Who formulates their developer?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by giverin, May 18, 2017.

  1. I was wondering what the advantages and disadvantages of mixing your own developer from the base chemicals. I was reading about the two bath development method where you have to mix your own chemicals but I was also considering formulating my own D-76 because the price has increased quite a lot in recent years where I live. I know I'll have to buy some accurate scales but that isn't a big expense.
  2. I think the main advantage to brewing your own is that you can make kinds of developer that are no longer available commercially -- and, frankly, that may be almost all of them in a few more years.
    When the local and beloved camera store went out of business (sob), I stocked up on D76 so probably have enough to last for some time.

    It used to be easier for the small-scale home developer:

    Modern Photography 1948-10 back cover
    Last edited: May 18, 2017
  3. Hello everyone. Small 250 gram digital scales are $10-20 on Ebay. For the last few years I have been using Obsidian Aqua (OA), 2k17-050-022 ces10 bc 4x6.jpg a pyro type staining developer. From stock chemicals the price is about $30 for a 1 litre mix. Using just 1ml per roll, that's cheap! 510-Pyro was used before that, just a bit more expensive, but again, EZ to mix for any DYI'r. You can always fall back on the Pyrocat mixes if you want to "chicken out". Aloha, Bill Fed-2 / Jupiter-8, Kentmere 100, OA & V600 scan.
  4. I'm not adverse to doing it-heck I'm a chemist and love doing it.

    With that said, I mostly use D76 and it's less expensive for me to buy it than make it.

    Most recently, I did mix some B&W reversal chemistry to develop Scala. I followed the published Ilford reversal process, which involves modifying off the shelf developers and mixing a sulfuric acid/potassium permanganate bleach. That's the closest I've done lately.
  5. A few years back I thought I'd see what could be done with "high street" chemicals. Since I foresaw a lack of readily available commercial developers. That's not come to pass yet, but....

    Easiest formulation is a Rodinal substitute made from Paracetamol (acetaminophen) headache tablets, caustic soda and sodium metabisulphite. These can all be bought quite readily and cheaply.

    Paracetamol is converted to para-aminophenol and sodium acetate by the addition of sodium hydroxide (caustic soda). Sodium acetate is photographically inactive, and just stays in the developer as a by-product.

    I also made a very acceptable D-76 substitute using borax, metabisulphite, caustic soda, ascorbic acid and phenidone. I couldn't find a substitute for phenidone, but only a tiny amount is used, and it keeps for ages.

    I don't have the formulae at hand, but if anyone's interested I can dig 'em out and post them.

    FWIW. In the UK we had a company called "Johnsons of Hendon" that supplied all kinds of photographic chemicals and ready-made developers, fixer, etc. They went out of business sometime in the 1980s I believe, but I owe them a great debt of gratitude for giving a youngster of 10 years old the chance to "mess about" developing and contact printing his own film. The bug bit!
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
  6. EZ, non lethal, available at the grocery store (mostly) & a bit of fun, is Caffenol. Lots of info on the web. Aloha, Bill
  7. I've been knocking up my own Thornton 2 bath for years now. I'm no chemistry expert, and do it for the following reasons.

    I process maybe one or two films a month and it is very economical, both bath A and Bath B lasting a year at least, with no discernible change in characteristics

    Once I've made up the juice, it stays in sealed 1 litre amber bottles, so there is no making up of solutions each time, just once a year (It'll do fifteen 36 exposure films no problem before exhaustion, I've no idea how many more)

    The 2 bath seems forgiving of film type and development times, although I try to maintain about 20 degrees where possible. It produces quite a soft neg, but I have a condenser enlarger, and consistently print on G3 paper

    It’s cheap as chips (fries)

    No messing about calculating dev times – 4 mins in A, 4 mins in B, followed by fixer.

    As mentioned above, scales are cheap enough to buy, at least for something accurate and precise enough for what you need, and it’s fun having a go, and being the master of your own destiny. Here in the UK, I can get all I need from Silverprint, at least for the time being, until the health and safety police take away our right to act like a drug baron, messing about with white powders.

    I say give it a go, you won’t regret it.
  8. Metol, sodium metaborate, sodium sulphite.... which local hardware/food store/health nut shop can I buy those from?

    But metabisulphite food preserver, borax, and caustic soda drain cleaner I can get almost anywhere.

    Time to re-formulate the old D-23 again?

    Caffenol? Mnyah! It sounds OK until you read the amount of instant coffee required. Then it doesn't sound so economical for a one-shot soup that quickly goes stale. And you still have to source fixer from somewhere.
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
  9. Hello again. Caffenol is NOT the cheapest when you add up the cost of the instant coffee , vit C and the Arm & Hammer washing soda (carbonate source), but in a pinch you would be wide awake (caffine) when you do your laundry (A&H) and scurvy would be not be an issue ! For those reasons I started working with the 510-Pyro & OA, but will still use a Caffenol run if I have a roll of Copex or Rollei Tech Pan type film. Semi-stand works excellently with these films.
    While here in Hawaii, I use a DYI fixer, made from sodium thiosulfate & sodium sulfite. Both chem's are on Ebay & very reasonable in cost. Shipping costs to Hawaii are more than the "name brand" liquid fixer I "usually" use on the mainland, hence the dry chems. For the other chems you mentioned, again check on Ebay or run a Google search. Aloha, Bill
    Last edited: May 19, 2017
  10. The point I was trying to make Bill, is that you don't need metaborate or sodium sulphite if you have easy access to sodium metabisulphite, borax and caustic soda.

