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Thread: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

  1. #1

    Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

    Can anyone with experience share their methods? Having never done it before, my first idea would be to use my Beseler Rotatrim, as follows:

    1) tape a piece of mat board in place as a stop for the 7" cut

    2) go dark, make all of the 7" cuts then put the film back in the box

    3) move the mat board and tape it in place for the 5" cut

    4) go dark and make all of the 5" cuts

    Buying a pair of infrared goggles for $400 seems a bit extreme, but I might have to resort to it. Making inaccurate cuts could get even more expensive.

    What about the loss of the notches on some of the cut-down sheets? Seems a little scary not to have a way of orienting the film in the dark. Is anybody notching their cut-down sheets with a punch?

    A major disadvantage of this cutting-down strategy is that it does not allow me to order film when I am on the road shooting, unless I can find a darkroom.

  2. #2
    Drew Wiley
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    SF Bay area, CA

    Re: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

    I took a high-quality paper cutter and a good machined draftsman stainless triangle,
    then drilled the cutter for thread inserts and nylon thumbscrew at both the nominal five and seven inch positions relative to holes drilled in the triangle (remember, 5x7 film is actually a bit less than 5x7 inches). The cutter has a finger stop to keep you from getting your pinkie under the blade. Then four small paper safes are involved. The first for 8x10 sheets, then for the second cut, then for the third, then for the final 5x7 film. A small pair of scissors is kept nearby to cut a corner of the film to identify the emulsion side. Meticulous dust control is also obviously necessary.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Nashville, TN

    Re: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

    I use two paper cutters from work. Side by side, one gets the long cut template taped to it. The other gets the short cut. Turn out the lights and open the film box. Emulsion stays face up through the whole process from box to box, or box to film holder. I don't notch the secondary, but if in doubt, lick your pinky and run along near an edge that will be masked by film holder. Now touch it. If it's a little sticky, you just found the emulsion side. The paper cutters I borrow from work are crude, but the posterboard templates I made keep the film from sliding if taped down well before starting. This seems to create less shuffling than going back and forth between boxes. Less handling and a clean workspace will help to keep dust and/or scratches to a minimum.

  4. #4
    jp's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Re: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

    You can use a simple hole punch to add notches to film. It's obviously tougher than paper, but it's quite doable. I've done it to identify film that would get out of order in processing.

    I've cut down paper, but not film. The 5" cut is going to require the most care and precision as it won't fit the holder easily otherwise. There is some wiggle room in the other dimension. Lacking a way to easily see your fingers, you're going to want a mental safety checklist to make sure they are touching something that is out of the way before operating a paper cutter repeatedly in darkness.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Aug 2008
    Southland, New Zealand

    Re: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

    I don't have any experience of doing this myself but here is a quote from by QT Luong, in case you have not read it.

    "I chose to cut myself the film from 8x10. This is done neatly with a Rotatrim Mastercut II, a rotary blade cutter, and while it sounds a delicate task at first, it is in fact very easy to do. I wouldn't use anything else, as precision is critical. One tip: I've found that it is difficult to align the film with minute precision, I cut slightly smaller than 5x7 to be sure there won't be problems to fit holders. Because of that, you'll need to cut a sheet of 8x10 three times to make two 5x7. If you use only one kind of film, it is not necessary to punch a new notch. I just keep the film emulsion facing the top of the film box. I have misloaded film only one time, out of more than a thousand of sheets cut. It takes me between 30 min to one hour to cut 25 8x10 sheets. It's not that tedious if you listen to music at the same time. The problem is that while you don't have to worry about finger marks which are washed away by the developper, you increase significantly the chance of getting dust on your film, which in turn can cause surface scratches as you are traveling. "

  6. #6
    Eric Woodbury
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Re: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

    I did it years ago with Tech Pan. There was a guy here in town that had a photo finishing biz and he had a paper cutter that was for trimming stacks of quickie color prints. It was a guillotine style cutter and it had a clamp on it. In the dark, you could move the film to the stop and clamp it down. Then chop. I did about 25 sheets at a wack and it was flawless. Don't know where to find such a cutter, but they must be out there. It didn't look that special or expensive.

    Print shops have those electric cutters. If you could use one of those in the dark, that would be good. Be careful with Tmax. It might be more pressure sensitive and give you problems.
    my picture blog

  7. #7
    Dave Karp
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Los Angeles, CA

    Re: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

    Clip the upper right corner with a fingernail clipper.

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2008

    Re: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7


    I use to do this, it is a pain, but it works.
    I used a rotatrim, with pin stripping from a body shop as the guide lines.
    That was high enough to make a nice edge to butt up against.

    I used a newspaper boy's punch to notch the corner.

    Sorry for the crappy cell phone picture.

  9. #9

    Re: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

    Thanks everyone. All of these ideas seem to have merit. I think that if I decide to actually do it, I'll get the infrared goggles recommended by Ken Lee, who moderates this forum.

  10. #10

    Join Date
    May 2005

    Re: Methods for cutting 8x10 film down to 5x7

    Quote Originally Posted by badbluesman View Post
    Thanks everyone. All of these ideas seem to have merit. I think that if I decide to actually do it, I'll get the infrared goggles recommended by Ken Lee, who moderates this forum.

    I have these and I think you will find it a good investment. It really helps to see what you are doing when loading and unloading holders, and I am sure they will prevent any slips in film cutting that will help pay for themselves over time. If you do get a pair, be sure to get one with good headgear - I have the ATN Viper and it fits well when all the straps are adjusted.

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