Tips for loading 120 onto Paterson reels
Old 11-01-2019   #1
PunkFunkDunk
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Tips for loading 120 onto Paterson reels

Hi there. Despite shooting and developing 120 film off an on for the past 20 years, I am still struggling with loading rolls onto Paterson reels. My success rate is 50/50 in that every second roll will suffer some damage to some or all frames (creases mostly), which is not ideal obviously. Despite trying all sorts of tips (ensuring my reels are clean and very very dry; ensuring the ball bearings are loose; loading from the inner end of the roll; snipping off the corners; loading with chilled film after a spell in the fridge; etc), I still can not get the hang of it. Whereas with 135 I can expertly load roll after roll with ease. I suspect the main culprit is that I have no option but to use a film change bag and here in Australia the high level of humidity and high temperatures (especially this time of year) make hands and film sticky in the bag quickly. Other than switching to metal reels (I have so many Paterson reels that I really would prefer to stick with the system) are there any tips on offer for ending this tedious and ongoing disappointment? It annoys me so much that I am thinking of selling off my medium format gear and staying with 35mm just because it seems so wasteful in time and money to always loose images (or ruin great negs with damage) ... thanks in advance.
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Old 11-02-2019   #2
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Plastic reels are very, very hard to load with 120 film because of the thinner film base. 35mm films are coated on a thicker base than 120 films are, which helps keep the film stiff and thus easier to push into the plastic reel.


I have always found metal 120 reels MUCH easier to load than any plastic reels. If I were you, I would get a metal tank and reels for 120. Even if you prefer plastic for 35mm; use metal tanks and reels for 120.
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Old 11-02-2019   #3
Sarcophilus Harrisii
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PunkFunkDunk View Post
Hi there. Despite shooting and developing 120 film off an on for the past 20 years, I am still struggling with loading rolls onto Paterson reels. My success rate is 50/50 in that every second roll will suffer some damage to some or all frames (creases mostly), which is not ideal obviously. Despite trying all sorts of tips (ensuring my reels are clean and very very dry; ensuring the ball bearings are loose; loading from the inner end of the roll; snipping off the corners; loading with chilled film after a spell in the fridge; etc), I still can not get the hang of it. Whereas with 135 I can expertly load roll after roll with ease. I suspect the main culprit is that I have no option but to use a film change bag and here in Australia the high level of humidity and high temperatures (especially this time of year) make hands and film sticky in the bag quickly. Other than switching to metal reels (I have so many Paterson reels that I really would prefer to stick with the system) are there any tips on offer for ending this tedious and ongoing disappointment? It annoys me so much that I am thinking of selling off my medium format gear and staying with 35mm just because it seems so wasteful in time and money to always loose images (or ruin great negs with damage) ... thanks in advance.
There are some good tips mentioned in this thread but you are already onto the need to keep reels clean and dry, the importance of which can't be overstated. Still, you may get some helpful information so it's well worth a read.

I completely appreciate the difficulties you've mentioned loading Paterson reels inside a changing bag. It's how I usually load my own and, yes, excess humidity inside the bag can make the process purgatory.

How you can address this does depend on your living arrangements. I'm in Tasmania so for many months of the year I have it fairly easy, but temperatures here over summer can easily exceed 30C. I always try not to load reels on really hot days but if it is warm I'll always direct the air conditioner at me to keep me cool. If I'm cooler it helps reduce perspiration and, hence, moisture levels inside the bag.

Washing your arms and hands with soap and cold water immediately prior to loading can help, too. It cleans the pores out and gives you a few critical extra minutes, before you begin to perspire and the interior of the bag becomes too moist.

One idea I mention in the linked thread can certainly help—running a pencil nib around the spirals to get a thin coat of graphite onto them. Sometimes it can make all the difference.