    Borax is easily converted to metaborate by the addition, in solution, of the correct quantity of caustic soda. Likewise sodium metabisulphite + caustic soda make sodium sulphite.

    No need to pay big shipping costs or "exotic" chemical prices when any large connurbation should have stockists of those 3 common chemicals. All that's needed is a slight reformulation of D-23 or the Thornton 2 bath to incorporate sodium hydroxide, borax and metabisulphite.

    Of course it would be nice to find a cheap and readily available substitute for metol as well, but I don't think there is one unfortunately.

    Vitamin C doesn't work on its own. It just acts as a superadditive catalyst with other reducing agents. The best combo IME being Phenidone and Ascorbate.
  11. Hi, I used to work quite a lot with bulk mixing of color chemicals, on a (very) large scale commercial outfit. We did it mainly for cost savings, which were significant. But... over the years, as the sort of large lab work we did fell off, being taken over by large numbers of small minilabs, the ready availability of the chemical components suffered. We ultimately converted back to commercial mixes which were supplied in special configurations. This is not really relevant to what you want to do; I'm just saying that I have significant experience with this sort of thing.

    To me, the main disadvantages of scratch mixing are 1) you generally don't know, for sure, the quality of the chemical components you are getting, so in my opinion, you have to test this yourself, probably with a trial development of unimportant film. 2) Since there are multiple components to add, being individually measured, the likelihood of botching up a mix is greater than with a commercial mix. So again, an initial screening of every mix ought to be done if your film is high value. (If it's just hobby work that can easily be reshot, then no big deal.) One other note, commercial mixes usually are formulated to work with nearly any city water supplies, whereas the typical mix-it-yourself formulas are not, so perhaps special water should be used (?)

    The main advantages of scratch mixing seem to be: 1) possible chemical savings (check all the prices, etc.), 2) the ability to make small quantities as desired, so you don't end up with more than you need, and possibly end up throwing a lot away. Additionally, if you are doing some critical testing over a long time period, you don't have to worry about your standard developer going out of production, or some unknown change in formulation.

    When I was a lot younger, and people asked me for advice on how best to proceed with something, I'd often ask them, "What do you have more of - time or money?" I think the same question applies here: if you have plenty of spare time (and you enjoy experimenting) there is a lot to be said for scratch mixing. But if you are running a commercial operation, where you are paying someone to do the screening tests, it's probably more sensible to use standard commercial mixes, and rely on the QC of Kodak (or whoever).
  12. I haven't bought developer since around 1972. Mainly I mix my own because I can make any size batch I want, it's always as fresh as I want, and I never run out. I have switched around a lot, but currently I use D23, which I couldn't buy, and D76, 1:1, which I mix on the spot just before I use it. To me the main advantage is being able to never run out--when I notice I'm running low on something, I buy another pound or whatever, and it's good for quite a while.

    Of all the arguments against, being too hard is not one of them. I'm not sure about the cost anymore.
  13. ".. you have to test this yourself, probably with a trial development of unimportant film."
    - No need to waste any film. As long as you can cut a bit of leader from a 35mm cassette.

    Just dunk the scrap of film in the unknown (or suspect) developer at whatever temperature you intend to process at, and in room lighting. Agitate twice a minute with a plastic spoon or whatever comes to hand, and time how long the bit of film takes to get sensibly dark. A bit of already developed and fully fogged known good film comes in handy for comparison.

    OK, it's not sensitometrically precise, but it certainly tells you if you have completely duff developer. And if you like to experiment with your own formulations, it gets you a darned good ballpark time to work from.
  14. With regard to metol:

    It's expensive to buy known quality(ACS grade or even technical grade) from the chemical suppliers. It's reasonable from Photographer's Formulary, but it's still not cheap. It's also really surprising how expensive it is when you compare the cost to hydroquinone, which is the other active developer in a lot of our favorite commercial chemistry. With that said, if you look at something simple like D76 the amount of metol required vs. hydroquinione is tiny.

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    I've gone hunting for related compounds that I can use as chemical precursors to metol. Granted, one of my criteria is whether or not I have a small amount on hand to experiment with, but even that's not easy. Something like 4-aminophenol would be an easy precursor.
  15. Phenidone can replace metol in almost every M-Q formulation. It's less toxic, and cheaper because of the small quantities used. Typically 1/4 to 1/5th of the amount of metol.

    Sodium Ascorbate can also replace Hydroquinone to advantage. It's also readily available in the form of Ascorbic acid (vitamin C powder) at health food stores.

    A phenidone-ascorbate version of D-76 gives results almost totally indistinguishable from the M-Q original. Even having the same development times.
  16. I started to mix by own film developer when my favorite developer (Cachet AB55) disappeared a few years ago. I found a formula on the internet and bought the chemicals needed from Photographers Formulary. I also purchased a small digital scale. It was surprisingly easy and inexpensive to do.
  17. Nice thing about mixing your own is that you can mix a small batch. My mainstays are Ilford Ilfotec DD-X (well over 1 year shelf life) and Kodak HC-110 (essentially infinite shelf life). But when I need D-76 or D-19, I need just 250 ml or 500 ml, and I can easily mix that. I've never used developer fast enough to use up a gallon of D-76 (smallest package) before it dies.
  18. It was so interesting to read all the replies. I've learned a lot...thanks.
    John, I know what you mean about one gallon of D-76 being too much but they do sell D-76 in one litre packs. I know they do this size in North America because B&H stock it.
  19. I don't formulate but years ago, I purchased three bottles of Agfa Rodinal which survives as a one shot developed with FP4 and other medium speed films.

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