Reel loading tips?

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by james_lai, Jun 13, 2006.

  1. I just finished developing my second set (2 rolls) of Plus X. Until a few
    months ago, I hadn't done any developing in maybe 25 years.

    The first time (after the 25 year absence) I tried this, I trimmed the leaders,
    opened the cassettes in the dark and fed the film onto the reels (stainless
    steel). The first roll went on fine, the second was quite fiddly but I got the
    film on and everything went smoothly. I did notice some dark marks around the
    edges (around the sprocket holes, fortunately not in the frames themselves)
    where I accidentallly bent the film while trying to straighten it in the reel.

    This time around, I tried starting the film onto the reels in the light,
    figuring that most of my reel loading problems the first time were because it
    was difficult to get the film straight and centered in the clip in the dark.
    However, this time the loading was worse and I ended up with parts of the film
    touching, which, of course, ruined those frames.

    Can anyone give me any tips on loading the reels? Is there a good way to check
    the loading in the dark? Should I consider getting autoloading reels or just
    keep practising with junk film?

    BTW, I just read some of the old posts in this forum and found out that I risk
    scratching the film by dragging it out from the cassettes, so now I know not to
    do that again.
  2. It sounds like you are 90% there already. I submit the following for your consideration. Once you "get it", stainless reels are much easier than plastic "easy loader" reels, which must be absolutely clean and dry to work at all. Besides, loading a reel from the outside in is like pushing a rope.

    (1) Try loading the film without using the clip. Sometimes it is hard to keep the film from buckling out of the clip, moreso with 120 than 35mm. Hold the film straight through the center hole. Once you have a couple of turns, there's enough friction so you don't have to hold the end any more.

    (2) The "easy loader" guide isn't all that easy, and tends to scratch the film. Just cup the film in your fingers. Use the "feel" of the film and your ears to make sure the film is feeding evenly

    (3) If your hands are sticky, wear cotton gloves. The film must slide freely through your fingers, and you don't want to leave finger prints.

    (4) If you feel or hear the film buckling (rough loading), pull the film out a little and take extra care past the rough spot. If you catch it early, all is good. If the edge of the film is crumpled a little, it's pretty hard to recover, but worth trying. Feel the film in the reel to make sure it is in the right groove. Jiggle it if necessary. Once you get past the rough spot, you're good.
  3. Thanks Edward. I'll give it a try without the clips the next time. I spent a lot of time just trying to get the film to stay in the clips, and bypassing that step should also eliminate the centering problem.
  4. James

    I load 35mm onto a SS reel which has two prongs. I start it in daylight, then put the reel, film cannister and scissors (!) in the changing bag. This way I know I have started the film squarely. Then holding the reel in my left hand I hold the film between my thumb and forefinger and lightly bow the film. While resting the thumb/forefinger of my right hand against the reel, I turn the reel with my left hand until I get to the end of the film. I then cut the film next to the cannister.

    Keep practising! I used an old roll of colour film about 10 or 15 times until I felt comfortable. I have not (yet) scratched a film using this technique. BTW, there is also a link the B+W forum about how to load reels.

    Good luck.
  5. Make sure your stainless reels aren't bent. Are they the old reels you used 25 years ago? Or did you buy some new "Made in China" ones? Quality control is still a new idea in China -- the "Five Year Plans" only set production quotas, not quality ones. Check them out with a square, with a ruler, sighting through them, etc.

    Real Honeywell Nikor reels are great, but you can't buy them new anymore. Hewes reels are superb, available new, but pricey.
  6. It really comes down to two choices; huge amounts of practice or cheat. Although practice does make perfect, you will go through many ruined films of the way. Consider these cheats:

    I use these for both 35mm and 120 and have never had a scatch from them. YMMV
  7. Thanks guys, it looks like I need much, much more practice.

    Aside from the problems getting the film on the clip properly, the winding problems on both reels this time were towards the ends of each film. I guess I didn't pinch the film enough and it went out of the track. It seems I then bent it back into the track causing a kink in the film which pressed against the next winding. I lost about 4 frames near the end of each roll.

    PC, your procedure is exactly what I tried to do, except I went into a dark closet at nighttime since I have no changing bag. The films didn't seem to wind straight and I had to keep backing up to make corrections. I guess I'll have to keep working on my technique.

    John, they're old reels but I don't know the source. They came from my brother, who had used them for years. I checked them for straightness and as far as I can tell they're ok.

    Nigel, that loader looks interesting! Does it only work with Kindermann reels? My reels don't look exactly like theirs.
  8. It's ALL about the quality of the reels - if you have really good ones the film goes on instantly and you never screw it up.

    Get the Hewes reels, the ones with the prongs for the sprocket holes instead of a clip. It takes me about 12 minutes to load 8 reels using those.
  9. James, the reels and loader are a set. You can't use the loader with other reels.

