Threading 120 film on reel - any tips & tricks?
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.
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.
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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.
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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?
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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.
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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).
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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.
I have found these reels to be really easy with 120.
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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.
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.