Threading 120 film on reel - any tips & tricks?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by wotalegend, Oct 16, 2010.

  1. wotalegend

    wotalegend Member

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    I have been developing film for many years - mostly 35mm, but occasionally 120. Now I am getting more into 120 and I am having a very frustrating time starting the film on the reel. I have practised and practised and then practised some more in daylight when it is easy, but as soon as I get in the dark with a real live film the trouble starts. It's almost enough to make me go digital :-(

    I have a Jobo 1520 and also a Paterson Tank System 4, both with the standard plastic reels. To make matters worse, I am gradually losing feeling in my fingertips due to an old neck injury.

    I have experimented with an Agfa Rondinax 60 daylight loading tank, initially successfully, but lately it seems to be getting a bit troublesome at the initial stage of separating film from backing paper. Are modern film bases thinner and more susceptible to kinking than older films?

    Are stainless steel reels better? I have heard/read that they are even more frustrating to load. I would love to get some feedback from those with lots of recent experience with loading 120 films on reels.
     
  2. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    A damp plastic reel can be hard to load. I prefer and use Hewes steel reels, however the Jobo tank requires Jobo steel reels to keep the film on the reel.

    With steel reels, attach to the center clip [takes practice first] and then slightly squeeze the edges of the film as you turn the reel. Keep a finger on the back of the loaded film the make sure that the film is loading properly. I also feel the ends of the reel because if the film is not loading properly the film will stick out of one side or the other in the area of improperly loaded film. Unwind until the "sides" feel right and then continue loading.

    Someone else will jump in and explain this better.

    Back to plastic reels, if you take a pencil and put some graphite in the grooves, the film will load more easily.

    Steve
     
  3. Valerie

    Valerie Subscriber

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    I prefer loading 120 on a steel reel. Much easier than putting 35mm on steel IMO. The only way you will really know is to try it yourself.
     
  4. dehk

    dehk Member

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    The reel i got has 2 balls at each side to clip on to the negative, so it ratchet itself in there, I am sure your's the same, or not?

    Can you explain a bit better why it doesn't work for you? Do you have problem at the beginning or, rather in the middle of the process it got stuck or something?
     
  5. SMBooth

    SMBooth Member

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    I find by unrolling the whole thing and then use the stiffer end with the tape on it easier to feed in as it doesn't flex across the width so much a bit easier.
     
  6. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    I have both a Jobo 2551 and a Paterson tank. Both take plastic reels. I prefer the Paterson, but I find loading the reels just takes practice. If I don't do it for a while it's like starting over. After I do it a few times I can't imagine having problems with it. It's the same principle as with the Paterson 35mm reels, just a bit more awkward. I've tried the steel reels for 35mm, but gave up. I found the plastic reels much easier to use myself, but obviously others have a different experience (and, 120 may be different again).
     
  7. David William White

    David William White Member

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    If your agility and dexterity is not up to the task, don't let it stand in your way, and for god's sake don't give up and go digital (at least on this matter). Reels are nice, but hardly necessary. 120 film nicely see-saws through a bowl of developer. It just needs to be submerged and agitated in some way, and this might turn out to be much easier all around.
     
  8. Darkroom317

    Darkroom317 Member

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  9. Doug Webb

    Doug Webb Member

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    If nothing else works, don't give up. I have been using an old system developed by Kodak called the Kodacraft at times for number of years because it is so easy. This system used a plastic tank, which I don't use, and plastic strips called Film aprons that come in 35mm and 120 sizes. I use a metal tank designed for two 35mm reels or one 120 reel, and I use the strange Kodacraft metal disc with holes in it that fits into the tank on top of the reels. If you use this setup, that is the Kodacraft sleeve and the metal disc and plastic sleeve in a stainless steel tank, you can invert the tank just like you would with any setup. The old Kodacraft tank is useless as far as I'm concerned. This equipment is available on Ebay most of the time, it used to be availabe from Freestyle. Check this out before you give up. Just be sure you get the 120 size equipment not the 35mm equipment.
    Doug Webb
     
  10. wotalegend

    wotalegend Member

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    Thanks everyone for your responses so far. I think a little clarification might be in order.

    Firstly, I have no intention of giving up. And the digital bit was a joke; I already have digital cameras which I use only when speed is essential.

    I was already aware that wet reels are more difficult to load. My problem is with dry ones.

    Do steel reels load from the inside? That could be a bit easier.

    My Paterson reel does have steel balls [unlike myself ;-) ] to help with the ratchet effect, but my difficulty is with feeding the film into the two slots in the first place before the film reaches the gripping parts. Once in the slots I have had no difficulties with feeding.

    I like the idea of feeding the tape end in first. I'll try that next time.

    I don't have a darkroom where I can develop in a tray. The only place in the house which I can get totally dark to load the developing tanks is inside our walk-in wardrobe. At least it is a bit bigger than a changing bag.

