Should I work with Stainless Steel Tank and Reels for developing 120 film?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Henry Alive, Apr 5, 2011.

  1. Henry Alive

    Henry Alive Subscriber

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    I have always worked with plastic Paterson tank and reels for processing the film in both 35 mm and 120. Recently, when I was developing two 120 films, a straight line parallel to the border film appeared in one of them. As I think it could be a mechanical problem with one of the plastic reels, I have decided to buy new reels and replace the older.
    However, it could also be the opportunity to change to Stainless Steel Tank and Reels. I would like to know your opinion. Additionally, I ask you to recommend me what stainless steel system to buy and, if possible, the internet link to the on line store.
    Thanks for your help,
    Henry.
     
  2. jsouther

    jsouther Subscriber

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    I learned to process film with plastic reels and tanks and it worked just fine. Later on, when I worked in the darkroom at work they used stainless reels. Once I used stainless, I liked it and converted my own film processing to stainless.
    Film loaded faster for me in 35mm and 120 using stainless reels and cleanup seemed better.

    I would recommend Hewes reels. They work the best for me and are highly regarded. Found some here:

    http://www.freestylephoto.biz/140120-Hewes-Pro-Stainless-Steel-Reel-120-size

    and

    http://www.freestylephoto.biz/140135-Hewes-Pro-Stainless-Steel-Reel-35mm
     
  3. photoncatcher

    photoncatcher Member

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    I was also started out with Yankee, and paterson tanks, and my late Dad always prefered them. While doing my part in the USAF in the 70's as a photo tech, I was kind of forced to use SS tanks, and reels (that was all there was). I like the durability of them, and the fact that they can be dried much easier, and faster than the plastic kind. Be aware that there is a learning curve, and you will need to practice on some dummy film. I personally feel that the life span of these tanks, and reels make them a great investment. I have some 35mm reels that are over 35 years old. Lots available on the "Bay" for pennies on the dollar.
     
  4. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    I prefer plastic. Others prefer stainless. Which will you prefer? The only way to find out is to try stainless and find out. Buy a one reel tank and use it enough times to get the hang of it. Then you'll be able to answer the question for yourself. If you find you prefer plastic, you won't be out much money. If you prefer stainless, you'll already have one tank.
     
  5. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I learned on plastic in the early 60's, but soon switched to stainless. Loading ss reels is second nature for me.
     
  6. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    It depends for me. For C-41 I try to maximize the number of films I run with the 1L of fresh chemistry, and then maximize any second run done within a day of the chems first being used.

    With Pterson reels, I am able to load 2-120 rolls end to end on the same reel, joining them with film splicing tape (blue max brand) after the first one is approaching being fully drawn into the spirals.

    Then I can usallly feed 4-120 rolls though 1L of chems.

    With my stainless tank I have never been able to sucessfully double load rolls end to end.

    I have never been able to convince myself that loading films back to back is a good idea, but have heard of others doing this. If I did, then I would stick to stainless.

    I like Paterson SS4 tanks, since the chems pour in and out faster than with my stainless steel tanks. I usually resort to taking the lids off in the dark when doing c-41 in stainless to get the developer in and out consistently enough at just 3:15 for the processing time. Then the challenge is to find the lid when it comes time to agitiate the stop bath.
     
  7. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    The big advantage to me with plastic is easy pour in right down the funnel. Film wets evenly bottom up and fast immersion.

    The very best way to do stainless is drop the reel to be developed into a prefilled tank in the dark. When you add developer thru the top. I runs around the light baffle and wets the frames on the outside of the reel on one side. You really do not want to do this because it causes uneven development. The bigger the tank, the more it is a problem.

    Clip the leading corners on film going on a plastic reel for smooth feed.

    Plastic tanks have less heat transfer so getting them to operating temp takes longer.

    The worst problem is you can not get wetting agent ( Photo Flow) on the plastic. Close to impossible to remove and it makes the reels sticky thus hard to load even when dry in the future.

    I have stainless for 50 years now and all I do is rinse off in hot water and take care not to drop them.

