How difficult would it be to develop my own film?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Graham_Martin, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. Graham_Martin

    Graham_Martin Member

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    I keep reading about how easy it is to set up your own darkroom at home. Since I shoot film for the pure enjoyment of it, I started wondering if I should go to the next level and start developing it myself. So, please tell me what is involved and about how much should I expect to spend? I shoot both 35mm and MF including B&W and color. I have read in several places that B&W is easier to process than color.

    So far as the physical property is concerned, I live in Florida and so no basement. The garage is way too hot to set up there. We have an extra bathroom, but my wife wouldn't be too thrilled with an extensive makeover. In other words, I need to be able to do this in the second bathroom while being able to pack it all up and store it away after each session.
     
  2. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Not too hard at all! I have a 5 gal bucket with lid that I got for $3 or so at Home Depot. Buy some liquid dev (HC110, Rodinal, Ilford), buy some stop $10, or use a water stop, rapid liquid fixer and you are done. Throw out your dev after every run, keep the left over stop and fixer in a collapsible container or glass bottle till exhausted. The rest is history. Just need a tank. If you search craigslist, there are many garage sales this summer with tons of tanks. I found a few stainless tanks and reels for next to nothing the other day. Load your film in a dark closet, bathroom with blanket/towel covering light. Crack the 35mm spool open with a beer bottle opener.

    Get some rubber gloves, apron, goggles of course. If you decide to get dry dev and fix and want to mix up 5 liter amounts, sure that is great, just the volume of items to store will might out grow that 5 gal bucket. So get two and stack them when you are all done.

    Yeah you will need some graduates, mixing rod, etc. Lots of this 'consumable' stuff like I said are going next to nothing on Craigs.

    I am sure others will chime in with great ideas! See what fits your situation best, appropriate, ask questions, its such a joy to run your film!

    When you are done, lock up your 5 gal lidded bucket(s) in a cabinet away from kids/grandkids or whomever should be near. You can do it so simple for not much, maybe less than $100.


    You can do it!
     
  3. zsas

    zsas Member

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    The above was for B/W. Color is not too much harded, just more supplies. I run my own c-41 using Rollei Digibase kit. $50 kit will do 50 rolls of film. With color you just need another 5 gal bucket to store the dev, bleach, fix, stabilizer for your next run, you do not throw it out at the end of the session like most do w b/w dev. With B/W you need less 'working solutions' which makes B/W simpler. But heck, color is not that hard. I, like most, started w b/w, got confortable, moved to doing both b/w and c-41. But I guess starting c-41 then going b/w would be interesitng to hear if someone did.
     
  4. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Last, get to the library or book store and get Henry Horenstein's B/W manual. Great companion!
     
  5. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    You'll get allkinds of parts lists. But bear this in mind. Do not confuse intimidating for difficult. It's easy. You just gotta take the plunge.
     
  6. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    I'll second this, every B&W photographer should have read this atleast once.

    Tanks and reels are cheap when they pop up on craigslist, but depending on how close you are to an urban area, the drive might not be worth it. I also recommend you getting the larger tabbed plastic reels for 120 film, will save you a boatload of trouble later.
     
  7. Graham_Martin

    Graham_Martin Member

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    Thanks to all for the helpful input. Are the reels you are referring to those Jobu reels that I see advertised. I think I also need to get a proper black bag for removing the film don't I? I'll check out the library and see if they have Horenstein's book.
     
  8. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    You want to get a patterson tank with 120 wide tab reels, not the plain 35mm reels.

    [​IMG]

    I have used a bunch of different tanks, and patterson holds up the best over time without leaks or cracks.

    You should start with D76 (1Gallon size), any plain indicator stop, and Ilford Rapid Fix. and you should be good for a bunch of rolls. You can use any tight fitting bottle made for carbonated drinks for storage. a simple thermometer to mix the chemicals is a must as well.
     
  9. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    One of the moderators here has some good videos on the process; http://www.jasonbrunner.com/videos.html

    Carbonated drink bottles are fine for storage, and actually work better than many alternatives. Just make sure you remove the original labels and keep them out of reach from any kids that might get access, or else make sure they understand it's not food.

    You will need a light-excluded place to remove the film from the spool or cannister to load reels. The bathroom will work, especially if it has no window and you can seal the door adequately. Or else, use a changing bag.

    If you want to make the room slightly less makeshift add a door sweep and weather stripping around the door to make it light-tight. Except for making it slightly harder to close, it won't affect the use otherwise.
     
  10. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Graham,

    Check out the thread Darkroom Portraits. You will see plenty of examples of how people have solved the problem of temporarily using a second bathroom as a darkroom.

