Loading 120 film to Paterson reel

Discussion in 'Classic Manual Cameras' started by raghu_kuvempunagar, Jul 10, 2017.

  1. I'm having serious trouble loading 120 film to Patterson reel in recent days. I'm using a 27' Adorama changing bag to load the film. I can load 135 film with absolutely no trouble inside the changing bag but have been quite unsuccessful with 120 film. Either I fail to slide the film into the groves properly or even after sliding the film past the ball bearing, I'm not able to load the rest of the film. Ironically, I'm always successful in loading 120 film outside the dark bag with my eyes closed!

    Tony Evans suggested an interesting trick:
    "I cut a piece of thin Mylar the width of the film and about 10 cms long and insert it (in daylight) through past the ball-bearings leaving about 2-3 cms sticking out from the feeder end.. In the dark (my changing bag) I can press the taped end of the film flat across the projecting mylar and push it though. Once in, just pull the mylar out from the ball-bearing end and proceed to load.."

    I tried this method both inside and outside the changing bag but couldn't get it working. The tape gets stuck at the ball bearing.

    Chuck Foreman shared his process for loading:
    "I sply my left fingers to feel the nubs of the starting plastic channels., then with my right hand/fingers load the lower film corner and uncurl or feel for the upper corner and place it in the reel channel accordingly. I then switch hands ie with my left and feel if the film is properly spread and in the slots. I may even pull it a bit more onto the reel, then I start the left/right twisting to begin taking up the film. etc.
    If it's loaded then this step usually works and you need merely to tear or gently remove the masking tape from the backing paper. "

    This is nearly the same process as mine.

    [Thanks Tony and Chuck - you guys are very kind and helpful.]

    In the initial days when I was shooting Arista Edu 400 in 120, I had nearly no trouble. But of late I've been shooting Tri-X and FP4+ and not having a good time with these.

    Now I'm wondering what I should do to solve my problem. Converting my bathroom into a darkroom might solve the problem as I am able to load outside closing bag with my eyes closed. But I'm hesitant to take that step at the moment and hence looking for alternative solutions. Will switching to steel reels help? And can steel reels be used with Patterson tank? Or should I look at larger sized changing bag?
  2. Steel reels can be easier to use for 35mm, but I haven't seen them be much improvement for 120. If you can do it outside of the bag, its a room issue, not a reel issue, so maybe the key would be to replicate the roominess of being outside the bag. Maybe use something, like coat hangers, to puff up the changing bag. Personally, I use a dark closet and have never owned a changing bag.
    raghu_kuvempunagar likes this.
  3. I would suggest giving your reels(especially the grooves) a good scrub with soap, water, and an old toothbrush. Then, make sure they are absolutely bone dry. Plastic reels in general can cause issues if they are wet and the wider, more flexible 120 film magnifies this. Basically any moisture can swell the emulsion and cause it to stick to the reels. I will only use plastic reels once a day, although a hair dryer can probably make them usable again.

    Plastic vs. stainless can start a holy war, but ultimately I find stainless a lot faster and easier to load even though there's a bit of a learning curve with it. There are a lot of tricks and opinions on the "right" way to load SS, but ultimately it all comes down to "cupping" the film and letting it "pop" into grooves. I suggest hunting down older Nikkor or Omega reels, although there is something to be said for buying new reels that you know are good(a bent reel can be suspiciously difficult to see, but will give you headaches to no end). I also suggest specifically getting 120 format reals and only bother with the 220 ones if you are developing 220 film-the 120s have much wider grooves and are also significantly more substantial in construction. Yes, you do need a stainless-specific developing tank. My favorite one is a "two-reel"(two rolls of 35mm) Omega tank with a stainless lid. You need this size to develop 120. The little tanks that hold a single roll of 35mm are also handy-the ones I use have a plastic lid.
    raghu_kuvempunagar and bertliang like this.
  4. IMHO the Paterson Tanks are great, but their reels are junk; best for the recycle bind. Get the reels with the broad thumb flanges; much easier to load. I think mine are AP - but don't remember exactly. Also, TIP: make sure the ball bearing are loose; not sticking. If struck, free them-up using a paper-clip or toothpick.
  5. I also had problems with 120 film. What helped me was to use a soft pencil on the tracks in the reels. Carbon really helped against the stroppiness,
  6. Tap the spools on the bench before commencing loading, to make sure the ball bearings are free. Strip the film from the paper backing and discard the paper into a corner of your bag. Cut off the tape along it's edge to ensure no sticky residue remains on the film. Then, always snip off the corners of the leading edge of the film, just a little snip about 10mm across the diagonal. Having the luxury of a darkroom this is easily managed, but a small pair of scissors can be accommodated in a changing bag. Feed about 20mm of film into the reel past the ball bearings and commence the to and fro feeding motion outlined above. I let the film run over the back of my left index finger which is holding the spool as this keeps the tightly rolled film away from the entry to the spiral and provides a smooth entry to the channel, while the fingers of the right hand beneath the spool can be used to steady and help lock the film at the end of the loading movement, as the reel returns to the next loading movement.

