View Full Version : making your own processing tubes.

Victor Samou Wong
12-Jan-2006, 15:47
Enough with the overpriced garbage! Is it possible to make your own processing tubes using pvc pipe?! What kind of plastic are processing drums made out of anyway?


tim atherton
12-Jan-2006, 15:51
sure - there are instructions online somewhere - maybe even on this site? And probably posts on here about doing it somewhere in the archives.

I mad a bunch once - but found I really disliked the tube processing thing...

Used some kind of ABS (?) tubing and glue from Home Depot

Jerry Cunningham
12-Jan-2006, 17:17
I believe I read instructions in a book called "Beyond The Zone System" A very interesting book so you get the tube instructions free.
Jerry Cunningham

Doug Howk
12-Jan-2006, 18:22
I do like tubes for 8X10 film. But after spending way too much on the grey electrical conduit pipe with screw connectors + rubber gaskets, I'd suggest the tubes from J&C. They appear well made & alot cheaper.

John Kasaian
12-Jan-2006, 18:41

I've used the black plastic sewer pipe from Lowes and Home Depot---I read somewhere that its better at blocking light and impervious to any photo chemical I've ever used. I prefer the Unicolor paper drum though so I don't have to turn off the lights to change chemicals

eric mac
12-Jan-2006, 18:46
Just a suggestion out of experience. When you purchase the ends, find the flat ones and not the rounded ones. They won't stand on their own. (no kidding) I made this mistake.


Michael Kadillak
12-Jan-2006, 19:00
I just made a set for 5x7, 8x20 and 12x20 out of the Home Depot black plastic pipe. I found the 8x10 processing tubes offered by J&C with the screw on lids to be worth the small incremental money for sure.

The challenge becomes caps that you can get off and that do not leak to much when the tube is inverted. For my 5x7 tubes the caps seemed to be excessively tight so I found a rubber cap meant to be tightened with a threaded band and took off the metal band and the rubber cap works like a champ. I had to use some sandpaper to take off the molding impression residue off of the 5x7 caps to get them to stand up correctly.

Have fun with them!


jonathan smith
12-Jan-2006, 20:44
I once did the PVC thing from Home Depot, but they scratched my film. I tried sanding but they were pretty rough inside. And they're pretty heavy.

Then I got an Ilfochrome drum, and just used the central tube part. It's perfectly smooth inside, works fairly well. However, there was a small amount of uniformity difference at the left and right edges. My speculation is that the developer flows faster at the edges because the film straightens out at the edges. With this tube, and the PVC tube from Home Depot, the diameter is big enough so the film doesn't hug the inside all the way around. It fits the curve at the center but is straight at the edges, sort of like a U-shape inside the tube.

I thought about ways to force the film into position, to hug the wall of the tube, but any sort of ridge or stop would create turbulence at the edges and create bad uniformity that way. I get that when I use my JOBO print drum. So I decided to search for something of a smaller diameter that would fit exactly and keep the film circular all the way around.

I finally found something, a large shampoo bottle with the ends cut off and sanded. It's smooth inside, and happens to be exactly the right diameter. An 8x10 sheet fits inside it tightly with no extra space to create turbulence. The brand of shampoo is "Mane 'n Tail", from Straight Arrow Products, P.O. Box 20350, Lehigh Valley, PA 18002-0350.

I tried it in a small tray, and the right and left edges are perfect. I got some slight darkening at the top and bottom because of turbulence in the small tray, but it seems to be the best BTZS type tube I've found so far. A larger tray would solve this problem.

I also want to try this inside another drum, so I can process it without getting my hands in the metol so much. The idea is that the tube holds the sheet perfectly round, without any bumps or edges to create turbulence.

If that doesn't work, I'll try them for dip and dunk. Once the sheets are in the tube you can handle them without damaging them. But I'd rather process in a drum so I can use fresh chemistry each time.

Good luck!

Donald Qualls
12-Jan-2006, 21:49
First, don't sand.

Use ABS pipe ("cellular core drain pipe"); PVC isn't opaque enough. If you like the BTZS method, it's extremely simple; for each tube set, you'll need 8 inches of 1 1/2" pipe (for 4x5) or about 14 inches of 3" pipe (for 8x10), two caps, and one coupler. Cut the pipe square, sand only on the ENDS, and then use a sharp utility knife or similar to trim off a shaving from the inside edge of both ends (at least on the 5" length). The shorter length, with its cap and the coupler, serves the developer reservoir function of the cap on BTZS tubes. These should cost well under $5 each for 4x5, and not much more than $5 for 8x10 (though you'll generally have to buy at least five, possible ten feet of the basic pipe, that's very cheap). Extra cap sections will be similarly inexpensive. Don't glue any of the joints; they're an interference fit and will stay light tight just by pushing them into place, but you'll want to be able to separate the pieces for cleaning.

I've been using tubes like this (but with baffled fill tubes, for daylight fill and intermittent agitation with a full tube) for two years, and have seen no scratches I could attribute to the tubes (a few scratches on 9x12 cm were attributable to loading into film sheaths; they were the wrong direction for tube induced scratches). If you really want to get fancy, you could even put a core of smaller pipe inside the daylight fill tubes to reduce the liquid capacity and save on developer consumption (it'd be easy to get these down to 2 ounces instead of the 8 ounces it takes to cover 4x5 in my existing tubes).

