers and mushrooms.

Karl left Teeples in late 1943 and was doing some independent work for various firms in the area. William asked Karl if he could design a View-Master viewer. He agreed, then designed and made the model for the Model "C" viewer--the first style where the reel could be inserted directly into the viewer.

The original model was made of wood and Harold Graves and Ed Mayer immediately approved its design upon presentation. At the
end of the war, it was sent to the East Coast to be tooled and manufactured.
Every body enjoys View-Master poster.jpg
 Patent drawing for
Model "C" viewer 

During this time, Gordon was busy doing engineering work for the U.S. War Department after relocating to New York. However, they stayed in contact with one another. At the end of the war, William suggested that Karl go into business for himself making stereoscopic instruments and parts. At about the same time, Harold Graves was urging Gordon (who was planning on returning to Portland) to do the same thing. Together they founded Stereocraft Engineering in October, 1945.


One of their first projects was to completely redesign the reel-making machine. The new design utilized air pressure instead of vacuum, because it was easier to control as well as being faster and more powerful. The whole sequence of operations was modernized. In addition to putting on the 14 pictures, the new machine was able to seal the upper and lower halves of each reel. From there, the reel went onto another position that would print the captions directly onto the reel. The completed reels ended up on a spindle. From there, it was an easy step to insert them directly into envelopes.

1945 William Gruber at Hood River by Karl Kurz.jpg
1945 William Gruber at Hood River by Karl Kurz
1944 Norma Lenz Gruber on View-Master re
1944 Norma Lenz Gruber on View-Master reel by Karl Kurz 
1954 Gordon Smith, TDC Vivid Camera designer, with worker

Stereocraft initially made a battery of eight machines during the early stages of the company. Today, these high-quality machines (along with a few others constructed over the years) are still in use by the View-Master plant in Portland for reel making and assembly.

The internal workings of the reel making machines were engineering marvels. They were manufactured so that an arm comes out to pick up each reel and move it over to another position. There is a little vacuum at
the end of the arm and it picks up the reel and rotates it a seventh of a turn. The pictures are put on with great accuracy with a tolerance of 1 or 2 thousandths of an inch. The need for accuracy was critical because it is important not to have any misalignment when you are doing stereo work.

This system requires 14 large reels of 16mm film to be lined up in the machine, one after the other. When the machine is in operation, the whole reel of film advances one frame at a time. Each frame is put onto the  View-Master reel in exactly the right place; little hot points come down and hold it there and locate it while the film is being cut off.

While the finishing touches were being put on the reel-making machines, several other projects were being developed by the Stereocraft team. Karl Kurz developed an early projector -- the S-1, in 1948. The first prototype for this model was crafted in wood, but was fully operational. At about the same time, initial ideas were being developed to produce some type of stereo camera for so the mass public could take they own View-Master pictures.

Karl and Gordon developed the early ideas for this camera with  significant input from William Gruber.

1944 William Gruber in Joshua Tree Nat'l Park by Karl Kurz.jpg
1944 William Gruber in Joshua Tree Nat'l Park by Karl Kurz
1944 Joshua Tree Nat'l Park 2 by Karl Kurz.jpg
1944 Joshua Tree National Park by Karl Kurz
Wooden S1 View-Master flat projector by David Starkman.jpg
Wooden S1 View-Master flat wooden prototype projector made by Karl Kurz by David Starkman
View-Master Model C inserted into promotional piece for display 

Stereocraft was also kept busy producing the metal parts for the Model C viewers and, later the Model D, focusing viewer as well as junior 

projectors. Dies were created and all of the metal parts were made at their plant. Sawyers made the Bakelite moldings in their compression molding machines. The parts were hand assembled at the Sawyers facility and the final product was then boxed and ready for the retail market. The first blueprint for the View-Master Personal Camera, as we know it, was drawn up by Gordon Smith in 1948. The camera used a unique lens shift system that enabled the photographer to take 36 pictures in one direction and then shift the lenses to take another set of 36 pictures in the other direction as the film reversed in the camera.

