View Full Version : Sudden (and not so ) Pyrocat HD Failure

Andre Noble
14-Jan-2006, 18:10
I've been using Pyrocat HD occaisionally for the last 1.5 years. I've had two recent, complete and unexpected failures of it: Once with 'old-stock' but freshly opened developer from Photographer's Formulary pre-mixed kit that was slightly older than 6 month recommended storage time from receive date to opening.

The second failure was with new and freshly opened PF Pyrocat HD developer that I stored immediately in brown glass bottles. It worked fine for 2 1/2 weeks and then failed overnight. I had to toss the remainder.

PF told me to use pyrocat HD right away, store in glass as the brown plastic their required to ship in 'breathes'.

Two questions:

1) anyone else with similar experiences of pyrocat HD failure? What did you do to prevent it in subsequent use?

2) Also I need a source for small actinic bottles with airtight stoperred (ie, teflon, etc top. - I don't know how airtight the glass on glass of typical brown jars is, do you?

In the meantime I have gone back to Wimberly pyro (which appears much more robust) - but Pyrocat HD is so good in the Jobo I don't want to give up on it yet.

Any feedback appreciated.

Mark Fisher
14-Jan-2006, 18:19
I go to my local drug store and ask for brown glass bottles like they supply perscription cough syrup. I also get free syringes from them for measurement. My Walgreens gives away the syringes for dosing cough medicine for children. I usually buy the dry pyrocat kit so that when I do need it is fresh. It is not a big effort to mix it up and I am careful when I am handling the chemicals.

14-Jan-2006, 19:14
Go to www.essentialsupplies.com....They have the glass brown amber bottles in sizes from .5 gal all the way down to 25ml at very affordable prices. Also you can save some money by buying your chemicals in bulk and mixing your own PyroCat. Just use common sense when handling chemicals and you'll never have to worry about expired developer again.

Ed K.
14-Jan-2006, 19:20
1. PF Pyrocat HD received. Used twice within 2 days of receipt - all good. 6 days later, in 68 degree storage, original bottles, total developer failure. Nothing so far, but considering the powder option and better bottles. I was expecting at least 4 weeks before any problem. Seems like dividing up the batch into more than one totally full glass container may help. On the other hand, if it lasts 6 weeks from initial mix, that would be good enough for me. Did not call PF, figured that it was just one of those things - my mileage varried.

2. Luce - http://shop.essentialsupplies.com/ appears to have many kinds of bottles and such.

Would be interested to hear what others come up with.

Ken Lee
14-Jan-2006, 19:54
I thought it was me. I'm glad someone has asked.

I have experienced failure 2 times with the PF mixes. Because I use an IR viewing device, I just left the film in the developer until it was done. In one case, it took twice as long. In another case, I had to add some DD-X developer that I had lying around. The IR device paid for itself in these cases, and has persuaded me that development by inspection (while keeping the numbers in mind) is a safe way to go.

I love the developer, but have been considering going back to other formulas for this reason alone. I purchased some glass balls, and filled the PF bottles to the top - but this didn't seem to prevent the problem from recurring.

14-Jan-2006, 20:27
I used pyrocat I made from sratch for nearly a year

I had one failure because I was stupid and contaminated the part b

I am now using Sodium Carbonate (arm and hammer washing soda) instead of Pot Carb

at nearly a year I used the last of the original two liters


Richard Rankin
14-Jan-2006, 20:52
My last shipment of Pyrocat HD from PF was IN glass bottles. I got it in December during their 'free shipping' sale. Maybe they have addressed the plastic bottle problem. But I have not had any catastrophic failures, even with the plastic bottles.



Michael Kadillak
14-Jan-2006, 20:53
For goodness sakes guys, stay away from the PF problems with the packaged mixes that have been well documented and MIX YOUR OWN.

