problems with steel reels

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by nsouto, Sep 15, 2008.

  1. nsouto

    nsouto Subscriber

    Messages:
    506
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2005
    Location:
    Sydney Austr
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi folks. Can someone with experience of these things in 35mm point me in the direction of detailed or usable instructions on how to load one?

    I've had the last two rolls ruined by incorrect loading. In one case, a kink in the perforations made it almost impossible to get the roll flat for scanning. In the other, portions of some frames didn't get any soup, and no: it wasn't under-filling! I suspect just plain old one-wind-against-another.
    I'm loading with a light tight bag. Tried numerous times outside the bag with ruined film to see if I can get the hang of it, but it always gets either a kink on the threads or portions of film touch each other.
    What's the secret?
    Many thanks in advance for any feedback.

    ps: I use a plastic Patterson style reel without the slightest problem. But the Kindermann uses less developer (250 vs 300) and I'm trying that.
     
  2. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,522
    Joined:
    Aug 2, 2004
    Location:
    West Midland
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    You need plenty of room to load a 35mm steel reel so a changing bag is far from ideal. There is a knack to doing it.

    Stick to using your Paterson reels dev is cheap ruined negatives can't be replaced.

    Ian
     
  3. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I've two suggestions:

    1. Use Hewes reels. Cheap generic reels can be made to work, but in my experience, Hewes reels are in an entirely different league than generic reels in terms of ease of loading. This is mainly because Hewes reels have two "teeth" that grip the sprocket holes in the film, which makes centering and placing the film much easier than the spring-clip used in generic reels. Hewes reels also use a thicker metal, which makes them less prone to being bent out of shape. Unfortunately, Hewes reels cost a lot more than generic reels, but IMHO they're worth it. There's another brand that I've seen recommended, too, but I don't recall offhand what it is. Note that Hewes reels are actually sometimes sold under other names, but there's usually some indication that they're made by Hewes, so you may need to read the fine print.
    2. Be sure you're loading in the right direction. Even with Hewes reels, it's possible to start loading backwards, so that the curve of the spiral would move inward rather than outward as you load -- but of course when you start from the center there's no way to move further in. Surprisingly, I've actually gotten pretty far loading a reel backwards like this, but of course the film buckles and touches itself and the result is pretty ugly.

    On a broader note, Ian's got a point -- 50ml of solution difference is pretty small. If you're happy with Paterson reels, it'll take a lot of rolls of film to make up the cost of a single Hewes reel from the cost savings of 50ml of photochemistry per roll.
     
  4. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,562
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago, Wes
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Dear Nuno,

    If it is the volume (rather than the cost of chemicals) you are trying to save, look into a Jobo system and a 251X tank. It uses 170ml for a single roll and the convenience of not having to agitate manually is wonderful.

    Neal Wydra
     
  5. Vaughn

    Vaughn Member

    Messages:
    5,129
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2006
    Location:
    Humboldt Co.
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Sounds like you have a slightly bent reel -- buy a Hewes...worth every penny!

    vaughn
     
  6. Philippe-Georges

    Philippe-Georges Member

    Messages:
    727
    Joined:
    Apr 11, 2005
    Location:
    Flanders Fie
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    While the steel reels subject is on, I have a little question, if you do not mind?
    I have LPL (120 & 35 mm) reels, but I wonder if I can use the HEWES film loader (see attachment) to load these LPL reels.

    Thank you,

    Philippe
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 26, 2008
  7. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

    Messages:
    2,936
    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2006
    Location:
    Misissauaga
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    tips

    centre - feel for the film and that is not projecting out un-evenly after winding the first half of a turn. If it isn't centred, then onece you get past the first half turn, it will not want to go onto the reel easily.

    once it is centered, and loading, hold the reel in one hand, and with the other hand, try to gently 'push back' against the film. If it has been loading correctly, you can learn to feel that 'give', as the film moves between being pulled against the inside of the spiral, and being pushed out against the adjacent further outer part of the spiral guide.

    I tend to load ss reels by guiding the film with one hand, and turning the reel, whilch is left resting on the counter. with the other hand. By not picking up the reel, I find I am less likely to twist the reel to allow the film to skip a track.