    WRT to your loading troubles, the trouble is that if you don't get the film perfectly straight at the begining, you will run into trouble at the end. If you think about it, being off square in the begining by a degree or two the amount the film wants to move off track increases as you get further out. The whole trick to loading metal reels is getting the film square in the first place.

    Personally, I prefer the cheat to practice, thus I use the loader. It has saved countless frames of film.
  10. Long ago, in a darkroom, I learned to lead the stainless steel reels by rolling them on the table while my other hand guided the film. Smoother when you get the hang of it. Today, I use a large bag, and still can use that technique, albeit in shorter increments.
  11. Practice with a spare roll of film in the light. You will have it again after a couple of times.
  12. I concur with the others. Get an old roll of film from the store, sometimes they give away the really old outdated stuff especially when you tell them you want a roll to practice loading onto a reel.

    Practice loading in the light while watching the film and reel. That way you can see if/when something goes wrong.

    And use your fingers to FEEL the load. You can feel when it is loading smooth and when the film kinks.

    Then when you feel comfortable, do it with your eyes closed. If you feel it not going on smooth, open your eyes to see what is going on. When you can do it repeatedly with your eyes closed, then you're set to go.

    BTW I learned and use Nikor ss reels. I don't use the clip or tabs that stick into the sprocket holes. I just put the film into the center and start winding, this way it also self centers the film to some degree.

    If you have the spring clip, only put the film under the clip as far as you need to make it hold, don't shove it in all the way. I did this on a 120 reel and it would not roll well. The gal at the store told me I was pushing it in too far, because the spring would distort the film. I put it just under the clip and I could roll it perfectly.

    gud luk
  13. I moved from inversion tanks to a JOBO CPE-2 and now to a Photo-Therm, which means I've been away from stainless reels for a while. I started with a mix of stuff I got off eBay, some Nikor and some unlabeled, and got pretty good with it pretty quickly, loading in a changing bag. I got the chance to snag a bunch of Hewes reels cheap, and even though I had the process pretty much down by then they definitely make it easier. When I gave most of that stuff to a local school, I made sure it was Hewes reels I kept! (I kept 1, 2, and 4-roll tanks and enough reels to fill them up, just in case I needed to go back to inversion tanks in an emergency.)

    I think practicing in daylight would have been a big help, I never did it. But if you can both see and feel what is happening at first, I think you'll be better off later when you can only feel.

    I had a Nikor autoloader gizmo that fed the film through a guide and gave you a crank to turn to roll it on in. By the time I got it I was so good at loading by hand that I never ever figured out how to make it work. (It also went to the school.)

    Both my F3 and my Polaroid ProPallette leave the leader out which allows me to put the TwinCheck in place and cut the tongue off smoothly. There have been a couple of times when I couldn't get the tongue out of a canister and had to put a can opener in the bag and rip the cassette open, but I've never had any scratches that I could attribute to pulling the film out the way it's supposed to come, so that's always the way I do it if I can. It's already been through that slot twice in the camera, how much more damage can be done the third time?

  14. Thanks all. It looks like I need practice, practice and more practice. No clips. And maybe some Hewes or Nikor reels :)

    I do have a junk roll of film handy so I'll make use of it.

    Jeff, I remember a teacher in high school demonstrating your technique. Unfortunately I don't have a big enough surface that I can use in my closet :-(
  15. I used to roll several dozen 35 and 120 reels a day for a commercial lab, but found it difficult to train new people, especially if they were used to plastic patterson type reels, which I detested. Some tips:

    A bad habit is to assume you only pull film onto the reel. While rolling the reel in one hand you actually want to be pushing the film onto the reel with the other. This will drastically reduce crimping and other problems.

    Practice in daylight to get a hang of it, but practice *behind* your back. Once you've mastered that, in the dark is a peace of cake.
  16. Van,

    Remember, in your particular case you're opening the 35mm film canister, loading the film recorder, and unloading in a (hopefully!) dust-free environment, where nothing gets on the light trap felt.

    I always either unsnap the top or rip it off with a can opener, even if the leader tongue happens to be sticking out. Period.

    Why look for trouble, even if you have the luxury of re-exposing the slide from a file...
  17. Dan, I just drop the 35mm cassette in the film recorder camera, draw it across to the white arrow, and close the back. If I lined it up right, it then draws the film all the way out. As images are sent to the film recorder, the film is rewound, so that accidentally opening the camera back will only expose one, maybe two, frames, the rest is already rewound. At the end of the roll it rewinds about two inches further in the can than when I started.

    Considering that the film was drawn out of the cassette and rewound inside the camera, where I don't think there should be any significant dust, I don't see any risk at all in drawing the film back out through the slot that was designed exactly for that purpose.

    I can see a problem if I were to do this multiple times with the same roll of film, and carrying the rolls loose in the bottom of the camera bag between cycles, but in normal use I don't see an issue. It's just the normal way film comes out of the cassette for processing.


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