    I took a few spins with plastic, and returned to SS.
     
  8. JerseyDoug

    JerseyDoug Member

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    Conversely, I begin processing film with my developer at working temperature and the plastic tank maintains that temperature much better when the ambient air temperature is much higher or lower.

    Interesting. I use three drops of Photo Flo in 500 ML of water and have never had a problem with my Patterson reels. A difference with the water perhaps?

    I have both SS and plastic tanks. They both have their good points. Myself, I haven't used the SS tanks in years.
     
  9. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    SS tanks and reels are not a huge investment and if you pick them up used you could sell them for what you paid for them so why not give it a shot, you really haven't got much to louse.

    I'm a "go with what works person" I use SS for 120 and Paterson for 35mm.

    Still I say give it a try.
     
  10. R gould

    R gould Member

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    I have used both SS and Patterson, and far prefer Patterson tanks and reels, I find them easier and quicker to load both for 35mm and 120, I can develop 2 120 films per reel and the chemicals pour in and out a lot quicker, and I find I get more even development,Richard
     
  11. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    I've been processing film for well over 50 years. Way back, plastic tanks and reels were not so good. They seemed to inhibit the efficient flow of chemistry though the reel. I had to learn to use stainless due to the jobs I had and got used to them very quickly. Now the design of plastic tanks and reels is much improved and my students all use them. Their film always looks fine. I still use stainless though. it's in my blood.
     
  12. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    You must be one of those 3 drops people for wetting agent. That never worked for me unless I used distilled water. I follow directions and use 1:200.

    Color film stabalizer will also coat up the plastic/nylon reels.

    I also use a water bath and do not allow ambient temp to influence development.

    I admit to being very picky and working to achieve perfection.
     
  13. Josh Harmon

    Josh Harmon Member

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    If you are worried about your plastic reels getting discolored, dirty, or sticky, just soak them in a weak warm household bleach solution for about 15 mins. Then rinse well and you will have clean reels. I do this every now and then.
     
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  15. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I use stainless steel reel and tanks. Plastic reels are easy to load, but you can load them when they're wet. It does take practice to load stainless reels, but I think they're much more durable than plastic reels.
     
  16. hrst

    hrst Member

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    Urban legend that surfaces way too often. There is absolutely no problem with Kodak Photo-Flo, any other wetting agent or color film stabilizers or final rinses. You have to rinse the reels with warm water after processing, which should be self-evident; if you don't, of course you have some residue on them. If you fail to do that for a long time, time after time, there is a possibility of sticky residue as you describe. However, in this case, soak them in warm water and use a dish brush to get rid of it. Nothing even close to "impossible" here, just the normal maintenance.

    BTW you should also rinse the steel reels even if they don't develop the residue. Still, just the normal maintenance. The developer characteristics may change a bit from carry-in wetting agent.

    Isn't it a bit strange if you consider yourself as picky, and work to achieve perfection, but the normal maintenance of the equipment is too much of a burden? For me, it takes some 20 seconds during the normal clean-up. A quick rinse and a small swirl with a dish brush just in case.

    However, I have seen and used those sticky reels, something other people have used FOR YEARS without cleaning them once. It took me half an hour to clean some 20 reels and now they are PERFECT again.
     
  17. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    My film studio is an ancient single wide mobile home. And I have an ancient dishwasher in the kitchen. Every once in a while I'll put the plastic reels - disassembled - on the top shelf and run it with no detergent.

    The water doesn't get too hot, and I have never had an issue with chemical abrasion because I leave out the detergent.

    Works for me. YMMV.
     
  18. Henry Alive

    Henry Alive Subscriber

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    Thanks for all the comments. I am going to buy Stainless Steel Tank and Reels from Freestyle and I will prove it.
    Henry.
     
  19. pcyco

    pcyco Member

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    hallo

    i started using ss reels some weeks ago.
    the only problem for me is the correct positioning (loading) of the film so that it really goes paralell round for round into the space between the reels.
    its not allways flat and then the surfaces of the film touch each other. -> so i have parts of undeveloped film.:sad:

    i never had this problem with plastic reels.