    I also have Paterson reels, and use them just as often.

    Frequently my unprocesed films start to pile up, and I will do a batch of them all in one evening. I sort the films as to which developer I like using with what, and then see what works out best.

    Usually I try to do 35mm c-41 on the steel reels, because I can fit 4 reels into the 1l of solution that I mix for my c41 work, and the steel transfers the tempering bath effect best. On the other hand, if it is 120 c-41 that is back logged, I will load them onto paterson reels, because, with care, two 120 films can be loaded onto a paterson reel, and then with 2 reels can do 4-120's in 1l of c41.
     
  8. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

    Messages:
    1,691
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2004
    Location:
    Saratoga Spr
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Noons -

    Steel reels do provide an opportunity to practice swearing.

    One of the best pieces of advice I ever got was to sacrifice a roll of film - load a reel with the lights on so that you can actually see what is happening at the same time that you feel what is happening. That's the best way to train yourself to react to the kinds of problems that occur when loading film. A bit part of the art of loading steel reels is learning how to manipulate the film, and the best way to do that is with the lights on. So sacrifice a roll of film, and practice, practice, practice - - -

    Other points:

    1. Make sure that you cut the end of the film squarely, and then taper the edges. Try to avoid rewinding the film all the way back into the cassette so that you can dress the end with the lights on before you try to load the film on the reel. A long, gentle taper makes for easier loading than merely clipping off the corners of the blunt end of the film.

    2. I'm right-handed, so for me it works best to hold the reel with my right hand while feeding the film on with the left. I use the index finger from my right hand to guide the end of the film into the catch at the center of the reel, and then as the reel is loaded, I have that finger ride gently against the back of the film. That way, if the film start to kink or buckle, I can sense the distortion with that finger in time to make corrections.

    3. Cup the film slightly between the thumb and index finger of the left hand. You want to cup it just enough to make "chord" across the cupped film slightly narrower than the interior width of the reel. Just be careful that you don't cup it so much that you cause bend marks in the film.

    4. Make certain that the two faces of the reel are absolutely parallel. Steel reels bend easily, and if the faces get out of parallel, they are a bitch to load.

    5. Hewes reels are the best, and the easiest to load. But other brands are OK as long as they don't get bent.

    6. And practice your swearing. Remember the words of Mark Twain - 'profanity offers a form of relief denied even to prayer.'
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

    Messages:
    19,115
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    hi noons

    there is a trick to see if your loading metal reels worked ...
    from time to time, push the film back into the reel, you should feel
    the film moving back and forth a little bit, that means the film is on the reel as
    it is supposed to be. curve the film a little bit as you wrap it.

    sometimes it is easier to waste a roll of film to see how it is supposed to look
    and feel, and then practice with it in the bag until you feel comfortable.

    good luck!

    john
     
  10. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,157
    Joined:
    Aug 27, 2005
    Location:
    Los Alamos,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I've had the same sort of problem far too many times. I have also successfully loaded a steel reel in a changing bag many times. The problem is to get the film started straight. This is made worse by the fact that you may cut the leader (or trailer) of the film at a slight angle, making it hard to line up at the center of the reel. Be careful not to get the film at an angle to the reel or to twist it in any way. In general, if the reel is going to load properly, it will do so easily, without any effort. If you encounter kinks or any problems with the film going in the slot, remove it completely and start over. Sometimes this can be very frustrating, requiring ten or more tries. Usually everything works right the first time.
     
  11. Nigel

    Nigel Member

    Messages:
    148
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2006
    Location:
    Toronto, Can
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    My advice for loading 35mm (and 120 for that matter) onto steel reels flawlessly - Cheat. Get the Kinderman reels and loader. Works every time flawlessly, even using a dark bag.
     
  12. vdonovan

    vdonovan Member

    Messages:
    468
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    We all feel your pain. If you really want a vocabulary work out try loading 220 onto steel reels. A roll of 220 is as long as a roll of 36 exposure 35mm but it is so wide that small errors in alignment turn into big displacements and kinks.

