Spiral jams loading the film

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by sterioma, Nov 15, 2004.

  1. sterioma

    sterioma Member

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    Hi,

    I am an absolute beginner in developing my BW film, I have just started a few weeks ago and so far I have processed 4 rolls (35mm, all 36 frames).

    Almost all the times, when I load the film into my plastic reel (Paterson), I have jams at the end of the process, so I usually end up doing it over again 2-3 times.

    I have tought that maybe I am not cutting enough leader away from the film and that the film reach some kind of physical "constrain" when I am about to finish, causing the jam.

    Before wasting a roll doing a test in the daylight to see what happens, do you think that maybe cutting some more leader would help (with the risk of cutting through the first frame)? Or should I look for other causes?

    I should add that my Nikon camera forces me to skip the first frames (making blank exposures) before the metering starts to work (usually 3 blank frames).
     
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  2. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Hi
    I had that problem to after developing a couple of films. I got my tanks and reels used from another photographer and they had been used intesively. If you cut the corners on the inlet of the film aprox. 1-2mm and that dosn't help you should try cleaning the reels with a nailbrush some soap and rinse them with plain water and let them dry a couple of hours before using them. It worked wonders in my case. make sure the reels are dry and the tiny balls don't jam.
    Regards Søren
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Paterson reels need to be absolutely dry or they won't work. This is part of the reason I prefer stainless, but if plastic works for you otherwise, and you need to develop multiple batches of film occasionally, you might try to pick up some extra reels, so you always have some dry ones.
     
  4. sterioma

    sterioma Member

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    Soren, David, thanks for commenting.

    I forgot to mention that my spirals are always absolutely dry (I never develop more than one roll per day... or per week I should say). Also, I have bought them brand new. Therefore I would exclude humidity or dirty from the causes.
     
  5. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    At times students have the same problem. What is happening with them is nerves. They are worried that they will not be successful, get nervous and then the hands get damp and the edges of the film react to the dampness and the film jams. The longer one wrestles with the film the less likely the film will go on smoothly.

    It is not unusual for the first few rolls to be a problem, and occasionally later on, but that is not a regular issue.

    In my experience, one's mental expectation becomes reality. When they expect to have problems they do. We have had several that had such problems I assigned them a visualation assignment to over come the expectation that they would fail.
    Have you practiced with an old roll in the daylight, then close your eyes and continue to practice until your comfort level rises then go for the real thing?
     
  6. PieterB

    PieterB Member

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    No problems with (a bit) wet plastic reels. Just cut the corners so they're not straight.
     
  7. sterioma

    sterioma Member

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    Hmm... this is an interesting point, Ann! I might have a "performance anxiety" synthom in my own bathroom :D
    Actually, my hands might become a bit damp after I get nervous about it... still I wonder why it always happens at the end and never in the middle or at the beginning.


    Yes I did practice first in daylight and than in the darkness. But the film was a 24 frames only, hence my "theory" about the film being to long (since I might not be cutting enough from the beginning before loading).
     
  8. Adrian Twiss

    Adrian Twiss Member

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    Another possible factor is that it is not unusal to speed up the loading motion as you come to the end of the film. I used to be guilty of this. You should keep an even tempo from start to finish.

    Adrian
     
  9. sparx

    sparx Member

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    I use plastic reels and find i'm more likely to get jams with 36 exposure rolls than with 24. Whether it's because as the film gets to the middle of the reel the spiral gets tighter and creates more friction I don't know. If I do get a jam I just pull the spirals apart slightly, give it lots of little wriggles and that usually sorts it.
     
  10. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    It may happen at the end because your hands become more damp the longer it takes to feed the reel.

    The newer Patterson reels can be loaded if "damp". We have tested them vs the older version which could not be loaded if they came near moisture. However, as a beginner you will be more successful if the reel is complelely dry as yours seems to be.

    Also, like many others I have loaded much longer runs of film than 36 with no problems.

    At one time Ilford made 72 exposure rolls, great for sports and motor drives, but very thin and curled like crazy. Needed a special reel and had its own loader, which I could never use, but with some practice , no problem. However, it was short lived as the thinner base played havoc with the commerical processers so it went the way of the Edsel auto.
     
  11. Soeren

    Soeren Member

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    Not to be argumentative but take ten minutes to clean one of your reels thoroughly. If it dosn't work you're at leat sure it's not that. And the reels being new is no quarantee they are clean :smile:
    on the occasion I experienced the reels jamming The resistance was building up towards the last 1/4 of the film and actually I ruined some frames because of bends of the outer end of the film so don't use to much force. My reels are old and the first times I loaded them I used a darkroom bag. My hands became wet with sweat quite quickly but it didn't affect the loading. Can you borrow a tank somewhere ? it could be your reels are defective.
    Regards Søren
     
  12. sterioma

    sterioma Member

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    Ok, this indeed seems to rule out the possibility of the film being "too long".


    Well, it actually won't hurt to give it a try. I will check my spirals again and clean them if needed.


    No, unfortunately I have no access to other darkroom equipment than my own. But it would be weird if both spirals are defective (when something goes wrong with one spiral I usually switch to the other one), wouldn'it?
     
  13. Doug Bennett

    Doug Bennett Member

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    Ann has nailed it. I take a hair dryer, right before I load, and thoroughly dry the reel and my hands. I make sure that when I trim the front end of the film, I get a nice round corner.

    Ann: how do you tell the new Paterson reels from the old?
     
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  15. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    I haven't used 35mm for a while, but I still have my Patterson tanks and reels... Cutting the leading edges of the film at 45 degrees as suggested earlier is, I think, the solution. Can't recall a jam after I started doing that.

    The reason it jams near the end of loading is because there is more friction as the spiral gets tighter where the end of the film is, making it more likely to bite in to the plastic & jam if the ends are not angled. Normally, you only need to back off an inch and continue.