Another special feature of the Personal camera was the fact that the counter worked in reverse. This was to let you know to reverse the lenses when it got to 0 because it locked at that point. It also let you know to quit
shooting after you got back to your 24 or 36 exposure mark indicating you were out of film.

Quality was the number one priority at Stereocraft Engineering and it showed itself in the construction of the Personal Camera. The General Scientific lenses were beautifully mounted and matched. The lenses were
matched by both size and focal length--lenses were not put into a camera without actually matching them optically to confirm that the manufacturer was within specifications. On a short focal length, such as a 1-inch focal
length lens, these types of procedures were critical.

Karl Kurz's homemade View-Master prototype film cutter by Susan Pinsky.jpg
1945 View-Master cutter prototype designed by Karl Kurz
taken in 1978 by Susan Pinsky_1
View-Master Personal Camera parts reference board by Karl Kurz.jpg
View-Master Personal Camera parts reference board by Karl Kurz
Karl Kurz in his Portland OR home by Susan Pinsky.jpg
Karl Kurz in his Portland OR home by Susan Pinsky
1944 Pauline Schuele Kurz medium close-up by Karl Kurz.jpg
1944 Pauline Schuele Kurz medium close-up by Karl Kurz

Of course, the great picture quality and excellent resolution was an added bonus. The camera's only problem was the gasket for the shutter blades--which were only 2 thousandths of an inch thick. As the gasket compressed
from the pressure, it caused the blades to bounce and overexpose part of the image upon triggering. This has presented itself as a problem  commonly known as "shutter bounce". It has been the only known failing of the camera since its initial introduction to the public in 1952. 
Gordon Smith's design was approved and patented by Stereocraft Engineering on July 3, 1950.





The idea of putting the instructions on the bottom of the camera was something else unique to View-Master at the time. (It was later used by Stereocraft on the TDC Vivid Camera that they also designed.) This was intended as a "fail-safe" mechanism for the people not familiar with general camera techniques. Bill Gruber was always trying to make the design simple enough for everyone to use.

The View-Master Personal camera was introduced to the public in 1952 at a cost of $149. It was designed to enable the owner to take his own reels to accompany his existing View-Master reel library.

4 Dee Robinson View-Master Personal Reel Making Assembly Machine-Colorized.jpg
Dee Robinson at View-Master Personal reel-making assembly machine - colorized
view-master personal reel layers_edited.png
View-Master Personal
reel is 7 layers thick
Stereocraft Eng View-Master Personal assembly No. 7 - colorized

It was particularly attractive to those who were unfamiliar with  photographic techniques, because it needed no exposure meter, no
calculating and no bother. The exposure control was integrated with the camera controls in a manner so clever that all you had to do was to set one dial to the speed of film you wish to use and a second dial to the light
conditions, then press a button.

The unit was self contained, with the lenses lying within the body and the filters lying on top of the lenses in the body wall retained by a standard Series V retaining ring. The weight was only one pound, nine ounces when loaded with film.

The first one hundred cameras produced were numbered beginning with 0999 and descended in numerical order down to number 0900. These were given to factory employees and friends for testing purposes and evaluation. Most of these cameras had a silver top (brushed, plated or painted) and the center shift lever was marked 1/2 rather than the A/B of the standard production camera.

Actual production cameras were consecutively numbered beginning with
number 1,000. The earlier models did not include a film advance indicator and had rounded shutter blades. Later models included the film advance indicator and had squared shutter blades.

There were many minor variations made in the camera during its  production. Most of these changes improved the overall performance of
the camera but changed little in its look cosmetically.