    The upside is that with practice, as your muscles learn what to do and motor memory takes over, it does eventually get easy. I can load 35mm and 120 quickly and reliably now without blasphemy, even in a changing bag. I'm getting there with 220.

    My infallible rules. Whenever I break one of these rules the load screws up and I get kinks and stains:
    0. NEVER be in a hurry.
    1. ALWAYS take a practice run (or several) with spare film first, eyes closed. This tunes up the muscle memory in your hands.
    2. Double check to make sure you are loading in the right direction. I feel the ends of the reel and make sure they are pointing down (I'm right handed and hold the reel in my left).
    3. I do not use the little clip to secure the film in the center of the reel. I think this allows the film to move a little and center itself as it spools on. Others swear by the clip. I make an exception when using Hewes reels, where the tabs center the film nicely.
    4. DON'T be in a hurry. Relax. Getting frustrated will cause you to tense your hands and they will not "feel" the film onto the reel correctly.
     
  13. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,517
    Joined:
    Feb 16, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    These threads come up periodically. I understand the problems people have with steel reels (or thought I did) because they do take some practice. There is a technique to loading them, and it takes practice. But once mastered, no problem.

    However, I got a little more insight recently into why some people may have more problems than others. I obtained a "whole darkroom" from a local photographer who had gone, well, you know. Among the goods was 8 or 10 steel reels of various sizes and types. I threw out over half of them because they were bent or damaged - apparently from being dropped. There was no way anyone was going to have an easy time loading these reels. And even the ones not damaged were filthy! :rolleyes:

    They have to be clean and straight. And, one has to learn to use them. Not unlike many other tools. It's really down to that. :smile:
     
  14. vdoak

    vdoak Subscriber

    Messages:
    112
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2006
    Location:
    Drammen Norw
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    In addition to what has already been posted:

    -Ditto on the practice in day light. I don' think this can be said too often.
    -Load in a darkroom not a bag if you can.
    -Clip the film in the real then before winding let the film hang to check it is straight in the reel. (easier said than done on 36exp) The other option is to feel then end under the clip to make sure it is even between the spirals and square to them. A good start is key.
    -When the film is slightly bowed and is going on to the reel/flattening out corretly it makes a distinct scraping sound. For me this is key. If the film cracks or pops it just kinked.
    - I wind with my left hand and feed with my right. I push the film on to the reel as much as wind it on.
    - when the film is on the reel properly the edges of the film feel uniform in the reel. (on my reels I can just feel the edges)
    - The film should feel loose in the reel.

    Good Luck!
     
  15. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    For the most part, the advice in this thread has been very good. I must disagree with (or at least qualify) one piece of advice, though:

    This sort of trimming of the start of the film can help when loading plastic reels, in my experience, presumably because the taper helps avoid the edge of the film getting stuck on small imperfections as it's pushed onto the reel. I don't see how it could help with loading SS reels, though, since they load from the inside out, so the tapered edge won't be pushing against anything.

    Cutting squarely could help because it'll make it easier to feel the geometry of the start of the roll, which could help in centering the roll and attaching it via the "teeth" of Hewes reels or the clips of most other brands.
     
  16. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,694
    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2003
    Good Afternoon,

    I also agree with most of what has been posted above. (The Forum can also be searched for many other posts on this topic.)

    In reference to trimming the film: With Hewes reels, I agree that a square cut works best. With Kinderman reels (and probably some others), I prefer to make a 45-degree cut on each side of the film so that it ends up with a point to insert into the center puncturing pin. Kinderman reels, by the way, are an extremely close second to Hewes in overall ease of loading and in overall quality.

    In spite of some initial frustration, it makes sense to use SS, especially when you go to 120, which is absurdly quick and easy to load onto SS. As noted above, however, 220 can be a different story.

    Konical
     
  17. mjs

    mjs Member

    Messages:
    1,121
    Joined:
    Mar 15, 2005
    Location:
    Elkhart, Ind
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Steel reels for 120 -- no sweat. For 35mm? I gave up, use film aprons. I don't think there is enough 35mm in the world to give me enough practice to get it consistantly right. *Sigh*

    :smile: Mike
     
  18. eddym

    eddym Member

    Messages:
    1,927
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2006
    Location:
    Puerto Rico
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Loading steel reels is like tying your shoes: impossible to describe or explain in words, but easy once you get the hang of it.