Don't give up quite yet. When conditions are cooler I can often slide a roll of 120 into the spirals with my thumb and fingers holding the film edges (no use of the balls at all). And if I have two or more film types needing the same development I'll often load two rolls into a single reel. So reasonably painless loading onto Paterson reels can be done.
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Old 11-02-2019   #4
Iain W
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Living in the Adelaide Hills I am also lucky to have a cooler climate and don't have issues with humidity. Having worked in darkrooms in my younger years loading 120 rolls can be tricky and as you have found 120 film damages easily. It might be worth sacrificing a roll of 120. Use this as a practice roll. Practice loading in the light. It might give you an idea why the film is snagging on the spool. As a rule, I always remove the paper backing and tape plus snip the corners prior to loading onto reels. Just another thought have you tried a new Paterson reel. I have Paterson reels that are only used for 120 film. Some seem to work better than others.
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Old 11-02-2019   #5
Larry Cloetta
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Don’t give up just yet. You already have most of the bases covered, as described in your first post. Over and above what you already mentioned, I have found that these reels are much easier to load for 120 film. https://www.freestylephoto.biz/55043...eveloping-Reel
Much easier. However, once I made some fairly subtle changes to the way I was holding the film both on the initial insertion and during the feed, I got to the point where it is almost as easy and quick to use the Paterson 120 reels. Draw the film in initially, thumb underneath pushing center of film up slightly, index, middle and ring fingers on top of film making sure there is a nice gentle and even slight curvature of the film as you draw it into the guide channels and over the balls. Don’t push it in. If you are getting crimps, that’s going to be something related to how you are holding your hands either on insertion or how you hold your hands on the subsequent feed. It should go fast enough that the humidity won’t matter that much. I know this description is so vague that it might be useless to you, but changing the way I held the film made 120 pretty much as easy as 35mm. Sorry I can’t describe it well. If film isn't feeding in smoothly and rapidly, it will likely be kinking, which is what you are getting now, and that’s more of a hand technique issue than a humidity issue in all likelihood. Short of remedying that, the Arista type reels are much easier to load than the Paterson reels for 120, so those are worth a try, and work in the Paterson tank.
If none of that works for you, just get the Ars-Imago Lab Box daylight loader for 120 film and dispense with the whole changing bag, reel and tank system altogether. That works.
Giving up medium format seems too desperate and too big a loss. Good luck.
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Old 11-02-2019   #6
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Freezers are cold. If you can't bring the changing bag to the freezer, bring the freezer to the changing bag. I found that putting a tub of ice into the changing bag helps to an extent. The ice condenses the humidity if the temperature is below the dew point, and it cools the interior of the bag. It is not a total solution, but it does help. The other is that I gave up on Paterson reels for 120. Now I use plastic reels that have large shelves where the film goes in, to make it easier to get the film started, and took out the ball bearings. Then instead of twisting the reels back and forth to work the film onto the reel, I just use my thumb and fingers to work the film in. The result is far fewer damaged rolls of film.
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Old 11-02-2019   #7
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Switch to some stainless steel reels and tanks. You will never regret the horrible plastic stuff.
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Old 11-02-2019   #8
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How about loading your reels in a closet, at night. Might prove to be convenient enough.
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Old 11-02-2019   #9
joe bosak
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I use Paterson reels.

I found fomapan annoying to load, seemed to be too thin and flimsy. I then moved to Ilford hp5, which generally works well with these reels: I use 120 and 24-shot 35mm. Sometimes I have to reload but that's due to carelessness in keeping it feeding in properly throughout loading.

I had an Efke IR film recently that I simply could not load, it kept jamming sometimes in the ball bearings, sometimes just getting tight about half way through. Threw it away in the end, unprocessed. It felt like the film was too thick, and I wonder whether being 36 shots made it worse.

