Proposed Newbie bathroom developing kit

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by picker77, Mar 10, 2009.

  1. picker77

    picker77 Member

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    I'm an old retired guy with more time than money who wants to develop my own B&W 35mm and 120 films in the bathroom. I want to stick with quality equipment and simple chemicals and procedures (one-shot or reusable with no replenishing). I've read a ton of stuff on getting started, and (surprise) much of the advice for beginners, although well-intentioned, is all over the map. But after some research, I've settled on the following tentative starter "to buy" list:

    - Jobo 1520 tank w/extra reel
    - large changing bag
    - Diafine
    - Ilford Rapid Fixer
    - Arista Flow wetting agent
    - Delta storage bottles
    - misc mixing/measuring containers
    - filter funnel, film clips, etc.
    - lots of distilled water (rural water well with "hard" water)

    I shoot mostly 120 with Zeiss Super Ikonta folders and a Bronica SQ-Am, with some 35mm thrown in from an F100 and some Russian Leica copies I like to play with. I convert everything to digital with VueScan and an Epson V500, and process in Photoshop Elements. The few shots I do print are 8x10 inkjet.

    Does this list sound reasonable to get my feet wet in home B&W processing?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 10, 2009
  2. trexx

    trexx Member

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    The list looks good, I really like the Jobo and it's reels but I think the Arista Premium (5041 at freestyle) tank better as the reel have wide flanges that assist loading 120 and you can invert or spin the twiddle stick that cannot be done in the jobo.
     
  3. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    You'll also need a thermometer. (Maybe that's part of your "etc." in "filter funnel, film clips, etc.")

    Personally, I wouldn't spend money on plastic bottles unless I was in a big hurry; I re-use bottles that used to hold beverages. These are cheap and perfectly adequate. OTOH, if you've got kids in the house, using something that can't be easily mistaken for a soda bottle might be a good idea! Also, check the plastic type; HDPE bottles (recycling symbol #2) are gas-permeable, which is bad for developer longevity. (See here for details.)

    Keep in mind that many of the choices you're facing are personal preference issues (developer type, fixer type, plastic vs. glass bottles, film tank type and brand, etc.). You'll find lots of people proclaiming their personal preferences, but mostly that's what it is, so don't get too hung up on contradictory advice.
     
  4. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    Diafine. Great if you want to shoot Tri-X at 1250 or 1600, and for a couple of other things. Not so great as a general purpose developer. XTOL, D-76, or HC-110 are better choices as general purpose developers. Get some stop bath if you use one of these. Stop bath is not recommended if you use Diafine.

    Distilled water is a must only for mixing up the Diafine from the powders. It is likely not necessary for anything else. Filtering the water, if it has a lot of particulate matter, is probably just as good.
     
  5. tim_bessell

    tim_bessell Member

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    Use care in your choice of changing bag. I had a cheap one and wondered where all the black specks in my developer came from after souping several rolls of 135 film. Finally tracked it down to the bag after using it to ruin several sheet of 4x5 I loaded in it. Sorry, I don't remember the brand, it immediately went in the garbage.

    Along the same topic of getting in the dark, I use gray foam hot water pipe insulation under the doors, works wonderfully!
     
  6. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Looks good to me as well. Little things you might not think of.

    Smallish pair of scissors.
    Wooden clothespins.
    Reliable timer (I have that old red Kodak thing but I keep my cell on me for those in a pinch when 60 year old technology occasionally fail)
    Small source for music. (Nice to have tunes)
    A good container to easily store and cart your gear around in.

    And do not use your fan to move air through the bathroom. In mine it is about as far from dust free as you can get. The first few rolls I did last year have dust on them that need to be cleaned. Use some Photo-Flo or equivalent or even a couple of drops of dish soap in the final wash after rinsing and hang dry.

    And the most important thing to do is to practice loading those rolls. Do it with a roll of fil in broad daylight, looking at it. (You must sacrifice a roll to the gods of practice.) Then once you have that down, do it with you eyes closed. Then do it in the darkroom. Then run through your process a time or two, timing yourself, using water for each stage so you get used to the pouring and agitation and all.

    Have fun.

    Oh, and I wouldn't worry too much about the changing bag if I were you. but that's just me.
     