    Neal Wydra
     
  11. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    Check out Ilford's site for some great pdf files on the process.
     
  12. Vilk

    Vilk Member

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    yup, i's just going to say...

    http://www.ilfordphoto.com/Webfiles/200629163442455.pdf

    the most important thing: the list of things you don't need (and people will tell you you do) is much much longer than the list of things you need. for example, in the past 30 years i have never owned, let alone donned or employed, gloves, apron, goggles, stirring rod, film cap remover, film leader retriever, plastic storage bottles, funnels, squeegee, washing bowl, hair dryer...

    :cool:
     
  13. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I agree with Vilk. Some can openers are perfect for removing film cartridge caps. A funnel is handy, though, if you use small neck soft drink bottles for chemicals. Kodak T-Max film developer can be reused, and has a long shelf life even when mixed. Stop bath and fixer can also be reused. With experience, stainless steel film reels are easier to use than plastic ones. For casual use, the plastic reels suffice.
     
  14. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    Clearly mark all your chemical storage containers and be sure to download and print the processing instructions for your chemicals and keep them with your chemicals. Printing and having MSDS sheets would be nice as well, it helps to have them when you take your fixer to dispose of it. You should be able to get everything you need to get started processing for about $50 new. For now do not buy special chemical storage bottles, just wash out and reuse something you have, I keep my fix in an old windshield washer fluid bottle, developer is in an old acid jug I got from work.

    A tip: I have two empty 20oz water bottles that I keep with my processing stuff, one is marked DEV and has no cap, the other is marked FIX and has a cap. Both bottles have lines drawn on them at the fill level for my tanks. When I setup to process I put my chemicals in these bottles so that they are ready to go, the cap on the fix bottle is to prevent me from using it first (trust me, it's a good idea). The staging bottles are nice because they allow me to fill the tank faster with less risk of spilling.

    I keep all my stuff in a large wicker basket in a closet in the laundry room, and take it out when I process. Most of the year I process film in the kitchen sink, and in spring and fall I like to process outside on the porch.

    Have fun, and good luck.
     
  15. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Being in Florida it is unlikely that your tap water is 68F. If you are going to use a film developer that will be diluted for a working solution, my suggestion is to keep a bottle of distilled water in the refrigerator. Since your stock solution will probably be over 70F having the cold water handy to use when diluting to the 68 or 70 degrees for developing. In addition to your selected chemicals you will need a developing (daylight) tank, reel(s), scissors, can opener for 35mm canisters, a (dark) room or changing bag, a timer of some sort, storage bottles, film washer or washing technique of your choice, a place to hang the film to dry with film hangers and an archival film storage system. All should be easy to find and not very costly.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  16. rmolson

    rmolson Member

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    Welcome to the world of darkroom
    I have been doing this since I was 16 and I am 82 now and still am impatient to see the film as soon as it’s fixed! Don’t worry about the temperature of the water too much As long as it is at least below 75 .Our cold tap water in the city in the summer Here in Mansfield Ohio is 72 and so we standardized on72
    Bit of History, DuPont even recommended it As long as they are all the same temperature modern films are much tougher than when the recommendations were originally made .DuPont back in the 60’s tried to change the recommendation from 68 to71 or 72 as most people s thermometers were not that accurate and metol ,I think, activity drops off rather suddenly below 68. So they wrote it up for 72 for their film sheets, but the printer kept changing it back to 68 as an obvious typo . G—‘s Honest truth told to me by one of the reps back then.
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Here is Kodak's take on starting up:

    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/aj3/aj3.pdf

    If you have a room or a cupboard that you can make fully dark, it is much more comfortable to load reels there than in a changing bag. If necessary, you can load your reels and tanks at night, and then do your processing the next day in a more convenient and well lighted location.

    Those wide flanged plastic reels pictured above are of European manufacture and are sold under a number of brand names. I prefer them over the Patterson reels for 120, whereas I don't find that they make as much of a difference for 35mm. I see them most frequently under the AP brand - Freestyle sells them as "Arista Premium":

    http://www.freestylephoto.biz/55043-Arista-Premium-Plastic-Developing-Reel?cat_id=1603

    You are going to have to make a philosophical choice (some would say a religious one :smile:) - plastic or stainless-steel reels. I own and waver between the two. If you are like most, the first couple of times you will struggle with loading the reel. Persevere, because it will become easy. One tip - heat and humidity do add to the challenge, especially with plastic reels.

    I've had 40+ years of fun doing this - hope you can enjoy it as much.