VERY Embarassing Fixer Problem

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by robert_marvin, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. I've been in Southern Vermont (about 5 hours from home) for several weeks. I usually shoot a lot of film, but this year I've only used 4 120 rolls of Ilford FP4. I processed them this morning, in a four roll tank and, after fixing, discovered that they were not cleared. More time in the "fixer" didn't help. Then I smelled the stuff--it ISN'T fixer! Evidently, when I was mixing chemicals the day before leaving I forgot the little detail of adding the fixer concentrate. It's a good thing my freshly mixed D23 was done right.
    I immediately tried phoning Professional Camera, in White River Junction, VT, which was the only really good camera store I knew of nearby (ONLY a 2 hour drive, each way). Information connected me with another store in that town. Professional Camera is gone, they don't carry chemicals, and as far as they know no one else nearby does either.
    I phoned B&H and am having some fixer concentrate delivered by next day air--it should arrive before 11 AM tomorrow. My film is sitting in a water bath, inside my tank. I hope when I pour out the water tomorrow the emulsion doesn't come off with it. I hope it's no worse than letting paper sit in a water bath overnight, something I've done many times. I'll report back tomorrow. The fixer, BTW, is the most expensive I've ever bought--$56, most of it shipping, and well worth it if it saves my work. OTOH IF UPS screws up the delivery, I'm screwed as well--the next delivery date would be Tuesday and I don't think the film could sit in water that long.
    I guess this is an interesting, if inadvertent experiment in how much abuse film can endure.
  2. Make sure it stays in a dark area/room. Sorry to hear of your dilemma.
  3. IIRC, sodium thiosulfate, active ingredient in Kodak powdered fixer is an ingredient in a product used by aquarium enthusiasts to remove chlorine from water. If you live near an aquarium supply store, you might see if they have some. Not sure what concentration it is or how much you would need, but if it clears the film it works.
    Or if you live near a high school or university, the chemistry department might let you have a little sodium thiosulfate.
    Note: rapid fixer uses ammonium thiosulfate.
  4. The film is in a closed 2 liter Nikor SS tank. I got a tracking number from B&H--the fixer SHOULD arrive in the morning.
  5. If there is ANY 1-hour lab near you, see if you can stop by and just borrow some fixer. Pour it in your tank, fix 5 minutes, and pour it back. C-41 fixer does a superb job fixing B&W film. They should almost pay you, since you're putting silver into their silver recovery system.
  6. Your film should be fine. As a test I've soaked negatives (Kodak or Ilford, don't recall which) in fixer for up to a week just to see what happened. They were intact after a week on continuous soaking. There are tales of William Mortensen using stand development for more than a day. Other than offending the sensibilities of Ansel Adams, Mortensen's negatives were apparently okay.
  7. Thanks Lex, I'll sleep better while waiting for my fixer shipment.
  8. Just for information, a simple acid fixer formula is:
    Ilford IF-2
    Hypo (sodium thiosulfate) 400 g crystals or 250 g anhydrous (powder)
    Potassium metabisulphite 25 g
    Water 1 litre (add chemicals to about 600 ml of warm water at 40°C and then make up to 1 litre with cold water)
    Hypo, as mentioned above, can be purchased in aquarium stores, metabisulphite is used to sterilise bottles for home brewing.
  9. There is nothing you can do now, but I'd be more concerned by the light exposure you gave the unfixed film while examining it. Hopefully you used an acid stop-bath otherwise the residual developer in the emulsion will just continue developing it while sitting in the water bath -stand developing. There may be a problem with it anyway. I would have dried the film -in total darkness- and then continued with the fix at a later date. If you have a darkroom with a dark drying cabinet or double doors on your darkroom I would recomend drying now if the UPS shipment doesn't come.
    Incidently, the C41 fixer with B&W advice is good with the standard C41 fixer, not with the Blix (bleach and fix combined) chemicals often found in some home kits.
  10. All's well that ends well.
    The fixer arrived at 11:15 AM and I had the film fixed and washed (Ilford method) before noon (in time to leave for a picnic). There was no apparent damage and the brief exposure to light caused no visible fogging (the borders are clear). I did not use a stop bath, just a several changes of water (including extra time in the plain water I THOUGHT was fixer). However, I doubt that the film continued to develop to any significant degree because I use a two bath version of D23, where the film continues to develop in the second Borax solution until whatever developer it absorbed is exhausted; extended time in the borax solution has no noticeable effect. I like this developer because it tends to not blow highlights and the low contrast negatives work well with my Omega B-8, which is by far the most contrasty condenser enlarger I've ever used.
    Many thanks to those who suggested alternate sources of fixer; I'm glad that B&H came through and I didn't have to try them. Next time I spend the Summer in Vermont, or any rural area, I'll bring an extra liter of fixer concentrate as well as weighed out metol and sodium sulphite to mix more D23. What if I spilled my only bottle? I'd hate to go through this again.
  11. A really good advert for 2-bath, Robert. Do you use the formula from "The Negative"?
  12. It might be the same H.P., but IIRC I got it from another source. Bath 1 is straight D-23; bath 2 is 20 G. of Borax (I use supermarket "20 Mule Team") in 1 L. of water.I develop all films for 4 minutes in bath 1, with gentle continuous agitation, and 4 minutes in bath 2, with no agitation.
    At box speed this gives me slightly thin low contrast negatives that print well in my rather contrasty Omega B-8 with a No. 2--2-1/2 filter. The old Kodak Precision Enlarger I used previously required one grade higher. I suspect that's because the Omega uses a small 111A bulb and has the inside of the lamphouse finished in black, a rather small light source. The Kodak, like most condenser enlargers, uses a larger No. 211, or 212 bulb and has a polished aluminum finish inside the lamphouse, making for a larger, more diffuse source. Prints made with both enlargers look the same.
  13. Similar thing happened to me once in Panama City. I tried fixing with seawater. Didn't work. Finally I left the reel in the tank of seawater. Stayed there for a week. Finally got hold of some fixer. It came out fine.
    If my film could sit in a tank of seawater for a week and survive, I suspect that yours will be fine.

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