View Full Version : Loading 120 Onto SS Reel

brian steinberger
14-Sep-2005, 19:17
I just bought a Samigon Stainless Steel reel to load my 120 Tri-x film, and I literally just ruined a good roll of film because I didn't have it loaded on the reel correctly, and the film touched. I practiced a bunch of times in the light and dark with a used roll, but found it tricky once in the dark with the new roll, because it wanted to curl back up. My question is, I 've heard alot of good stuff about the King-Concept and Kinderman reels as being super easy to load, and Kinderman even has a film feeder to help out. I'm wondering if these systems are really worth the money. Although, I would spend it to ensure that I don't ruin anymore film. Let me know what you think. Thanks

Louie Powell
14-Sep-2005, 19:31
Brian -

Was the reel you purchased new or used?

Stainless steel reels are a bit tricky to load, but you can acquire the skills by practicing. I have to say that it sometimes requires that you recite a few words over the reel to make everything work OK - four letter words, that is. The key is to practice - not just once, but several times, until it becomes almost second nature. And by practicing with a roll of sacrifical film so that you can turn on the light, you can see what is happening and learn to associate those problems with the tactile feedback of feeling in the dark - and that helps you learn when problems are starting and what to do about them.

But if the reel was used, there is a risk that it had been dropped, in which case the two faces may be out of parallel. In that instance, it is VERY difficult to load the reel without problems.

Ron Mc
14-Sep-2005, 19:32
I use Hewes reels these days for 120 processing and find them easy to load. My method is seperate the film from the paper leaving the tape that attaches it on the film. I fold this tape over and load that end onto the reel first. The tape strenghens the film where it doesn't foldover as much. Long ago I had a Zone VI film loader and it worked great for 120. I wish I could find another one.

brian steinberger
14-Sep-2005, 19:34
the reel was purchased new

Dave Moeller
14-Sep-2005, 20:04
I use generic "no name" stainless steel reels and find them much easier to load with 120 than plastic reels. The two tricks that have helped me are the one that Ron mentions (leaving the tape on the center end for strength) and keeping the film slightly bowed as I load it. Reel in left hand, film to the right, slowly spin the reel while letting the film pass through my right hand, with the top running under my middle finger, the bottom running over my thumb, and the middle bowed slightly against my index finger. The thumb and middle finger are just touching the outside of the reel as it's turning. The three fingers are all touching the film with the ball of the finger.

I hope I've explained this clearly. The reason I use this method is that the information I get from the three fingers as the film passes through helps me keep the film loading cleanly. The index finger keeps the film from bowing too much. If the film jumps a spiral, I'll feel it on all three fingers (the edges of the film will jump on the thumb and middle finger at the same time the film moves away from the index finger). If the film starts to drag, it'll move away from my index finger.

I hold the reel so that, if I was looking at it, I'd be looking straight into the center with the top and bottom parallel to my "line of sight". Tilted somewhat up from horizontal. I don't know if that makes a difference or not, but it's what's worked for me.

Once you get the hang of what your fingers are telling you, it's pretty easy. I practiced for a few hours way-back-when (lights on and looking, lights on and eyes close, then in the bag), and haven't had a mis-load. Practicing with the lights on and learning what the problems felt like was the best thing I did for myself.

Good luck Brian. As long as the reel is straight, you'll get the hang of it.

15-Sep-2005, 01:44
Practice in DAYLIGHT - THEN move to the dark once you've got it totally dialed. It works.

Brian Ellis
15-Sep-2005, 06:13
The answer to your question about the Kinderman reels is IMHO "no." Years ago I had the same problem you're having, read about Kinderman, bought the tank, reel, and loader, and had no better luck with it than I had been having with the steel reel I had been using. I wasn't able to consistently load 120/220 film with ease and 100% success until I switched to the Paterson plastic reels. I found them infinitely easier to load than the steel reels. I may still have my Kinderman system around somewhere, if I do I'd be happy to give it to you. If you're interested send me an email and I'll look for it.

Brian C. Miller
15-Sep-2005, 08:01
I've had problems with both SS and plastic reels. The SS reels need the film to go on absolutely straight from the start. The plastic reels need to be absolutely dry, and may need to have some of the molding edges trimmed off. Sometimes I really think about making my own dip tank using PVC pipe.

Ralph Barker
15-Sep-2005, 08:17
In addition to the tips already given (good description, Dave - that's exactly what I do), make sure that the spring clip is centered. If the clip has slid to one side, it will tend to pull the film to one side, as well. Also, make sure that the clip position feeds the film to the enlarged beginning of the spiral. I found one (very problematic) reel that was mis-manufactured - the clip was attached to the wrong center wire, so it fed the film past the beginning of the spiral.

If you have trouble keeping the reel square to the film feed hand, try resting the reel on the counter, so there is a surface against which to turn it. It is also important to keep the motions smooth, so the film isn't being pushed and pulled as it is being fed into the spiral. That will tend to cause the film to jump spirals while being fed into the reel. I've also sound that consistently maintaining just the slight curve created by resting the fingers of the feed hand on the edges of the reel helps greatly. Too much curve allows the film to choose which spiral to drop into, causing the obvious problems.

J. Wolfe
15-Sep-2005, 13:12
You've got the right idea: keep buying new equipment. That way you'll have a bunch of stuff, but will new learn how to use it. On the other hand, you could work on learning how to use what you've got. It takes practice. Sacrifice a curly roll of film. It's cheap.

Scott Davis
15-Sep-2005, 14:54
I'm a big fan of the Hewes and Jobo SS reels. I've got some of both. The Jobos have a better spring clip in the center that make it easier to get the film started right. They're also (like the Hewes) a heavier gauge of steel, so they don't bend so easily. I learned my lesson with cheap SS reels when I bought some that had bad welds between the coils and the support frame. The excess solder material formed bumps in the film path on the reel which forced the film to press against itself in spots. It ruined several frames. I'll never try to save money on film reels again.

I would second the advice about proper loading technique. You want to have a slight curve on the film across the short axis of the roll so that as you wind it onto the reel, and hold your hand that has the free end of the film a little ways away from the reel so the film that you are loading onto the reel is going on straight.

Craig Wactor
15-Sep-2005, 16:04
another vote for Hewes

15-Sep-2005, 19:45

I love my stainless reels. I have a whole bunch, most of which I was given (people closing up darkrooms, my old high school, etc.) and some I bought. I don't know all of the brands, and that doesnt matter much. The only problem I've ever had was on a Nikkor stainless reel.

My all time favorite for developing rollfilm is the Jobo 1500 series tank and reels. Only takes 470mL for inversion, and the reels are super easy and quick to load. It also drains and fills a LOT faster than stainless and quite a bit faster than most other plastic.

BTW, currently being a college photo student, I can tell you that colleges are now suggesting plastic as opposed to stainless.


John Cook
16-Sep-2005, 04:13
I have made my (meager) living since the 1960's exposing and developing film full time. The 120 rolls I have souped on stainless reels must number in the tens of thousands.

I say all this simply to underscore my recommendation that Hewes reels are absolutely the very finest ever made. To the extent that you can afford to, throw out everything you have and re-equip with Hewes exclusively. Life is too short to horse around with inferior equipment.

My major tip in using them is to shut off the vent fan, running water and stereo to achieve absolute dead silence in the darkroom. Then carefully listen to the film being loaded onto the reel. You will hear when something first begins to go wrong and can correct it before the edge of the film looks like lasagna.

After the film is loaded correctly, you should be able to push and pull on the tail and move the film in and out slightly. If it is perfectly tight in the reel, it is probably cross-threaded somewhere.