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B&W developing - essential answers
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:39 pm    Post subject: B&W developing - essential answers Reply with quote

Do I need a darkroom?

No. The only work that has to be done in darkness is loading the film in the developing tank. This can be done inside a special blackout bag like this Click here to see on Ebay Place the exposed film cartridge plus the developing tank and tools in the bag, zip it up, then slide your hands inside through the sleeves. Once the film is safely in the tank the rest of the work can be done in full light.

What equipment do I need?

As well as the changing bag, you firstly need a developing tank. The size depends on whether you want to develop just 35mm film or 120/220 film as well. You can buy small tanks that take just one 35mm film, which will require a smaller amount of chemicals, or you can buy larger ones that will develop two or more films at a time. If you're not sure which, go for a "Universal" tank. The tank is light-proof, but it has an opening for pouring chemicals in and out.

Chemicals:
The process has four stages - developing the image captured on the film, stopping the development at the moment you require, fixing the image to prevent the image being lost by exposure to more light, and washing and drying. For a beginner I would recommend these Ilford chemicals:
Ilfotec DD-X liquid developer, diluted 1:4 with water click
Ilfostop stop bath, diluted 1:19 click
Ilford Rapid Fixer, diluted 1:4 or 1:9 click
Ilfotol wetting agent (to prevent smears when drying) click
Total= 36.05 @ 24/09/08
These aren't the cheapest, but they're very simple to use and readily available. With experience you can try other materials.

Graduated containers for measuring and mixing chemicals.
One 35mm film requires about 300ml of fluid in the tank, a 120 film about 500ml, so 600ml containers are the most useful. You'll need at least two of these, one for mixing the developer and another for the stop bath and the fixer. It's best to dedicate a container for each chemical to avoid contamination. For measuring the developer it's easier to measure small quantities in a smaller container, so a 50 or 100ml one is also required, and a 1 litre graduated jug is also handy.

An accurate photographic thermometer. Temperature is critical to the process, so a good thermometer is vital.

A method of timing the processes. Accurate timing is also critical, so a clock or stopwatch is needed. I used the clock on the microwave for my first film!

The stop bath and fixer can be used more than once, so you'll need two bottles to store them in plus a funnel for filling. Don't use bottles used for drinks as this can be dangerous, especially for children, and label each bottle properly.

A squeegee for wiping excess water off the finished film is not vital but can be useful to prevent smears when the film is drying.

Two spring clips for hanging the film to dry and weighting down the bottom end to remove curling. I use "Bulldog" clips.

A sink with running water, with a separate way of draining the chemicals away. You could use a double sink, or the bathroom basin and pour the chemicals down the loo for instance.

Rubber gloves are not vital for safety, but they help protect the film from fingermarks and prevent your hands smelling of chemicals.

Scissors for cutting off the film leader and cutting the film away from the cartridge inside the changing bag. If you're in the habit of rewinding the film right inside the cartridge you'll need a bottle opener to open the cartridge to find the beginning of the film leader. If you can leave the end of the leader outside the cartridge when rewinding it's a lot easier, and you can cut off the leader in the light, instead of inside the bag.

All the chemicals and equipment can be purchased online from Speed Graphic Ltd, who deliver anywhere. Click on Darkroom.

What's the process?

1 - Adjust the width of the spiral to suit the film type and put the film, all the tank components, the bottle opener (if you need it) and the scissors into the changing bag and zip it up. Cut off the leader from 135 film with the scissors if you didn't do it in daylight, and snip off a small triangle from each corner to make loading easier. With 120 film tear the adhesive paper tape and unroll the paper backing until you feel the end of the film and cut off the corners as before.

The film has to be loaded into a plastic spiral that fits inside the developing tank. The spiral prevents the coils of film from touching each other, allowing the chemicals to contact the complete surface of the emulsion. This is a tricky process, especially with 120 film. If you buy new there will be detailed instructions on this with the tank. The spiral has a special twist action and non-return mechanism that pulls the film into the grooves, and to work properly this has to be bone dry. If you're doing repeated batches a hairdryer is useful for drying the spiral. Remember the film loading has to be done by feel alone! [edit: I found it very helpful to waste a length of film to practice loading the spiral in daylight.]

135 film can be fed into the spiral directly from the cartridge. Cut the film next to the cartridge when you reach the end. The paper backing of 120 film is not needed once the film is in the darkroom or changing bag, so separate this from the film as you load the spiral, then as you come to the end of the film you will feel a small piece of adhesive tape joining the paper and film together. This can be peeled or torn off - it doesn't matter if a small pice of tape goes into the tank - and then the paper can be discarded.

Once the film is safely in the tank and the lid is firmly on you have finished with the changing bag/darkroom and you can work in full light.

