View Full Version : new to 8x10 B&W processing-Help

Jon Paul
25-May-2010, 11:31
I am going to be getting a 8x10 field camera soon. I primarily shoot color transparencies, but have the inclination to shoot a bit of B&W film. Can someone share (with a beginner) exactly the equipment I will need (hopefully I can get it used) so that I can process my 8x10 sheet film? Also, chemical recommendations would be appreciated.


MIke Sherck
25-May-2010, 11:39
I have no experience with color so this is about b&W:

The simplest way to process b&w film, particularly in small volumes, is in trays. I process 8x10 b&w film in 8"x10" trays, plus a slightly larger, 11x14 or so Rubbermaid tub originally sold for washing dishes. There are four trays: water (pre-soak, to remove the pretty colored anti-reflection coating on the back of the film,) developer, stop, fix and the tub for washing. Recently I bought an 8"x10" print washer at an estate auction and now wash film in that: it's much more convenient. But the tub worked fine for many years.

There are those who say that you need a larger tray to avoid unwanted developing effects on the edges of the film, as the solutions swish around perhaps they give more agitation at the edges than elsewhere. If you are of this belief, substitute 11x14 trays for the 8x10 ones.

Edit: Sorry for the fixation on trays. Other equipment:

I mix Kodak's D-76 developer with distilled water in a one-gallon jug and then separate it into four one-quart photo chemical storage bottles, filling each to the brim with solution and capping tightly. This prevents air getting to the developer and oxidizing it, and greatly prolongs shelf life. Since one quart of D-76 has capacity for four sheets on 8x10 film, I try to process in multiples of four or nearly thereabouts. If I shoot one or two sheets, for example, they may wait a few days or a week until I shoot one or two more.

I use Kodak's Indicator Stop Bath because I like it. I mix it with distilled water, in the jug the water came in. I buy the water at the supermarket, open it at home and pour out two ounces, then pour in two ounces of the stop bath concentrate and stir well. I re-use it until it turns purple, indicating exhaustion, whereupon I mix up another jug.

For film I like Ilford's rapid fixer or Hypam. I mix it in an old enameled metal measuring cup I got years ago; a plastic chemical measuring bottle or beaker would work just as well. You need to be able to measure quantities from one or two ounces, quarts, and gallons (in the US; up to 100 or 200 ml, half-liters, liters and two to five liter volumes in the rest of the world,) reasonably accurately.

You'll need some way of timing the processes; I have an old Gralab timer stuck on the back of a shelf so it's luminescent dial doesn't shine on my trays, but a simple, cheap stop-watch will work all right, or a free timer on a relatively modern cell phone. Or a kitchen timer. Just don't let the light of any of these things shine onto unfixed film!

A towel, to wipe your hands on. Launder frequently and wash your hands as often as you can to prevent chemical contamination of your solutions.

For chemical disposal, the simplest solution is to pour used developer and stop bath down the drain and rinse well: they won't hurt anything. Fixer contains dissolved silver and this may (or may not, it depends on who you ask,) be an effective anti-biotic and have an effect on your septic or ground water. I have a five-gallon bucket with a lid and a wad of steel wool at the bottom; used fixer gets dumped in and (so I'm told,) the silver plates out onto the steel wool in a couple of days. My community doesn't have chemical pickup, drop-off, or disposal services, so once the fixer has been in the bucket for a week or so it gets dumped over a basket full of limestone rocks (to increase the pH to something more closely approaching neutral, and down the drain, with lots of water to dilute it. Before I got the basket and rocks I just mixed it with the next session's used developer and figured they evened things out pretty fair.

A thermometer designed for photographic (or at least chemical,) use. The standard temperature for most B&W photographic processes is 68 deg. F (20 deg. C). You should try to keep all the chemicals within a degree or two of this. It isn't really difficult: many homes and basements are pretty close to that already and it isn't as though thunder and lightning will fall from the sky if you're off by a couple of degrees. Most "standard" photographic processes are fairly forgiving.


Brian Ellis
25-May-2010, 22:46
Basic equipment, assuming you're going to be processing the 8x10 film and making contact prints:

Processing film - timer, trays (3 or 4), film washer (can probably use your print washer, see below, if not you can get by with running a hose into a bowl of some sort but that's not ideal), chemical thermometer, containers and spoons or rods for mixing chemicals, devising some method of hanging film to dry (film clips or alligator-type paper clips), and of course chemicals - developer, stop bath, fix, hypo clearing agent (Heico, if it's still around), PhotoFlo or LFN (used to minimize water spots on film as it dries).

Paper processing: 3-4 trays, tongs, timer (same one you used to process film), safe light, screens or some other method of drying the prints, print washer (the slotted kind is ideal IMHO since it can be used to wash both prints and 8x10 film) and chemicals - developer, stop bath, fix, clearing agent, selenium toner if you plan to tone for permanence or slightly deeper blacks.

Printing: light bulb, easel or two sheets of glass, a method of suspending the light bulb over the easel or glass.

Miscellaneous: a bunch of containers in which to store stock and working solutions - I used one gallon jugs for everything except film developer, which I stored in a bunch of small bottles so that it was kept air-tight. Towels. A paper safe is nice but not a necessity. Beakers for measuring chemicals.

I'm probably forgetting some things but that's pretty much it. The print/film washer will probably be the most expensive thing you buy, hopefully you can find one used because the slotted type I used cost a couple hundred dollars when new. You can adapt normal household products for a lot of this stuff and a digital metronome sold at any music supply store for about $15 can serve as a timer though not as convenient as a dedicated photography timer such as the Gralab Mike mentioned.

I have to respectfully disagree with Mike's last paragraph. There's nothing magic about 68 degrees and you don't need to keep everything within a degree or two of 68 degrees or any other temperature. IMHO the only chemical solution that's critical from a temperature standpoint is the film and print developer. You want that to remain constant so that you have consistent times, especially for film. But the temperature you choose as your constant temperature is up to you within reason - I chose 75 degrees because my darkroom tended to get warm and it was easier to keep the developer at 75 than 68. I never worried about the temperature of anything else. Obviously you don't want stop, fix, etc. to be near boiling or freezing but normal room temperatures are fine for everything except the developers. At least that was my experience in 15 or so years of darkroom work.