Bulk loading without a bulk loader

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by BetterSense, Feb 19, 2009.

  1. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    This might be a silly idea, but the marginal cost savings of bulk loading are actually pretty slim when you start calculating how long they take to cover the price of a bulk loader. But if you could get free cartridges from a local minilab, and could eschew the bulk loader, there would be instant savings, other than the risk of ruining a big roll of film through clumsiness. It would seem possible to open the film can, pull off a meter or so of film, cut it, then tape it to the cartridge and wind it up, all in total darkness. Yes, this is extreme cheapskate territory here, but it seems with some clothespins, tape preparation, etc it might not be that bad.
     
  2. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    ...or you could buy Arista Premium (Kodak Plus-X and Tri-X) for $2 a roll while you save your pennies for a bulk loader. They also turn up all the time used for cheap.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 19, 2009
  3. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Most 35mm carts that you could get from a lab will be painstakingly difficult to use for bulk loading as these days most carts that contain retail film self destruct upon opening.

    Also, every time you handle the roll dirt and crud will magically adhere to the film you are loading. It won't take long to pay for the loader in time spent spotting or simply pulling out your hair.

    You should be able to find a used bulk loader and or carts local to you on craigs or a garage/estate sale for about $5.
     
  4. archphoto

    archphoto Member

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    Thats the way I did it 20 years back with Tri-X.....

    Nowaday's I have to roll my own films for the Minolta 16 and Edixa 16, both are pre 110 and use 16mm film.

    Peter
     
  5. David William White

    David William White Member

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    I'm with you. I started off buying those dinky 30 meter rolls and dropped them into my bulk loader (I have 2), but I've picked up larger rolls in the past year or so. I worked out a scheme with two lazy susans to go from my 600 meter rolls down to 30 meter rolls to get them into my bulk loader, but it has occurred to me that this is geekiness. The last 10 rolls or so, I just spooled off armlengths and rolled them up into canisters and got on with it.

    2F/2F's point is well taken but in my case I'm shooting rolls for less than 25 cents, and it's just the 35mm hack-around stuff, not for wedding photographs or for exhibition or anything.
     
  6. jolefler

    jolefler Member

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    I'm doing it!

    Without too much hassel, either. Granted, most of my film gets loaded into FILCA cassettes for my Leicas, but I still need to feed a couple of more modern 35mm cameras.

    For the more modern cameras, I DO use factory cassettes rescued from my local lab. Trying not to bend it too much, I pry the protruding spool end cap off the cassette. I widen the crimp in the end cap slightly (with a jewelers flat screwdriver tip), so that it'll snap back on the cassette firmly. Peel the old tape/film end off the spool & you're ready to load. I use them half a dozen or so times, then head back to the lab for more freebies.

    I like 12 exposure rolls because they're out of the camera faster, so I have a 26 inch (that's for 12x with an LTM sized leader) length marked with tape on the dry table of the darkroom. I don't take the bulk spool out of the plastic bag EVER! Just pull off the correct length, snip with scissors and tape it to the spool. Make sure your emulsion side is correct and you wind in the right direction (holding the spool by the protruding end in your right hand, wind the film with a counterclockwise motion with your right hand fingers). I wind up the film then put the spool back in the cassette with the leader sticking out of the light trap. Snap on the cap, MAKE SURE YOUR BULK ROLL IS BACK IN THE CAN, then turn on the lights. Easy,peasy.

    For a 36X roll the distance between your outstretched arms is close enough.

    Keep those bulk loaders...a waste of time, money and space. :surprised:

    Jo
     
  7. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    I have done this in the past. Vaccuum the place you plan on reloading the day before. See if you can talk the minilab guy out of a set of his old used cotton gloves they are ready to ditch and vaccuum them clean as well, or wash them first if really gross. Wear them to keep fingerprints off the film as you handle it.

    I put tape marks on a counter top to tell me how much film to pull off; I hate exposing 39 expsures and then trying to deal with the 4 exposures that won't fit on my 7x5 neg file storage system pages.

    I did this for the first 100' roll of tri-x I shot from loading in my own facility. I can still identify it, because I loaded the film 'upside down' so the exposure sequence ion the negative edge decreases as the film was advanced though the camera.
     
  8. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy Subscriber

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    I'm yet to see this from any of the cartridges I've gotten from labs. Eveything I've received is solid and has been a breeze to use for bulk loading.

    Perhaps the people I collect from are smart enough to not give me the exploded ones though. I do collect from a local pro place, and not a mini-lab staffed by disinterested teenagers.
     
  9. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Could be the film I use. The factory ones always seem to explode on me.
     
  10. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I also would not use factory cassettes that have been opened. However, a worry-free way to reload factory cassettes is to shoot a bunch of your own factory-spooled film, and keep them intact. Instead of popping the end off when you go to process, use a leader retriever and cut off the film, leaving a short length connected to the spool. (Some labs do this routinely instead of opening cassettes, in which case, I would have not problem using their cassettes.) Instead of taping your bulk film to the spool like normal with bulk loading, tape it to the length of film that you left protruding. I used 1 in. gaffer tape torn down a smidge for this the few times I bulk loaded, though I imagine many tapes will work. An added benefit of this is that your film looks no different than factory film, so you don't need to make labels or anything.
     
