View Full Version : Cutting down film and how to do it correctly??

3-Jul-2007, 09:26
I wasn't sure where to post this subject but thought this section of the forums was the closest thing.

1) How do people around here cut their sheet film? For example, say one likes 4X10 color and has a lot of 8X10 color film around. What procedure do you use to do this?

2) Why is it necessary or is it necessary to be in a dark room when cutting film and how dark must it be?

3) When using oddball type film sizes with modern holders (take for example a 4X6 in a 5X7 holder)...how difficult is this to do and is it even possible? OR, do you have to basically cut the sizing so that either horizontal or vertical match with the respective holder size (i.e. 3X7 or 6X7, etc.)?

Ron Marshall
3-Jul-2007, 09:36
This is what some use:



Louie Powell
3-Jul-2007, 10:05
On your second point, film is very sensitive to light, and must be handled in total darkness. For that reason, cutting must be done either in a darkroom, or in a glove-box or similar device that allows the film to remain in total darkness.

3-Jul-2007, 10:08
You might want to pratice cutting paper down to size first. When you can do that in the dark then move on to expensive film.

Oddball sizes in bigger holders?? Tape might work. Only thing I can imagine. Otherwise the rails need to hold the film.

Gene McCluney
3-Jul-2007, 10:50
If you are cutting larger sheets down that require two cuts, I think it is best to do all of one cut first, putting the film into a paper safe, then set the cutter for the second cut and then do all the sheets for the second cut. It couldn't hurt to wear lint-free cotton gloves also. Bear in mind that (for instance) a 5x7 sheet is actually a smidge smaller than 5x7, so you may need to test your cut in a film holder. It is very difficult to "shave" a sheet down with a tiny cut, if your initial cut is too big.

Ken Lee
3-Jul-2007, 12:38
I don't know about color film, but with a simple InfraRed viewing device (http://www.kenleegallery.com/html/tech/tech.html#Monocular), you can work in the dark with b&w film, as though you had the lights on.

If I were planning to cut some film, I would be sure to use one. You can find previous discussions of these devices, and others that members have made from scratch, on this forum, and on the Azo Forum.

Lee Hamiel
3-Jul-2007, 14:15
A few comments which may or may not work for you.

When possible keep the notches top right corner for the first sheet cut & then for the remainder sheet nip/cut a notch with a hole punch (or other means) at the top right corner. This is for the emulsion side reference.

I picked up an old Zeiss cutting board maybe 5 or 6" x 10 or 12" with a clamp down bar. The felt on the underside of the clamp down bar was shot & I removed/cleaned it off & glued a very thin strip of closed cell foam which doesn't scratch the film or paper when cutting.

If using a bayonet cutter it's tough to keep the stock from shifting during the cut so if that's what you get I recommend getting one with a clamp down bar. Rotary trimmers are less likely to shift but it can also happen.

You can also use pieces of bristol board/card-stock as an underlay/overlay sheet to help keep the film from shifting less easily.

In total darkness it's impossible to see - outside of the infrared viewing devices - with that said you can cut small pointers out of photo-luminescent tape & place on the outer margins of your cutting board for reference markings.

Another option is to tape a thick piece of foamcore or thin wood strips under lights for the first cutting & do them all at the same time & then box/cover all & then re-postion the strip for the next dimension desired to be cut.

Really not that hard to do & the clamp down bar helps keep the fingertips intact:)

Good Luck

Jim Galli
3-Jul-2007, 14:25
Here's a thread (http://www.apug.org/forums/forum44/10481-bulk-lf-film-cutting-loading-aerial-roll-film.html) I wrote about how I do it over at ApeHug

Jim Jones
4-Jul-2007, 06:45
I use strips of duct tape on a guillotine cutter as a stop to position the film for the cut. A rotary cutter should be better. It may be easier to apply a wide strip of tape, and trim it with a razor blade to the precise position. The guillotine cutter should be sharp for good results. The film should be held tight against the baseboard during the cut. I use a strip of mat board with its edge very close to the blade. A built-in hold-down would work better. Some film, such as the late Kodak High Speed Infrared, is very sensitive to fingermarks. Clean cotton gloves may help with this.

