Metal vs plastic spool

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by jessewhitbeck, Nov 8, 2017.

  1. i have been having issues with rolling my film on to the plastic processing reel and was wondering if it is easier or if metal reels provide a better processing quality. Any help would be appreciated
  2. Hello everyone. Jesse, you are now encountering the "Plastic Dread's". Unless the plastic real is desert dry, your film binds up. Save some money & go up onto Ebay & get a stainless steel daylight developing tank & reels. Get the 450ml size & (2) 35mm reels if that is your format. Same size tank & a 120mm reel for MF. The SS systems requires minimum care & will last you a life time. I am 74 & have the original 450ml tank & reels from my army days of 63-67 when I was convinced by the German who ran the photo center to buy one. He suggested the Nikor's & I purchased mine on the German economy . After the first several reels/rolls, my investment was rewarded. Bill
  3. You didn't mention whether it's 35mm or 120. FWIW, I use a metal reel (Hewes brand, they rock) for 120 and plastic for 35mm. The plastic reels have to be drier than dry or the film will get stuck. If you haven't practiced with a dummy roll in the light, do that a bunch of times first no matter which type of reel you use.
  4. Trim the corners off the leading end of the film, before you load on a plastic spool.
  5. Metal reels don't cause problems if you re-use them still moist. - Some folks seem getting along with theirs, I'm more used to Jobo's plastic and given a choice I'd stick to it.
    Whatever you'll pick: Take a worthless long expired roll and practice by daylight till you feel confident!
  6. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    I started with plastic and hated them - as suggested, "Take a worthless long expired roll and practice by daylight till you feel confident!"
    Never a problem with metal - I disagree with the "moist" for metal. Always dry worked or me.
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  7. I do have a plastic reel with a hook on the center column, so you can load it inside out (like SS reels) or outside in (usual for plastic reels).

    Once you get used to them, stainless steel reels are easier and more reliable to use.

    There is a curved loading guide that should come with SS reels, but it might have been
    lost if you get a used one. Once you get the hang of it, it is easier and more reliable without
    the guide. (You can feel when the film isn't going in right.)

    Moisture is a problem with plastic reels. Even humidity from sweat in a changing bag is enough.
  8. Thank you all for the help. I am using it on 35mm black and white film. I may start practicing on the metal more so now due to the information because i seem to just not have any luck with the plastic reels and always seem to lose about my last 8 pictures because it never rolls fully
  9. Most plastic reels load from the outside in, whereas metal reels load from the inside out. Think of the differences between pushing a rope and pulling it. The problems get worse as the plastic ages. It tends to craze when exposed to strong chemicals. Although metal reels can be loaded while damp, it's best if they are dry to avoid sticking film and possibly leaving marks on it.

    Metal reels have a clip on the spool to hold the inner end of the film. That's okay with 35 mm, but tends to buckle 120 film, making winding hard to start without further buckling. I learned a long time ago to hold the end of the film straight through the ends of the spool as I start to load the reel. Since agitation is by inversion, there is no tendency of the film to creep lengthwise during processing.

    Listen as you load the metal reel. If you hear scrunching, the film is buckled. You can usually unwind past the kink ard redo it correctly. You don't need to use a metal guide. It's easy to guide with you hand, and doesn't leave scratches.
  10. Metal reels do have a bit of a learning curve, but once you learn how to use them you will wonder why you ever bothered with plastic.

    The only BIG caution I will offer is if buying used reels, be sure they aren't bent. Sometimes the bend can subtle, but if it's there you will have no end of headaches.
  11. Although I mainly use stainless reels, I've honestly had little problem loading plastic reels with 35mm film. 120, certainly, but not 35mm.

    Apart from being damp, plastic reels can get sticky from dirt or limescale. If a plastic reel is still difficult to load when bone dry, then clean it thoroughly with a good domestic surface cleaner and an old toothbrush. A squirt of silicone furniture polish rubbed into the reel might help as well.

    Also, prepare the feed end of the film by snipping the corners off with scissors. Torn off film may snag on the reel.

    If that all fails to ease loading, then it's time to buy a stainless tank and reel.... and to spend an hour with a spoilt film practising loading with your eyes closed.

    Oh yes. And do not buy a stainless 35mm reel with a stupid spring clip to catch the film. One's with "sprocket catcher" spikes are much easier to load.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2017
  12. The spring clip is okay as long as you don't use it. Using the clip makes the film hard to start straight. Once you buckle the film, it can be very difficult to straighten it out.
  13. You definitely need to use the clip on 120 reels, unless you're willing to mess about with bits of adhesive tape in the dark. But here again there are stupid designs. Some reels have a "backwards" clip that requires the film to be bent across it at a sharp angle - not a good idea.
  14. I mostly use stainless steel as well, but I learned on plastic. If possible, try to visit someone who has a darkroom with both types of reels and maybe you could try both on a piece of scrap film.
  15. My favorite 35mm reels don' t have the clip, and work just fine.

    My 120 reel does, but the last time I used it, I tried without using the clip.
    During processing, the film moved toward the center, so at least one frame didn't get developed right.
    I never had 35mm film do that. (In 50 years.)
  16. I was the weird guy in the community college photo class that used SS tank and reels. Everyone else used plastic.

    I use SS 35mm and 120 reels. 35mm for decades.

    In my experience the clips are a problem. If you do not clip the film dead center, the clip pulling the film at an angle could/will cause the film to kink as you roll it on. Because it is hard to get the clip position right, the odds are that it will be off center. If you do not clip the film, it will self center. So I just stick the film into the center of the reel and roll, NOT using the clip.

    If you can load a 35mm SS reel, a 120 reel isn't much more difficult. At least it wasn't for me. Loaded a dummy roll perfect the first time. But as was said, practice with a dummy roll first.
  17. Arista 120 reels have a loading ramp where the film enters. Basically it's flat across the entire width of the reel but not connected as you can still ratchet if you wish. Or just push it on. The Arista 120 reels are super easy to use. On 35mm I find if the film hangs up on the ball bearing area when feeding it on I just grab the film between my thumb and forefinger and pull it past the ball bearing part to get it started. On 35mm film the leading edge of the film catches on the reel spokes on the Patterson plastic reels. If you snip the corners just a bit then that helps the film glide past. Dry reels are easier to use then wet reels. No opinion on metal spools as I have not owned one. If you bulk load there is no law that you have to load up a 36 shot roll. You can load up fewer frames if you wish which in turn makes loading onto the spool easier.
  18. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Positioned on the appropriate reels are the loaders described. I found them to work well provided you kept your index finger lightly on the film while using them. Some other interesting (useful) odds and ends in the photo as well!
    DSC_0111 (1000x668).jpg
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017
  19. I use Paterson plastic reels. I have enough of a supply that I can let the ones I use dry for a day or so. I slide each reel on to the crank that I use to open and close windows in my home. It is important they be completely dry.
  20. I have a thread running on Hewes 35mm reels-I've never used such a nice reel, and they almost seem to load themselves.

    I've found Nikor 120 reels to be excellent.

    Any bent stainless real will be no end of headaches and trouble, particularly in smaller sizes. The cheap reels are amazingly easy to bend-I've dinged a few just because I dropped them a few inches into the(ceramic) sink.

Share This Page