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View Full Version : Darkroom: Wheels Of Steel Or Plastic Fantastic?


dcsang
03-20-2006, 05:30
Well, which is it?
Are you processing your film on metal wheels/tanks or are you using plastic "easy" load reels (a la Patterson or AP)?

Feel free to comment if you find a benefit of one over the other.

Cheers
Dave

EDIT: I currently use plastic, which I don't mind, but I've tried steel and I'll be gosh darned diddly-iddly kerfuffled if I can ever figure out how to put the film onto the steel PROPERLY :(

GeneW
03-20-2006, 05:36
I've used both and both are good. Each has its quirks. I'm currently using Patterson tanks and reels and stick with them because they work for me, but I always liked SS tanks and reels too. I think Patterson reels are easier to load in a changing bag.

Gene

24x30
03-20-2006, 05:38
Hm,... the plastic stuff is doing its work at about 100 films per year ... no reason to change.
I use Jobo (15xx series).

/rudi

MinorTones
03-20-2006, 05:41
I'm using steel, but damn I hate it when I get impatient on that last roll and get some negative touching at the end of the roll. I'm not sure who made the tank but the reels are Kalt. The film holder tab inside the reel is really hard to get the film into.

At school we had some that had teeth on the inside of the reel to hold the film on. Anyone know who makes these?

I have a two reel plastic tank with reels, maybe I'll whip them out tonight. They are so much easier to use.

-Mitch

sleepyhead
03-20-2006, 05:42
I've used both. They're just different - each can be gotten used to.

I use stainless steel exclusively now because in the long run they're extremely durable and easy to keep clean - no chemical residues build up. Also, I imagine that temperature conduction through the wall of a steel tank may be more efficient than through a pastic tank wall. This can be a plus or a minus depending on whether you want the tank to act as an insulator or not. I prefer it not to be as when I develope the tank itself sits on a large basin filled with water of the correct temperature, so i want thermoconduction to be efficient.

eric mac
03-20-2006, 05:46
I've switched from Patterson plastic to Hewes steel. I had trouble with jamming with the plastic which I guess is due to the photoflow residue. If I miswind on the steel, it is easier to unwind and start over.

Eric

f/stopblues
03-20-2006, 05:51
I personally like the stainless reels and tanks because they're easy to clean and seem easiest to spool up for me, but I've been using them a while. If you decide to go with them, make sure you get the reels with the little teeth that hook into the film instead of the clippy thing.

Really I think if you get either one and do it for a couple months then it'll become second nature. I'd bet most people still use whatever they learned on. There's no doubt some converts to one or the other, but just in general.

Stephanie Brim
03-20-2006, 06:58
I use plastic. Mainly because of the expense of steel, but also because I've never had trouble with the plastic.

dnk512
03-20-2006, 07:17
I started with Patterson and now use Kinderman. I ruined film with both. The plastic is easier for 35mm the steel is easier for 120. I worry less about cracks and residue with my steel gear. It takes less space, too. Anyone needs any Patterson stuff? I could spare a 2 and a 5 wheel tanks, 6 reels (or so...) and the water hose for continues wash (never used that one... did not fit my faucet). You could cover the shipping by sending me 2-3 rolls of your favorite B&W film and I will ship all the above to you.

amateriat
03-20-2006, 08:57
To paraphrase a bicycling community phrase, plastic can be fantastic, but steel's for real. Way, way back, I worked with the then-new Patterson reels, which I thought were okay. But soon afterward I learned how to properly load those scary-to-me-at-the-time steel reels and never looked back. I now have a "vintage" set of Honeywell/Brooks and Nikor tanks and reels. Barring some silly accident with the reels, this setup will likely outlive me.


- Barrett

wlewisiii
03-20-2006, 09:37
I have been using plastic patterson clone tank and reels from Freestyle. However, I recently found a small stainless tank with two 35mm reels in it for $5 at St. Vinnies, so once I get a second roll of B&W finished, I'll get to learn what they are like.

Of course, I'll still have to use the plastic reels for my 120 until I can afford a steel 120 reel.

William

RayPA
03-20-2006, 09:41
I'm a steel reel guy. I've several beauties, most have been with me for over 25 years. I have a Paterson setup, but just never use it, because I prefer the feel and convenience of ss. However, I understand the frustration that some have experienced with ss reels. It does take practice to load ss reels correctly, and it's a major bummer when things don't go right. To each his own. Film forever!