In all cases I use one of those pop-up table-top changing tents, way less frustrating than a changing bag, and with less of a humidity/sweat problem.
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Old 11-02-2019   #10
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I also use Patterson reels and occasionally have problems loading 120 film. My reels are the one with what I call a loading ramp. I start there and slightly pull the film through the two bearings. If it's feels like the film is moving through smoothly I ratchet the reels and finish the loading. If I feel resistance I start the whole process over which means taking the reels apart. I think the biggest problem is dirty ( sticky ) bearings. Usually, the second attempt, if the first doesn't work, gets it done. Don't just rinse the reels when "cleaning" up. Use soapy water and then rinse well.
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Old 11-02-2019   #11
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A good Hewes 120 reel (and a tank) is worth the investment, even if you only use the stainless tank for 120.
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Old 11-02-2019   #12
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I bought Paterson reels years ago in an attempt to load 220 (wasn’t much luck on SS). After many attempts went back to SS reels. The Paterson stuff is in the attic.
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Old 11-02-2019   #13
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Once i got the Arista reels linked by Larry Cloetta, I never used the Paterson ones again... Such a simple modification but night and day in ease of loading. I also stopping using stainless Hewes reels after getting the Arista ones.
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Old 11-02-2019   #14
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The plastic Arista reels were a game- changer for me. I have two so while one is drying after having been washed, I can develop another 120 roll.
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Old 11-06-2019   #15
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In my early days of processing I used Patterson reels. They can be OK for 35mm film, but horrible for 120 film because of their tendency to give film kinks caused by problematic loading, and uneven processing. Your problems are worsened with bag loading, and I too recommend loading at night in a blackout cupboard, bathroom, or whatever.

I dread to think how many rolls of 120 film I have processed, but [post-Patterson] always on vintage metal spirals and often processing six at a time in a very tall tank. Loading spirals is an art, even with metal spirals. It needs patience, and the freedom to move in a way that bag loading denies.

For my personal work I used three single-spiral film tanks with my favourite vintage metal spirals, and processed my B&W film one at a time with a specific indescribable agitation technique [described to me by Harry Callahan] for very evenly processed film.

I suspect you will always have issues loading 120 film on to Patterson spirals even if you sort out a night loading solution, and it's not what you want to read, but I recommend switching to metal spirals –– though I wouldn't know which current ones to recommend.

Good luck.................. Chris
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Old 11-06-2019   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisC View Post
In my early days of processing I used Patterson reels. They can be OK for 35mm film, but horrible for 120 film because of their tendency to give film kinks caused by problematic loading, and uneven processing. Your problems are worsened with bag loading, and I too recommend loading at night in a blackout cupboard, bathroom, or whatever.

I dread to think how many rolls of 120 film I have processed, but [post-Patterson] always on vintage metal spirals and often processing six at a time in a very tall tank. Loading spirals is an art, even with metal spirals. It needs patience, and the freedom to move in a way that bag loading denies.

For my personal work I used three single-spiral film tanks with my favourite vintage metal spirals, and processed my B&W film one at a time with a specific indescribable agitation technique [described to me by Harry Callahan] for very evenly processed film.

I suspect you will always have issues loading 120 film on to Patterson spirals even if you sort out a night loading solution, and it's not what you want to read, but I recommend switching to metal spirals –– though I wouldn't know which current ones to recommend.

Good luck.................. Chris
I'm curious about Harry Callahan's agitation technique. You should make a video showing how its done!
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Old 11-06-2019   #17
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You can load any type of film on any type of reel with enough practice. You have to develop muscle memory for the task.

Get a new 120 roll of film to sacrifice to the gods of photography. Take your Patterson reel and sit down in your back yard in broad daylight and start loading the roll. Watch what you're doing while you do it. Keep doing it over and over. A few hundred--a few thousand times. Eventually you'll get to where you can close your eyes and your fingers will be able to guide the film into the reel on their own. When you can do that, practice some more and then you're ready to give it run for real.