The individual chemicals are not very expensive and a simple electronic scale and mixer are all you need. Mix it on the back porch with a resiprator over your mouth to manage the toxicity. The only chemical I seem to use a bunch of is the potassium carbonate. I just ordered 5 pounds last week that cost me $19. It took me over six months to use the last liter I mixed up and I had no problems with the results that it produced even when the bottle was near empty for several months. I store it in ordinary plastic bottles with screw on tops. I can mix the A & B solutions in less than 30 minutes.

Whatever you do you should never abandon a productive developer because of logistical issues. Success is a commitment that should make no compromises.


Jeff Moore
14-Jan-2006, 21:51
Is there a test for Pyro expiration, other than just exposing and developing a piece of film?

14-Jan-2006, 22:16
A few years ago I mixed up a batch from scratch and after about 5 months it became noticeably weaker. The next batch I mixed up using metol instead of phenidone and it lasted about 3 years until I used it up. I'm now back to phenidone in the Pyrocat but mix the A solution in glycol.

Andrew O'Neill
14-Jan-2006, 22:41
I had one failure only because I didn't know roughly when stock solution A would expire. After a few months it died. Since it has a rather short shelf life, I mix up only 100ml of stock A. Stock B lasts indefinately so I mix up 1000 ml. I remember that as stock A ages, it also changes colour slightly...that was when I discarded and mixed a new batch. I haven't mixed any up for a while (about a year ago) so I don't rememeber the colour of freshly mixed and slightly aged. I'm sure Sandy will read this and chime in!

Michael Kadillak
14-Jan-2006, 22:55
Sandy is in Mexico on Holiday for another week. I got an e-mail from him a couple of days ago.

He should chime in when he gets back.

Jay DeFehr
14-Jan-2006, 23:36
Hypercat addresses the problem of keeping properties, and others as well.



ronald moravec
15-Jan-2006, 04:11
I had PF`s PMK die suddenly too. Went back to conventional developers.

Jay DeFehr
15-Jan-2006, 07:31
"I had PF`s PMK die suddenly too. Went back to conventional developers."

510-Pyro won't die on you, and offers other advantages as well.



Ed K.
15-Jan-2006, 12:37
Perhaps PF would be interested to know what's been going on for some of us. Anyone mind if we send them a link to this thread? They seemed like nice enough folks and might be willing to put it right for anyone who has had trouble. I thought it was just my fault for not using it all in under a week. The failure did spoil 5 shots for me though:(. In terms of mixing, some of us need smaller amounts, and fewer concentrated chems laying around, so having a liquid is really so handy.
Also, perhaps when Sandy gets back in town he might chip in on the subject. Pyrocat HD does give nice results.

Michael Kadillak
15-Jan-2006, 13:35
I think that the Forumlary would appreciate any problems that their product exhibits so that they can work on a resolution. Fire away.

In addition to the marvelous results one can obtain with Pyrocat HD, the research and commitment that went into developing this forumlation and Sandy's willingness to share this with us via his A+ article is just to good to be true. A testament to a gracious and consummate professional.

Stay The Course!

Ed K.
15-Jan-2006, 13:54
I sent PF a note inviting them to post a response here to enlighten us. It's a holiday this coming Monday, and Sunday today, so it might take a minute to see what they say.

15-Jan-2006, 14:35
I've also had recent problems with PF chemicals. I went to mix a dry pack of the Wimberly wd2d+. When I mixed the A solution it turned a deep dark orange. It looks as though they used sodium carbonate in place of the sodium bisulfite in the A solution. This happened in two consecutive Kits. I just discarded it and ordered bulk chemicals.

15-Jan-2006, 17:50
Stock Pyrocat-HD solutions should be good for at least six months. In fact, I have used stock solutions mixed in water that were more than a year old and the results were as good as the first day the solutions were mixed.

Over the years I have answered many questions about sudden failures, and at the end of the day the culprit was always improprer mixing or contamination. For example, if you were to introduce even the slightest amount of Solution B into Solution A, the result would be rapid degradation of Stock A. This could happen very easily, for example, if you used the same syring with both solutions.

