Home processing workflow

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by rwreich, Jan 19, 2013.

  1. rwreich

    rwreich Subscriber

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    Hi All,

    Thanks to some encouragement from the kind people here at APUG, and a sincere desire to take responsibility for my art from beginning to end, I am almost ready to develop my own B&W negatives at home. For what it's worth, I've been shooting film for a while, so I know what a good negative is supposed to look like. Now is the time, though, to take ownership of the process.

    There is one main purpose to writing this post:

    There is a difference between reading someone else's instructions and being able to communicate what needs to be done. I am hoping that some on the forum might read through my plan and see if there are obvious flaws in my planned workflow.

    I have on hand:

    one medium-sized Dark-Bag
    one Patterson Super-System 4 Tank
    one bag of D76
    one 1-Litre bottle of Ilford Rapid Fixer
    one 16oz bottle of Photoflo
    one 1-gallon opaque jug in which to mix the developer stock
    three 500ml graduates
    a good thermometer
    the Massive Development Chart app on my phone (for the timers and recipes)
    Several rolls of exposed film

    Here's my plan as I see it in my head:

    1. Mix up the D76 in the 1-gallon jug using the directions on the bag, and let that cool overnight.
    2. (The Next Day) Mix the Developer stock with water (1+1) to fill one 500ml graduate.
    3. Mix the Rapid Fixer with water (1+4) to fill one 500ml graduate.
    4. Mix the Photoflo with water (2.5+500) to fill the last graduate.
    5. Fill extra large container with 20-Degree Celsius water.
    6. Load the film into the spool(s) of the Paterson tank in the Dark-Bag.
    7. Verify 20-degrees Celsius with the thermometer in each graduate, being careful not to cross-contaminate.
    8. Make ready the timer in the Massive Developer Chart app.
    9. Pour in the Developer, start the timer, and invert/agitate when appropriate.
    10. Empty the Developer as the timer is going off.
    11. Fill tank with 20* water stop-bath (5 times) and empty.
    12. Fill tank with Rapid Fixer, start timer, invert/agitate.
    13. Pour fixer back into appropriate gradient for reuse.
    14. Wash with 20* water 10 times over 10 minutes.
    15. Fill tank with Photoflo, start timer.
    16. Pour Photoflo back into appropriate gradient for reuse.
    17. Remove film from tank/spool, hang to dry somewhere the kids won't touch it.

    So, that was it. As I can see it in my head, that's what I plan to do.

    What did I forget, what am I missing, what else do I need to know?

    Thanks in advance!

    - WR
     
  2. tim k

    tim k Member

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    I'd use less photoflo. Just a couple of drops.
    Then dump it. Mix it with distilled water.
     
  3. rwreich

    rwreich Subscriber

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    Good to know. Thanks Tim.
     
  4. kbrede

    kbrede Member

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    +1 on less photo-flo. I use 10ml to a gallon of distilled water. I think that works out to 1:380 but my math isn't that good. :smile:. I just poor a little down each side of the film after putting the clips on and hang the film. I also run the shower for a while to knock the dust down and hang the film over the bathtub. Good luck and have fun!
     
  5. rwreich

    rwreich Subscriber

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    Thanks, Kenton.
     
  6. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Looks to me like you will do well.

    One suggestion to consider though:

    If the ambient temperature is close to 20C (e.g. 19C - 23C), it is an excellent idea to use the ambient temperature as your target temperature.

    You will need to adjust your development time according to the manufacturer's instructions, but otherwise everything will work the same, and temperature control becomes much simpler.

    Have fun!
     
  7. Noble

    Noble Member

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    What film are you using? If you are using some of the more classic emulsions like Efke 25 or Rollei 25 a hardening fixer like Kodafix may be of some benefit. I don't really know if there are long term downsides of using hardening fixers as long as you rinse your film thoroughly. The reason I like Kodafix is it is easy to mix up. It is a liquid. All I do is buy a a gallon of distilled water. Dump out and save half the water. Pour in the whole bottle of Kodafix concentrate. Then top up the gallon container. Then I have a separate bottle where I pour out a big enough volume of fixer to fill my larger tank. Fixer can be resused several times. So I just use that fixer in that bottle for something like 15 rolls of film. Then I dump it and get some more from the gallon container. Some people skip the small bottle and just use the fixer straight from the gallon container. I just like to segregate it. It takes me months to get through a gallon of fixer and I don't want to keep track that long. If I lose track of how much I've used a small container of fixer I just toss it. That's only a third of my stock thrown away.

