Does a hardening fixer really improve film "durability"?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by monkeytumble, Mar 12, 2009.

  1. monkeytumble

    monkeytumble Member

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    Started developing my own B&W film again; it has been about thirty years since I have developed film. In the past, I always use a hardening fixer for the reason that the emulsion needed to be hardened so that it would be more durable and more resistant to scratches. Today, I read in the forms here that folks using non-hardening fixers for film, e.g., TF-4.

    So, do we technically "need" hardening fixer for today's B&W films? Do hardening fixers improve film emulsion durability significantly?

    Thanks,

    Jay
     
  2. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    i have heard that modern film and papers should not be hardened,
    unless they are very soft emulsions like efke makes ...
    adding hardener may make it harder to wash out all the bad stuff ( sorry for the pun ) ..

    good luck!

    john
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member

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    Hardening only improves film durability when wet, and in any case, modern films are prehardened. Unless you're washing your film in some unusually vigorous manner, it doesn't seem necessary.
     
  4. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    It does no harm, although it generally needs more thorough washing than non-hardening fixer. Most modern films are superhardened during manufacture and do not need a hardening fixer, but some older style films, mostly from eastern Europe, do. The common Kodak, Ilford, and Fuji films do not need additional hardening.
     
  5. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    "IF" a film is not pre-hardened, such as the Adox/Efke classic films, a hardening fix will make the film more durable even when dry. Modern Kodak, Fuji and Ilford b/w films are prehardened.

    On a side note: RC b/w photo papers are more prone to scratches from handling if they are not hardened at least a little bit.
     
  6. Don Wallace

    Don Wallace Member

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    I have never been able to develop film without scratching unless I use a hardening fixer. I took the recommendation of someone in this forum to try non-hardening and the first sheets I developed had scratches. Not his fault - I am the clumsy oaf. I do try to be careful, but I have learned that a hardening fixer is the insurance that I need. I don't think that there is any downside to using a hardening fixer, so why not use one?
     
  7. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    There's an extremely important implicit point in your post: You're using sheet film. You don't say how you're developing it (in a tank, a tray, a drum, etc.), but the processing method can be extremely important in determining whether you'll get scratches or other types of damage, and the processing method is likely to vary from one film format to another. For roll films, processing is usually done in a tank on a spiral reel, and the risk of scratching during processing with this sort of setup is pretty slim, in my experience -- at least if the whole process really is done on the reels. (Scratches might occur if the film end curls up on itself after processing or if you take the film off the reels for a dunk in wetting agent at the end.)

    Also, note that a hardening fixer will only help prevent scratches that occur during or after the fixing stage. If something is causing scratches during processing (vs. shortly after processing), that something could affect the film during the development or stop bath steps. I've heard of separate hardening baths that can come earlier than the fixer step, but I don't recall the details.

    There are downsides:

    • Hardening fixers require longer washing times or use of hypo clearing agents to achieve short wash times. This increases costs and/or the environmental impact of processing.
    • Most (or all?) hardening agents in fixers require acid fixers. Some people prefer neutral or alkaline fixers, for a variety of reasons, so using a hardener limits your choices in this respect.

    In short, there are drawbacks to using a hardening fixer. My personal preference is to use non-hardening fixers (TF-3 lately) -- but I also shoot 35mm and MF exclusively and process in tanks with spiral reels, so I'm not concerned with processing issues that are unique to sheet films.
     
  8. Don Wallace

    Don Wallace Member

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    srs, good post. I forget that not everyone - including me - uses sheet film. I never get scratches on my 120 rolls. I used to develop sheet film in batches in trays and I was absolutely hopeless at it so I switched to one sheet at a time. Very tedious. Now I develop sheet film in a Jobo and the scratching in this process was the result of poor handling after the developing, during the final wash. In any case, hardening fixer seems to have been invented for klutzes like me.

    I use HCA all the time for both film and prints and don't see this as a drawback, given that HCA is not all expensive, but would you mind elaborating on the question of acid versus neutral/alkaline fixers?
     
  9. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I'm not an expert on alkali vs. neutral vs. alkaline fixers, so I'm probably missing some things, and may even be getting some wrong. That said, two advantages I've heard claimed for neutral or alkaline fixers is that they wash out more readily and they don't damage image stain as much. The latter is obviously important only with staining developers. I'll leave it to others to elaborate more.