    Those Freestyle reels look interesting. From the picture it looks like they have a nice wide bit to guide the film in. I'll keep that in mind.
     
  11. ozphoto

    ozphoto Subscriber

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    With 120, I often leave the tape on the end to give a little more "stiffness" to the film. That way I can feed onto the reel much easier over the balls.
     
  12. dehk

    dehk Member

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    I have no idea whats the proper way to load 120, as I am the ones that figure stuffs out along the way. If others say using the taped end, i suspect you unroll the whole thing from the spool before you load it? I don't know but here's what works for me. 1st adjust the wheel to 120 size and match the 2 notches/opening/balls on the reel. 2.) start unrolling until the beginning of the film 3.) i can either tear the paper off from there or just leave it rolling separately. 4.) locate the notches and start feeding the film through it, can even use both hands and fingers to "sit" the film in since finger prints doesn't matter on the first couple inches, start ratcheting with the fingers on the opening on the reel to keep the film down. The film should roll in there fine and the backing paper should roll into its own roll. 5.) tear the tape off the end, and finishing ratcheting it in. The closer I keep the spool to the reel the "flatter" at the beginning it is. I can also compare the spool to the wheel holding them next to each other while doing that, feeling how perpendicular they are.
     
  13. ZenonG

    ZenonG Member

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    A little time in preparing the end of the film is what is required.
    First, the film end is normally quite curved. It is best to straighten the last 20-30mm. Not hard to do, but you need to be careful not to damage the emulsion with your fingers, in the first or last frame. No need for it to be fully straight, but its curl should be larger in diameter than the tank reel.
    Second, using a pair of scissors, cut two small 45 degree pieces off each edge of the lead of the film. These 2 tricks have never failed me. But they do require a little practice. I would suggest you practice first with an old film, in normal daylight.
    HTH. Zenon
     
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  15. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    The Arista reels that Darkroom317 posted the link to are easier for me to use than Paterson reels. I attribute that to the wider flanges. If you are looking for them in a location other than Freestyle, you should know that they can be found under a number of brand names (mine are labelled AP).

    Whether you are using plastic or steel reels, I find the following works best for me:

    1) wash your hands thoroughly, and then dry them thoroughly;
    2) if you can work with cotton gloves, do so. Otherwise, keep your hands clean and dry;
    3) arrange the film, reel and tank on your work surface, and then turn off the light;
    4) begin unrolling the film. Once you reach the first end of the start of the film, start rolling it up separate from the backing paper;
    5) eventually, you will reach the beginning (the taped end) of the film. Carefully peel the tape from the backing paper, while leaving it attached to the film itself;
    6) if you are using plastic reels, fold the tape over the end of the film, so as to create a stiffer end, for insertion into the reels;
    7) if you are using a steel reel with a clip, determine first if you are able to operate the clip. If so, fold the tape over in the same way as for plastic reels, and insert the taped end in the clip. If you cannot use the clip (like me) leave the sticky end of the tape loose, and use it to stick to the reel near the clip;
    8) feed the film into the reel in the way you practised.

    Hope this helps.
     
  16. DavidM

    DavidM Subscriber

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    When loading 120 / 220 in a change bag i use the following- basically loading the left edge then the right edge of the film into the grooves.

    Of the two reels one has a narrower spindle - i hold this in my right hand.
    Start by rotating the right hand away - means the two ball bearings and the throat / groove where the film goes in are NOT lined up across the spindle.

    I start the film off on the left reel and feed it in until it goes just past the ball bearing - you can feel the tension change.

    Then rotate the right hand reel back towards you feeding in the right edge of the film into the throat / groove.
    May need to hold the front / leading edge of the film with the fingers of your left hand.

    The film in now in both grooves and the usual ratcheting motion feeds the film in.
     
  17. R gould

    R gould Member

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    There was a device from nova which made starting the film a doddle, I don,t think they make them anymore but a look on the dreaded Ebay might turn up some, Richard
     
  18. piu58

    piu58 Member

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    I use the reel of AP, which fits in some tanks. Here is a link to it (unfortunately in German) AP reel. AP reels work very easy. The only problem: In the fixer they tend to leave air bubbles at the downside. They don't affect the image. But if they bother, you can overturn the reel after half the fix time.
     
  19. Removed Account2

    Removed Account2 Inactive

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    I have several tanks, the easiest to use is the old Kodak ARO tank that has a sort of plastic sleeve with dimples along the sides. You unwind this, its like a sligthly oversized film, really, and then in the darkroom, wind this on with the film inside, the dimples create room for the film and developer.

    Only downer is that the dimples tend to make undeveloped marks along the very edges of the film.
    I have spools for both 35mm and 120 film.

    With a little dexterity you should be able to get the film wound onto both the Jobo and Paterson spools, have you tried with a practice film i daylight? Its sometimes an eyeopener!
     
