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Thread: Film holders-care and feeding

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jan 2012
    Central Illinois

    Film holders-care and feeding

    So I have several plastic film holders in decent condition but appear to have sat on a shelve for a couple decades. They are pretty cruddy. Any suggestions on cleaning them up. Will dish soap and water work? Tap water rinse? I understand the hinges will need to be handled delicately and kept dry. Anyway to reduce static? I have some pink bags for the 4x5 and 2 gallon locking bags for my 8x10.

    Regarding the hinges, some of these are starting to look ratty. I have read other threads and know book binders tape is used as a replacement. Is there a specific width to get? Anyone happy with a certain brand or product? Are these self adhesive or will I need a glue? If so what kind?

    I snagged a couple Chamonix holders for 8x10 here. They appear to be in mint condition so just vacuuming is probably all they need. I stopped in a nearby photography store that has been around for decades but is now in a strip mall front. My om1 for graduation came from their store in 1979. Still carries some film, paper, chemical and some used equipment. Several years ago I picked up a used omega dii for next to nothing. I figured I had nothing to loose so asked if they had any 8x10 holders. The clerk kind of laughed and said that was unlikely but we asked the manager. He thought, indicated he would look in the basement. Couple minutes later came up with four wooden holder in very nice condition. I felt a little guilty taking them for the price he offered. Sometimes one appreciates a gift like that more than if paid full price for it.

    Does anyone use one of those vacuums for electronics with the hepa filter in or around the darkroom.

    Any other tip regard handling, labeling, storage, or other concerns will be greatly appreciated.



  2. #2

    Join Date
    Mar 2004
    San Francisco Bay Area

    Re: Film holders-care and feeding

    There is a light trap where the dark slides go in and out. You do not want to get those wet.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: Film holders-care and feeding

    I'd take the dark slides out and wipe everything down with a cotton cloth diaper that's been laundered a few times(leaves no lint) Outside use shots of compressed air to blow out all the grooves and light traps (because I wouldn't want that junk floating around inside my house.) Be gentle with those flaps! Back inside use a vacuum with a micro brush attachment(I've got a dedicated mini ShopVac for photo gear) Spray some wax on a clothe and wipe down the dark slides at the very edges so they'll side in and out easy.
    I keep my film holders in ordinary zip lock plastic bags for protection against dust(Hefty brand, IIRC)
    Repeat as needed.
    A far as replacing the hinges goes, Book binders tape is best. Measure the width and buy a roll that width or larger and cut down to size.
    You can also use Gaffer's tape but it isn't as flexible or as long lasting, but if that's what you've got, it will work well enough. It is important to get all the old adhesive off your holder and flaps so they are really clean. You may need a solvent of some type (alcohol, maybe GooGone) that won't attack the plastic.
    Roll out the Gaffer's tape on a sheet of wax paper and cut to length. Peel off and apply to the flap end on the holder and carefully trim to the correct width with an X-acto knife with the sharp pointed blade.
    Good luck!
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    May 2015
    SooooCal/LA USA

    Re: Film holders-care and feeding

    Tempting as it is, don't try to wash them... It will cause the felt to loose it's (balding) fuzz and fall apart ... And the dried water can leave it's minerals (as a dust) deep inside... But the plastic slides can be washed with dish detergent, and leave the barest trace of the detergent on it, as that will dissipate the static charge...

    Vac them well with a filtered shop vac (with narrow nozzle), and insert the cleaned slides several times while vac'ing them to loosen dust devils holding on the felt... Deep scrub the slide channels with an old toothbrush or a stiff nylon brush to loosen any debris... A good thing to do is to round/smooth the edges of the plastic slides with some very fine steel wool (before washing them) to dull the edge that pushes against the felt (to ease shredding), and the edges to prevent it cutting up the channels (that can lead to debris)... Check if the hinges leak, and do a photo paper/sunlight test to see if leaking is going on... But before, shine a bright LED flashlight through the light traps and see if leaking (esp the ends)... (And hope there was no stickies/tape residue on the felt...) And put a straight edge on the mating surfaces to see if still flat...

    So yes, filthy old holders can come back to life, (some more than others)... Give it a try!!!

    Steve K

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2014
    North Dakota

    Re: Film holders-care and feeding

    The dark slides can have the sides that slide in and out of the holder grooves rubbed a bit with wax paper. It will help with easier and smoother removal and inserting.

  6. #6

    Re: Film holders-care and feeding

    Book binders tape - I use 1 1/2 inch wide, lay it out on a nylon cutting board, use a razor blade knife and a metal ruler and cut strips to size. Works great.

    Be sure to not let the tape overlap the ledge on the flap - you want your holder to be flush with the camera back. I find it easier to apply the tape a little oversize, then go back with a razor blade knife and trim it flush with the ledge.

    For razor knives, I prefer the OLFA XA-1. It's perfect for the job, at least it is for me. Don't use a blade too many times before you break to a new one.

  7. #7

    Join Date
    Sep 1998
    Oregon now (formerly Austria)

    Re: Film holders-care and feeding

    Despite the caveats about washing holders, I have had good luck with washing many used 4x5 plastic Riteway and Fidelity holders. Light traps are felt; water shouldn't hurt them unless the felt is rotten and ready to go anyway. Washing is a last resort, however. Usually I use a soft cloth and some window cleaner or the like to remove dirt. Solvents will damage the plastic, so use them as a last resort. I've used acetone (fingernail polish remover) for stubborn lettering, etc., but it'll take the white printing off the holders easily, so be careful.

    If you do decide to water wash, this is what I do: I soak holders in warm water with mild detergent, scrub the hard parts with a toothbrush and run lukewarm water through the light traps to rinse them and remove dust. Just don't try to scrub or otherwise fiddle with the light traps or you may dislodge them; just a gentle stream of running water from the faucet. Rinse thoroughly with clear water and let them dry.

    I find that washing the light traps this way (a soak in water/detergent and then a gentle running water rinse) often rejuvenates them and eliminates some of the light leaks that were caused by matting of the felt over time.

    Bookbinders tape for the flaps; it's the thinnest and has the longest-lasting and cleanest adhesive. Gaffers' tape will go bad after a short while and leave residue that is a pain to remove.

    After you get your holders clean and serviceable, keep them in plastic bags. Some use anti-static bags designed for electronics, but I have had fine luck using quart-size ZipLoc-style freezer bags. I use new bags every time (or every other time) I load filmholders to minimize dust. Loaded holders stay in their bags, unloaded ones on a shelf in my darkroom till I can load them.

    When shooting, I pull a holder from its bag, scan it for dust, blow it or brush it off if needed and then insert it into the camera. After the shot, it goes back into the bag; it comes out of the bag next when being unloaded.



  8. #8

    Join Date
    Dec 2011

    Re: Film holders-care and feeding

    I found that giving the edges of the dark slides a spritz of silicone lubricant and wiping with a clean cloth makes them slide in and out of the holder very smoothly indeed and lasts for months or years.

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