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Thread: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

  1. #1

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    New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    I am fairly new to LF photography (5 yrs), but coming from a design background I sometimes look at things from a fresh point of view. I have tried many ways to process sheet film – always with a fatality that would spur me to move on to another method. I’ve used the method I will call Softube processing for almost 2 years now without so much as a single mishap – no scratches, surge marks, uneven development or any other defects. Here it is in a nutshell: I use plastic window screen, available at any local Lowes / Home Depot, cut with scissors into sheets slightly larger in one dimension than the sheet film and sewn into “tubes” on my wife’s sewing machine. Film is rolled up and inserted into the tube “emulsion in”. When the film is released, it pops open to form a sturdy but soft tube. The ends of the film are held apart ¼ “or so by the outward force and never touch. They can then be packed and squished into most any daylight roll-film processing tank In my case, 8-10 sheets of 5x7 fit nicely around the center fill column of a 15” deep Patterson roll film tank. Here are some of the advantages. Cost is nil, less than a cup of Starbucks. I made enough softubes in a few minutes to last a lifetime. The screen goes through a sewing machine just like fabric. The plastic screen does not absorb chemicals. The mesh allows solutions to flow freely to both sides of the film. I can use the most vigorous inversion agitation, then the film sits absolutely still (unlike tray and any type of rotational processing) until the next agitation cycle. With daylight processing I can check small temp changes with a probe thermometer and adjust time to compensate. I can also answer the phone or carry on a conversation. A couple of notes: I found that I needed to invent an “inserter tool” to load the film into softubes quickly and keep the sharp corners of the film from hanging up on the screen mesh. I use an empty, straight-sided pill bottle. Film is rolled up and one end is placed into the “inserter”. It is then pushed into the tube and the inserter pulled off. The time it just took to read that sentence is how long it takes for the loading process. I have two sizes of softubes for my 5x7. One for film rolled on the 5” axis and another for film rolled on the 7” axis. I stack the softubes 3 or 4 to a layer in different capacity 120 roll film tanks and keep them under the solutions with an empty 120 reel on top. I know this would work for 4x5 even better than for 5x7. I can’t speak for sizes larger than 5x7 as obviously the outward force exerted by film on its softube would decrease as the size of the film increases.

  2. #2
    Greg Lockrey's Avatar
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    Re: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    Many moons ago I had a paper processor that had these baskets where you put two sheets of 8x10 back to back in each slot. Each basket could handle 50 sheets and two baskets could be used together. When I first got the processor and seen these screens my first thought was that they would mark the paper of you couldn't rinse them enough. They worked great! I had four baskets so that I could do a run, then have two in front of a fan to dry off after the rinse. Never ran out of baskets even if I had to process all day. I wish I could remember the name of this processor, it was made in Texas. It used Kodak Flexicolor chemistry for color and it had temperature control on the first stage that set the limit for all three stages. There was a rinse that was free flowing from the fawcet. You agitated by hand by lifting the baskets up and down. I used standard 8x10 film holder if I wanted to do a couple of sheets at at time. A photographer friend of mine and I would set up at trade shows, he would shoot and I would process and his assistant would sell the the print specs to the participants. Was a down and dirty way to make a few bucks.
    Greg Lockrey

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  3. #3
    Convert to LF
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    Re: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    Ed,

    Would it be possible to post some pictures of the setup?
    That would be great.

    THanks, Maretzo

  4. #4
    I exist, therefore I am
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    Re: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    Yes, some pictures please.

  5. #5

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    Re: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    Congradulations for you perserveriance and success. ULF might be processed in a Jobo in a similar way on a Jobo ATL. Of course, I hold the patent, and my attourney will be contacting yours soon. NOT

  6. #6
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    A Kodak K16 processor was in each college darkroom that I attended in the early 70's. basically it was a screen mesh that lay in tempered water and the print was exposed , placed emulsion up on the screen, then the print was laid onto a roller system.It could handle up to 16x20 prints. Chemicals were added/dumped in a tray as desired as well as washwater, it worked brilliantly.

    The basket system *and I forget the name as well* was for third year students, we would load up the baskets and then dump them into the chemical and manualy move them from one trough to another ,.nitrogen burst would provided the agitation and the chemicals were replenished after each run..

    Once again this system worked very well, the year after I left college they brought in a 20 inch hope processor for auto dry to dry.

    The sock idea is great and I am sure works very well.

  7. #7

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    Re: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    "I have tried many ways to process sheet film – always with a fatality that would spur me to move on to another method. "

    Did you ever use the BTZS tubes? I've been using them for about 12 years, I don't think I've ever had a scratch, uneven development problem, or any other problem. Plus they use all of 2 ounces of chemistry per sheet/tube (1 ounce if you mix D76 1-1 as I do).
    Brian Ellis
    Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way when you do criticize them you'll be
    a mile away and you'll have their shoes.

  8. #8
    Darkcloth Fumbler
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    Re: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    Ed, that's a great idea! It's sort of like an improved taco method. Kind of. without the corner scratching that can result.

    So, how do you sew the sleeves? are they pinched together or do they overlap? i would think the pinched-together method would protect the film better.
    - matt haines


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  9. #9

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    Re: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    Very interesting Ed; great innovation! I'll give it a try for semi-stand. Thanks for posting.

  10. #10

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    Re: New idea?? Inexpensive daylight Softube processing of sheet film

    BTZS doesn't make tubes that do 8x10 do they? My jobo is about to die, and since I won't be able to replace it I have to start thinking about alternatives!

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