My advice for loading 35mm (and 120 for that matter) onto steel reels flawlessly - Cheat. Get the Kinderman reels and loader. Works every time flawlessly, even using a dark bag.
We all feel your pain. If you really want a vocabulary work out try loading 220 onto steel reels. A roll of 220 is as long as a roll of 36 exposure 35mm but it is so wide that small errors in alignment turn into big displacements and kinks.
The upside is that with practice, as your muscles learn what to do and motor memory takes over, it does eventually get easy. I can load 35mm and 120 quickly and reliably now without blasphemy, even in a changing bag. I'm getting there with 220.
My infallible rules. Whenever I break one of these rules the load screws up and I get kinks and stains:
0. NEVER be in a hurry.
1. ALWAYS take a practice run (or several) with spare film first, eyes closed. This tunes up the muscle memory in your hands.
2. Double check to make sure you are loading in the right direction. I feel the ends of the reel and make sure they are pointing down (I'm right handed and hold the reel in my left).
3. I do not use the little clip to secure the film in the center of the reel. I think this allows the film to move a little and center itself as it spools on. Others swear by the clip. I make an exception when using Hewes reels, where the tabs center the film nicely.
4. DON'T be in a hurry. Relax. Getting frustrated will cause you to tense your hands and they will not "feel" the film onto the reel correctly.
These threads come up periodically. I understand the problems people have with steel reels (or thought I did) because they do take some practice. There is a technique to loading them, and it takes practice. But once mastered, no problem.
Originally Posted by Monophoto
However, I got a little more insight recently into why some people may have more problems than others. I obtained a "whole darkroom" from a local photographer who had gone, well, you know. Among the goods was 8 or 10 steel reels of various sizes and types. I threw out over half of them because they were bent or damaged - apparently from being dropped. There was no way anyone was going to have an easy time loading these reels. And even the ones not damaged were filthy! :rolleyes:
They have to be clean and straight. And, one has to learn to use them. Not unlike many other tools. It's really down to that.
In addition to what has already been posted:
-Ditto on the practice in day light. I don' think this can be said too often.
-Load in a darkroom not a bag if you can.
-Clip the film in the real then before winding let the film hang to check it is straight in the reel. (easier said than done on 36exp) The other option is to feel then end under the clip to make sure it is even between the spirals and square to them. A good start is key.
-When the film is slightly bowed and is going on to the reel/flattening out corretly it makes a distinct scraping sound. For me this is key. If the film cracks or pops it just kinked.
- I wind with my left hand and feed with my right. I push the film on to the reel as much as wind it on.
- when the film is on the reel properly the edges of the film feel uniform in the reel. (on my reels I can just feel the edges)
- The film should feel loose in the reel.
For the most part, the advice in this thread has been very good. I must disagree with (or at least qualify) one piece of advice, though:
This sort of trimming of the start of the film can help when loading plastic reels, in my experience, presumably because the taper helps avoid the edge of the film getting stuck on small imperfections as it's pushed onto the reel. I don't see how it could help with loading SS reels, though, since they load from the inside out, so the tapered edge won't be pushing against anything.
Originally Posted by Monophoto
Cutting squarely could help because it'll make it easier to feel the geometry of the start of the roll, which could help in centering the roll and attaching it via the "teeth" of Hewes reels or the clips of most other brands.
Sponsored Ad. (Subscribers to APUG have the option to remove this ad.)
I also agree with most of what has been posted above. (The Forum can also be searched for many other posts on this topic.)
In reference to trimming the film: With Hewes reels, I agree that a square cut works best. With Kinderman reels (and probably some others), I prefer to make a 45-degree cut on each side of the film so that it ends up with a point to insert into the center puncturing pin. Kinderman reels, by the way, are an extremely close second to Hewes in overall ease of loading and in overall quality.
In spite of some initial frustration, it makes sense to use SS, especially when you go to 120, which is absurdly quick and easy to load onto SS. As noted above, however, 220 can be a different story.
Steel reels for 120 -- no sweat. For 35mm? I gave up, use film aprons. I don't think there is enough 35mm in the world to give me enough practice to get it consistantly right. *Sigh*
Loading steel reels is like tying your shoes: impossible to describe or explain in words, but easy once you get the hang of it.
My feeble attempt to give hints:
As others have said, getting the film started on the reel straight is essential. If the film runs off on one side of the reel after a couple of turns, there is nothing to do but unwind, take it off the reel, and start over.
I hold the reel in my left hand and the spool of film (if 135) in my right. With my left index and second fingertips on the back side of the film, I rotate the reel, pinching the sides of the film with the fingers of my right hand. The film should enter the reel smoothly; if not, back of and start over. Continue winding the film by rotating the reel and pulling it out of your right hand, which is guiding it. If it has not run off the sides of the reels after a couple of turns, it should continue to load smoothly. It just requires a simple, repetitive hand motion of the left hand, which once learned, comes as natural as tying your shoes.
I use Nikkor reels. I do not "taper" the end of the film before loading it. I did that when I first started, but gave it up once I got the hang of it, as it was really not any help. The more important thing is to cut the film end squarely.
Once you get the hang of it it's easier to do right than it is to do wrong. But it does take practice. The first few times I tried steel reels I hated them. But then suddenly one day something clicked and I could do them effortlessly. In fact a few times back in high school I would race people - gave them a plastic Patterson and I took the steel. More than once I was able to load 2 rolls on steel reels in less time than my opponent took to do one on the Patterson.
I don't usually bother with the clips. I have used the ones with the teeth (never knew who made them until I found this site!) and to be honest...the teeth actually bugged me more than the clips! Making sure the film is started straight is very important...and for me the clips and teeth just make that harder.
The "backup" test to see if things are loading right is another I learned early on...every 2-3 "rows" I give a quick gentle shove on the film to make sure it's not binding. Loading some wrong on purpose in the light is a great way to learn the difference in feel. I also usually run my fingers around the top and bottom of the reel when I'm done - with practice you'll learn how it should feel and if it feels different then something is probably stuck or bound. When it's right the spacing is very regular and nothing sticks out more than anything else. If you've got a kink or skipped a row then it will stand out like a sore thumb when you feel the grooves on the top/bottom.
I actually get more frustrated now trying to load plastic reels. I HATE the jobo plastic reels with a passion, though I did finally find a trick for loading them. The Patterson plastic reels are ok...until the BB gums up or falls out and then they're a huge pain. Nice thing about steel - if you learn to load them without relying on the clip/teeth then they'll last a lifetime as long as you don't drop them!
My two tips (which are referred to by some above) are as follows:
1) get used to the feel of the film when it is loading properly - move it gently back and forth, to ensure it isn't binding; and
2) get used to the sound that the film makes when it is loading properly - it is a gentle and even scrape (IMHO a beautiful sound indeed).
The first tip you learn by practising in the light. The second tip you learn by first practising in the light, and then practising further in the dark.
The second tip does not work with a changing bag.
One thing to keep in mind is that it is important to learn how to keep the film perpendicular to the side of the reels. With 35mm, I'm half decent at this, but I cannot seem to succeed with this for 120..
It gets easier after the first 100 to 200 rolls . And when it does, you will really prefer the steel reels as compared to plastic (or at least I do.).
Keep trying, and have fun.