  7. Fotoguy20d

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    I have a Paterson system something or other tank that I use for 35mm and 120 although I'm about to try out the Jobo. I don't use a changing bag since I have a closet that's light tight. My preference for the HP5 that I shoot most often is D-76 (or Tmax when I'm feeling lazy). On the list of etc items, make sure you have a good way of timing what you're doing - I bought a digital kitchen timer. You'll want at least two measuring beakers (so you aren't worrying about cleaning out one while the film is in the developer) and stirrers. And, a bottle opener for popping the bottom off the 35mm canisters. If you're worried about where your wastewater is going, you'll want something to recover at least the developer and fixer rather than letting it go down the drain - how you get rid of the stuff then is another issue.

    Dan
     
  8. OP
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    picker77

    picker77 Member

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    Thanks for all the tips so far. I'm still sorta up in the air about the Diafine. Read a lot of good things about it's "forgiveness" on temp, agitation, and development time, it's never-ending shelf life, etc., and not having to use a stop bath sounded good to me. In general Diafine sounded a little more failsafe for a beginner than some of the others. My local dealer doesn't stock much in chemicals, but at least keeps D76 and most other general Kodak stuff.

    I shoot at mostly box ISO speeds, from 100-400. 60 year old mechanical shutters aren't very compatible with pushing speeds, mine max out at around 1/300, and I do mean "around". :smile: And although the Zeiss lenses are generally extremely sharp, they still do best between f/5.6 and f/11. Shooting at 1600 or whatever would be problematic and doesn't seem worth it. I just want good balanced, sharp negatives shot at box or box + 1 stop speeds. Since I scan everything I can work with them if need be after that.
     
  9. mgb74

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    I assume the changing bag is because your bathroom may not be light tight. Make sure it's really large enough for loading the tank.

    I personally don't see the benefit of the Jobo for hand processing. I think other less expensive tanks are perfectly acceptable. The extra (2nd) reel is handy as plastic reels cannot be loaded when wet (at least the ones I've tried). HC110 is handy as an all purpose developer that can be mixed in small quantities and lasts long.

    If you're going to use scissors inside the changing bag, kid's "safety" scissors are nice. I use a plastic-framed pair with blunt ends. I think bottles the same volume as your tank are handy. I mix fixer and stop bath with distilled water and reuse a set number of times.

    I didn't see a thermometer (for developer temp) in your list.

    Depending on location, a check of Craigslist may be worthwhile.
     
  10. ntenny

    ntenny Member
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    Diafine is a really good tool to have in the box, but I don't think very many people use it as an "everyday" developer. HC-110 is the obvious recommendation for ease of use (use a syringe to measure the syrup, don't mess with making up a stock solution).

    This may be heresy, but I've never used a thermometer. The temperature in the bathroom I use as a darkroom is pretty stable at just about 68 F, and I keep everything at room temperature.

    Add to the list a few rags for the inevitable spills. If the bathroom has no windows, you may well be able to make it adequately light-tight with a towel at the base of the door---much less of a pain than working in a changing bag.

    Negative sleeves and a Sharpie to label them with.

    The timer is a bigger deal than it sounds like, even for tank processing where in theory you could just use your watch. "OK, I started at 40 seconds past the minute, and I'm going for 7:45, so that's, um, 25 seconds after, so I start agitating at 15 seconds after, and I'm done at...oh, crap, did I start two minutes ago or three?"---it's a whole lot easier to just have a timer that starts when you do. It doesn't need to be a dedicated photo timer---any old stopwatch should do the job.

    -NT
     
  11. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    HC110 was my beginning dev of choice and it is very easy to work with. I have recently begun to use freestyle's Arista films in 135 roll, 120 roll and 4x5 sheet. So I stocked up on some Arista chems as HC110 Dil B would put developing at under five minutes and thus make contrast difficult to control. 'Course I could mess with different dilutions and times, etc.
     
  12. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Syringes for measuring baby medicines are available in most drug stores, at least in the US. These syringes don't take needles, so they're useless to IV drug users. I've got two.

    I've got a pair of 3-time kitchen timers. These are great, since I can set three separate times on each, so I can set up the times before I begin and then just press a couple of buttons whenever I start a new step and watch the timer count down. Sadly, digital timers tend to konk out after a while; the wet chemicals get inside them and gum up the electronics. Opening them and cleaning can help extend their lives, but sooner or later they die completely.
     
  13. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    I've got a couple of the single time kitchen timers. Get 'em from Wal-Mart and I didn't pay more than $10 for either one. They're going on a more than couple of years now and seem to run nearly forever on a singe "AAA" battery. I am careful to not let them get wet.