    Good luck! Cheers, Bob.
     
  16. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    One observation - JOBO recommends removing the film from their reels before the "Stabilization" - or "Final rinse with wetting agent" step. They claim that the wetting agent will build up on the inside surfaces of the reels and cause increased friction in the loading process. I don't remove the film before stabilization, but I will regularly disassemble the reels and give them a good scrubbing with a toothbrush and something like Edwal LFN - or dishwashing detergent.

    I've been doing this for a number of years, anyway, stabilizer or not ... and have had few loading problems.
     
  17. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    gosh, that is a good question. WHen i say new, i mean the ones made in the past few years. If you are buying used reels then the only way to tell would be to try to load some test film when the reel is damp.

    We tested some right out of the package last year and they would load if damp. we dumped the reel in some water as one would when washing film. Towel dried, but still on the damp side and then loaded some film. Tried the same with some reels that have been around for years and i mean more than 5 years old and they created jamming problems. With the high use of our equipment we have discarded many older reels and at this time all of our reels are less than 5 years old.

    With students, we recommend that the reel be completely dry as they lack of experience and confidence has a tendency to create problems. They tend to use plastic vs stainless. Both are available. However,d when it comes to 120 film the favorite reel is stainless.

    Some of my more advance students and myself use both stainless and plastic, some times damp more often dry, depending on how many rolls of film are being processed.
     
  18. sterioma

    sterioma Member

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    Ed, I would exclude this also since I remove the film from the reels before bathing in the wetting agent solution.

    I guess will need to start cutting those angles off in my next roll, and will see whether this solves the issue. Also, I will make sure that my hands and plastic are completely dry, possibly using the hair-dryer before loading.

    Thanks everybody for the tips :smile:
     
  19. Stan. L-B

    Stan. L-B Member

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    All good advice above - but: I have never found it necessary to cut the corners of film before loading, either 35mm or 120/220

    However, I do bend back the leading 1/4 inch of film before loading.

    The sure way of perfecting the loading is, practice in the light with a outdated film for the first of many times, then without light for many more.

    When you can do it standing on your head - with one hand - then you have mastered the art! Sorry, but good luck.
     
  20. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    Does it always happen in the same place? If so there might be a small fault in the plastic of the spiral. Have a close look towards the centre and smooth any obstruction with a nail file. Sometimes film will go onto a spiral some way and then stop if you haven't quite loaded it properly, but that shouldn't be what's happening if you are getting most of the way through.

    You shouldn't need to cut the leader any further. There seems to be spare room on the spirals. I make up 40 exp films when I use reloadable cassettes and they fit fine on Patterson spirals.

    BTW I remember those Ilford 72 exp films. I miss them, they were great for aerial work.

    David.
     
  21. sterioma

    sterioma Member

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    David, it indeed seems to happen always in the same place, when I am about to feed in the last 3/4 frames. I will have a closer look at the spirals tonight and look for anything irregular in the plastic.
     
  22. ScottH

    ScottH Member

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    I've run into this previously as well, and as pointed out above, it seemed to be a combination of 2 things. The longer (36 x) rolls, and dampness. I loaded mine in changing bags, and if I had mny hands in there for more than a few minutes it could get difficult. I think the idea of cutting the corners at the leading edge is worthwhile too.
     
  23. Doug Bennett

    Doug Bennett Member

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    Ann,

    My original Paterson tank has reels that are pure white. If it's damp, it's a problem. I just bought a larger capacity Paterson tank at a camera show, and the reel that came with it was more ivory colored. I haven't loaded it yet.

    Sterioma,

    Obviously, you can trim the end of a 35mm roll in broad daylight. Just rewind the roll so that a bit of leader is sticking out, then trim it. For 120 film, I trim it in the changing bag.
     
  24. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I have had the same problem a couple of times. Each time it was because there was a tiny drop of moisture in the track of the spiral.

    I now do the following, every time, before processing any film:

    1. Check the reels are absolutely clean and dry.

    2. Test wind an old 'sacrificed' 36 frame film into the reels I intend using, to check for 'jamming'.

    3. Cut small (2mm) 45degree corners on the leading edge of the film(s) to be developed.

    Only then do I set up in my changing bag.

    Since I started taking these precautions no more films have jammed in the spirals.
     
  25. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    It's been years since I used a "walk in" plastic reel, but I do recall an occasional problem toward the end of a roll of film. Someone mentioned that as the reel becomes loaded, the presence of a long strip of film in the spiral makes it difficult for the two halves of the reel to swivel. I recall having to wiggle the reel a bit to loosen up the film, after which it would continue to load normally.

    You mentioned the possiblity that the film could be too long - I would not be concerned about this. I bulk load my 35mm film, so it's not unusual for the strip to be a few frames too long. They just wrap around the outside of the reel.

    The other potential issue is that it is helpful to squeeze the edges of the film slightly to cup the film so that it is fits between between the two halves of the spiral. One of the things that I have found over 25 years of loading 35mm film is that it's hard to maintain a constant but measured squeeze - just enough to fit, but not so much that the film is distorted and bent. This probably another verison of "performance anxiety", and the solution comes with practice.

    I would suggest loading the reel a few time in daylight - use some out-of-date film so that you don't feel guilty - in order to get a better sense of what is happening throughout the process. Once you see what is happening, you will know what to do to avoid the problem in the dark.
     
  26. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    One thing I've found which can help, and I think quite a few others do this, is to not "ratchet" the film into the reel until you've nearly loaded the whole film. Rather than ratcheting, simply push the film into the reel but by bit, about 15 to 20 cm at a time, and then when it's nearly all in, you can ratchet the last bit in. Sometimes this makes loading a lot faster and easier.