A temporary device for cutting film can be improvised from mat board, a steel ruler, and a single edge razor blade. Duct tape stops are mounted to the mat board. The ruler is taped at its ends to the mat board at the correct distance from the duct tape stops. A sheet of factory cut film is a good guide for this. The raw film is slipped beneath the ruler and slid against the stops. Pressure on the ruler keeps the film from slipping. Masking tape on the bottom of the ruler helps it to hold the film more securely. The ruler guides the razor blade. If factory film notches are lost in the process, a hand paper punch makes functional substitutes.

8-Jul-2007, 04:14
i also use a guillotine cutter. i clamp a ruler to the board and then put the film in and cut it. i am cutting down some of the over sized 8x10 film j and c were selling cheap some time ago. i am only cutting off an 1/8 or so and it works fine. maybe 1 or 2 of the 50 sheets i did were tough to get into the holders. the key is to be sure that the film is seated against the ruler so your cut it straight.


8-Jul-2007, 04:21
i also use a guillotine cutter. i clamp a ruler to the board and then put the film in and cut it. i am cutting down some of the over sized 8x10 film j and c were selling cheap some time ago. i am only cutting off an 1/8 or so and it works fine. maybe 1 or 2 of the 50 sheets i did were tough to get into the holders. the key is to be sure that the film is seated against the ruler so your cut it straight.


Turner Reich
8-Jul-2007, 04:42
I was thinking about making a die of planer blades and using it in a press made like a bearing press, jack in a metal frame. Place the film in and press the die down to cut the film to size. No hands or handing the cutting wheel as in paper type cutters. The cuts would be made all four sides and a notch cleanly in one action. Several sheets could be cut at one time also. No turning and excessive handling and a lot quicker than cut and turn and cut and turn etc..

Colin Graham
8-Jul-2007, 07:42
I use a dahle, which is much much cheaper than a rototrim, but a great trimmer. I set the fence in room lighting, registering against a negative of the size I want, then put a large shot bag behind the fence so it wont slip. I use a large sheet of smooth craft paper as a ramp to guide the film in between the pressure bar and cutting edge without scratching it, then remove the paper to cut.

I last cut 12x20 down to 5x12 and the hardest part was hearing over the sound of my own heartbeat. :o If I ever do it again I'd make a bigger supplemental fence so there's less worry of the film slipping out of square.

Forgot to mention I clip a corner with scissors marking the emulsion side as I cut each sheet. Easy to align the scissors against your thumb in the dark and just cut a tiny bit off. Off the film, not your thumb.

John Bartley
8-Jul-2007, 13:31
I use a guillotine paper cutter. It's not a special one, just one that I picked up at Staples for about $50. I use a stop block to get the correct length and I use a wooden pressure plate to hold the film down. I cut Kodak 2402 Aero roll film into 8"x9.5" (and use it as 8x10) and I would guess that my "mistake" rate is about 5%, with most of my mistakes happening when I was first learning how to do it. Lately the error rate has been zero - not too bad for working in total darkness. It's easy - try it.


8-Jul-2007, 20:33
Thanks a lot for all the excellent posts. It's extremely informative and given this format is not exactly about point and shoot photography, I'm sure a little time in the dark won't hurt anyone wanting to cut the film to a size of preference;)...


Say we have the film in the freezer or the fridge. We need to let it sit out before slicing away, correct?


Once the film is cut, if we want to place it back into the freezer/fridge, is this a procedure that works ok? I suppose my concern is how film reacts to changes in temperature with this process and also, if/when you want to prepare for a shoot say over the weekend or during a trip, do you simply take the cut film (placed into a container where it is stored again after being cut), bring it out, and let it prepare itself in the dark? Sorry if I am not making sense, but to be very specific, say we have cut film in the fridge or freezer. We want to use some that day or the days coming. What is the best procedure to take in order to "prep" the film for use?