View Full Version : Drying Large Negatives

William Whitaker
13-Jul-2012, 16:47
I'm using a rental darkroom which is a very nice facility. They have a film dryer which, while it doesn't work, does at least act as a dust-resistant place to hang negatives to dry. The problem for me is that I'm doing 12x20 (finally!) and the dryer space is limited. I had two negatives weld themselves together overnight and I can't afford to have that. So, does anybody have any ideas about drying large negatives?

It crossed my mind to try to transport the wet negatives back to my apartment so I can hang them up there. But if I read someone else post that idea, I'd probably roll my eyes and say something less than gracious about it. So that probably won't fly.

It seems a shame to get this far with 12x20 only to find that I can't safely dry the negatives. Setting up a darkroom at home for open-tray processing of film is simply not an option right now.
Your thoughts interest me...

Brian C. Miller
13-Jul-2012, 16:58
Put plastic clothes pins on the bottom. When the negatives start heading for each other, the clothes pins will keep them apart.

David A. Goldfarb
13-Jul-2012, 17:13
Jobo clips will let you fit a lot of negs of any size in a small space, and the pin is foolproof. I've never had one drop off the line, and my largest are 11x14" and 7x17".

Then to keep them from adhering to each other, they just need to be spaced out a bit more. Since the negs hang perpendicular to the line with Jobo clips, perhaps other users could hang their rollfilm negs, which normally run parallel to the line, between your sheets.

William Whitaker
13-Jul-2012, 18:27
Brian, sounds like a good suggestion. I've always hung sheet film diagonally, suspended from one corner to dry so that the water tends to run to the bottom corner. Not sure how it would work with that. But certainly worth considering.

David, Jobo clips sound good, but are discontinued and impossibly expensive on the used market. I did hang my negatives perpendicular to the line (rod), but six negatives was one too many. No room for roll film anywhere; glad nobody else was processing film.

Instead of clips, with negatives this big and heavy I purchased a 1/16" hold punch and used paper clips bent out to pass through the hole and provide a hook for hanging. That way there's no risk of the negative slipping out and ending up in the dirt. I'll try some plastic clothespins near the bottom for now in hopes that it will discourage the mutual attraction wet film seems to have for itself.

One possibility may be to build a dedicated plywood box to allow room for film this size and leave it at the darkroom. But I don't know where it could be stored and people would complain. This is the part of ULF nobody ever tells you about...

13-Jul-2012, 18:51
Lee valley tools lifetime clothes peg may help, bottom amd ? top

Tim k
13-Jul-2012, 18:55
Get a big tupperware bin. Mount a couple of rods at the top. Cut a couple of vents, I Covered mine with coffee filters. Use your choice of hanger.

Bingo, redneck cheap portable drying cabinet.

If you insist, I think I could dig up a jpeg.

13-Jul-2012, 19:22
When you hang a negative up to dry, squirt both sides with some rubbing alcohol 90%. It removes water and helps things dry fast, and it's clean.

lab black
13-Jul-2012, 19:41
Tim has an excellent suggestion that has possibilities for many variables. For 12x20, my personal concern would be leaving 12x20 negatives to dry in a public darkroom that was out of my control. Some of the larger Rubbermaid style storage boxes with hinged lids are available at camping stores or home supply stores. Rods or dowels could be placed through them and 12x20 negatives could be carefully hung with clips to be taken home for a better arrangement. I use medium, spring-loaded, automotive battery clips for the top of my 12x20 negatives and Kodak dental film clips (Cat 149 2586) for the bottom. I do not believe that the Kodak clips are still available, although sometimes they are found at used camera equipment shows. If you want an example of each, please let me know.

Sal Santamaura
13-Jul-2012, 20:30
...Jobo clips sound good, but are discontinued and impossibly expensive on the used market...Impossibly expensive compared to two ruined sheets of 12x20 film? :confused:

William Whitaker
13-Jul-2012, 21:00
Impossibly expensive compared to two ruined sheets of 12x20 film? :confused:

Instead of clips, with negatives this big and heavy I purchased a 1/16" hold punch and used paper clips bent out to pass through the hole and provide a hook for hanging. That way there's no risk of the negative slipping out and ending up in the dirt.

The hole is punched in the film rebate out of the image area.

William Whitaker
14-Jul-2012, 08:56
There are some good suggestions here. I appreciate everyone's response.

Several variables make this too complicated to explain fully. Clearly, drying negatives in my own home is the safest solution and perhaps that will work. But living in a 350 sq ft studio apartment has its limitations. And the addition of a plastic container large enough to house six or eight 12x20 negatives is a major space consideration. Large format camera, small format apartment. I'll speak to the management at the rental darkroom and see if they have any suggestions.

14-Jul-2012, 09:17
Why not address the original issue of the dryer not working. Is it an problem with a blower motor or a heating element? Is there any possibility of modifying it with the addition of a commercial grade salon type of hand held hair dryer and having that blow through an appropriate air filter to avoid debris, thereby restoring the cabinet to some kind of working function? I once built a drying cabinet out of wood using that exact technique and had no problems with dust so long as I kept the filters in place. I simply used two sandwiched furnace filters with the hair dryer about 14 inches away from those for obvious safety reasons. Using photo-flo on the film made drying a matter of minutes for either rolls or racks of sheet film. I started with wire for the film clips to hang from, but switched to aluminum arrow shafts when the wire proved to sag too much and allowed the film to touch it's neighbors.

By the way, I got that idea from a seminar speaker who described making his color print process line temperature controlled by sinking a series of stainless 8x10 tanks into a counter top and then using the enclosed cabinet space below as a hot air jacket with four or five of the hair dryers plugged into one thermostat control which would flip the power on or off as needed to maintain the optimum temperature.