    For a thermometer, the simple kitchen thermometers like this one from Target http://www.target.com/Taylor-Commer...&index=target&rh=k:kitchen thermometer&page=1 seems to work well for me. It can be calibrated to a good known source, and once done, holds its calibration quite well. It is certainly accurate enough for B&W work. I've even used it for E-6 and C-41 color processes with good results. Careful not to let the head get wet. That will surely cause it to fail in short order.
     
  14. EdColorado

    EdColorado Member
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    I'm surprised no one else has mentioned this, but perhaps they don't believe in it? Lots of different views on this but if the Diafine was a choice because of it not needing stop bath then use what you want, and use a water stop. I soup most of my film in HC110 and never use a chemical stop bath, just flush the film with water. Works fine, no problems and especially no problems that you can get from using stop bath in the first place.
     
  15. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Hey, Ed. DO you have to shorten development slightly using a water stop to account for the retard stopping action? Or do you just do it.
     
  16. MattKing

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    I've a similar recommendation, except that I find it easier to protect the head of the thermometers that have a probe on the end of a cable. They are of similar cost ($14.99 seems to be a popular price point) and of similar utility.

    I calibrate mine against a Kodak process thermometer 3 - I find the contrast amusing :smile:.

    Matt

    P.S. Another vote here for HC110, although I do mix up smaller volumes (16 oz) of stock solution, because I do find it difficult to measure very small volumes of the original concentrate.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 11, 2009
  17. ntenny

    ntenny Member
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    Veterinary catalogs (I like KV Vet, but there are a bunch of them) are a good source for larger quantities, too. The plastic syringes cost pennies apiece and come in sizes down to 1cc (the smaller the syringe, the more accurately you can measure). I suppose one could ream out the tip a little bit for easier aspiration of syrups.

    They're really useful if you get into home-brewing developers, too. It's a lot easier to draw off so-and-so-many ccs of stock into a syringe than to pour a precise amount into a grad, especially with a viscous solution. (Phenidone keeps well in propylene glycol, which is kind of a bearcat to pour precisely, for instance.)

    -NT
     
  18. Fotoguy20d

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    I'm very intolerant of the acid stop so I stopped using it years ago. I've never really had an issue with D-76 or Tmax developer. Depending on how long the development time is in the first place, I might compensate slightly for the extra processing time.

    Dan
     
  19. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    It was mentioned earlier but I want to restate this. Those little plastic baby 10cc syringes that you can pick at your local pharmacy. Man, they work wonders. For roll film I mix 16 ounces of each (I have one syringe for HC110 syrup and another for my Stop). Then either I one shot it or use it all day, as long as I'm not processing more than about seven or eight rolls. After that, chemical exhaustion can become a factor.
     
  20. OP
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    picker77

    picker77 Member

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    As usual, what I planned isn't what I ended up with. Instead of the 1500 series tank I now have (or soon will have) a new Jobo 4342 kit (2551 tank, two 2509n reels, and a sheet loader) AND a used but good condition Jobo "Multitank2" consisting of a 2523 tank and two 2502 reels. This should allow me to cover the waterfront up through 4x5 depending on how many reels/sheets I want to process, since I can do 4x5, 35mm, or 120 in either tank, depending on the combination I need at the moment. I will run them on a Beseler motor base. Now I just have to sort out the rest of the kit.

    I also ended up with what appears to me to be the cat's rear end in changing tents (as long as you don't want to carry it around). It's a Fuji fold-up type, easily folds out to a huge more or less square size, has long sleeves with double elastic. I've used it so far for loading/unloading 4x5 holders and it's great, has gigantic working room inside. Unfortunately, it weighs about 15 pounds. It does fold up nice and flat with a carry handle. Very clever design even if it is heavy, but for home use it's just great.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 28, 2009
  21. mhcfires

    mhcfires Member

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    I use 60 mL enteral syringes. They have a catheter tip. Can't take a needle. They are great for measuring HC-110. I also use 10 mL syringes. As for a timer, I have an old Heathkit PT-1500 darkroom timer which has served me well for probably thirty years.
     
  22. Jeff Searust

    Jeff Searust Member

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    Some people love Diafine some don't, some use it for special stuff, I use it as an everyday developer. 2 quart bottles and a quart mix of Diafine can be used for 20 or so rolls --- the part A of Diafine seems to disappear at a little less than an ounce a roll for me, but your numbers may vary. -- I also suggest a string or something across the shower from the shower head to the other end of the tub, and I like binder clips for hanging film. -- Make sure photo-flo is on your list of goodies also.
     
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