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Kodak Film Tank question

Shalom Septimus , May 05, 2008; 10:21 p.m.

I'm getting back into B&W developing, which I haven't done in about 15 years. I don't have a darkroom, so I've been using a changing bag for loading my reel. (Yes, I have exactly one reel, an ancient Fedco that I picked up on that auction site because it's wide enough for 116 film.)

I've also got a Kodak Film Tank, for wider stuff than even that: I've got a few rolls of 122, one of which I shot, that I'd like to develop. Now the instructions that came with this unit say to wind the film onto the apron *with the backing paper*, and then you can open the box and remove the apron in normal room light. This is important because the tank that comes with it has no way to add chemicals without opening the lid, so the apron has to be lightproof.

Thing is, this destroys the backing paper. I want to salvage that paper on the off-chance that I find any wide film to respool onto it. So, I was going to stick the whole apparatus, wooden box and all, into the changing bag and load the film onto the apron without the backing paper. My question then is, how light-proof is that apron if the backing paper isn't there? Will I have to pour the developer into the can inside the bag, (Rather not do that, it promises to be a messy job.) or can I still load it in daylight?

Is there anyone with experience with this obsolete piece of equipment who can advise me?

Thanks, Shalom


John Shriver , May 05, 2008; 10:34 p.m.

I suspect that you will find that the opaque apron in the Kodak Film Tank is quite likely to shatter into shreds when you try and unwind it. If not, it should be opaque enough, but I would certainly do it in low light. You will need to use a developer with low activity, to have any hope of even modestly uniform development. Realize that this tank was from when films were developed to much higher contrast indexes than today.

Also, the modern paper is way too water tight, being plasticised on the inside, so you can't follow the original technique. (Presuming you have Verichrome Pan.)

The ideal solution is to get a Nikor 24 ounce tank, and the Nikor 122 reel. But the latter is scarce as hen's teeth. I suppose one could cut a 20 exposure 35mm reel in half, and lengthen the four rods with stainless steel tubing and epoxy. (But don't try that with a 120 reel, not enough turns of the spiral.) It might be easier to make a plastic spool wider, if you can get PVC pipe of the right diameter.

The classic darkroom way is to hold each end of the film in a film clip, hold the film in a U, and "see saw" through a large bowl of developer.

You can re-spool with 105mm microfilm, but it will need to be slit down to a narrower width. Film for Classics probably can sell you lengths of the film already slit, since they have a hard time sourcing spools and paper. But it's awfully slow film, and hard to develop to low contrast.

Randall Ellis , May 06, 2008; 08:34 a.m.

I second the see-saw method - it does work despite it's uncomplicated nature. Vintage gear is very interesting, and quite tempting to try to use, but it often has not fared the test of time very well and, sadly, an attempt to use something without restoration is likely to disappoint. Besides, this will allow you to save the backing paper for re-spooling later (save those spools too!)

- Randy

Daniel Goodale-Porter , May 06, 2008; 09:45 a.m.

Shalom, John,

I recently made a pretty wonderful discovery. Although the wide 122 roll film reels from the 30's are long gone, they still make modern ones! The nondestructive testing industry still uses these wide film formats for x-raying welds and pipes. Here is a link to the folks I bought my new reels from.


The reels are made of heavy plastic and load like the steel spirals your use to. The 70mm reel can be used for 116 film (or 70mm reloads). The 90mm will work for the 122 film. They also have a 100mm reel, but I'm not sure if they ever made You will still have to solve some problems as these are not standard reels. Each will hold 13 feet of film and are about 6.5 inches in diameter. You will have to jury rigg a tank. I'm using a gallon pitcher and developing in a dark room. For handier folks, I guess you can made one. Best part is the price!

I like the big size as I don't bother with backing paper (the "cover the red window and count the turns" school) and you can wind a lot of film on the spools.

Clay L , May 06, 2008; 04:37 p.m.

Thanks for the link Daniel, just what I was lookin for ! I still use the old 1950's Kodak day-load tank with fixed reel and 2 Kodacraft tanks with aprons that are getting brittle. I started with the two-clip see-saw method in a tray of developer in the 1950's !


Shalom Septimus , May 07, 2008; 10:17 p.m.

Thanks for all your responses.

@John: The thing's still pretty supple, although I wouldn't try bending it around any corners. (Just occurred to me, given that this was made about 1932 by the date in the manual, I wonder if that's a nitrate base...?) I can't do the see-saw thing without a darkroom, there's not enough room in the bag. As for developing, all I have at the moment is HC-110. I've been using it at dilution H as this lets me use longer developing times; would that qualify as "low activity"?

@Daniel: Thanks for this link. I remember coming across it once and forgetting about it. For the tank, a cooking pot of the right diameter would probably serve, as long as it has a tight lid. If you wanted to get fancy, you could even drill a hole in the lid (and epoxy on an S-shaped piece of pipe for a light trap) so you could add water or other chemicals without opening it.

The most exciting thing is, if they make reels in that size, it means *someone* must be making film stock in that size. Even if it is only X-ray film. Is there any way to develop X-ray film in HC-110 and get anything useful out of it?


Robert Meyer , May 15, 2008; 09:15 a.m.

I have one of these tanks and tried to use it to develop 122 film. I had taken fresh 5" aerial film and cut it down. I used old (1970's vintage) backing paper for the film in the camera. When I used the tank I removed the backing paper to save it for reuse (I think that's what the original instruction book said, but I don't have it here to check it). The apron with my tank was still flexible, so I expected good results. I loaded the tank in dark and always changed the chemicals in the dark. I only turned the lights on when the tank was closed. The bottom line is that I got terrible results. In many places the apron had pressed against the film hard enough that development and rinsing were poor. After that I always see-saw the film through chemicals in a deep tank made for 4x5 sheet film (in the dark).

Shalom Septimus , May 22, 2008; 10:25 p.m.

Well, I tried it myself.

It didn't work. Damn it. I have a feeling that it might have come out OK, except I forgot one important step: I didn't remember that you have to tape the loose end of the film to the other end of the backing paper. This not having been done, the film wound on the apron "inside out", and I developed the backing paper instead of the negative, which came out partly clear and partly undeveloped due to the emulsion side sticking to the paper. The undeveloped bits I probably could have redeveloped, except that naturally once I opened the can, whatever was there got fogged. Had I opened it in the changing bag, it might have been salvageable; except that the only way I'd know that this happened was to look at it, by which time it would have been too late.

So now I have basically wasted one roll of irreplaceable film: the images weren't that important, it was just a scratch roll to see if the camera functioned at all, but the filmstock isn't made anymore.

(I've also ruined about a quart each of Kodafix and hypo clear, because with all that tan coloration and black crud floating around in it, basically 72 years worth of oxidation that all came off the reel/tank/apron at once, I don't think that it's worth trying to reuse it. I did notice that one end of the reel was actually brass, once all the crud came off. The apron is cracking a little bit at the edges near the end, but got nice and supple once it was wet. It stank, though... nitrate based celluloid, perhaps?)

I might try this again someday, once I have a reliable source of film to play with; there's a guy on e*ay who is building a film slitter, who might be cutting 122 stock again. At least the backing paper will be reusable, once it dries.

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