Hints & Tips

Unspooling & Spooling

Although I have a darkroom spooling up 400ft of film can be rather tedious and monotonous. I prefer to use a changing bag to get 4 x 100ft lengths onto 100ft bulk film cores and cans. I usually do in front of the TV as it passes the time, especially if you can watch a good movie! 

1.So you have your 400ft can of Double-X but no darkroom in which to unspool the film into either 35mm cassettes or a 100ft bulk loader. All you need is a film changing bag, the larger the better but any changing bag will do. It is worth sacrificing a roll of film to work out the length you will need for either option. Put your sacrificial film cassette in the changing bag and put you arms in the bag.Grasp the cassette in one hand and the end of the film in the other hand, now spread you hands as far apart as the bag will allow them to go. Count one. Leave the hand holding the cassete where it is at the edge of the bag, release the film with the other hand and grab the film again where it exits the cassette and spread apart again. Repeat and count until you cannot pull out any more film.You now have a rough idea how much film to pull off the master reel for one cassette. It should be around 64-65 inches for a 36 exposure roll. Although I have a darkroom I prefer to do it in my changing bag, pull off around a 100ft of film and put it in the bulk loader whilst I watch a good movie. You will be surprised how quickly you can make up 20 cassettes of film!I use reloadable metal cassettes but you can use old film cassetes as long as there is around half an inch of film still hanging out the slot. Just attach your length of new film to the old film using masking tape and re-wind the length of film into the cassette.
2.Tom Abrahamsson shows – here in daylight – how he loads an IXMOO-cassette in the total darkness of his darkroom: How to load an IXMOO Cassette
3.Here’s another method by John OKeefe-Odom (agxphoto), again done in daylight, to show how it’s done: Hand Loading Bulk Film 35mm

Changing Bags 

One important point is to use a good quality cotton/duck changing bag. I have found that the nylon/man made fibre ones have problems with static electricity which tends to attract the dust onto the film and they can get damp and sweaty if your hands are in there for awhile!

I have found a good source for heavy duty cotton changing bags but I must stress I have no interest or affiliation with the seller I am just a very satisfied customer having bought three different sizes from Roger over the last few years.

They are machine washable and very sturdy. One tip turn the bag inside out and give it a low temperature wash before you use it. DO NOT USE FABRIC SOFTNER – just a gentle cool wash with a little detergent. 

Roger Luo sells different sized changing bags via EBay.

Useful film lengths: 

ExposuresNominal Film Length (millimeters / inches) 
12722 mm/28.43 in
15836 mm/32.91 in
201026 mm/40.39 in
241178 mm/46.38
271292 mm/50.87 in
281330 mm/52.36 in
361634 mm/64.33 in