Cutting 35mm film.

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by waynecrider, Nov 24, 2007.

  1. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    It's always a chore and seems like never a perfect cut between frames. What's your simple stupid process or device that makes it easier for perfect cuts?
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A scissors seems to work for me.

    It might be a camera issue. Some 35mm cameras (like my Canon New F-1, and I think Leicas do this, and I'm sure there are others) always put the frame margins between sprockets, so maybe these are easier to cut straight.
     
  3. DannL

    DannL Member

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    After the film has dried, and while it is still hanging, I also cut using ordinary scissors. Counting from the bottom I cut between every sixth frame. It does take practice, and occasionally I miss the mark. Good lighting helps.
     
  4. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Yet another ordinary scissors user here. My biggest problem is with cameras with less even frame spacing. Some, such as my Ricoh XR-X 3PF and Zenit KM, provide very even frame spacing. Others, such as my Zenit APk, are much less even, and if I happen to need to cut between negatives with less than the usual space, I occasionally end up slicing slightly into one frame or the other. Very thin negatives (dark scenes) can also pose problems. I've resorted to counting sprocket holes on occasion.

    As to technique, I hang the film to dry. When it's done, I cut off the bit where the clip had been at the bottom (it's often got some residual trapped moisture that can drip). In most cases, with 35mm I reverse the roll, so that the first frames are at the top; this lets me get four frames (I use four-frame strips) in the last strip and however many will fit, plus some leader, in the first strip. I then hold up the bottom of the roll, count frames, and position the scissors to cut. Holding the film and scissors so that a white wall is behind them helps me to see the frames and the gap between them. If necessary, I move the scissors back and forth a bit to get a clearer view of where each frame ends, but I'm careful to keep the scissor blade well away from the emulsion when I do this. I then cut slowly. This often causes the film to buckle a bit, so I may need to shift my grip and reposition the angle of the scissors as I cut. This part sounds trickier than it is. For the first few strips, I tend to lift the film into a more-or-less horizontal position to find the frame gaps and cut, but for the final few strips, I find it easier to cut while the film is hanging vertically.
     
  5. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I used to use scissors. For the last two years I've been using a Fiskars 6" bypass (not rotary) trimmer that I found at an office supply store. I put it on a lightbox for use. It can also cut through the continuous sleeve that my color lab uses, so the film is protected while I cut. It's great for 120 and 35mm, and you can align the film with the grid on the bed of the cutter.

    Can't find it online right off, or I'd post a link to a photo.

    Lee
     
  6. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Another vote for a trimmer.
    I just started to use a small Fiskars trimmer, the kind with a sliding blade in a little holder. It works great on a lightbox. The space under the blade is clear, so you can see exactly where the cut will be and the edge of the frames. With 35 you have some advantage for using scissors, as you can gauge where the cut will go using the sprocket holes. It's a little tougher with 120, which is why I tried out the trimmer.
     
  7. jordanstarr

    jordanstarr Member

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    there does exist a special cutter for 35mm film. i regret everyday the day i got offered to buy one for 10$ and bailed out because i was a broke-ass student.
    the cutter is about 6 inches long, has a small lightbox built into it with a mini paper cutter type thing attached. apparently it works marvelously. too bad i'll never find out. you might be able to find one on ebay or a second hand camera store.
     
  8. waynecrider

    waynecrider Member

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    Well I've tried the scissors in the past and with my eyes and even with reading glasses it's always real tough. I next went to using a piece of glass on a lightbox with a top edge and now am using a scored piece of paper covered plexiglass on a lightbox with a hard mousepad on top to prevent film slipping. The score seems to guide the blade pretty good and the hard mousepad keeps the film from moving and prevents damage to the film. I need something quicker tho; Maybe the Fiskars trimmer would be better.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 24, 2007
  9. Mike Richards

    Mike Richards Member

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    I found a ROWI cutter in a bargain barrel at a shop in Germany -- 8 Euro as I recall. It's works as jordanstar described. Don't know how I ever got along without it. You should be able to find something equivalent on ebay or the large photo dealers.
     
  10. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    I use cotton gloves, so that I can put my fingers everywhere I need to, and a pair of scissors. I use my Patented Super-Special Grip to hold the 35mm strip (works for 120 as well) on either side of the cutting zone (see photos).