    My feeble attempt to give hints:
    As others have said, getting the film started on the reel straight is essential. If the film runs off on one side of the reel after a couple of turns, there is nothing to do but unwind, take it off the reel, and start over.
    I hold the reel in my left hand and the spool of film (if 135) in my right. With my left index and second fingertips on the back side of the film, I rotate the reel, pinching the sides of the film with the fingers of my right hand. The film should enter the reel smoothly; if not, back of and start over. Continue winding the film by rotating the reel and pulling it out of your right hand, which is guiding it. If it has not run off the sides of the reels after a couple of turns, it should continue to load smoothly. It just requires a simple, repetitive hand motion of the left hand, which once learned, comes as natural as tying your shoes.

    I use Nikkor reels. I do not "taper" the end of the film before loading it. I did that when I first started, but gave it up once I got the hang of it, as it was really not any help. The more important thing is to cut the film end squarely.
     
  19. jhitesma

    jhitesma Member

    Messages:
    7
    Joined:
    Sep 9, 2008
    Location:
    Yuma, AZ
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Once you get the hang of it it's easier to do right than it is to do wrong. But it does take practice. The first few times I tried steel reels I hated them. But then suddenly one day something clicked and I could do them effortlessly. In fact a few times back in high school I would race people - gave them a plastic Patterson and I took the steel. More than once I was able to load 2 rolls on steel reels in less time than my opponent took to do one on the Patterson.

    I don't usually bother with the clips. I have used the ones with the teeth (never knew who made them until I found this site!) and to be honest...the teeth actually bugged me more than the clips! Making sure the film is started straight is very important...and for me the clips and teeth just make that harder.

    The "backup" test to see if things are loading right is another I learned early on...every 2-3 "rows" I give a quick gentle shove on the film to make sure it's not binding. Loading some wrong on purpose in the light is a great way to learn the difference in feel. I also usually run my fingers around the top and bottom of the reel when I'm done - with practice you'll learn how it should feel and if it feels different then something is probably stuck or bound. When it's right the spacing is very regular and nothing sticks out more than anything else. If you've got a kink or skipped a row then it will stand out like a sore thumb when you feel the grooves on the top/bottom.

    I actually get more frustrated now trying to load plastic reels. I HATE the jobo plastic reels with a passion, though I did finally find a trick for loading them. The Patterson plastic reels are ok...until the BB gums up or falls out and then they're a huge pain. Nice thing about steel - if you learn to load them without relying on the clip/teeth then they'll last a lifetime as long as you don't drop them!
     
  20. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    15,220
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    My two tips (which are referred to by some above) are as follows:

    1) get used to the feel of the film when it is loading properly - move it gently back and forth, to ensure it isn't binding; and
    2) get used to the sound that the film makes when it is loading properly - it is a gentle and even scrape (IMHO a beautiful sound indeed).

    The first tip you learn by practising in the light. The second tip you learn by first practising in the light, and then practising further in the dark.

    The second tip does not work with a changing bag.

    One thing to keep in mind is that it is important to learn how to keep the film perpendicular to the side of the reels. With 35mm, I'm half decent at this, but I cannot seem to succeed with this for 120..

    It gets easier after the first 100 to 200 rolls :smile:. And when it does, you will really prefer the steel reels as compared to plastic (or at least I do.).

    Keep trying, and have fun.

    Matt
     
  21. nsouto

    nsouto Subscriber

    Messages:
    506
    Joined:
    Nov 27, 2005
    Location:
    Sydney Austr
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks a lot, everyone. Much appreciated. I think I know what I was doing wrong and it has to do with aligning the film properly at the start.
    There is a short video in utube on loading 120 in a SS reel that also helped me "get the hang of it".

    I can now load a "sacrifice" cheap film without problems, both in and out of the bag.
    Got a few test rolls to go through this weekend, will try it again.