View Full Version : Film processing in a bucket?

Christopher Perez
10-Jul-2006, 11:24

I have talked with local photographers who suggest that 3inch PVC pipes work well for extreme minimal agitation 8x10 film development. This got me to thinking... hence the following question:

Anyone have an idea of what kind of buckets I can process film in? I'm looking for ideas for cheap and light tight when lidded. I would like the option of exiting the darkroom while the film stands around and develops it's little heart out. Anything that might be useful from the construction industry? Or something I might find at Home Depot?


David Karp
10-Jul-2006, 11:45
I think that I recall Sandy King and some others recommending paint buckets for processing. This might have been on this forum, with a pointer to a thread on the Azo Forum. That will get you to Home Depot.

10-Jul-2006, 12:21
Large ice cream drums? Not the gallon ones but the ones used by ice cream shops. You just need to cozy up to a cute ice cream sales girl -)

David A. Goldfarb
10-Jul-2006, 12:40
And if you don't find a decent lightproof bucket for this, another option may be to put the bucket into some larger container, like a plastic storage bin, which may be easier to lightproof, or may be sufficiently lightproof in combination with the bucket.

David Karp
10-Jul-2006, 13:48

Take a look at these:



This might get you going.

Christopher Perez
10-Jul-2006, 15:36
Excellent. My thanks to all who responded! :)


Take a look at these:



This might get you going.

Andre Noble
10-Jul-2006, 16:00
Chris, you just love the esoteric.:)

Christopher Perez
10-Jul-2006, 16:25
I didn't realize it showed. :)

Chris, you just love the esoteric.:)

Donald Qualls
11-Jul-2006, 11:30
Why not just buy caps for the pipes? If the pipe and cap are both black, the cap will be light tight as well as liquid tight when it's pushed on (though a 3" cap, well pushed on, can be a bit of a struggle to get *off* the pipe, especially with wet hands and in the dark). With a little sanding, at most, to remove the molded-in lettering and mold marks, the pipe will stand upright on the cap, also, and a 3" pipe, 10 inches long, will hold *lots* of liquid (about half a gallon, IIRC), no need for the extra you'd have in a bucket...

11-Jul-2006, 11:40
Steve Sherman does his semi-stand negatives in open paint cans. He spends the whole time in the dark. To agitate he just moves his little stirring paddle up and down a couple of times and then waits for the next time.

Like so many fine photographers, he uses the simplest of methods and materials. It's his knowledge and experience which make his results so outstanding.

Dan Schmidt
11-Jul-2006, 16:05
I use a bear can. It is black ABS and has a lip in the cover that makes it light tight enough for me to exit the darkroom between agitations.


it can fit 4 8x10 negs and more 4x5 negs

not super cheap, but quite nice.

Donald Qualls
12-Jul-2006, 07:56
Hmmm. Semi-stand => 15-20 minute times -- I do that with trays, though I'm finding trays and semi-stand don't mix well, at least with Parodinal (must try with HC-110). Wouldn't want to do the long times of full stand processing in the dark, though -- 45-60 minutes, I'd go stir crazy...

Ken Lee
12-Jul-2006, 09:08
Once you get an Infra-Red viewing device, you can use a variety of containers, because you are no longer impaired by the darkness. You can even mix and pour chemicals, check temperature...even read printed instruction sheets in small type. You make far fewer scratches on the film, when you can see it.

Perhaps best of all, you can perform development by inspection, *in addition to* any rigorous system like the Zone System or the Beyond the Zone system.

With regards to Large Format technique, very little has changed over the years, but IR viewing represents a major milestone, in my humble opinion. :)

12-Jul-2006, 10:32
I used to use five 3" PVC tubes in a five gallon bucket for 8x10. The system worked just fine after I realized that I needed more agitation than simply rocking the bucket provided. I would reach in and pull the tubes about halfway out of the bucket for several cycles. Simply rocking the bucket led to increased agitation on the ends of the negatives - all done in the dark, of course.

I also tried putting caps on the tubes as Donald suggested, but found them not to be very water tight, and found they also would decide to stick. Others have made PVC tubes by using screwed PVC fittings, but those are expensive.

I stopped using the bucket when I realized I seldom had five negatives that needed to be developed identically, so I bought one of the developing tubes from JandC for individual processing. I understand that Harbor Freight stores also have similar welding tubes that will work.

Pete Watkins
12-Jul-2006, 10:38
Cm'on Ken, what is this I R viewing device that you are using?
Best wishes,

Ken Lee
12-Jul-2006, 11:39
There has been considerable discussion of IR viewing devices, both here and on the AZO forum.

I bought an ATN Viper on eBay, from http://stores.ebay.com/OpticsPlus

I have found it invaluable for loading 120 film onto a Paterson reel, as well as finding things that I drop on my "darkroom" floor.

When doing DBI or development by inspection, you see the entire process of development, as opposed to the traditional method, where observation is done for a brief duration under a dim safe-light.

If you develop sheet film in trays, you also see the unloading of the film, the stop bath, fixer, etc. You also see the loading of film into holders. Again, there is much less chance of scratching the film - loading it wrongly - when you can see everything as though you are under normal room light.

One time, I made a mistake in mixing the developer, and only realized it when the sheets were in the soup, and were not developing fast enough. I just mixed up some fresh developer, and replaced it. Because I am now used to the look of a "normal" developed negative, I just prolonged the developing time until the images looked OK.

Without the IR viewer, I would have never known, until after the fix stage - at which point it would have been tooooo late.

As I say, IR represents a giant leap forward for sheet film users.