    That way I hold the film with my left hand, cut with my right hand, and I can look at it by transparency holding it towards the light, to see the frame space. Gripping film like this helps a bit to cut a strip with curly base.
     

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  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Where's that Winogrand film that someone posted a while back? He handles the negs with his bare hands and just cuts them up with a big scissors. I forget if he was doing it on a light table. I guess if he found a keeper among the hundreds of thousands of exposures, he just cleaned the neg.
     
  12. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Mike I have the exact same machine and it has all the benefits as set out by jordanstar. OP - It is worth obtaining. I think it was originally made to allow home processed slide film to be cut for insertion into home processed slide mounts

    I occasionally have one small problem with mine which may be my machine rather than ROWI cutters in general. It sometimes slightly "chews" rather than cleanly cuts the second edge of the film. I press the two film holding tabs on top with the first and second finger to ensure the film is held firm and straight in the slot and have tried bringing the curved guillotine cutter down at different speeds.

    Is there a knack to using the guillotine which I have failed to master?Other than mentioning holding the film down as stated and bringing the guillotine down straight the instructions give no warning about any danger of not cutting cleanly.

    Of course the edge can be trimmed afterwards with scissors but as the frame gaps are very small, this sometimes involves cutting to the very edge of the frame.

    Does the guillotine edge need sharpening? Obviously if I could make a clean cut every time this would be much better.

    Thanks

    pentaxuser
     
  13. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Talk of film cutters for slide film made me curious. It seems that B&H, at least, still carries a couple of these:


    Based on the photo, I think the cheaper one could be used for cutting negatives into strips, but I'm not sure it'd be any easier than using scissors. The photo of the more expensive one is smaller and so I'm not sure how useful it'd be for this function.
     
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  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I use scissors some times, and a small guillotine cutter other times. I prefer the cutter, but it only works really well if it is on a lighted support.

    The one thing that does drive me nuts is trying to do this with someone else's scissors, because I am left handed.

    Matt
     
  16. PatTrent

    PatTrent Subscriber

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    This is exactly what I do, too. Additionally, I have found that short scissors are easier for me to control than long bladed/handled scissors.
     
  17. Mike Richards

    Mike Richards Member

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    I haven't really experienced the cutting problems you describe. The guillotine cutter doesn't make quite as clean an edge as a scissors, but it's not really bothersome. I wonder if we have exactly the same design or model? Mine doesn't seem to have tabs as you describe -- the film is threaded through the slots and finally under an aluminum piece across the film just before the cutter. I've used it for well over 50 films with no problem.
     
  18. Fotohuis

    Fotohuis Member

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    A sharp scissor and not such a crappy one works for me over 40 years.
    Unless you have drunk too much the day before it's not a problem :D
     
  19. Fotohuis

    Fotohuis Member

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    Indeed, you have right and left handed scissors.....
     
  20. Ian Tindale

    Ian Tindale Member

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    Scissors are absolutely useless on film - they just bend it over and over and after about twenty attempts they'll eventually hack through leaving very frayed edges. I use a scalpel on a cutting mat - one nice neat cut.
     
  21. DWThomas

    DWThomas Subscriber

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    Hmnm -- time for a sharpening and adjustment or a new pair of scissors! I cut my strips down to fit in file pages using the four finger stretch shown earlier and find the film cuts cleanly first try. These are scissors reserved for paper and film and never allowed near sheet metal, screen wire or other potentially dulling items.

    DaveT
     
  22. Fotohuis

    Fotohuis Member

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    The best scissor for cutting film is the type for cutting clothes. Not too long but also not a very short one.
    Not a problem at all!
     
  23. Shelly Grimson

    Shelly Grimson Member

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    Hi there. For those in need of left-handed items try my cousin at www.sinistershop.com. He has so many items that you will lust after and he tries to get the best quality. Pen knives, scissors etc. It was really an eye opener when he showed me the catalogue once. It really can be a handycap. Imagine using a manual can opener for example!
     
  24. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    Ned Flanders runs a left-handed shop too. :wink:
     
  25. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    Sounds like you're using plastic safety scissors!

    New scissors aren't expensive. I'm using Ikea ones (that come in a three pack of various sizes and different coloured handles) to cut my film and never had a problem with them.
     
  26. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Thanks Shelly for the link to your cousin's site. I've definitely bookmarked the link!

    Matt