:)




.

dnk512
03-20-2006, 11:42
MelanieC took me on my offer. If the transaction falls through, I will re-post.

aizan
03-20-2006, 12:35
hewes reels take up film like butter.

whoops, my 1234th post. ok, i'm outta here. :D

Trius
03-20-2006, 17:03
Steel rules, plastic is for wussies. Sorry Gene! :D

einolu
03-20-2006, 17:30
i love the title,
im currently using plastic,
but havent tried steel
so i wont vote...
:)

kmack
03-20-2006, 17:35
Steel, cold hard steel. I find steel easier to load, easier to clean. You can dry them quickly and load more film faster.

taffy
03-20-2006, 18:59
I've used AP plastic reels, generic steel reels, and Hewes steel reels. If the Hewes steel reels weren't so expensive ($20 per reel, last time i checked) , I'd be using those exclusively.

Steel reels are easier to clean becuase chemicals won't stick to them--just douse it with hot water and you're done. They also don't get discolored and (based on my AP plastic reel expericence) they require less chemical (volume-wise) to use bec the system (reels+tank) is smaller. Since they are smaller, they are easier to store. And since they're made of steel, they're quite resistant to elements and I think they'd last longer as long as you don't dent the reels. Plastic reels tend to have a little friction after a while so the rachet mechanisim isn't so smooth sometimes.

BUT i love the Hewes design becuase it makes it SO EASY to spool the film-- perfectly aligned and secure (very minimal error in my experience).

Hope this helps.

Taffy

T_om
03-20-2006, 19:19
There is a reason pro labs used steel reels and tanks for short run stuff that they did not dip and dunk.

Faster to load, more durable, less developer, can be loaded wet... and the list goes on and on.

Tom

Doug
03-20-2006, 19:22
At school we had some that had teeth on the inside of the reel to hold the film on. Anyone know who makes these?Mitch, those are my favorite kind. All my tanks are Kinderman, I think all of my reels are too, including the toothed ones as well. So are my "plain" ones I'm sure, the kind with no spring-clip or toothed recess, just an open spot between two of the four core support posts. The clips give me a bit of problem when I don't center the film properly. I've heard Hewes are good reels too.

I've preferred the Kinderman tanks because of the flexible polymer top, rather than the fitted stainless top of the Nikor tanks. In 40 years of use I don't recall having a Kinderman top fail.

peterc
03-21-2006, 20:47
Steel reels and single and double tanks. Only plastic is my (now never used) HP5 Autowinder reel.

Peter

Honus
03-21-2006, 21:40
Steel.

Stainless Steel.

Black Gold. Texas Tea.

titrisol
03-23-2006, 09:57
I've used both over the years, but plastic is my favorite now... a lot easier to load!

jlw
03-23-2006, 10:29
Faster to load, more durable, less developer, can be loaded wet... and the list goes on and on.

Next thing you know, someone's going to be telling us that processing on steel reels gives your photos an indefinable but indisputable superior "steel look"...

dcsang
03-23-2006, 10:44
Next thing you know, someone's going to be telling us that processing on steel reels gives your photos an indefinable but indisputable superior "steel look"...

Residue build up on my plastic ones sometimes give the negs an idisputable "plastic look"..... just that the look usually involves splotches on the negs :D

That being said, $25 once every 2 years isn't going to kill me for new reels :D

Dave

Stephanie Brim
03-23-2006, 11:27
This weekend my boyfriend is going to get a surprise when I put my reels (all of them) into his dishwasher. :D

kbg32
03-23-2006, 11:49
I hate the plastic reels. Always got air bubbles no matter how I tapped the tank.

Steel is reel!

pesphoto
04-24-2006, 10:20
Steel all the way. I havent used plastic since.....hmmm.......

lushd
04-24-2006, 11:16
Just had my first go at this since the 1980s with steel instead of plastic. Came out well, with but the one crinkle. I like the size, the economy, the durability and the link with my elders who were doing this in the 1930s.

RicardoD
04-24-2006, 11:26
I followed T_om's advice and got some Kindermann reels and tanks. I was so worried that steel reels would be so hard to load. I was surprised to find out how simple it was once I practiced a bit. You can then quickly teach yourself the feel of a properly loaded reel. I think some of the negative comments about steel reels and difficulty to load are a bit exaggerated.

bmattock
04-24-2006, 11:28
NEITHER!

This is the easiest thing in the world:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/luketrash/100347598/

You can find these things for a couple bucks on eBoy. You can get brand-new aprons (the ravioli-looking things) at Freestyle for 99 cents each!

All you have to do is unwind the plastic ravioli. Put the end of your film against it and let it roll up - it will do so on it's own - like a slinky kinda. Just guide it while it does so. Then put the rolled-up apron in the tank. If you have two rolls, put the metal plate in and do the second apron. Put the top on and you're done.