DR-4 Starred in View-Master stereo - all
DR-4 Starred in View-Master stereo camera promotional reel
DR-4 Starred in View-Master stereo - all
DR-4 Starred in View-Master stereo camera comparison image
DR-4 Starred in View-Master stereo - all
DR-4 Starred in View-Master Good Flash Pictures Every Time

Somewhere in the low 20,000 number range the camera received a makeover and underwent a color change to three-tone brown. The crinkle brown finish hid a multitude of sins in the castings thus making production less wasteful for Stereocraft.

Although it is difficult to determine exactly how many Personal cameras were made...the best estimates are that production consisted of less than 30,000 units. These cameras remain popular today with both collectors and stereo photographers.

                  DR-4 Starred in View-Master Personal stereo film cutter 

In order to be able to mount the film shot with the View-Master Personal camera, a special film cutter was developed. It punched out both films simultaneously, thus providing mechanically positive alignment between the two halves.

The camera apertures had small notches in one edge. One notch was semicircular and the other was square; thus providing indicators for right and left images. In this manner, you could mount your stereo images without knowing which the left was and which was the right image; the circle or the square provided the necessary information. After punching out the images, it was a simple matter to insert the film chips into View-Master Personal reel blanks with the matching marks. These blanks have
14 pockets for mounting the seven stereo pairs.

Sawyers two tone brown View-Master Personal stereo camera_edited.png
DR-4 Starred in View-Master stereo - all
View-Master personal reel mounts_1.JPG
View-Master personal reel mounts_2.JPG
View-Master personal reel mounts_3_edite

The camera was received enthusiastically by the photographic community and went on to sell quite well during its production period. However, the advent of home movies caused an early demise to stereo photography in general and, unfortunately, the loss of the View-Master camera in particular.

Indoor photography was made possible by the use of the View-Master flash attachment. It was tailored to fit easily onto the Personal camera and attached via a knurled thumbscrew. A single stainless-steel contact point where the flash attachment joined the camera plus the silver contact points in the internal flash switch, assured properly synchronized flash pictures every time. The flash had a guide number setting within the focusing knob that was easy to adjust to the appropriate guide number established by the
film manufacturer.

At an additional cost, you could purchase 24" or 36" close-up lenses for your View-Master Personal camera; thus giving you the added opportunity to do close up stereo photography and still enjoy the ease of using the View-Master camera.

On both lens models, a folding viewfinder prism fit over the camera viewfinder and corrected for the vertical parallax encountered at short distances. The close-up attachment with the viewfinder prism folded away, fitted into a small leather case that was included.


The depth of field obtainable with the close-up attachment depended mainly on the area in front of the camera in which the field of view of the two converging lenses coincided to give stereo pairs that could be viewed
comfortably. Although this area varied with he individual, Sawyers recommended a 25" to 50" depth of field for the 36" model and a 20" to 30" range for the 24" close-up attachment. The 36" model was considered
the standard portrait model and the 24" was the scientific model available only by special order. The results using these special lenses were quite good and they became an important part of the complete Personal camera system.

vm close-up lens with case, box and instructiones.jpg
vm close-up lens 36 in_edited.png
v-m close-up lens from other side_edited.png
VM Personal 24 inch Close-Up Attachment Instructions 2.jpg
VM Personal 36 inch Close-Up Attachment Instructions 2.jpg
VM Personal 36 inch Close-Up Attachment
VM Personal 24 inch Close-Up Attachment Instructions 1.jpg

During the time the Personal camera was in production Stereocraft's test lab was already experimenting with a new camera design dubbed the "Junior" (also known as the "Personette"). Precision machining time and
the number of production steps required to produce the "shift-lens" mechanism in the View-Master Personal camera required dozens of extra pieces and many extra man-hours. View-Master realized that the elimination of this mechanism could be achieved with a camera using a diagonal film path.

Several working prototypes were produced as well as finalized mock-ups. The company liked the idea of using a diagonal film path and copies of all the designs were sent to the European View-Master operation in Belgium for their review.