As far as I have been able to determine, there is nothing at all wrong with the way PF mixes the Pyrocat-HD stock solutions. However, if one were to experience problems with their mixes I would encourage you to contact them directly. But to the best of my understanding they have the correct formula and have wide experience in mixing chemicals so I would be surprised if the problem were with their mixtures.

Ed K.
15-Jan-2006, 18:14
Greets Sandy! I for one, pour into a small graduate, so it wouldn't be contamination here, especially since it worked fine the first three times. And above, I asked PF to respond here with any other ideas they may have. Do you have any other ideas?

Ken Lee
15-Jan-2006, 18:27
Could the problem have anything to do with Solution B, which might settle and come out of solution ? Is it imperative to stir-up Solution B before pouring, to avoid this ?

16-Jan-2006, 15:34

"Could the problem have anything to do with Solution B, which might settle and come out of solution ? Is it imperative to stir-up Solution B before pouring, to avoid this ?"

I have never seen potassium carbonate settle out to any appreciable extent in the B solution, certainly not enough to cause devleoper failure. However, there is nothing wrong with stirring or shaking the bottle of B solution before using it.

But I will say this again. There is nothing in the Stock A and Stock B solutions that should lead to early developer failure. In fact, the stock solutions are very long-lived and have been good in my work for well over a year.

16-Jan-2006, 16:21
Sandy, I try and always practice good darkroom etiquette. I always wash and dry and put away my lab glass. Then always before mixing I rinse again and dry. When I mixed the PF wd2d+ I just cut the top off the A solution pack and dumped it in 800ml of 125 degree water. No utensils touched the water or the chemicals prior to the dry power from the A pack being mixed with distilled water. This immediately turned a deep dark orange instead of the clear ( with a slight yellow tinge to it) color. This would be how the developer would act if you would mix the A and B solutions, only darker. Wouldn't you think that when they were mixing they got the sodium carbonate right in solution B (checked the B with some good A and it is fine) but also used it in place of the sodium sulfite in solution A? Or it may be safer to say they accidently mixed up the carbonate with the sulfite. So they got the B solution right. Normally I've had no problems with PF's chemicals. Now I've got two kits like this so all kinds of B solution but no A. I've ordered bulk and will mix my own now, especially since I'm working in ULF and using a little more volume.

Bob Younger
17-Jan-2006, 04:41
I have used the same two bottles of stock solution for 6 months now, in the same black plastic bottles they came in. No problems. However, I did discover a problem with a previous set of bottles, and thereby discovered another place contamination (not mentioned in this thread so far) can occur. If you use the same graduated cylinder to measure both solutions, and touch the edge of the bottle on the graduate, you've probably just contaminated the second solution. I now use two graduates to mix a batch of developer and have had no problems since.

The other thing to watch if both solutions are in the same kind of bottle is to not mix up the lids/stoppers; in other words, put the lid or stopper back on the solution (A or B) before opening the other solution. The folks at PF told me about this one.

I'm with Sandy on this. Other than contamination I've had zero problems with the PF products, liquid or solid. And the folks who work there are genuine in their concern for our success with their products.

Bud Wilson/Photographers Formulary
17-Jan-2006, 11:38
Thank you Ed Keck for contacting us about this thread and our products. Having been asked to respond I will do so with some very basic info that you all can use to draw your own conclusions.

Our batches of liquid chemistry are made in such quantity that we feel we are sending out fresh liquid chemistry to all of our customers not just the ones that happen to order theirs on the day after we happen to mix a batch. That said if we make up a batch of developer thats bottles in to say 100 kits, and that batch of chemistry is bad or non functional, how many of the customers are going to call us? I can assure you that if 100 kits hit the darkrooms of America that I will know about it and if those 100 kits are bad you and all folks that read this and other forums will know about it. But as stated here in this thread the failure of Photographers Formulary packaged mixes has been documented.
The Photographers Formulary has been in business for 28 years and we are proud of the reputation we have in the photography market. If the failure of Photographers Formulary packaged mixes has been documented in that time I appreciate all of the fine photographers that have just given us our best year ever and apologize to all of them for the failed products that they have had to endure. And as with all of our customers for 28 years , we hereby offer to replace or refund any product you got from us that you weren't happy with. That is our policy and always has been.

