Difficulty loading 120 film onto plastic reels (and being a bit of a baby about it)

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by MatthewDunn, Aug 10, 2013.

  1. MatthewDunn

    MatthewDunn Member

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    Here is the story - I just recently started film photography after years of being unsatisfied with digital and not seeing any "convenience" advantages (given the time/annoyances associated with monitoring, matching color profiles, junking around in PS, etc.). Happy I went back to film (which I only had the most brief experience with in HS). I am shooting a Mamiya RZ67II with a 110mm. I am working through a community photo center here in San Francisco that offers classes, tutoring, etc.

    My biggest problem to date (and by far my most frustrating) is trying to load 120 film onto a plastic Paterson-type reel. Every other roll seems to go ok (at best), but certain rolls will just not go on. I realize I am complaining here, but I guess I am hoping that some of you will say that everyone went through this and it is just a matter of practice. I watch other people do it (meaning go in and out of the darkroom) and it seems to take mere seconds, which is incredibly frustrating. Again, it's not that I don't want to work hard - I do - but I also want to be assured that this is a function of practice and that I *can* get better at this.

    I've also made the mistake of messing around with different film/developer combinations, which I now understand is a bad idea. So my thought is as follows:

    1) Stick with one system (the Mamiya) and one lens (the 110) so that I learn how that lens "sees" before I do anything more on that front - convenient because it is the only camera/lens that I own at the moment.

    2) Stick with one film (I was thinking FP4+) and one developer (I was thinking DD-X).

    3) Start developing at home so that I take complete ownership of the process. On this front, I was thinking about trying to purchase one of the Samigon reels, as they would *appear* to have a reputation for being slightly easier to load.

    I am also reading AA's "The Negative", which I am finding helpful, although a little bit off point for this thread.

    In the end, again, I recognize that I just wanted to vent a little bit and the wife, while lovely, just not particularly care or understand why I take it this seriously...any and all pep talks (including tough love, if necessary) is appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Matt
     
  2. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    1. Make sure the ball bearings and grooves are absolutely clean.
    2. I have not used Peterson plastic reels, however some reels load more easily if the corners of the 120 film are clipped slightly.
    3. I prefer Hewes steel reels [tank] and Jobo reels [processor] for 35mm and 120 film.
     
  3. stradibarrius

    stradibarrius Member

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    Matthew, you pick a camera and lens combo that will blow you mind how good it is. I know the RB/RZ's are heavy but there is something about mine that just works great for me.
    As far as loading the reels I would suggest taking an old roll of film and practice loading it in the light do it a few times so you can see what is happening. Then do it with you eyes closed. you will get the hang of it and it will seem so easy. The Patterson reels have the large "entry" ramps that make those reel particularly easy to use.
    FP4 is a great film and you will find lots of FP4 fans here. I have no experience with DD-X, but for easy of use and economy Kodak HC-110 is so easy and there are development times for any kind of film you can think of. I use it at 1+50 dil and then pour it out. It will stay good forever and is really easy to use.
    Hope this helps.
     
  4. pentaxuser

    pentaxuser Subscriber

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    Good advice already given if you are stuck with Paterson reels but if you decide to get your own tank and reel for home use then you might want to have a look at the Durst 120 tank. It is a plastic tank with a plastic reel but you get a 120 loader with it which clips onto the outside of the reel. You feed the film into the centre of the reel through the loader and then simply push the end under the sprung centre. Once under the centre spring you wind the film on by the small handle that is part of the outside circle of the reel.

    Ideal if you lack a place of total darkness for loading and have to use a sweat producing changing bag as if doesn't require "dry hands" unlike reels requiring the hand-feeding of film


    pentaxuser
     
  5. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    It really doesn't matter what type reel you use. But some people have better success with one type rather than the other. Since you have tried plastic without success try a stainless steel reel and tank. The key is to practice. Take an old 120 film and practice loading in the light.