2 - Fill the sink with water at around 22C. The processing liquids should ideally be at 20 and this higher temperature allows for the water to cool down. Allow the water to stand for a few minutes to allow dissolved gas and air bubbles to disappear.

3 - Measure out the quantities of developer, stop bath and fixer and dilute as the instructions using the jug and the water from the sink. Pour the stop bath and fixer into their respective bottles using the funnel, seal and place the bottles in the water in the sink to maintain temperature.

4 - Set the clock ready for the times you require. For FP4+ film, for example, the development time is 10 minutes, plus min. 10 seconds for the stop bath and min. 3 minutus for the fixer. The detailed instruction sheet (see later) gives the different times for the various Ilford films.

5 - Pour the mixed developer in the tank and start the clock. The mixture needs to be agitated at the start and at each minute. This is done by inverting the tank and then tapping gently on the worksurface to dislodge any air bubbles.

6 - About 15 seconds before time's up, start pouring the developer away down the drain and then pour in the stop bath at exactly the end of the development time. This has to be left for at least 10 seconds in the tank, although longer will not cause any problems.

7 - Pour the stop bath back in its bottle using the funnel and then pour the fixer in the tank and agitate as before. This should be in the tank for minimum 3 minutes, but again extra time is not a problem. At the end of the time, pour the fixer back in its bottle as before.

8 - The film then needs to be thoroughly washed. At this stage, not before, the lid can be taken off the tank exposing the film to light. You can use the water in the sink, filling the tank five times and inverting, or with a mixer tap you can use running water at 20C for a few minutes.

9 - Prior to removing the spiral from the tank, add 5ml of wetting agent to the final wash and agitate for a few seconds. Then remove the spiral and carefully take out the end of the film and fit one of the clips. Hang this from a hook or a nail about 2m from floor level and then gently pull the film out from the spiral and put the weight on the bottom end. Finally, use the squeegee with a bowl below to remove excess water and allow the film to dry for an hour or more.

10 - When the film's dry you can cut it into lengths (4 or 5 images for 35mm) and place in negative archiving pockets prior to scanning.

There are several PDF factsheets on the Ilford site, including basic instructions and also advanced techiques for pushing development of under or over-exposed film, and for using different chemicals with different temperatures and dilutions. Click here for the website. The instructions are on the APPLICATIONS link.


Last edited by peterqd on Sun Nov 16, 2008 1:40 pm; edited 8 times in total


PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great Peter!!
Thank you!

I will call you "Peter the Great" ! Laughing


PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio wrote:
Great Peter!!
Thank you!

I will call you "Peter the Great" ! Laughing


Hahaha! Not so great, I messed up the link for Ilford website (now corrected).


PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 5:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks a lot for sharing it, Peter!.

I was trying to remember all the steps, and you have saved me a lot of mental effort Very Happy ...
Thanks for this tutorial, I'm sure I'm going to put it into practice really soon.
Best regards,
Jes.


PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I made this thread sticky
(no I didn't use molassa!) Laughing


PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 8:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Very nice, Peter! Orio, you construction guys put up a storefront purty
fast! Laughing

Bill


PostPosted: Tue Oct 30, 2007 11:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Grrrrr.. Evil or Very Mad

I've been trying for 1? hours to get a 120 film in the spiral. Luckily it's only an old unwanted film, but it's trying my patience to the limit. Time for a cuppa Smile


PostPosted: Wed Oct 31, 2007 1:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

niblue wrote:
peterqd wrote:
Grrrrr.. Evil or Very Mad

I've been trying for 1? hours to get a 120 film in the spiral. Luckily it's only an old unwanted film, but it's trying my patience to the limit. Time for a cuppa Smile


I've developed 35mm film in the past but never 120, however I was thinking about shooting some B&W with my Agfa Record (when it finally arrives!) and developing it myself. Any tips learned for loading the film into the tank (especially given I'll ultimately be doing it in a changing bag) would be gratefully received.


It's amazing what a cup of tea can achieve. I had a bit of a think and suddenly thought of a new way to approach this. Would you believe it, the film went into the spiral like clockwork, first time. After several tries I plucked up courage and tried it with the "live" film and bingo - in it went! I've done the developing this morning and I'll be posting a couple of scans shortly. Steve, I'll make a PDF with a few pics for you.


PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 2:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

GREAT stuff!, Peter.
Thank you.

Starting from scratch is a bit too much for me. All the equipments etc have to be bought. Is there any starting kit that I can try?

cheers
Ed


PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 4:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

With the help of Peter's wonderful tutorial, and with the help of a friend who has the equipment, I have been able to successfully develop b&w for the past month or so! THANK YOU!


PostPosted: Sun Nov 25, 2007 11:43 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

esrods wrote:
GREAT stuff!, Peter.
Thank you.