You will likely find that not all the dyes wash out of the film in developer and fixer due to contact with the inside of the tube; I keep a 32 ounce stainless roll film tank filled with 2% sodium sulifite solution, to which I add a teaspoon of washing soda, and two minutes in that tank clears the dye from all films (as well as improving wash effectiveness by acting as hypo clearing agent and leaving the gelatin alkaline).

Gary Nylander
13-Jan-2006, 00:04
Here is my latest method for developing various sizes of sheet film as this is what works for me.

I got some 3 inch drain pipe from my local building supply store,( the white stuff ) and cut it into various lengths depending on the film size, for example with 4 x 5 film I cut the pipe into 5 inch lengths and inserted a partition of square plastic inside the 5 inch pipe length, this way I can curl two pieces of 4 x 5 film inside with out the film moving around. These pipe lengths just happen to fit nicely into the extra long stainless steel processing tanks with plastic lids the kind that hold hold eight 120 reels. Each SS tank holds two of these pipe lengths for a total of 4 sheets in each tank and I have four of these tanks altogether, I load up all four tanks , each tank uses about 55 oz of chemistry . I start off processing two tanks at a time and when I'm finished developing the first two sets of tanks I then start with the second set, this way I can develop 16 sheets of black and white 4 x 5 film in about an hour.

After twenty years of processing sheet film and trying different methods, the results with these tanks are excellent with consistent and even development. I also like the fact that I don't need to sit in the dark and process film by either a dip and dunk system with or tray processing. I load the film into the tanks in my bathroom and process the film in my laundry room.


Mark Tweedie
13-Jan-2006, 06:08
I recently experimented with making dev tubes from 40mm ABS tubing (available from plumber's merchants but not B&Q) here in the UK. The results have been excellent and economical. A couple of things I learned and wished I had known before:

1) ABS tubing is rougher on the inside than the outside (which is perfectly smooth). Any roughness can be removed with steel wool (not sand or glass paper as this will embed grains in the plastic and guarantee scratches) prior to assembly. I spoiled a couple of negs before I realised the interior of the tube was the problem. The wet negative is sucked tightly against the tube and when it is removed any protrusions will be certain to damage the film.

2) I used a modification of a plan I found on the net (I will post the url when I find it again). This plan uses three baffles as a light trap at the end where the chemicals are poured in to allow use in daylight. Be aware that ABS is slightly reflective and your baffles need to be larger and closer together than you might expect to totally exclude the light. I have to use mine in subdued light as in bright light with the tube oriented in a particular direction there is a possibility of light leakage.

I use 120ml of developer continuously agitated in a water bath and have found the process to be very straight-forward and as easy as 35mm in a standard Patterson dev tank. The total cost of the three tubes I made was 23 including a special ABS type adhesive of which I have plenty left and could probably make many more tubes.

Gary Nylander's idea looks excellent and I would probably try this first if I already had the 120 type dev tanks as the materials are probably cheaper and easier to find and would require less work to make.

John Hannon
13-Jan-2006, 06:58
Here is the link I think Mark was looking for for the light trap style tubes. There is also a link to click on to see the original design.

www.btinternet.com/~g.a.patterson/photos/lfdevelop.html (http://www.btinternet.com/~g.a.patterson/photos/lfdevelop.html)

phil sweeney
13-Jan-2006, 10:22
film tube construction (http://home.att.net/~shipale/constr.html)


David Van Gosen
13-Jan-2006, 15:42
J & C sells some tubes:

www.jandcphoto.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=222 (http://www.jandcphoto.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=222)

They look like they were originally used for transporting rolled blueprints, so I bet they could be found cheaper through another source.

Donald Qualls
13-Jan-2006, 21:29
Cheaper than that, David. They're made for carrying welding rod. You can buy the same tubes at welding supply houses, but they aren't opaque black plastic and don't have the o-rings to provide a liquid seal.

If cheap is it, go with ABS -- the ABS (cellular core) drain pipe I've seen in the United States is extremely smooth on the inside (you do *not* want stuff in a drain pipe hanging up partway along!), and as long as the mouth of the tube is smooth, the interior won't scratch. The ABS is already black and opaque, as are the caps and couplers, and the interference fit means you don't need o-rings to make liquid tight connections; just push the pieces together. And it's cheaper than PVC the same size (and comes in larger sizes). The only down side with ABS is it's not suitable for use inside a daylight tank because the cellular core tube floats, which can leave one edge of your film high and dry inside the tank; that's not an issue when the tube *is* the tank.

Mark Tweedie
14-Jan-2006, 03:40
Thanks for the link John. It's not the one I found but the link within it is! However this looks clearer and easier to fathom than the original. However, my baffles are approximately the size shown in the photo and they are not light tight when spaced at 1 inch (required because of the size of the couplers - I suppose it might be possible to cut down the couplers though I doubt they could be made much less then 0.75 inches). I would make the cut-off slightly smaller on each baffle and I'm pretty sure the tube would empty in 5 or 6 seconds.




Donald Qualls
14-Jan-2006, 09:53
FWIW, on my daylight fill tubes, I drilled a hole in the end cap, glued in a piece of gray conduit PVC (which is opaque, unlike the white) about two inches long (gluing PVC to ABS requires "transition cement" which is sold right next to the ABS cement and PVC cement), and then glued a disk of ABS with four cuts on the edges into the "well" of the cap (the reduced diameter portion, past the socket that fits the pipe). These tubes will fill in 4-5 seconds and drain in about half that (capacity 8 ounces for a single 4x5). For the liquid seal needed with inversion, I used a PVC cap that fits the gray pipe.