14-Jul-2012, 09:29
This would probably be your best bet with film that large:


I found the smaller CD 10 on a local ebay auction site for $90 (local pick-up). An Arkay RC 2100 print dryer may work as the film/paper doen not touch anything but the rollers and you can adjust the heat and speed. Also check and see if there is a clothing wardrobe that will accomodate that size. I routinely dry 120, 4x5, and 8x10 film in a womens wardrobe that I bought at WalMart for $5, as well as 9x11 and 12x15 alternative prints. The front zips up protectig from dust. Although I have the CD10 I prefer to air dry my negatives and use the dryer for overflow.


John Kasaian
14-Jul-2012, 10:18
Squeegee then transport in a blotter book. Hang 'em when you get home with clips on the bottoms

Rick Olson
14-Jul-2012, 10:48
As much as one sheet of 12 x 20 film costs, along with the trouble taken to make the image, I would not hesitate to transport the negatives home in water-filled drums or by some other means. I have used rental/public darkrooms before and it's a bit of a free-for-all in there with a lack of care and discipline by some.

William Whitaker
14-Jul-2012, 11:24
Why not address the original issue of the dryer not working...

But that's not the issue. The issue is that there is not enough space in the dryer for 12x20 negatives.

Thomas - I actually have a nice Arkay film dryer. Even if I had it in my apartment, I would have to transport the wet negatives home somehow. There's no room for it to live at the rental darkroom. And if it lived there, I'd have to fight other people to use my own dryer. It's a thousand miles away in storage at my house waiting for me to retire.

Rick - Water-filled drums? I almost threw my back out just thinking about it...

Squeegee then transport in a blotter book. Hang 'em when you get home with clips on the bottoms

That sounds too simple. Even if I couldn't find a 12x20 blotter book, I could interleave the negatives with the same kind of paper. But is that safe for the negatives? If that's a realistic solution, I could keep one 16x20 tray at the apartment for a final wash/Photo-Flo rinse before hanging up to dry. And yes, Photo-Flo is de rigueur!

Rick Olson
14-Jul-2012, 11:30
Hi Will,

During my college years, I had to do just that for some large Ilford Galerie FB prints. I got tired of trying to enforce the darkroom rule of not adding fixed prints to the wash until the current group was complete. I went to the equipment check-out, got some large drums, filled them with water and transported the prints home to wash them in the tub. Today, I have my own darkroom so no problems.

William Whitaker
14-Jul-2012, 11:41
Thanks Rick. We were both younger then.

14-Jul-2012, 21:25
Blotter books would most likely leave fibers and or an impression in the emulsion.
Squeegeeing the negative can really scratch it up. I tried that early on with 35mm and that was a bad experience.
I hang my 12x20s in a home made cabinet. I use lever type stainless clips that have one contact point and are about 2” long.
Ive seen them on ebay a few times but mine came from my grandfathers darkroom.
I use 4 clips on the top and 4 on the bottom. Never a dropped sheet and the clip marks are outside the image area.
I don’t like clothespins because they leave a nasty mark and more often then not end up in the image area.

I made my cabinet out of 2x4s and MDF, about 7’x2’x2'. I added a heater/blower from home depot and a right angle duct to blow the hot air in.
Also a fan at the bottom to exhaust the air and a timer controller with preset times.
Under the heater i installed 2 hepa filters which work really well. On the top i made 2 wood rails that i slide in ” thick wood slats that have hooks for the film clips.
All in i think i spent $150.00, the most expensive part was the heater, fan and the timer controller that i installed.
I would have bought a film dryer but it was to big to fit into the car so i built this in place.

There is an option for apartment drying. Go to home depot and get some plastic drop cloth.
Use wood rods or pvc pipe to make a box or rectangle that will fit as many sheets as you want.
Add some rods to hang the film off of, maybe 4 or 5” from the top.
Tape the drop cloth around it with a few holes at the bottom for air to escape. Get a fan and some hepa filter material.
Put the fan on top and with the filter over the intake and make a hole in the top of the cabinet.
That should work to dry the film while keeping the dust out, just remember to add a flap to get the film in and out.
The drying cabinet can fit in a closet or on a table. You can probably also make it collapsable.

Jim Noel
15-Jul-2012, 07:03
I would not attempt to dry them at a public lab.
Get a plastic container large enough for them and transport home wet.
I use dental x-ray clip for all my sheet film up to 7x17. They never fail. A tiny hole is punched in the very corner of the selvidge to hold them.


William Whitaker
15-Jul-2012, 08:29
...Get a plastic container large enough for them and transport home wet...

But isn't that rather like sending Murphy a written invitation?

Rick Olson
15-Jul-2012, 14:17
But isn't that rather like sending Murphy a written invitation?

Will ... Leave Murphy in the darkroom. There is plenty to keep him busy in there. ;)

Get your 12 x 20 negs home safely.

15-Jul-2012, 23:18
What about clipping them to some 1/4 perspex emulsion side up and puttingthem on carseat to take home

William Whitaker
16-Jul-2012, 07:09
I had to look up Perspex and now realize that it's one of several names for the stuff I've always called Plexiglass. (Whatever did we do before Wikipedia?...) But that sounds like a good idea, especially if I could find some of the frosted Plexi/Perspex.

18-Jul-2012, 12:54

If you can't find frosted plastic, check out the fluorescent light diffuser panels at the nearest builder's supply (the kind that go into 2x4 foot ceiling fixtures). I think that you could safely lay a negative face up on a piece of one (they can be scribed and cut just like glass) and even use spacers to stack several in a lidded storage tub for transport. When you get home, spritz with Photo-Flo and hang as usual in the shower stall.