    You also don't need to obsess about temperature so much. Temperature is very important depending on the developer, film, and type of developing you are doing but I never measure the temperature of the water stop bath, fixer, or final wash. I just use tap water for the stop and make sure that it is cool to the touch. It doesn't have to be 20C. Just don't make it too warm or the emulsion on some films with be damaged. During the final rinse I sometimes increase the temp of the water to the point it feels a little warm to the touch. That helps dissolve contaminants and wash the film faster. So I will actually use some warm water and let the film soak in it for several minutes and then rinse it in some cool water. I will alternate back and forth.

    I agree with this. If you live in a temperate climate a good strategy is to set your thermostat at 68F or 20C and leave your chemicals out over night. Everything will be 20C in the morning. I don't process as much during the summer because it would be expensive and irresponsible to cool my home to 20C. And I don't like trying to get developer to the right temperature using other means.
     
  8. rwreich

    rwreich Subscriber

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    Excellent idea, Matt - my chart does allow for temp customization, so that could be very helpful. Thanks!
     
  9. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    go for it and enjoy the best negsyou've ever had.
     
  10. rwreich

    rwreich Subscriber

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    Noble, thanks for the advice. I'm using several types of film, mostly Tri-X, Arista Premium 400, and some Ilford HP5 & Delta 3200. I also was not planning on wiping down the film because I have been cautioned against scratching it using that method. My plan was to just let it dry in a well ventilated area. That may not work, but I want to see if I can get away with it before touching the emulsion side.

    I appreciate the word about not being too sensitive about temperature control during the final stages. That has been one of the unknowns in my thoughts. Thanks again for sharing your thoughts.
     
  11. rwreich

    rwreich Subscriber

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    Thanks Ralph, I'm hoping that this will put an end to any longings I had to move ahead in the digital world. Ultimately, the only prohibitive factor has been the cost of processing. By year's end, I will be making prints optically in my basement. (here's hoping!)
     
  12. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    16 oz of PhotFlo will last a long time. What sort of clips will you use to hang the film, and is the location still air?

    The first few time you do this, use a written check list and tick it off as you go. Label the solutions. I prefer to use a stop clock or a kitchen clock with a second hand for timing - easier to keep an eye on while I am tidying up. But then my phone won't run apps.
     
  13. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    i like to the gralab process timerssuch as the gralab 300.they are my process timer of choice, because i can set the time and it runs backwards to zero.
     
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  15. rwreich

    rwreich Subscriber

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    Grahamp, I'll be using state-of-the-art wooden clothespins. The location will have some circulation due to an HVAC return, but probably not enough to cause a breeze.

    I will definitely use a checklist, and my phone app keeps individual timers for each step all on the same screen.

    Thanks for the info about Photoflo.
     
  16. fralexis

    fralexis Member

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    You use stop bath 5 times? I have only ever used one application of stop bath.
     
  17. Ghostman

    Ghostman Member

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    I wouldn't use wood. Wood absorbs chemicals and in my printing process it can happen that I use the same clips for negatives and prints. Plastic or metal clips can be properly rinsed. Also 5 times stop bath might be overkill. I do 2.

    For the final rinse (photoflo) I use filtered water. I have very hard water where I come from.
     
  18. fotch

    fotch Member

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    If you could find a location away from the air duct, I highly recommend moving the drying to it. Even the slightest dust being moved by the HVAC will find its way to your negatives and then dry on them. Meaning, you won't be dusting them off.
     
  19. dorff

    dorff Member

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    One stop bath is sufficient, and for film may even be replaced by two or three rinses in water. Its purpose is to stop development and to preserve acidity in the fixer (developers are all alkaline). A good rinse in water stops development, gets rid of 99.9% of the alkali, and the effect on the fixer is negligible. I don't use stop bath for film any longer, and suffer no ill effects in the results. If you make the rinse quick, then the fixer effectively acts as final developer arrestor (due to the acidity).

    Agree about wooden clips - to be avoided. Clothes pegs in plastic should be okay. I prefer my darkroom stainless steel clips, as they do not cause a dimple in the film, and have a really good grip.

    Don't hang the film to dry in an open room. A dust free cupboard is maybe better. I hang films in my darkroom and close the door for an hour or two. Dust that settles on the emulsion when still wet will embed, and be impossible to remove later.

    You don't mention storage of the film after it has dried. May I suggest Printfile negative sleeves? The 6 frames x 7 strips ones are what I use for 35 mm. For 120 I use the 3 frames x 4 strips (for 6x7). The same ones work for 645 as 4 frames x 4 strips. Don't use the 4 frame width type sleeves unless you can help it, or your scanner only accommodates 4 frames of 35 mm. The reason is that it is easier to browse your negative sleeves if they are A4-sized (flat) and stored in a ring-binder as a single page.
     
