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Thread: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

  1. #1

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    1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    Hello

    As the title suggests, I took the plunge and developed my first black and white 5x4 neg at home the other night in trays. I've done a decades worth of roll film and 35mm in daylight tanks, but this was a first for sheet films in trays.

    The first problem was finding the darkest room. My apartment is light and airy, which I never thought would be a bad thing. Even the bathroom has an enormous window. But, after blanking it out with cardboard and covering the door with a sleeping bag, I had a pretty light-tight space with running water in which to begin.

    My old print developing trays are in storage, so I found 3 plastic take-out food trays and used them. This might have been a mistake, as there is a tiny small sharp point of plastic, presumably from the moulding, in the base of the tray which might have contributed to the scratching on the negs.

    Have a look at the attached image, nothing special at all - just a snap for experimenting and practising purposes. The scan is also a quick contact scan - no spotting or post processing.

    1. I have a light patch on the image, on the left and right sides. It's most visible on the left-side of the image attached. Might this be over/under agitation? I used a constant agitation method, lifting each end of the tray in turn up and down (like when developing prints). I tried to randomize which end or corner of the tray I lifted. It occurs on one or two of the other negs, in both the left and right edges. My trays were about 6x8 inches in size - so maybe they were too small?

    2. LOADS of scratches! As above, I realised the base of the food-tray I was using had a sharp bit of plastic on it. AND I realised I was developing the sheets (one by one) emulsion down. Is emulsion-up recommended? I also didnt have anywhere to dry the sheets so I left them standing up against the tray, which may have contributed to the horizontal line in the sky - it wasnt there when the neg was in the fix or wash. Re-soaking it in water didnt get rid of it, do I need to re-fix it?

    3. How dark is dark? I've worked in several darkrooms before, and this is easily the least-light tight which is a little of a worry. I have pretty good night-sight anyway, but immediately the lights were off I could make out my hands in front of my face, and after 15 minutes or so of dev, stop and fix I could easily make out each tray in the bath, I could see the neg in the fix, could see exactly where the light-switch was, etc etc etc. Is it possible that, despite my efforts, my makeshift darkroom is just not light-tight enough and I have a base fog on my film?


    I'd appreciate any suggestions or tales of similar experience from people out there. Are my facilities and is my method completely unsuitable, and I should give up and start trawling the pages for a daylight tank like a Jobo or Paterson Orbital?!


    Thanks in advance

  2. #2

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    Re: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    All of the above....you need ABSOLUTELY light tight to start with. Everything else you mentioned needs to be taken care of as well.

  3. #3

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    Re: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    Dude, Gaff tape is your friend. Seal those gaps in between the door and the frame with black gaff, stuff a towel under the door, then put the sleeping bag over it. Same thing with the window. Black cardboard with gaff tape.

  4. #4

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    Re: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    I use a HP Combiplan tank to develop my 4x5 sheets. Use a tent to load the film into the tank (very easy to do) and all other development steps can be done in daylight. You won't scratch the film and as long as you follow the included instructions your film will come out perfectly developed every time. Give it a try.
    Juergen

  5. #5
    Landscape/Still Life
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    Apr 2004
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    Re: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    All of the above what they mentioned is what you need to do... I suggest reading my article in the March/April 2009 Issue in View Camera regarding using Night Vision Goggles to process your film on stealth mode.... If you have more questions send me a PM... Good Luck and by the way nice image even with the problems on the neg.... Ted
    Last edited by Ted Stoddard; 30-Jun-2009 at 09:04. Reason: more info

  6. #6

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    Re: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    Quote Originally Posted by Ted Stoddard View Post
    Good Luck and by the way nice image even with the problems on the neg.... Ted
    Agreed!

  7. #7
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Re: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    Welcome to the club. You will like it.

    If you are in North America, don't obsess about the Paterson Orbital. They are SCARCE! A budget friendly Jobo answer is a 2551/2553 tank and 2509 or 2509n reels. Add a Uniroller or Beseler motor base. Add the 35mm/120 reels and you have one tank for all formats.
    Wayne
    Deep in the darkest heart of the North Carolina rainforest.

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  8. #8

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    Re: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    Paterson Orbitals are scarce, but can be had on the Bay UK. You just pay more to ship than to buy.

    That said, I use the Paterson Orbital, and I love it. It did take me some time to figure out the best method. I bought a motor, but it provided just a little to much agitation (agitation effects can be seen in your image, they are the light area right and left of center). I fixed this cutting the motor's speed by 50%, now I get very gentle and even agitation, and with about 200 ml of chemistry!

    But the most important thing is DARK DARK DARK. If you can see your hands and the light switch and the film in the trays, you have WAY to much light in there. I use a bathroom with no windows and blackout cloth hung on both side of the door to completely eliminate light. I can be in that room for 15 minutes and not see a thing. Do whatever it takes to get it completely black in there.


    Brian

  9. #9
    Wayne venchka's Avatar
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    Re: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    A Harrison changing tent will accomodate 3 trays. Works in the field too. Gives you darkroom access 24/7.
    Wayne
    Deep in the darkest heart of the North Carolina rainforest.

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  10. #10

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    Re: 1st attempts at developing B+W sheet film at home

    Thanks for all the replies.

    So the first step is to try again with the blacking-out of the bathroom.

    Second step is to get some bigger trays and develop emulsion up.

    If I don't find much improvement then I'll be searching for a daylight tank of some sort. I'm in Australia so any Jobo or Paterson tanks are going to be scarce! I'm confused about the Jobo models and all the tanks, reels, magnets, cogs, loading bases and motor bases that people talk about - I will have to do some research.

    And Venchka - I thought about trying to squeeze my devving trays into a massive changing bag or changing tent - wouldn't this get very very messy with any liquid spillage? Don't the sleeves of the tent get wet when you pull your wet hands out once you've finished?

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