After Stereocraft Engineering spent hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars finalizing plans and models, the project was taken away from them and given to the Belgium plant for cost efficiency...much to the chagrin of the engineers involved. The proposed look of the Portland design was much more attractive than the final result achieved by the Belgium plant. Pictured below is a prototype of the Stereocraft design.



                          View-Master Mark II Prototype Design

View-Master Belgium had been working independently on their own design based on the diagonal film path system originated at Portland. Corporate headquarters approved the final camera and the new camera was manufactured in West Germany for View-Master. It was called the Stereo Color Camera. Later, the name was changed to the View-Master Mark II Camera.

Sawyers-View-master-Stereo-Color-Mark-II with cutter_edited.png
Sawyers-View-master-Stereo-Color Mark II camera_edited_edited.png
View-Master Mark II camera with case, cutter, viewer and reels 

The Color Camera also had a simple exposure calculator, the shutter speed was preset to a 1/60 second, and one would match a picture of the sun in various stages to the lighting conditions to set the "F" stop.

The camera had both MX and PC flash connections, a big advantage over the Personal that needed to be modified for electronic flash. The camera, although better in some respects, did not have the "indestructible tank" quality of the Personal. Accessories such as close-up lenses were never made for the Mark II. Because of the slow shutter speeds a person had to be very careful about camera shake when using it. Since this camera had a diagonal film path, a new cutter had to be designed for use with the
Mark II Camera. Stereocraft had designed several prototype cutters while developing the original camera prototypes. However, the actual production model was similar in size and shape to that of the Personal except it cut the film on the diagonal path.


VM Mark II inside diagonal filmpath_edit
View-Master Mark II camera diagonal film path inside 

The original plans, had this camera actually been produced in Portland using their models, called for two versions: an inexpensive model and a "top-of-the line" deluxe model. It is our opinion that a camera produced in Portland by Stereocraft Engineering would have been far superior to the one that was finally produced. The authors of this book greatly prefer the View-Master Personal camera for their own use, as do a lot of stereo
photography using the View-Master system.


With a stereo camera on hand, could a stereo projector be far behind? The View-Master  "Stereo-matic 500" Projector was initially introduced in 1953. The first prototypes were made by melding two S-1 mono projectors together. Later, a two-bulb model was developed. From the information we can gather, it appears that the numbering system for the Stereomatic Projectors matched that of the Personal camera. Meaning the first number off the line was 999.

View-Master Prototype Stereo Projector from front
by Susan Pinsky
1954 VM Stereomatic 500 Component Photos 3.jpg
1954 View-Master Stereo-Matic 500 Component Photos 3
View-Master Stereo-Matic 500 3-D projector cut-away designed by Karl Kurz by Marilyn Felling_3
1953_09_00 VM Stereomatic 500 Projector Flyer 1.jpg
1953_09_00 VM Stereomatic 500 Projector Flyer 2.jpg
1953 View-Master Stereomatic 500 Projector Flyer 
1952 Stereocraft Engineering 8 View-Master Stereomatic 500 Projector assembly - colorized 

William Gruber's creative genius was at work in the development of this projector. It was his idea to employ one-bulb along with using mirrors to direct the light. In the final production models, the interocular adjustment
was coupled to the focus. The changer plate (a fantastic design) did the rest; adjusting the film alignment by a single lever, counting the scenes for you and activating a red light when you reached the seventh scene to let you know to change reels. The unit used one CZX bulb of 500 watts. The projected scenes were very bright and the clarity achieved from the small images was amazing.

1954 VM Stereomatic 500 Component Photos 4_edited.png
1954 VM Stereomatic 500 Component Photos 2_edited.png

The degree of quality in the View-Master "Stereo-matic 500" projector was unmistakable. It was highly praised at its introduction as one of the best on the market and an indispensable part of the View-Master "family" of photographic products. Unfortunately, stereo projection was not very
popular with the public at large. Sitting for long periods of time wearing

Polarized glasses was not easy, and you had to make numerous adjustments during stereo projections to keep the image properly aligned. This concept seemed too cumbersome to most people, thus sales were never very brisk.