As to what the problems are that you folks are talking about here? I surely can't say anything more than has been said in this and all of the other threads ever posted about chemistry problems on the net. You folks have an extremely valuable resource available to you as exhibited in this thread by Sandy King and all of the others that respopnd to the endless questions about endless subjects putting all of the worlds info at the finger tips of anyone who wants to hit the search button. Listen to them.

When 2,3,or 4 people have a problem with a batch of Pyrocat HD and when the Formulary made that batch it bottled out at 100 kits that being a 2 bottle product, I am very open as to what to tell those 2,3,or 4 people as to how to help them get thru there particular situation, most of the times the problem is not even the same. Do you use distilled water? We do all of our products in distilled water. Is that all that you use in the Darkroom? Can you smell chlorine in your water supply? If you can do you use it to mix chemicals? Do you scrub all of your trays, beakers, cylinders, sinks counter tops, etc. or just rinse and wipe down? How accurate is you temperature control? This list can go on and on. People like Sandy King give week long workshops at our place in Montana going over and over the little tiny nuance's of a very specific process and share with all the knowledge that has taken decades to accumulate and become proficient at. This is chemistry not rocket science. Change a variable 2-3% and something is going to look different?

I have a tendency to ramble but not often do I take the chance. We at the Formulary are here to help but we are not wizards. The wizards are available on line. We try to help and put out quality products. If you have a problem tell us. If we don't help THEN tell the world. We are available Mon-Fri 8-4;30 MST, you can call me @800-922-5255, e-mail formulary@blackfoot.net

We try very diligently to track and follow possible problems in the mixing and packaging of our products. We appreciate the opportunity you have given us here today. If you have any suggestions on ways to improve our products and or service please advise us.

Bud Wilson

Andre Noble
18-Jan-2006, 11:09
I use distilled H2O for my pyrocat, which worked fine the night before. So I'm letting Photographer's Formulary off the hook. I can think of two possible contaminations due to my error -

1) rinsing the 2 pipets (I use to draw the 5ml of A&B) in the same beaker of hot, tap water.

2) Not clearing tank well enough of ifxer residue.

I didn't want to spell these out in initial post, hoping that someone else solved their Pyrocat HD problems this way. The developer IS very delicate.

I had a two year old opened bottle of Formulary's Wimberly Pyro that still works (somewhat).

Mr. Wilson, your post is reasurring. I will defintiely be buying more Pyrocat from Photographer's Formul;ary , but I wanted to get technique info here to "clean my own house first"

18-Jan-2006, 11:26
"I didn't want to spell these out in initial post, hoping that someone else solved their Pyrocat HD problems this way. The developer IS very delicate. "

I have used all of the two-part Pyro formulas, including ABC Pyro, WD2D, PMK, Rollo Pyro. They are all delicate to the extent that contamination of the A solution with even a minute quantity of B will seriously degrade th solution in a very short period of time. This is also true of none-staining two-part formulas. In my expereince Pyrocat-HD is no more nor more less delicate than other two-part developers when it comes to contamination.

In addition to contamination, which should be evident because by the time the developer stock solution is degraded there should be some change in color, another mistake many people make is to fail to mix both Stock A and B into the working solution. If you make a mistake and add two parts of A or two parts of B into the working solution, instead of one part of A and one part of B, there will be no developer action.

Also, when mixing two-part Pyro formulas, Part A and Part B should be added to the water, not mixed together first and then added to the water.

Finally, all Pyro staining developers are very sensitive to water supply, which may lead to an increase in general fog, or B+F stain. I don't belive this is an issue in the present discussion but I mention it just in case some may be getting higher genreal stain than they want.