    DDX seems to have poorer keeping properties than other developers. So unless you are developing a lot of film I would suggest something else. Kodak HC-110 is a concentrate that lasts practically forever and produces great results. Perfect for the occasional user. Check the following site, http://www.covingtoninnovations.com/hc110/
     
  6. gedra

    gedra Member

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    I also found Patterson reels to be very frustrating. Hewes reels are much more user friendly.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    For 120, the Samigon/AP/Arista Premium reels with the wider input flanges work much better for me than the Paterson reels.

    If you want to stick with Paterson, a lot of people find it useful to cut a piece of semi rigid material like a plasticized playing card to the right width for inserting into the guides, and then use that card as a ramp to start the film in. Once the front edge of the film gets past the bearings, out comes the card, and the rest is much easier.
     
  8. ruby.monkey

    ruby.monkey Member

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    Hewes make steel reels with 1" cores to fit the Paterson system. Not cheap, but far more user-friendly than the plastic auto-load reels.
     
  9. IndifferentCamera

    IndifferentCamera Member

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    Try the other type of plastic reel, made by a Spanish company, called AP in Europe. They are much easier and fit the tanks. Cheaper too.

    Some have success with a pencil and the graphite acting as a lubricant but I would try a different reel first, either the AP or stainless steel. If you stick with Paterson, you can also pull the reel apart slightly as you load the dry reels with dry hands and film, it is indeed partly technique. I always clip the corners going on first. However, I think Paterson reels are often a combination of poor design and manufacturing quality and two bad halfs make a very bad reel. I can't think of any other camera gear that brings so much grief to so many people but is still used by many without problems (and is now in its fourth iteration) as the Paterson reel.

    Jon
     
  10. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    The AP/Paterson knock-off reels with large plastic tongues to guide the film do make loading easier, but they are the worst pieces of darkroom crap I have ever used. Those large plastic flanges build up static electricity like no other and leave nasty fish hook shaped marks on your negatives if you try to load your film quickly (which you surely will once you get the hang of it). I have since eschewed them altogether and exclusively use original Paterson reels with the small flanges, or my Jobo duo-set reels.

    The Paterson is easy once you get a feel for it. Practice in the light.
     
  11. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    If the reel has ever been dunked in Photo Flo, it could be sticky. Additionally it acts as a catalyst and has a tendency to over develop the edges.
    Scrub the reel with an old toothbrush and you should find it easier to load, Then never put it in Photo Flo.
     
  12. tony lockerbie

    tony lockerbie Subscriber

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    What Jim says, but I have found that dryness is the most important. Before I load Patterson reels with 120, I always give them a going over with a hair dryer, even if they haven't been wet for some time. Also clip the edges with one of those slightly rounded nail clippers.Do these two things and you will not have a problem.
     
  13. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Go to Stainless Steel. I recently switched from plastic to SS. 35mm is more difficult, and I'm getting frustrated, having messed up a couple rolls, but 120 is much easier with SS. Seriously, you will like 120 on stainless.
     
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  15. omaha

    omaha Member

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    In my re-start efforts this year, I bought a Hewes reel and spent an hour or so test loading it in the light with an already developed roll. Once I got the hang of it, it only took a couple of tries in the dark before I could spool it up pretty much effortlessly. I don't have a lot of experience with alternative reel types, but this one is working for me.
     
  16. R.Gould

    R.Gould Member

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    I had the same problems with plastic reels, the film would sometimes go in in a few seconds, other times film would stick half way, this with both 35mm and 120, I tried SS reels and tanks and found them harder, then with 120 I found two tips, one was to run a pencil round the groves, and tip two was to load the film with the tape end first, the pencil dry greases the reel with graphite, and the tape end is slightly stiffer and makes starting the film easier, I can't remember the last time I had a problem using the above with Patterson reels,
    Richard
     
  17. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

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    Yes, Richard, I should have mentioned that as well. I always fold the end tape over and pull that through the flange with my thumb and forefinger to get it seated. Once this has been done, the rest of the roll should load effortlessly, so long as the reel is dry and clean.
     