    Dry fingers and reels are absolutely essential.
    Last edited: Jul 10, 2017
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  7. Just as an aside, when working with a changing bag I keep my eyes closed, as I find this helps in forming a picture in one's mind as to what's going on inside the bag!
    raghu_kuvempunagar likes this.
  8. Raghu,,

    I don't cut the film off the tape but tear it off, thus allowing me to bend the little bit of torn taper over the end of the film and then crease it tightly between thumb and forefinger to make the fold absolutely thin. This will go through the bearings.
    Like Rick, I keep eyes closed while working in the Changing Bag.
    Good Luck.
    raghu_kuvempunagar likes this.
  9. Yes, I tear the film away from the backing paper, but then I cut the tape off the film. Here's a very rough pic of the trim.


    Film trim.JPG
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  10. I find one advantage of folding not cutting is that it gives a firmer leading edge to enter the reel.
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  11. I use the Arista 120 reel from Freestyle photo. The loading area goes across the entire width of the reel and it's a simple matter to start the film. The reel fits the Patterson tank so you would not need to purchase the entire kit.
    LMar, rlboston and raghu_kuvempunagar like this.
  12. I had a conversation with one of the other user in this site. He suggested that the wetting agent/final rinse was responsible for making the film hard to load. He was saying things like don't even put the wetting agent in the tank, remove it and use a different container.
    I did scrub the reel spirals with a tooth brush. I did make a difference with the next film I loaded. I do it now as part of the cleanup.
    raghu_kuvempunagar likes this.
  13. Greg,
    Sorry to be contra in respect of Plastic reels. Years ago I read that the reel should NOT be washed and dried after wetting agent film wash. Let it dry directly from the wash. This results in maintaining a non-stick surface on the reel which is supposed to assist loading next time. I have done this (Paterson Reels) for over 30 years and never had a film difficult to load. (Currently using Kodak Prof. Photo-Flo 200).
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
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  14. I guess everyone has their own preferences/opinions and ultimately if something works for you, you can't argue with the results.

    With that said, I find that Photoflo and the like(even at the proper dilution) leave a sticky film on the reels that can make loading difficult.

    I even clean my stainless reels regularly. It's not AS important since you're not sliding the film through the grooves, but I still find that they load easier when they're clean. I don't do anything fancy-usually I just soak them in hot water for a minute or two followed by a quick scrub-down with a toothbrush and soapy water.
    raghu_kuvempunagar likes this.
  15. Yes, clean reels are essential. A residue of wetting agent is a primary cause of very tenacious bubbles that may form along the edges of the reels, and that you really don't need. I still have the occasional bubble problem and take care to agitate very gently; if you can hear the fluid sloshing around in the tank you're being too vigourous.

    Regarding the tape, for years I used the Kindermann metal spools, just clipping the taped end to the centre of the spiral; for those of you unfamiliar with the system the film is loaded into the reel from the centre out by compressing the film laterally and letting it expand into the spiral as the reel is revolved. I discovered that not all tape is created equal, and some varieties would shed tiny particles that adhered to the surface of the film, creating a semi-pinhole effect in the finished negative. I also wondered about the wisdom of introducing an unknown chemical in the shape of adhesive to the mix... Anyway, I went over to the convenience of adjustable spools in the Johnson and Patterson systems when I no longer had access to deep tanks and air-burst agitation. I guess I believe that the tank should contain naked film, the appropriate chemistry, and nothing else... However, in the end, it's all a matter of what works best for you.
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
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  16. Don't apologise for being contra. The comments about photoflo were a spin off from this thread about bubbling.


    You can see the problem I had with bubbling, then general consensus was that it was from photoflo. Scroll down a bit to see the comments about using photoflo. After reading those comments I now clean the spirals & still use photoflo in the final rinse tank. YMMV.
    Use whatever method works for you.
    raghu_kuvempunagar likes this.
  17. I only once tried a Patterson reel. My first tank 50 years (and a few weeks) ago was a Yankee II, not so different from the Patterson.

    But when I tried to load a 127 roll into the Patterson a few years ago, it wasn't going in. Then, as it was warm and my hands were sweaty, the humidity in the bag went up, and it got even stickier. Then I went to a Yankee II (not the same one from 50 years ago), and got it in, but not quite right, and some parts were in contact.

    So, now I have a 127 stainless steel reel.

    Humidity might be the difference between your in changing bag, and out, loading.
    raghu_kuvempunagar likes this.
  18. I find it much easier to load 120 film onto a stainless steel reel, even though it seems easier to load 35 mm onto a plastic reel. I think the reason is that 120 is much softer, so loading from the inside out on a stainless steel reel avoids crimping better and requires no pushing. 35 is pretty stiff, and stands up easily to outside in and pushing on the plastic reels such as Patterson.
    raghu_kuvempunagar likes this.
  19. Lots of valuable tips here. Thanks everyone! Now I feel my trouble with Patterson reel could be due to a combination of these factors:
    1. There's not enough space inside the changing bag. I can load effortlessly with my eyes closed outside the bag.
    2. My hands start sweating inside the changing bag very soon complicating things.
    3. Film slips off the ball bearing sometimes while twisting left and right. For some reason this doesn't happen when I load outside the bag.

    I will probably switch to Arista Premium reels in the future. It's nice that they're compatible with Patterson tank! I figured out that for now I can light seal a bathroom to load the film in darkness, ie without having to operate inside the changing bag. There's the scare of film fogging but a test roll that I loaded in the bathroom and developed seemed to be fine.
  20. I found this discussion as I'm finding Acros really troublesome to load. No problem at all with TMAX so I'm thinking perhaps a different base material? It starts feeding but curls out of the plastic reel.

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