Starting from scratch is a bit too much for me. All the equipments etc have to be bought. Is there any starting kit that I can try?

cheers
Ed


Speed Graphic whom Peter linked to, do a starter kit for ?73GBP Ed:

http://www.speedgraphic.co.uk/prod.asp?i=8776

This price includes VAT which you won't pay if you live outside the UK or EU by the way, so it'll be a bit cheaper.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 9:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bob955i wrote:

Speed Graphic whom Peter linked to, do a starter kit for ?73GBP Ed:
http://www.speedgraphic.co.uk/prod.asp?i=8776
This price includes VAT which you won't pay if you live outside the UK or EU by the way, so it'll be a bit cheaper.


Is there anything missing in there? Perhaps a second measuring glass like Peter said?
What is the "Film Squeegee"?


PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio wrote:
bob955i wrote:

Speed Graphic whom Peter linked to, do a starter kit for ?73GBP Ed:
http://www.speedgraphic.co.uk/prod.asp?i=8776
This price includes VAT which you won't pay if you live outside the UK or EU by the way, so it'll be a bit cheaper.


Is there anything missing in there? Perhaps a second measuring glass like Peter said?
What is the "Film Squeegee"?


Yes, a few things are missing Orio. I've learnt one or two lessons since I wrote the original article.

Graduated cylinders: The kit has one 600ml, one 300ml and one 45ml. You need two cylinders of adequate size to mix up or measure the full quantity of liquid you need, one for the stop and the fixer and another one dedicated for the developer only (I marked mine with a D with Tippex correcting fluid). 300ml is OK for one 135 film, but 120 film needs 500ml of fluid and two 135 films together need 600ml, so I should have bought two 600ml cylinders, not 300ml. You also need the small 45ml cylinder for measuring the concentrated developer.

The squeegee is a plastic tool with two rubber wipers which wipes off the water from both sides of the film at once. I found you need to be very careful with this not to damage the soft emulsion layer before it dries and hardens, so I don't use it now. I just hang up the film and let it dry by itself, it only takes 30 minutes or so.

Other things not in the kit - a 1L measuring jug is useful, you definitely need a funnel and two accordion bottles for storing the diluted stop bath and fixer for next time, and I've now bought a timer clock instead of using the microwave. Smile A pair of rubber gloves is good too, the chemicals aren't dangerous but they leave a smell on your hands for a while.

I don't think the mixer stick is vital. I just use the thermometer for liquid chemicals, but I think there are some powder chemicals that don't dissolve so easily.

I haven't done any printing for years so I'm out of touch, but besides the enlarger you'll need a masking frame, a straight edge and a cutting board (or a guillotine), three trays for the chemicals, a safe light, print clips and tongs and a bucket of water for washing. I used to use a washing line and some small pegs to hang the prints up to dry, but these days there are better ways I think. A sink is useful but not vital in the darkroom, as you can mix the chemicals and wash the prints in full light. But you'll need a sink (or a loo) to pour away the chemicals when you're finished.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 12:13 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Peter.
Your writings are extremely helpful.
Being a visual guy, however, I really wish I could see someone in action.
Perhaps there might be tutorial videos somewhere, I'll check youtube.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 12:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is this video any good?

http://it.youtube.com/watch?v=Vu0Ul_wsYO8

It looks clear to me because there's the writings. Other videos are only spoken and my understanding of spoken English is limited Sad

What chemical is the "wetting agent"? It says it serves for hard water. The water here is very hard, so I guess I need this agent. Any suggestion on what to buy?

One final question, how is that when the guy reverses the tank, the spool with the film does not fall down?


PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 12:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's another video from same author about loading 35mm and medium format film into the spool:

http://it.youtube.com/watch?v=6SM5p_x4w7A

Man, loading MF film looks like a nightmare...


PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 1:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio wrote:
Is this video any good?

http://it.youtube.com/watch?v=Vu0Ul_wsYO8

It looks clear to me because there's the writings. Other videos are only spoken and my understanding of spoken English is limited Sad

What chemical is the "wetting agent"? It says it serves for hard water. The water here is very hard, so I guess I need this agent. Any suggestion on what to buy?

One final question, how is that when the guy reverses the tank, the spool with the film does not fall down?

Yes, it's very helpful. I do it slightly differently though, if you read my article, as the temperatures drop quite quickly. I fill the sink with water at 21C. Then I make up the fixer and stop bath dilutions in a graduated cylinder, using the water from the sink, and then pour the dilutions into capped bottles. The bottles go into the water in the sink to keep up to temperature while I'm doing other things. Then I mix the developer in the other cylinder, again using water from the sink. This is where the jug comes in useful.

After the chemicals have been used, the developer is discarded but the stop bath and the fixer can be stored back in their bottles with a funnel and used again.