The "Stereo-matic 500" projector continued to be part of the View-Master product line even during the early days of the GAF. It was last featured in the company's 1976 catalog.

The projector was available in several colors including light beige, three-tone brown and black. Lenses were available in two sizes: 3" and 2 1/4" versions. Models made at the end of the production run included a  110/220 voltage switch on the base of the projector.

Pro Stereo-Matic 500 variety of colors_edited.png

Advertisements of the period encouraged the potential buyer to consider the complete View-Master stereo system. This included the following items:

• View-Master Personal Stereo Camera
• Flash Attachment
• Camera Carrying Case
• Type "A" Filters
• Close-Up Attachments
• Personal Film Cutter
• View-Master Stereoscope
• "Stereo-matic 500" Projector

In 1956, Sawyers acquired the assets of Stereocraft Engineering. Their research & development department as well as their manufacturing facilities became part of the overall View-Master family.

The change was not evident in many aspects because Stereocraft had devoted most of its' time to View-Master specific work prior to the

When the merger was completed Gordon Smith left his position at View-Master and began spending more time with his gardens and orchards (the Smith family and the Kurz family jointly owned a filbert orchard in
Beaverton). Karl Kurz remained with the company until his retirement in 1967.

It seems hard to believe that those early machines, originally crafted in 1945, are the same machines producing View-Master reels today. This feat, together with the fact that thousands of Personal cameras are still being used by stereo photographers today, seems to be a fitting tribute to the quality work performed by Stereocraft Engineering.