  20. Ghostman

    Ghostman Member

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    To clarify my post #16 - I do a 2 X stop bath but with water only. I don't use any chemicals in the stop process. I also do a 2 X fix. I have 2 fix solutions made up A and B. I split my fix time in two halves, for example 2-3 minutes in Fix A, pour it back into the bottle, fill up cannister with Fix B and fix for another 2-3 minutes, pour fixer back into Fix bottle B. I always test my fixers with a small piece of film. It lasts ages.
     
  21. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    This is when thinking about it and writing about it is FAR more complicated than the actual process. Go for it!

    If I may suggest just one thing. If you are going to mix up ONE GALLON of D-76, may I suggest using lots of smaller bottles than one BIG bottle? Exposure to air is what kills the developer. If you fill, say 4 1 liter bottles and start using just one, then the rest will remain perfectly good for long time.
     
  22. Noble

    Noble Member

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    Yeah, don't squeegee your film! There is no point. You don't even need a well ventilated area. I just hang my film on the shower rod. That's it. If you leave it overnight it will be dry in the morning. One word of caution though is water can pool in parts of the clip and take longer to dry. I usually snip off the leaders that are connected to the clips rather than disturbing the clips. What will happen is occasionally everything will look nice and dry and then you will grab the clip to take the film off the shower rod and a little drop of water will roll down the film!

    Lol. No problem. In the beginning it is tough to tell what to obsess about. I've made my share of mistakes and eventually figured out what I can be somewhat sloppy about and what demands precision. The actual developing part is where I would be neurotic. That is the place where things can really go wrong and irreparable harm can occur. If you don't do an adequate stop bath the worst that will happen is you will exhaust your fixer quickly. If you do an inadequate fix then before cutting your film put it back on the reel, soak it in water, and fix it for a few more minutes.

    The hardest part for me is getting the film on the reels!
     
  23. Stuggi

    Stuggi Member

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    My 2 cents, your mileage might vary and whatnot, but in my experience I've never managed to mess up developing of negatives, except on 2 occasions (one was due to Kodak's inability to get their development times for HC110 right), and the other time I was trying to push Tri-X to 12500 ASA in Rodinal, which was doomed to fail anyhow), so don't worry so much. Basically, all you need is developer, fixer and water, all the other stuff is twist that you add as you go along, except maybe distilled water if your tap water is rich in calcium or otherwise undrinkable.

    About temperature, it's only really critical at the developing stage, and as long as you are within a degree of the "ideal" temp, you'll be fine. If your development temperature is more than a couple degrees from room temp, I usually start a degree north or south of my ideal temp (i.e. if your room temp is over your dev temp, start a degree cold, and vice versa). After that, you only need to be within 5 degrees of ideal, 20-25C maybe. Of course you shouldn't get cavalier with the temperature just because you can, as precise as possible is always good, but don't worry so much about it either that you forget to have fun.

    About stop baths, wash aids and other great things; you do not need them! I stopped in water for a minute and rinsed in water with washing soap for 4 years before getting anything fancier, and I can't say that I see any difference in results after adding all these frills. The only really great thing that I'd say is mandatory is 2 bath fixing, basically you mix 2 batches of fixer, and fix 2,5 min in the first, and 2.5 min in the second, and when your first bath gets full of silver and stops working, you get rid of it, mix a new batch, and use the old second bath as first bath. This way, you're always fixing optimally, as well as minimizing the use of fixer.

    To your credit though, you have a lot better understanding of what you're doing going in than what did when I started out, I just bought some random chems and an old leaky tank from my local photo store and went to town. :smile:
     
  24. dorff

    dorff Member

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    1) One has to get rid of potassium salts, if there are any in the developer. Rodinal is a good example of potassium-containing developer. The reason is that potassium thiosulphate is inactive as fixer. If potassium salts are carried over into the fixer, it will exhaust and fail to work a lot sooner.

    2) Yes, getting film onto reel can sometimes be tricky. I do not struggle with Ilford, Kodak or Fuji, but some of the others are a real PITA. Foma comes to mind. I'd sooner spool a strip of clingwrap. Maybe the newer Foma films have a better base. What reels do you use? I have no luck with the stainless steel reels, and have happily standardised on Paterson reels. Others swear by stainless reels. Whatever you use, the best in my opinion is to sacrifice a roll, maybe one for which development failed for some reason, and use that to practice with in daylight.
     
  25. Cold

    Cold Member

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    If I could slip a question into the excellent discussion...

    i've only done 4 rolls so far (two double batches, all Tri-X) and the first batch had a bit of curl....not too bad...but more than I'd have hoped for. The second had some serious curl, both longitudinally and in the way that it was wrapped on the reel. If there any change I can make in my process to minimize curl?
     
  26. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Try drying the film slower. You will tend to get better drying in a slightly humid environment.