With the final wash, I just take the lid off the tank and take out the top part so I can see the spool, and just leave it under a running tap for 5 minutes, with the occasional agitation by hand.

The tank he's using in the video is the Paterson Universal. There are 6 parts:
1 the main container
2 the plastic lid you see him taking off and putting back on
3 the top part (like a funnel), inside the lid
4 the white spool holding the film
5 a black spindle which pushes into the centre of the spool.

The spindle fits tightly enough in the spool to stop it sliding, and the funnel of the top part goes down inside the spindle to prevent light entering.

6 a separate little plastic probe (you can't see it in the video) which goes down through the hole in the funnel and fits in the spindle. You can use it to twist the spindle and agitate the film and liquid.

The wetting agent is just a non-foaming liquid detergent, you use it as a final wash and it helps the water to run off the film and prevents calcium stains. I use "Ilfotol", from Speed Graphic like the other chemicals. You only need use a tiny amount. I mix it in the jug.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 1:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio wrote:
Here's another video from same author about loading 35mm and medium format film into the spool:

http://it.youtube.com/watch?v=6SM5p_x4w7A

Man, loading MF film looks like a nightmare...


Yep, it ain't easy, and in darkness remember! Smile He makes it look difficult though. Earlier in this thread I found an easier way to do it. I don't bother removing the adhesive tape on the film, I just develop it! Smile


PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 1:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Peter, how do you set the correct water temperature, and keep it, if you don't have a kitchen near you?


PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2008 2:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I use the bathroom. I fill the wash basin with water at 21 or 22C, just slightly warmer than the 20C needed. The extra volume of water in the basin retains its temperature better. If you dont have a sink or basin you could fill a bucket and keep it insulated somehow, or have some hot water close by to top it up if needed. I try to make the air temperature at 21C too, but that might be a bit difficult in your warmer climate. Smile

Temperarture/timing is very important to get right, but you can vary the temperature slightly if you also vary the time accordingly. The Ilford factsheet tells you all about it.


PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 8:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Chemical storing bottles: I am planning to buy 2 of them, of the accordion type. Is 1 liter size each enough, or is it best 2 liter size each?

How long will last one bottle of chemicals of each type that are listed in the original message?


PostPosted: Mon Jun 30, 2008 11:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Orio wrote:
Man, loading MF film looks like a nightmare...

You're just getting used to it after a few loadings ...

The way I learned :

- Make sure to cut rounded corners at the end of the film (helps to slide it in the spool)
- Practice first in daylight with an old film, load and unload a few times;
- Do the same "the Marine way", eyes closed Wink;
- Try to stay calm
- Make sure your first try is not with the roll from that "Once in a Lifetime" shooting session

I never ruined a negative, even 120 film which is harder to load.

Oh, I also used vinegar as a cheap stop bath Smile


PostPosted: Tue Jul 01, 2008 3:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry Orio, I just saw this.

Orio wrote:
Chemical storing bottles: I am planning to buy 2 of them, of the accordion type. Is 1 liter size each enough, or is it best 2 liter size each?

The idea of the accordion bottles is that you squash them down to expel the air in the bottle before you put the cap on (like an old rubber hot water bottle if you ever used one Smile) Air in contact with the chemicals degrades them faster I understand. So you don't want bottles that are too large. The size depends on how many films you'll be developing at the same time. The quantites of fluid needed, using the Paterson Universal tank, are as follows:
One 135 film: 290 ml
One 127 film: 370ml
One 120 or 220 film: 500ml
Two 135 films: 600ml (The films are stacked in the tank)

So unless you're going into industrial production, two 1 litre bottles will be more than adequate.

Orio wrote:
How long will last one bottle of chemicals of each type that are listed in the original message?

This depends on how frequently you are going to be developing. I haven't done very many films and my 1 litre bottle of developer began to crystallise and lose its strength after about a year. I'm using powder developer now as it has a longer shelf life. You only use the diluted developer once and then pour it away.

The undiluted stop and fixer have a much longer shelf life. I'm still using the original (undiluted) chemicals I bought about 18 months ago. The accordion bottles are for storing the diluted mixes. The number of times you can use a mix of each is detailed in the factsheets.


PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2008 6:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Peter, will the Ilford chemicals you suggest, develop any kind of B&W film, or are there limitations?
At current I have a stock of 6-7 Agfa rolls.


PostPosted: Fri Jul 04, 2008 8:56 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yes, I'm sure they will be fine. But you might think about using Rodinal developer instead, as this was originally an Agfa product too.

I only quoted the Ilford chemicals because a) I've used them myself; b) they're available; c) they're easy to use and d) Ilford do some really helpful instructions and product factsheets. There are many different products and it's fun to experiment and use different techniques until you find something you really like. I don't have enough experience yet to make recommendations, I'm sure Andy has a lot more knowledge than me.