1978 Portland OR View-Master assorted items by Susan Pinsky
TDC Vivid camera tooling for manufactoring designed by Karl Kurz.jpg
TDC Vivid camera tool for manufacturing designed by Karl Kurz
1944 Joshua Tree Nat'l Park 3 by Karl Ku
1944 Joshua Tree Nat'l Park 3 by Karl Kurz
1944 Natural wonders by Karl Kurz.jpg
1944 Natural wonders by Karl Kurz
1989 View-Master reel making machine in Beaverton OR by Susan Pinsky.jpg
1989 View-Master reel making machine in Beaverton OR
by Susan Pinsky
1944 Joshua Tree Nat'l Park 4 by Karl Kurz.jpg
1944 Joshua Tree Nat'l Park 4 by Karl Kurz
Agents for View-Master sign on wall_edit
Agents for View-Master sign on wall
1978 Mono View-Master projectors on display in GAF lobby
by Susan Pinsky
1978 GAF Factory in Beaverton, OR by Susan Pinsky.jpg
1978 GAF View-Master factory, Beaverton, OR
by Susan Pinsky
Kurz family in Germany_hi_resai-Colorized-Enhanced.jpg
Kurz (Kurtz) Family in Stuttgart, Germany around 1908
Kurz Karl headstone 1902-1984 River View Cemetery Sec 8, Lot 67, Grave 5.jpg
Karl Freidrich Kurz headstone 1902-1984, River View Cemetery
Sec 8, Lot 67, Grave 5, Portland OR
1950 Karl
1961 Karl Kurz 
1966 Pauline and Karl Kurz 
3 Stereocraft get together - Willy Hartwig Karl Kurz Art Rossberg and Dave Hitchcock-Color
1966 Four Stereocraft colleagues get together - Willy Hartwig,
Karl Kurz, Art Rossberg and Dave Hitchcock - colorized
1966 Karl Kurz and Norma Gruber
1944 Karl Kurz's 16mm View-Master prototype camera 2 by Marilyn Felling
1944 Karl Kurz's 16mm View-Master prototype camera 2 from back
by Marilyn Felling
1945 Karl Kurz's 16mm View-Master prototype camera 1 by Marilyn Felling
1945 Karl Kurz's 16mm View-Master prototype camera 1 from back
by Marilyn Felling
Model_B_Production_Finals bigger enh and colorized.jpg
View-Master Model_B_
1945 View-Master cutter prototype designed by Karl Kurz
taken in 1978 by Marilyn Felling_4
1945 View-Master cutter prototype designed by Karl Kurz
taken in 1978 by Marilyn Felling_3
1945 View-Master cutter prototype designed by Karl Kurz
taken in 1978 by Marilyn Felling_1
1946 View-Master wooden S1 prototype projector designed by Karl Kurz by Marilyn Felling_2
1946 View-Master wooden S1 prototype projector designed by Karl Kurz by Marilyn Felling_1
1946 View-Master wooden S1 prototype projector designed by Karl Kurz by Marilyn Felling_3
View-Master Personal camera opened hinged leather case.jpg
View-Master Personal camera opened with rare hinged leather case
View-Master Personal camera hinged leather case.jpg
View-Master Personal camera rare metal hinged leather case
Gordon Smith with View-Master Assembly Display colorized.jpg
Gordon Smith with View-Master Assembly Display - colorized
1978 Susan Pinsky, Karl Kurz and Norma Gruber outside Multnomah Athletic Club, Portland, OR by Marilyn Felling
VM invitation 4x6_edited.png
View-Master Personal Camera Brochure Green.jpg
View-Master Personal Camera Brochure Green 2.jpg
Stereocraft Engineering,
Beaverton, OR - Colorized
View-Master ad 3_hi_resai.jpg
View-Master 2D S1-B with blower metal projector designed by Karl Kurz
by Marilyn Felling_2
View-Master 2D S1-B with blower metal projector designed by Karl Kurz
by Marilyn Felling_4
View-Master 2D S1-B with blower metal projector designed by Karl Kurz with place to read the reel caption
by Marilyn Felling_3
View-Master Projectors Ad - S1 and Junior and more.jpg
View-Master Projectors Ad - S1 and Junior and more 2.jpg
View-Master S1 Insert_edited.png
dr74 reel title shot resized to 7 in high_edited_edited_edited.png
1965 View-Master reel June 14, 1965 "Welcome to Sawyer's - Your Plant Tour"
1953_09_00 VM Stereomatic 500 Projector Flyer 1.jpg
1953_09_00 VM Stereomatic 500 Projector Flyer 2.jpg
1953 View-Master Stereo-matic 500 Projector Flyer 
Sawyers Story Stereocraft Eng and more page-Colorized-Enhanced.jpg
Sawyers Story Stereocraft Engineering and View-Master - colorized
View-Master 3-D projector designed by Karl Kurz by Marilyn Felling_2
View-Master 3-D projector designed by Karl Kurz by Marilyn Felling_3
View-Master Stereomatic 500 Insert_edite
View-Master Stereomatic 500 Insert 2_edited.png
1947 View-Master Mini Theater with silver screen with usherettes
View-Master theater.jpg
1947 View-Master Sawyers model
S1 mono projector
1960 Sawyer's Xmas party Karl Kurz, anon, Wm Gruber, Lad Goodman, Tom Meyer in vm tie, Har
1960 Sawyer's Xmas party Karl Kurz, anon, William Gruber, Lad Goodman, Tom Meyer in View-Master tie, Harold Graves and anon -colorized
1978 Karl Kurz with Norma Gruber outside Multnomah Athletic Club in Portland OR by Marilyn Felling
1957 December View-Master Christmas Ad Colot_edited.jpg
1957 Holiday ad in magazine
View-Master 2D Projectors Brochure.jpg
View-Master Personal Camera Manual Covers_edited.png
View-Master 2D Projectors Brochure 2.jpg
legal library display in the kitchen.jpg
View-Master Xmas tree ornament.jpg
View-Master Xmas tree ornament
negative model C.jpg
karl Kurz home 4230 SW Council Crest Dr Portland OR-Colorized.jpg
Karl Kurz's home, 4230 SW Council Crest Dr., Portland, OR - colorized
Stereocraft Engineering 9 - colorized
View-Master musical box Swiss music viewer taken in 2000 at Stereoscopic Society x_edited_
View-Master Model C viewer with Swiss music box attachment taken in 2000 at Stereoscopic Society
by Susan Pinsky
View-Master Junior maroon and beige mono Projector
VM Water Tower card 1982 4x6.jpg
1982 View-Master International Holiday Card
1966 Karl Kurz in Portland, OR 
Please Note - all photos will enlarge box.jpg
Box 6x4 your 3D images are welcome box with bars.jpg
VM Stereo-Matic 500 cut-away projector 4 - Colorized_edited.png
View-Master blue Theater with box 2_edited.png
1947 sawyers model s1 projector_edited.png
Reel E-Z 7_edited_edited.png

