Steel, for reel?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by scarfish69, May 6, 2008.

  1. scarfish69

    scarfish69 Member

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    Help, please?!
    I'm hoping today is the day things change for me. I use plastic reels. Sometimes (it seems like rarely) the film goes on like a charm. Other times, it's like there's a curse on me. It can take hours to just load one roll of film. The strange thing is, tonight when I was having problems, I brought the reel out into the light. A practice roll of film went on just fine. I'm tired of getting to the point where I just want to smash the reels and canister.
    Now, I've read some posts. Are the steel reels as easy (with practice) and reliable as some seem to think? Again, I use a plastic canister, so I'm used to twirling for agitation. Is the agitation method different for steel canisters? If you buy good reels can you buy a cheap canister?
    Lead retrievers seem like a great thing, are they? Any chance of scratching?
    Thanks for reading and replying!
     
  2. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    I now use steel reels almost all the time. The trick is to use the quality brands (like Hewes), and to make sure the film is centred correctly on the clip. After that it is a breeze. So, I am pretty sure they are easier than plastic. For steel reels and tanks you will be using inversion rather than twirling. Yes, the reels are more important than the tank, so you can get a cheaper tank such as one with a plastic lid. Lead retrievers are great and no, they don't scratch the film, well yes they do, but just the bit before the images.
     
  3. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    By the way, welcome to APUG. :smile:
     
  4. geauxpez

    geauxpez Member

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    It sounds like you have the Spanish-made plastic tank and reel kit with the "twirling rod" thingy to spin the reels. I had problems using the same kit. I switched to the Paterson tank & reels (also plastic) which you typically agitate by inversion. I find that those reels load much easier.

    Do you load your reels inside a changing bag? That's what I use and I found that if I keep my arms in there too long struggling with the film, it makes the reels harder to load as things get warmer & more humid with sweat. I now slide some cardboard inside to make a frame of sorts which makes the space inside larger and cooler.
     
  5. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I think steel reels are much easier, but like anything else, they take some learning. Generally steel tanks and reels are somewhat smaller than plastic, so if you are using a changing bag, you'll gain a bit of room. Steel is easier to dry between runs than plastic, for either, they must be absolutely dry before use, or you will have problems with the film sticking. On the other hand, steel is a bit more fragile than plastic, in that they are susceptible to bending when dropped, especially on concrete floors. It doesn't take very much bending to render the reel unusable.
    Yes, the agitation method is different, instead of twirling the reel inside the take you cap the top and gently invert the tank to agitate. Many plastic reel systems use the inversion method as well.
    Don't get too hung up on brand, they all work about the same. Used ones are plentiful now, and inexpensive, sometimes free, just check them out carefully before committing a roll of film in the dark. You'll want some practice anyway.
     
  6. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    The Paterson tanks also come with a "twirling rod" so you have the option of inverting or spinning the reels. I'm a spinner.

    As for the choice between plastic and steel reels it seems that half the world uses steel, and the other half have learnt to load plastic.:smile: However the comments above about working in sweaty changing bags is worth noting, it seems, from what you say that could be the root of your problem.
     
  7. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    I didn't see any comment about changing bags from the original poster.
     
  8. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    The Hewes mentioned earlier don't work the same way for 35mm as most other steel reels. They have a set of two "pins" that grab the sprockets on the film. This aligns the film properly for feeding in a way that's much easier for a beginner (and non-beginners as well) to load than trying to center the film on a clip by feel in the dark. The Hewes have larger gauge wire as well, which makes the loading more positive and the reel sturdier, less prone to being permanently bent.

    Hewes reels are not cheap, but they do have distinct advantages.

    Lee
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2008
  9. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    I've smashed a plastic reel before under similar circumstances.. I did switch to stainless (Hewes 120 and Kinderman 35mm reels). It's worth it. Atleast it was for me. 35mm is tricky at first, the Kinderman has two sharp teeth that puncture the film to hold it in. Once you get the hang of it, it's easy and you can load it wet/damp.. There's also a loader for the kinderman 35mm reels that works real well.
     
  10. BennehBoy

    BennehBoy Member

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    I've found the key to loading plastic reels is to simply stay calm, the calmer I am (usually aided with an alcoholic beverage) the easier it goes, less time, less sweat, less sticking.
     
  11. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    There are two things that cause plastic reels to jam. One is dirt, and the other is moisture. I do hope that you do not immerse the plastic reels in a wetting agent like PhotoFlo. Rumor has it that wetting agents can gum up the plastic reels. I can't say for sure, since I remove the film from the reel before dipping it into wetting agent.

    So there you are, nicely anxious, agitated, and aggravated and with sweaty hands along with film, reel, and tank all jammed into a dark bag. That's enough moisture right there to get things nicely jammed up. Funny how the problem didn't happen when you attempt it out in the open, isn't it?
     
  12. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Plastic reels must be really, really clean; and also dry. Try scrubbing the reel with a natural bristle brush and a mild cleaning agent like Bon Ami, Barkeeper's Friend, or Zud after each use. Also, the "walk in" type reels sometimes load easier if you snip a bevel on each leading film corner.
    In addition, as with steel, proper incantations, invocations, and summonings of good spirits are all necessary.
     
  13. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    This thread shows how different products fit different people. The only plastic reels I ever had problem with were from an old Unicolor drum (the one with the plastic gasket, mine leaked like crazy but that's another thread). I've never had problems with Paterson reels, the cheaper brand with the spinning reel, or Jobo reels. I use a changing bag, never scrub them and I dunk the whole reel in photo-flo. My experience with stainless reels has been less successful, but I have a feeling that if I took the time to learn them properly I would be just as happy with them.