You literally CANNOT do this wrong. No jams, no misfeeds, no crinkled film. EASY! CHEAP!

Pros:

1) You can get aprons (used) for 120/126/127/828/35mm.
2) I dare you to find something easier to use.

Drawbacks:

1) If you buy a tank from Freestyle - only one roll of film per tank.
2) If you use an original Kodacraft tank you buy off eBoy - only two rolls per tank (35mm).
3) If you buy Freestyle aprons new - they only make 35mm and 120/220 aprons nowadays.
4) No top on the original Kodacraft tank - no inversions when you agitate.

If you are a newbie - if you just hate plastic AND stainless steel reels - this is the BEST!

If you are a master with stainless steel or some kinda masochist, then go on, have a ball.

But otherwise - TRY this sometime!

I've tried it - I liked it - I now do not use anything else. Period.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks

nightfly
04-24-2006, 12:00
Hewes steel reels, also sold under other names by B and H (King something?), the ones with the little tabs for 35mm or the spring clip for 120. They work great, last forever, and are easy to dry if you want to do a second batch of film after your first one. So easy.

Plastic is difficult to get bone dry and if you don't it sticks and kinks.

pesphoto
04-24-2006, 12:07
Plastic is difficult to get bone dry and if you don't it sticks and kinks.

True enough. All you need to look out for with steel is dropping them or somehow getting a slight bend in the reel. This makes it a pain to roll it on.

bmattock
04-24-2006, 12:15
True enough. All you need to look out for with steel is dropping them or somehow getting a slight bend in the reel. This makes it a pain to roll it on.

Can't bend the plastic aprons, and you can dry them with a towel. They don't wear out or break.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks

pesphoto
04-24-2006, 12:21
hmmm...Bill, I guess I didnt look too closely at the "lasagna" at first, but it does look pretty easy to deal with. HAve to admit once in a while I get a roll that just gives me headaches to get on a metal reel. But thats maybe 1 in say 50.

kmack
04-24-2006, 12:21
Can't bend the plastic aprons, and you can dry them with a towel. They don't wear out or break.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks
Who da thunk it, an ex Marine tied to an apron.

What a world, what a world.

bmattock
04-24-2006, 12:27
Who da thunk it, an ex Marine tied to an apron.

What a world, what a world.

Former Marine, please. I'm not an ex-Marine until a priest throws dirt on my face.

And only a Marine could make an apron look macho. We class the joint up.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks

pesphoto
04-24-2006, 12:29
Who's to argue with a former Marine? Not I....

bmattock
04-24-2006, 12:34
hmmm...Bill, I guess I didnt look too closely at the "lasagna" at first, but it does look pretty easy to deal with. HAve to admit once in a while I get a roll that just gives me headaches to get on a metal reel. But thats maybe 1 in say 50.

I realize that steel vs plastic is like a religion - you get people defending each side as if it were f vs d wars and no way will one side consider the other, so I'm stepping into the cross fire here.

My suggest is neither one, so maybe I'm not the enemy?

Steel reels can be really easy - for those who have mastered them. And yes, some take to them like a duck takes to water. But those same cannot seem to fathom that others curse and struggle with them.

I guess it's like programming. I try to explain it - but if you don't get it, I guess you're stupid. Obviously, you're not stupid - it just seems too easy to me - how could someone NOT get it?

The same can be said for the devotees of the plastic reels. They just don't 'get' steel reels - why would anyone subject themselves to that masochism tango?

I've had both work so well I think I'll never use the other. I've had both fail miserably and have me wanting to throw my film out and stop home processing.

Never had a problem with the aprons. And they work really well!

So what's the problem?

I don't get it.

Best Regards,

Bill Mattocks

pesphoto
04-24-2006, 12:38
No problem here. As always, each to his /her own right? Ive used plastic, but have just gotten used to the steel so thats what I use. Ive never seen the Aprons before. Its a clever idea.

markinlondon
04-24-2006, 12:44
Paterson plastic for me 'cos that's what they had in the shop when I started. I keep some spare reels around to avoid having to dry them in a hurry.

Mark

lushd
05-19-2006, 11:39
Well - entirely caused by this thread I went and bought a steel tank for 35mm. I am so happy I did. After a bit of practice I can now load a reel much quicker than I could with a plastic type. This forum is a good influence!

Dougg
05-19-2006, 14:31
Good for you, Donald! I think steel is better/easier, but obviously there is room too for other preferences.