Who makes the most user-friendly reels?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by postalman, Jun 3, 2011.

  1. postalman

    postalman Member

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    I'm still new to developing film, and I currently have a 0% success rate in developing a roll of film without issues (120 and 135). In every case the fault lies with the reel (in some cases, my inability to load it easily). The three main issues I have are:
    1. film not developing in places (I'm guessing it's touching in the reel)
    2. film creasing due to the ball-bearings jamming on bending film
    3. it's just to darn hard to do in a bag!

    I've come to the realization that Paterson reels are just a lazy design, as someone with my limited film experience can find ways of improving it, while still making it out of moulded plastic for the same manufacturing price. Those guys just don't seem to care about how their product is used. It may not impact you experienced guys, but they make life harder than it needs to be for us beginners.

    My main complaint is the guide flange is far too small for 120 film, and doesn't cover the ball bearing, which is the obvious place for the film to need guiding. Is there any reel that does? I'm trying to look at an AP ones online and I can see the nice big flange, but not how it grips film.

    Are there any better reels than this out there?

    Also, does anyone know who sells these?
     
  2. liquid695

    liquid695 Member

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  3. zsas

    zsas Member

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    I love my Patterson. I do 35 and 120 and have never had a blown roll.

    2 suggestions:
    1) Load a test roll in daylight. Sure it is a waste but seeing the magic might help
    2) I have never used a bag. When I am in complete darkness my sense of feel is amplified by the loss of sight. That extra feel I believe to be the determing factor.

    Sorry to hear of your results thus far. When I learned darkroom in class my teacher insisted upon proficiency of #1 above before even trying #2 above
     
  4. zsas

    zsas Member

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    One more thought - are you using 500ml of chemistry to cover the 120?
     
  5. mooseontheloose

    mooseontheloose Subscriber

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    Hewes reels!

    I had cheap reels that looked fine but actually caused the film to buckle when I tried to load them. After one bad experience I went with Hewes and have never had a problem since.
     
  6. postalman

    postalman Member

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    Yeah, I'm using 500ml of chems. My first roll of film I thought "this looks easy enough" and just charged in. After about 5 min I decided sacrificing another roll to practice on the second reel would not be such a bad idea, so I played in the light. I had no problems with the practice roll, but the ball bearings jammed on the first roll still in the bag and tore it in two (diagonally, so there was no way to develop both halves of the roll to salvage something). I suspect the difference in film stickyness between the practice roll and real rolls is what is throwing me.

    Since then, no more tears but every roll has had either a patch of undeveloped (usually costs me 3 frames or so) and/or some creases that a real estate agent would say "adds character" (and I say are unacceptable).

    I know people say you shouldn't touch the emulsion, but is it really that big of a deal if you have clean hands? I've tried latex gloves so I could handle the roll more without fear of leaving oil behind, but it hasn't really helped. I've also noticed that the leader develops just fine even though it is handled without gloves.
     
  7. postalman

    postalman Member

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    Also, all the reviews I've read about Hewes reels say they're far better made than generic SS reels (which I believe), but are they as idiot-proof as a good plastic reel can be?
     
  8. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Hewes reels are the way to go if one uses steel reels.

    I understand that plastic reels are much easier to load in daylight rather than in a darkroom or changing bag.

    Steve
     
  9. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Evening, Postalman,

    The 35mm Hewes are about as idiot-proof as anything can be. The two small prongs in the center virtually guarantee correct alignment for the film. Even good plastic reels can cause problems unless completely dry and carefully cleaned; they're much less idiot-proof.

    Konical
     
  10. Flink

    Flink Member

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    ive used the Pat brand reels for ages and have found that moisture is the main problem espescially when loading in a changebag, hands moving within that closed space inevitabley causes moisture levels to rise and some emulsions gets sticky. I always run a small hairdyer on a warm low setting over the reels to eliminate any skerrik of moisture AND with super clean hands. . . have never had a problem. If you can eliminate the changebag all together and load on a bench in a darkroom its very troublefree.
     
  11. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    I like the wider flange AP reels for 120, but I really don't have any problems with the ball bearings. I do check them before each use though, to make sure they move freely.

    I've never had success using a changing bag. If I'm somewhere where I cannot make a room totally dark during the day, I load my tanks at night and develop the next day.

    I prefer stainless steel for 35mm. I would prefer it for 120 as well, except I have difficulties using the clips, and I need some way of affixing the film, because I use rotary processing.

    I truly don't know how anyone could load reels wearing vinyl gloves. It might be possible to use nitrile gloves or cotton gloves - but I've never tried.

    One lesson that I have learned is that loading reels requires a gentle hand - one shouldn't push or hold them heavily - fingertips are best. And the film should go on in small steps, with frequent checks to ensure that it moves freely when on the reel.

    I also recommend that one listens to the sound of the film as it advances on to the reel. That sound provides excellent feedback.
     
  12. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Cut the leader off (35mm only). Bring scissors into your dark room (or bag if you insist on a bag). Wash hands, no gloves necessary. You doing full inversions or agitating by twisting that rod? I only do the inversion-twist-180-method. I also make sure that both sides of the reel are aligned when feeding the film in. Not sure any of this will help? Toss that changing bag is one big thing I would do and get in a light tight bathroom/closet, etc

    I learned on metal reels and tanks and recently transitioned to the Patterson and have been quite thrilled. I loaded many old expired 120's on it no prob. Old rolls seem to curl more and still had no prob. Gosh I sure hope you get it down if you use Patterson or metal. I personally find loading the film in the dark to be the most zen moment of the whole photographic process. Threading a needle in the dark per se is so exciting to me.
     