  20. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    Presumably there is not enough feeling left in your fingers to feel the little 'snick' as the film goes in the groove of the reel ? That is an unfortunate problem and you have my sympathy. The plastic reels with the wide flange would help (some people have mentioned the AP brand, but there are likely different tradenames in different markets) and you can probably use those successfully. Having bought a few, as they were cheaper than the Paterson ones, I'd say that the flanges are almost too big for 35mm, and even for 120 you can cut them back a bit when you have decided how big they really need to be.

    The main awkwardness though, is getting the film out of the reel after development. The only practical way is to open the two halves of the reel and pull it apart, instead of the (normal?) way of bowing the film slightly and letting it ease out of the grooves. That opening action is not going to be a reliably non-scratching way of getting your film out, especially if you ever use an old style unhardened emulsion (Efke for example), but it seems that many people do it all the time. Maybe opening the reel submerged in wetting-agent solution might help.
     
  21. Removed Account2

    Removed Account2 Inactive

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    I also have a couple of old JOBO tanks : #1136 and #1236, they have a specialfeature in the spirals, compared to Paterson and copies of those:

    On each halve of the spirals there is a lowered ridge, now when you start in the film, you pass that ridge and then over a small kink in both tracks, at first my films sort of bounched back from the kinks, and I thought all was lost.

    Until i discovered I could use my thumb on top of the film sticking up from the ridge, and nudge it past the little kink. After that it was just a matter of rocking back and forth lifting pressure from each ridge in turn, and securing the film onto the spiral that way.

    This works so fine that my larger twin-35mm tank is reserved for 120 film only, it works much better (for me) than Paterson spools and its copies.

    This was known as the JOBO 1000 range of developing tanks, dunno if they still are available, they should be!
     
  22. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    This is what I was going to suggest. It works very well for me.
     
  23. Casey Kidwell

    Casey Kidwell Member

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    A dry reel is important but so is a clean one. Also, I'll slightly bend back the first part of the film against the way it curls. This makes all the difference in starting the roll. After that, it's all good. I find steel reels much harder than Patterson. I've done a whole lot of 120 on steel but I would still occasionally find some overlapped film which is unacceptable. I haven't had a single one loaded wrong on a Patterson. I get good development with the Patterson but the downside is that you really have to take some time to keep them clean. Film edge contamination is a good indication you haven't been.
     
  24. mwdake

    mwdake Member

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    All great advice received so far; but here is a simple trick to getting the 120 started on the reel.
    It gives the stiffness and guide to get the roll started in to the flanges...


    Cut a piece of the film box to be the same width as 120 film and about 2 or 3 inches long.

    Before you go in the darkroom slide this piece of card along the reel tracks into the beginning of the reel but not past the little ball bearings. Now when in the darkroom take your film and slide it along the card until it is past the ball bearings and pull in a bit more then remove the card and load in the normal way. You see the card acts like a guide and makes those springy films easier to get started.

    I most often reverse curl the first 1/2 inch or so of my film before loading to help with the springiness.
    I still have the same bit of card I cut out of a Fuji box a couple of years ago, I only replace it if it gets lost of to banged up.
     
  25. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    One trick I do is to thread the uncut end first. So, I cut the tape end to separate from the paper, then unravel the whole thing and start the end with the perfect 90 degree cut into the reel first. If you just yank the tape off, then this method would make no sense, though.
     
  26. CBG

    CBG Member

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    I can't speak for plastic reels. The last time I fought with plastic reels was some forty years ago. I have used stainless reels ever since.

    Pardon a bit of digression on the state of the art in stainless reels....

    Despite the fact that stainless reels are my favorites, I have to acknowledge they take getting used to. I recently bought some Hewes reels. They are the best made 120 reels I have found in current production, and they have a very positive clamping action so that the film, once grabbed, is held well and doesn't easily wriggle free. They are also beefy, robustly built, which I can't say for some bargain / cheeeeepo reels now on the market.

    But. Hewes reels can be "interesting" to load in the dark.

    Back in the day, my favorite reels had no clamping mechanism and it was a breeze to push the end of the film into the middle of the stainless "cage" and thence to wind it out onto the spiraling. One merely had to refrain from tugging on the film. A slight positive pressure so the film wouldn't pull free from the center of the reel was all it took to not need some sort of clamp. The rest was a cinch.

    The Hewes reels are a good bit more finicky to start. Getting the film into the clamp, and getting it centered and square enough to wind true out through the spiral takes a bit of fiddling. I, like another poster, cut off the corners of the film, and I unroll the whole roll and used the stiffness of the adhesive strip to make the clamping process easier. If the film is inserted and clamped not quite square with the reel, it just won't wind properly.

    Nonetheless, I have got the hang of it, and most rolls go on in a reasonable time. I have not had a roll refuse me utterly. But I do sympathize with anyone having a hard time. The advise to work with a waste roll of film in the light, eyes closed till you're really really stuck, and need to see again what you are doing, is the best and only advice I've ever heard. It does get better with practice. Promise.