Karl Kurz and the

View-Master Personal Reel Pocket Opening Tool

In the summer of 1978 Susan Pinsky, along with a 3D friend, Marilyn Felling, flew to Portland, Oregon to visit the View-Master factory, and do research for our publication "Reel 3-D News".

In addition to touring the View-Master Factory in Beaverton, Oregon, Susan had the opportunity to meet Norma Gruber, the widow of William Gruber, inventor of the View-Master system, and Karl Kurz, the designer of many View-Master products, including the Model C viewer and the Personal Reel Mounts.

While visiting with Karl Kurz, Susan mentioned a problem that we had been having with the Personal Reel Mounts. Due to a change in availability of the custom paper stock used to make the Personal Reel Mounts, the method of gluing of the three layers of the reels together had changed. This resulted in occasional oozing of glue into the film pocket slot, and difficulty in inserting the Personal Reel film chips.

After explaining this to Karl, he told Susan that he was aware of that problem, and had come up with a solution that he was using for his own Personal Reel mounting. He left the room, and came back with a tool, that he had created, to open up the tight, or glued, pockets. It consisted of a small handle, and extending from it was a thin metal blade, which was sized and shaped at it's far end to be exactly the same as the insert end of a Personal film chip. Being a master machinist, with a full machine shop in his basement, he was able to make the blade to extremely precise tolerances.

It was made of thin spring steel, which could be inserted into the film pocket of the reel without bending, and would "open up" the glued edges of the film pocket.

Susan asked if he could make more of these, so that we could make them available to other View-Master camera users. After agreeing upon a price, Susan ordered 110 pieces. Karl could only make them in the summer, as he said his basement workshop was too cold to work in during the winter.

To make a long story short, we named the tool the "Reel E-Z" and sold them for many years, until Karl said was no longer able to make them, due to his advancing age and abilities.

When we discontinued the sales, Dalia Miller asked if she could copy this idea, and we were happy for her to take over. She found a precision tool maker, and renamed it the "Spee-D Pocket Expanding Tool for Reel Mounts". It is currently listed on her web site at

We still use our original Reel E-Z tool, and think of Karl Kurz whenever we are mounting our Personal Reels!

David Starkman, July 2018

Reel E-Z 5.jpg
Reel E-Z 4.jpg
Reel E-Z 6.jpg
vm xmas ornament_edited.png
Reel E-Z 1_edited.png
Reel E-Z 1_edited.png
Reel E-Z 1_edited.png
Reel E-Z 1_edited.png
1978 Found stereo of Susan Pinsky, Karl Kunz and Norma Gruber adjusted to work in 3D.jpg
1978 "Found" stereo of Susan Pinsky, Karl Kunz and Norma Gruber in Portland, OR, adjusted to work in 3D, inspired by Martin Schub
Karl Kurz's Reel E-Z tool close-up by Susan Pinsky.jpg
Karl Kurz's pile of Reel E-Z tools close-up by Susan Pinsky
Reel E-Z 1_edited.png
VM Junior maroon & beige Projector_edited.png
View-Master blue Theater with box 6_edited.png
bottom of page