    --

    thomas
     
  20. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council Council

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    For 120 there's no way I'm going to ever screw again a roll in Paterson reels. I love Paterson reels. But for 35mm. With 120, old reels have a hard time gripping the thinner film, and even with cut corners, I had troubles. So I go with SS reels.

    On the other hand, I will never screw again a 35mm roll in SS reels. Too tight, too small, too much risk of buckling, which means film touching itself, undeveloped spots, ruined pictures.

    Horses for courses.
     
  21. bblhed

    bblhed Member

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    Before you order SS tanks and reels, check your local photo store, they might have a few used ones they will sell you on the cheep. The advantage is that they might be able to provide you with several types of Reels so that you can find the one you like best and return the rest.
     
  22. artonpaper

    artonpaper Subscriber

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    One thing to pay attention to when loading ss reels is that the film is well centered when you are attaching the film to reel. I have found that if it is loaded off center, that is, pushed too much toward one side of the reel or the other, that's when you get difficulties that lead to film touching film. Also, BEWARE OF BENT REELS. They can really wreck havoc.
     
  23. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Member

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    I only have one small bit of advice. If you are going SS reels spend a little extra cash. I used Paterson reels, FR tanks and reels, Agfa-loadall 120 & 35mm tanks and in college SS. I never liked SS reels for loading. I even tried the special loading tools you feed the leader through and still had a bitch of a time loading them. I'd always have some of those half-moon crease or film touching spots. I like the idea of easy cleanup and almost instant heat transfer, but that was it. Then I kept reading about these Hewes SS reels and how they worked so much better than anything else. Well, I had always used Nikkor reels and thought they had to be the best so what's the big difference. A while back, when darkroom gear was almost given away on eBay, I came across some Hewes reels in 35mm and 120. I got lucky a won them and now I'm a very happy camper. I know all those SS reels look the same, but I can tell you they are not all created equal. I will use nothing but Hewes reels ever again. Yes, I know it's hard to believe there can be that much difference, but there really is. If it wasn't for Hewe's I'd be using Paterson plastics. Oh, and I sold my CPP2 w/ lift 'cause I didn't do color anymore and the B&W I do is just fine by hand. Hewes reels are the answer! JohnW

    I should add that the Hewes reel are the answer for me. You might be different in your view of them since they are much more expensive, but sometimes one gets what one pays for.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 8, 2011
  24. pnance

    pnance Member

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    When I started (over 48 years ago) I used Yankee plastic tanks, they were great. However as I progressed, I found that when I wanted to develop more than one roll, I had to wait under the tank dried or the film stuck, or whatever and caused developmental problems with the film. I tried stainless (Nikor tanks, very expensive at the time as I recall) there was a steeper learning curve but once that was mastered it seemed easier. PLUS, now I could develop as many rolls as I wanted without all the waiting. Soon I even progressed to a quart tank, limits it seemed were gone.

    Go ahead, try stainless, you will like it. Do use a expendable roll to practice loading and it will be easier.

    Oh, don't drop the reels, plastic shatters and stainless bends, not good for either.

    Paul
     
  25. MichaelR

    MichaelR Member

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    Stainless steel reals in a changing bag

    As someone who develops film at home using a changing bag (and who rents darkroom time for printing), I was wondering if it is possible to use stainless steel reels in the confines of a changing bag. I too have had troubles with loading 120 onto Patterson reels, and had much better luck with the Samigon reels as they have a built in "loading platform" that helps align the film...but occasionally they still seem to stick and crease the film.

    Has anyone tried to load stainless steel reels in a changing bag?
    Thanks
    Michael
     
  26. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Member

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    I have loaded 120 onto SS reels in a large(not small) changing bag, but it's not as easy as working in a light-tight room. I found that if I do it in a changing bag that it is almost a must to completely remove the film from the paper backing first and then let the film re-curl into a cylinder form. Just works better for me. Your mileage might vary. JohnW