  13. postalman

    postalman Member

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    Konical - I'm mostly 120 with a dash of 135 thrown in, and I'm really (pun not intended!) looking for a 120 solution. I think that Hewes idea of saying "we'll do 135 well and 120 well, rather than adjustable less well" is great, but after having a quick play with their 120 reel at my local shop, I'm not ready to give up on a plastic solution yet.

    Flink - darkroom isn't possible. I'm using a fairly large bag (25") and I'm still finding that a bit cramped with the system 4 tank in there too. Next time I'll try latex gloves and long sleeves to see if that can keep moisture down a bit. If the light is cooperating tomorrow.
     
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  15. Newt_on_Swings

    Newt_on_Swings Member

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    Ive used both plastic and SS reels, and I prefer the plastic much better for some reason. I have used some that work flawlessly and others that just dont cooperate at all.

    I suggest you wash your equipment with a tiny bit of detergent and let fully dry. they use a pencil and run it through the tracks to "lube" it.

    Take your time and guide the film into the reel when ratcheting with your thumbs. for doing 120 defiantly get the larger take up plastic flanged ones.

    I always add just a little bit more of each chemical, if it asks for 10 or 12 oz. I put in 12 or 14 oz of solution for a single reel. and also if you are doing a single reel in a 2 reel tank, always keep the one with film on the bottom. and agitate vigorously, flipping and rotating as well regularly.
     
  16. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    You don't necessarily need a darkroom - just a dark room.

    As for the bag, do you have a box or frame you can put inside it to keep it off your hands?

    I don't know, but would guess, that vinyl gloves plus long sleeves would increase the warmth and humidity.
     
  17. postalman

    postalman Member

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    I don't have a dark room either unfortunately, as our bathroom has a huge skylight and there's always some light getting in. I'd call it dark enough for something less sensitive than film, although I could do an experiment tonight and see.
    As for the bag, I bought a tank that does 2x120 rolls, so it is a bit of a squeeze as it is. I'll ferret around for a cardboard box and give that a try if I find something suitable. And I'd hope that the moisture would all be trapped in the gloves rather than making the film sticky. I think if I could load simpler and faster and get out of the bag sooner it would be the ideal solution.

    Does anyone know who sells reels with wide flanges in Aus? Or charges less than $45 to ship here?
     
  18. jp498

    jp498 Member

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    I like my paterson ones. I've had some paterson-compatible ones which were terrible. The real deal is what you want.

    For 35mm, I trim the leader off and pull the film into the reel past the ball bearings. Then I ratchet the film in as intended.. Practice in light as necessary.
     
  19. John Wiegerink

    John Wiegerink Subscriber

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    I'm a little Dutch and try never to spend more money on something unless I have to. HEWES SS REELS ARE TO MUCH MONEY! Now, what kind of reels do I use? I use nothing but Hewes SS reels. And yes, they are pretty much idiot proof. I used Nikkor and Paterson for years. I used the Nikkor for 35mm and the Paterson for 120. I just never could believe Nikkor SS reels would be any different than the more expensive Hewes reels. Boy, was I ever wrong. This is one of those "you won't believe it until you try it" type of things. Yes, I might be an idiot, but I ain't stupid. Spend a little more and make life in the dark worth living. JohnW:D
     
  20. DBP

    DBP Member

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    There's always the under lots of blankets at night option in lieu of a light tight room. I actually find steel easier with 120.
     
  21. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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  22. postalman

    postalman Member

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    thanks for the link. That works out at $22 each though, and I'm too poor (and cheap) to pay that.

    I'll keep it as a back-up idea if I can't find the reels on their own though.
     
  23. zsas

    zsas Member

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    That is exactly why I went w Patterson -the cost was easy, the product was new (not some 30 year old metal reel/tank), and I could do 35 and 120. Gosh, I really hope you can overcome these issues. Your issues are really unfortunate and I hope you can overcome them shortly. Destroyed shots are heartbreaking. You will feel it in the dark, all your senses will combine to get you perfect rolls I have faith...
     
  24. postalman

    postalman Member

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    Thanks :smile: Unfortunately I'm 5 for 0, but they are all practice rolls. I'm not confident attempting serious shoots yet with this history though, so :sad:

    One more 120 roll tomorrow, and if there is no improvement I'll look into replacing the reels. Those AP ones and their clones look like paterson reels with training wheels, maybe that's what I need.
     
  25. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    Hi postalman,

    A Paterson reel must be dry to work, and the ball bearing needs to be free.

    I recommend stainless steel reels and practice. When you get good at it you will feel better.

    You can feel or hear when the film crinkles. Then unwind to the core, reposition the starting angle and try again.

    Sometimes that crinkle wants to slip at the same point. So a frustrating roll sometimes takes a few attempts to get right.

    But most of the time the rolls will go right on without incident.
     
  26. M. Lointain

    M. Lointain Member

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    I'll admit to never using a Hewes reel. I have some Kinderman stuff but haven't tried it yet. If you want to stay plastic, Jobo reels (the 1500 series) are a piece of cake to load. You can use either the push or twist methods to load the film. I typically push the film onto the reels and can load five reels in about 5 minutes from throwing them into the changing bag to getting them out. They are starting to get real expensive though probably because of this. I have seen a few ebay auctions lately and I am seemingly sitting on a gold mine!