  18. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Be aware that there are not only two basic systems of plastic reels: "true" ratched type with balls (Paterson) and "manual" ratching (Jobo).

    But also clones of both systems. And even from Jobo there are two versions (old and current) that differ in material and design.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 11, 2013
  19. R.Gould

    R.Gould Member

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    Next time you load a film try the pencil trick, always works a treat for me, the film just slips in, also, with 120 the ratchet system sometimes doesn't work as well as it should so I always use my thumbs on the edge of the film, one thumb one way the other the second with the ratccet just to help the film to slip in, this has certainly worked for me for a good many years now.
    Richard
     
  20. rolleiman

    rolleiman Member

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    The reels must be totally dry or the film will stick. Also a little trick I use is to "round off" the corners of 120 film with a small pair of scissors in the changing bag. This makes for a smoother transfer.
     
  21. wombat2go

    wombat2go Subscriber

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    I think the plastic spirals here are made with loose tolerances so the sides don't stay parallel, causing the 120 film to jam.
    I have also lost a bit of dexterity in left hand.
    I made this jig out of scap (maybe posted before) , and it improved my success rate to nearly 100%.
    The back side is fixed and the 120 spool is held on a shaft so the back edge of the film is aligned.
    Then I just gently rotate the front side.
    I found (in daylight) that cutting a chamfer on the film makes it more prone to jump out in the first half turn - maybe that is specific to the spirals here
    I still occasionally get a crinkle if the film does jam - causes a bright green crescent moon on the image.
    I am thinking to pull a reel apart and see if I can machine more accurate spindle parts of acetal to hold the sides better
     

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  22. cmacd123

    cmacd123 Member

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    The Paterson Reels seem to have an industry of "cloners" around them. I have one tank made in Hong Kong with its own reels, as well as several of both the Old and New versions of the AP tanks. They all varry in ease of Loading. The AP "compact" series reels do have the Guide flange to help guide 120 film in. They are also of Slightly slicker plastic than the AP "classic" reels. most of the Paterson Made reels are in between the two as far as 'Slickness"

    Jobo reels come in at least three variations, the 1000, 1500 and 2500 series. I have only used the first two. The 1500 reels are very "Slick" and as AgX says they don't have the rachet mechnism, which allows for easing the end of the film back a bit if it gets stuck.

    the Jobo 1000 series are also fairly "slick"

    The Jobo reels have a "Thumb slot" on the side, and tapping on the edge of the film at those slots will let you straighten the film to the center of the spiral. I find that once about three of the sprial slots are full, that the film is then straight enough to to feed quickly by just pushing it into the reel.

    I also find that leaving the Tape on the end of the 120 film, provides extra stiffness for the all critical initial line up of the film. You have to be careful that you don't leave a sticky part of the tape exposed.
     
  23. MatthewDunn

    MatthewDunn Member

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    Thanks, guys, for all the replies. All much appreciated. Keep them coming!
     
  24. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    I use patterson reels.

    Second the recommendation to not get photo-flo on the spirals. Give them a good wash in dilute bleach, run a soft pencil round the groove and it should be nice and slick again.

    However, practice, practice. I prefer not to use the tape end. I sort of hold the reel with the entry tags directly under my finger and thumb and have got used to sort of "sliding" the end of the film down my finger and thumb so the edges drop neatly into the entry to the reel. I use a three finger grip on the film with my right hand with edges held by thumb and middle finger and my first finger is then free to guide the centre of the film. I also reverse bend the first 1/4" of the film slightly. Difficult to describe but I now get the end in 1st time 50% of the time and second time 90%. With only occasional struggle.
     
  25. AgX

    AgX Member

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  26. clayne

    clayne Member

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    But hewes stainless reels. Do not pass go.