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    BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    That's what my everyday minilab does. Only the really difficult ones do they pop the end off. They said I could have as many free ones as I want. I'd have to buy a leader retriever though I guess.
    I was actually planning on bulk loading the Arista Premium! It's only about $1.60 a roll in bulk.
     
  12. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    I have a rig for loading film in the dark without a proper loader, an Alden 74, and a Bobinquick Jr. from Freestyle Sales. The Bobinquick Jr. makes the process as fun as watching the Gravity Works siphon washer cleanse your film. The Bobinquick is fast, and with it the final frame on your film has never seen the light until your camera lets it—totally worth the money.
     
  13. Sjixxxy

    Sjixxxy Subscriber

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    Ahh, are you talking in terms off removing the end and sealing it back up after loading? I just get the ones that have the leftovers of the old film hanging out and just tape the new bulk film to it and wind it back in.
     
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  15. aluk

    aluk Member

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    Ahh...but you still need to make sure that the film inside corresponds to what's printed on the canister, otherwise you could be in for some trouble later on...
     
  16. GCP

    GCP Member

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    Hey, Why fidget this-a-way? I just saw loaders on ebay range $5 to $10. It's nice to have a few of these. You can get loads of empty spools at costco for free and go fidget with tape that-a-way
     
  17. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Welcome to Cheapskate Territory, Better. I have bulk loaded for going on fifty years and have never owned a bulk loader. I have two sets of push pins along the darkroom door jam to use to measure the lengths needed for two lengths of film. Be sure the felt traps of your cassettes are clean; blow them out with canned air and put them in regular positions with the spools and the end caps on you work surface so they can be found easily in the dark. Put the pre-cut lengths of tape along the edge of the work surface. Put the scissors in your back pocket when not being used. And be sure to rewrap your major roll and put it back in the container before you turn on the lights. Have fun.
     
  18. Larry.Manuel

    Larry.Manuel Member

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    One downside to using my Alden bulk loader [and I can't see different brands solving this problem]: the first 2 inches of film wound onto the spool are exposed to light. This means that the last frame is usually ruined, as it has already been exposed. If I want that exposure, I have to be sure to re-take it when I reload. Conclusion: I may use my bulk loader in the dark, or return to loading by hand in the dark bag.

    You may find an even greater saving in buying Eastman [Kodak] B&W motion picture film in 400 foot rolls. Search for Plus-X [#5231] and Double-X [#5222] and Hawkeye [#2485]. Lots of good info at this RFF thread: http://tinyurl.com/DoubleX Usually the shipping cost is the fly in the ointment for non-US residents.

    My initial results of 5231 developed in D76 1+3 are excellent.
     
  19. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You can find a secondhand bulk loader for cheap, and it's a good idea to buy new cartridges, which will be clean and have fresh light traps. Using minilab cartridges one released a loose thread into the shutter of my Canon New F-1 resulting in an expensive repair. Haven't used minilab cartridges since, and no problems.

    It's not hard to bulkload without a loader. I've done it in a dark bathroom using two pieces of tape on the wall to measure the film. Be careful not to lose track of which is the emulsion side in the dark, so you don't have to re-roll when you turn on the lights and see the emulsion on the wrong side of the leader.
     
  20. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    This goes without saying. You'd have to be very self abusive to load Tri-X into a Plus-X cassette without notation. My suggestion was to load Tri-X into Tri-X cassettes and Plus-X into Plus-X cassettes.
     
  21. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    You can buy reloadable cassettes from most of the usual mail order stores. You should use them rather than trying to salvage regular film cassettes. They will probably give you about 50 years of service and will be easy to reuse. You don't really need a bulk film loader to load your own bulk film. You can use a darkroom or a changing bag, as long as you are careful to avoid scratches. The only problem is that you have no idea of the number of exposures you are loading. That usually isn't a problem. You just wind film onto the spool until it's full (about 40 exposures, cut off the big roll with some slack for a leader, and stuff it into the cassette. If you want to be more exact, you can cut some pieces of string to the right lengths for 12, 24, and 36 exposures (roughly 27, 45, and 63 inches) and use them to measure the length of film from the reel for each roll.
     
  22. OP
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    BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I actually acquired two bulk loaders in the recent epic craigslist darkroom buy-out of 2009. I still might load in the darkto prevent the last frame from being wasted.

    By the way, one thing I thought about bulk loading--are there no frame numbers on bulk film? It seems like all the 35mm film I've paid attention to actually has frame numbers in the sprocket area. I might miss them.
     
  23. David William White

    David William White Member

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    There are frame numbers on the 100 ft. rolls, at least on Ilford and Kodak. Up to 99 (?) & will repeat, but quite sufficient for correlating your contact sheets with individual frames. Larger 400 ft. motion picture stock has no frame numbers.
     
  24. sagai

    sagai Member

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    Fairly old topic, however I have just noticed sparks upon removing medical tape from the negative to reinstate its location on the re-loadable canister.
    Seems there is electricity there to watch out.
    Well, also light that is the more trouble source during bulk loading in darkroom.
     
  25. Xmas

    Xmas Member

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    You can get a flash with the adhesive tape used on 120 film, never noticed any fogging though.
     
  26. Saganich

    Saganich Subscriber

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    The local lab on York and 71st went from handing me too many cans to carry to none in about 5 years. I then noticed recently that bulk TriX was more expensive than single roles of 36 exposure by about $30 when accounting for actual number of rolls per 100 ft. So for the first time in about 20 years I stopped bulking loading.