    Neal Wydra
     
  14. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    [I've never had problems with Paterson reels, the cheaper brand with the spinning reel, or Jobo reels. I use a changing bag, never scrub them and I dunk the whole reel in photo-flo.
    **********************************
    Yehhhh, there's one in every crowd.....(VBG)
     
  15. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I've had similar experiences, but my patience gives out at about half an hour! I gave up on my AP (Paterson clone) plastic tank and reel a long time ago. At that time, I was using a tiny windowless bathroom to load film, and I suspect that the problem was humidity, particularly as my own sweat humidified the room. That said, I did use the AP tank recently. A roll of film had a torn sprocket hole, and this was causing no end of problems loading onto my stainless steel reel. Fumbling in the dark, I managed to find the AP tank and load the film onto its reel. That's the only time when I've found the AP reel easier to load than my Hewes stainless steel reel.

    Those of us who use stainless steel reels will of course reply "yes!" :wink: Seriously, though, each type of reel has its advocates. It sounds like you're a prime candidate to at least try the steel variety. Personally, once I got a Hewes reel and learned to load it, it was like night and day. As others have said, the Hewes reels are definitely worth the extra cost. I've also got some generic steel reels, and they're much harder to get started.

    Others have answered these questions, but I'll add that you can buy steel Hewes reels for Jobo plastic tanks. I don't know offhand if Jobo plastic tanks support twirling agitation, though. I don't know of any way to fit stainless steel reels in other brands of plastic tanks.

    If by "Spanish-made" you mean "AP", that's what I've got. It can be agitated either by twirling or by inversion. When I encountered problems I first tried buying a Paterson reel, which fits in my AP tank. It jammed just as easily as the AP reels.

    FWIW, I've also got an oddball plastic Russian tank and reels. It loads more easily than my AP or Paterson reels, but it also jams occasionally.
     
  16. CBG

    CBG Member

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    It's totally personal. For me, steel is the only way to load film. Back when I did roll film my reels didn't have any hooks and not every reel I had was equipped with clips, I just pushed the film to the center of the rell and fed it in. I wouldn't use plastic if you paid me. But some people have no trouble at all with plasic and endless issues with steel. I'd urge the OP to try steel.

    C
     
  17. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    I have no problems with plastic reels - ANY MORE! I gave them away and/or threw them away.

    I bought Hewes stainless steel reels (35mm and 120) and have never looked back.
     
  18. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    There are other reasons some people prefer plastic. If you drop or throw a heavy duty plastic reel it won't bend. A bent ss reel is worthless. In addition, plastic TANKS hold the temp better than ss tanks without a water bath.

    The onliest time I use plastic anymore is on the rare occasions I need to soup a roll of 220. Then I use an old Ansco-type "walk in" reel and it's tank. I cannot load 220 on ss worth a darn--I tried with cheapo 220 ss reels as well as Kinderman. For me, 220 and ss just don't work.

    Truth to tell, no matter what the reel, there is a knack; once you acquire it, all is well. When you do, and look back on this thread, you shall find it all rather quaint. Keep at it and good luck.
     
  19. Kino

    Kino Member

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    For me, either work just dandy, but on a regular basis, I use the dreaded plastic reels because the are so convenient and can process multiple formats of film.

    Like a prior poster, I don't hesitate to put them in photoflo because I scrub them with hot, hot water and a bristle brush at the end of each session.

    I also, if the air in the darkroom is the least bit humid PRIOR to attempting to load the reels, blast them with an industrial grade hair dryer for a few seconds to drive off any residual moisture.

    Every once in a while, I do trot out the stainless Nikkor reels and give them a whirl, as to keep the skills up.

    I never liked metal reels until I took a practice roll and loaded the reel multiple times while watching a move on TV. Loaded that reel until it was second nature, and it was...

    Either way, they both work fine.
     
  20. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Well, actually there's at least two. :smile:
     
  21. Sino

    Sino Member

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    There's at least three around here :tongue:
    I just use hot water over everything for 5 minutes after I'm done. It sends all the bad daemons away. Can you say "blending plastic materials with ancient rituals"?

    -Sino.
     
  22. scarfish69

    scarfish69 Member

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    great replies

    Great replies, thanks everybody. From what I've read I believe I'm going steel. I'm tired of the frustration and losing frames. I've never heard of using photoflo pre-development. You guys are so helpful and supportive.
    BtW I try to limit my use of the changing bag for anything. I learned early about the sweaty/ limited space situation. I always load film onto reels in the darkroom.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2008
  23. Mark_S

    Mark_S Member

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    I use steel reels, when developing by hand - the Hewes 35mm reels are fantastic - head and shoulders above anything else. I find loading 120 to be more difficult than 35mm regardless of if it is plastic or steel.

    Most of my processing though is done in a Jobo CPP, in which plastic reels are much easier than steel - despite being harder to load. The reels need to be completely dry, so I have lots of them. They also say that it is possible to load two rolls of 120 on one reel, and although I have managed to do this successfully a couple of times, it is generally not worth the bother or savings in chemistry.
     
  24. Edwardv

    Edwardv Member

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    I use Rokunar plastic reels. They have a larger flange for loading film, really great for 120/220. And they fit in the Paterson's tanks. I have found that if your hands are slight moist it doesn't matter if you use SS or plastic reels you will have problems loading the film especially when the humidity is high. I put a fan next to me to keep me cool, hands dry and it seem to work.

    Good luck.