Dust Problem - Dirty Holders?
I have been having persistent and irritating dust problems ever since getting my 4X5 about a month and a half ago. I have tried many different strategies to deal with it and have not yet been able to completely solve it. Here is what I have come up with.
The last test I did was with four holders, two sheets in each. All of my holders (I have 10 total) were purchased used from KEH in bargain condition. All were dusty to some degree when I got them. Before loading, I thoroughly cleaned the four holders with a slightly moist lint free cloth and then canned air. I did my best to get the air in the felt trap area at the top. I also cleaned the inside of my bellows and my back on the camera in case there was dust hanging out there. (It did look like there was some dust and I cleaned it as thoroughly as I could) I then loaded the film with as much care as possible not to set the holders on the counter in the loading room and to avoid contact with anything at all that could introduce dust.
The results of the test were that of the eight sheets, four sheets, from two holders, were acceptably free of dust and four were really bad. I have come to the conclusion that I have a couple of holders that have some dust which I have not been able to clean out, probably in the light trap. I did not do anything to be able to tell which holders they are, and I have 6 others that have not been tested, so just avoiding the holders isn't much of an option.
The question comes down to: Is it possible to clean old holders in a meaningful way, especially in areas such as the light trap where dust may hide? There is no visible difference between the holders, but a massive difference in the amount of dust that was on the negatives. Also, does anyone see something that I may have missed in my cleaning and loading regimen that would make such a difference, especially something which could vary like this from holder to holder?
Thanks for reading my long post and thanks for any help you might be able to provide.
I picked up some dusty holders lately, well, more like down right DIRTY!
I took them all to the kitchen sink, took out the dark slides, and washed them thoroughly with warm soapy water making sure to run volumous amounts of clear water thru the light traps.
I wasn't sure the tape would hold up but it did. It took about 4 days for the felt in the light trap to dry but it did eventually. The holders seem fine now.
Paul, it does indeed sound like you have some holders with dust imbedded in the black velvet light traps. This velvet tends to be somewhat fragile, so I would advise caution about rooting around in there with sharp brushes and the like.
One common technique from my old days which I did not hear that you performed was to (1) hold the holder vertically with the lint trap at the top (2) tap vigourously on the side of the holder over the plastic panel which covers the light trap. We used to use the handle of our Static Master lint brushes (the blunt end of a screwdriver or jack knife would do) after dusting the inside of the holder film area.
When done properly, you can actually see the dust particles falling into the clean film area. This was with brand new Riteway holders recently purchased during my days in art school.
Perhaps dust accumulates on the slides and is scraped off into the bottom of the light trap when the slide is removed to make an exposure. If so, storing the holders in plastic bags in your case would be helpful.
Lots of good information here. A couple of other things you can try:
First, use a vacuum cleaner to suck out the dust from light traps. Be careful to handle the holders gently, but try getting the hose from a vacuum cleaner close to the light traps. (Note that most vacuum cleaners will kick a lot of dust up into the air, so you'll have to re-clean the holders themselves once the air's settled down.)
Second, be sure to pull the dark slide s-l-o-w-l-y. Pulling it quickly can cause static, which will attract dust to the surface of the film (exactly where you don't want it).
Third, make sure you dust the dark slides as well as the holders.
I use a Kinetronics StaticWisk brush on my holders, and haven't had dust problems since I started using it. $20 for a 2.5 inch brush sounds expensive, but it's saved me a lot of anguish.
Best of luck.
Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.
I vacuum my holders and changing tent each time, has worked very well.
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Some dust is inevitable. Try a Readyload or two to "benchmark" how dirty "clean" film is.
You can probably find a really good deal on clean used film holders from commercial studios. Often the gear that has been used for a few years is proven and bulletproof. I wouldn't waste my time fooling around with "bargain" holders, they are so cheap on eBay.
Give each holder an identifying number, calling one side a and the other side b. Keep a notebook indicating #, letter and subject. Then when you have a dusty negative you know which holder to attack. After a few tries it may be cheaper to throw out the worst one(s). Naturally if you add f stop, shutter speed, and other details you can sort out other problems.
Originally Posted by Paul Sorensen
I hate the accounting this method requires, but if you can get into keeping a log it will allow you through review to improve many aspects of your work.
I too had problems with dust. I did six things that pretty much solved my dust problem:
1. Vacuumed my darkroom - and not a 5 minute job, either. I went over every surface, including the ceiling, with a vacu-flow. This way, the venting of 'filtered' air occurs outside the house. Much quieter than using a standard roll-around vacuum. It's important to keep the entrance door closed after this, to keep dust out.
2. Vacuumed my camera, with a lot of time spent on the inside of the bellows. Extend your camera as much as you can, and use a wand attachment for the vaccum. I then tapped the outside of the bellows while running the wand around the inside.
3. Vacummed the film holders. Really, really well. Inside and out.
4. Purchase a hepa-filter for the darkroom. I have a big around one, about 18 inches across, and about a 12 inches high. I place the filter in the middle of the room, and let it run for about an hour before I load film. I even let it run on low when I'm loading film.
5. Store your film holders in anti-static plastic bags. This prevents dust from getting on the outside of the holders, which means less dust getting into the camera, and therefore onto the film. The plastic bags that computer components come in are perfect for this, especially the ones used for cards that plug into the PC backplane, such as video and network cards - they're exactly the right size for grafmatics. You could fit two normal 4x5 film holders per bag.
6. When loading film, place the brick of film face-down in a box. Then, flip the film over and insert it into the holder during loading. This prevents dust from landing on the emulsion while you're loading a sheet. If you're loading grafmatics, I store the septums face down in another box until I have a set of 6 to load.
One other thing that I've seen suggested, and I guess works really well if you load your film in the bathroom, is to fill the room with steam (ok, water vapour). With the door closed, let the steam settle, and then load your film immediately after the steam has settled. This will help settle the dust...as with all things, YMMV.
Hope that helps you out!
I strongly second Johns recommendation to give the sides of the light traps a few hard raps to dislodge the dust. Also, when I clean a holder, I pull out the slide so that it just fails to come free of the light trap, grab it by the side edges (not the end, so it doesn't bend) and vigorously/quickly push it in and out through the trap 10 - 12 times before using a brush on the film area. The edge of the film holder pushing through the velvet does a pretty good job of cleaning things. As an added step, it only takes a few seconds.
Originally Posted by Calamity Jane
I have to admit. I've done this too. It works great and has the added benefit of making the holders look a lot cleaner. I also vacuum my holders before re-loading them and store them in plastic zip lock bags at all times (regardless of loaded or not). Vacuum the dust out instead of blowing it in (with canned air).