And please don't do what a friend told me he did after practicing with his eyes closed. He went into the darkroom, closed the door, closed his eyes and loaded his freshly shot roll of film on the reel perfectly. But he forgot to turn off the light.
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Paterson tanks/reels
Old 11-06-2019   #18
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Paterson tanks/reels

I see so many threads and posts confirming the use of Paterson tank products while decrying the difficulty of their use. I started developing my own film 60 years ago, when we had the benefit of lacking things Paterson. My first tank was a plastic Yankee, designed much like the current Paterson, complete with swizzle stick. It was a made of thin plastic and easily broken, ditto Paterson. It cost $4.95. For B&W, I use SS Nikor tanks and reels made prior to the early 1960s, when they were made in the USA, more like Hewes than generic Japanese knock-offs. For color I use an aging Unicolor roller system, including plastic reels with no little ball bearings. Those reels load 120 film just fine and require no cleaning apart from normal water wash after use. From my experiences, I conclude that there is no great mystery to making a film reel, plastic or SS, which will load film routinely without giving grief. You do not have to have a plastic tank which leaks if you do inversion agitation. You do not have to suffer uneven film density and carpel tunnel from endless twisting. All you have to do is not buy Paterson stuff. Over the years I bought some Paterson stuff, a grain focus device that was nearly useless, hard plastic graduates which cracked. So, just say it - Paterson is crap; don't buy it; say it loud and proud.
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Old 11-06-2019   #19
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While the consensus view to chuck the Paterson reels may be the best option, here's a "tip" to try in the meantime.

I make a guide by cutting a small rectangle out of the thin cardboard (the film box is ideal) the width of the reel and place it just under the plastic tabs where you start to feed the film.
I always remove the paper backing and spindle and roll the film into my hand before I load the reel.
The homemade guide makes it easy to get things going smoothly to start.
By keeping the reel above the rolled-up film in my hands (like rolling toilet paper back up the roll) and my thumbs helping along the edge the film doesn't slip out above the plastic guide tabs and ball-bearings.
When done, I discard the cardboard guide and seal up the tank with a sigh of relief and a smile.
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Old 11-06-2019   #20
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I found Patterson reels terrible for loading, the entry point is so small and difficult to keep in control of.

I now use the AP plastic reels which have a much more definite entry point and longer insert runway (my terminology!) and it is so much easier.

I load one 120 film and then once that's in I attach another roll using the adhesive tape on the end of the previous film and that goes on the reel too. So long as everything is dry I have no missloads.


https://www.ag-photographic.co.uk/3-...120-3715-p.asp
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Old 11-06-2019   #21
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My answer is get a jobo tank, by far their reels are the best reels for loading any type of film.
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Old 11-06-2019   #22
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I use Patterson now, I used Patterson 15yrs ago, and I used something that looked just like Patterson 30yrs ago. Not necessarily an endorsement. Keeping everything absolutely clean and dry is step one - making sure the ball bearing locks move freely. Practicing in the daylight with waste film is step two. Practicing in the daylight with your eyes closed is step three. Practicing in the dark bag is step 4. For 36exp I remove the leader before I load. It's been 30 years since I developed a roll of 220 and I'll probably keep it that way. But it does fit....
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Old 11-06-2019   #23
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Was having trouble starting 120 onto Yankee plastic reels. My solution was to cut a ‘lead in’ out of a plastic milk jug. Same width as 120 film and about 3 inches long. I push it into the reel for 1.5 inches and then start the film into and on top of this lead in. Then , with the film started I pull out the plastic piece. I folded the last 1/4 inch at 90 degrees so it was easier to hold onto and extract. The lead in piece forces the film end to not curl edge to edge when trying to start it on the reel.

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Loading 120 Film
Old 11-06-2019   #24
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Loading 120 Film

Not much to add to what's already been written, but let me just say that I disposed of my Patterson tank and reels a short time ago. I never was able to become comfortable with them especially with 120 film. I have both Omega and Hewes 120 stainless steel reels and find that the Hewes is much easier to load than the Omega. Practicing loading with a sacrifice roll both visually and in the dark is certainly good advice. One additional point: I now use a changing tent rather than a changing bag; a little (OK maybe a lot) more costly, but a tent allows for loading unimpeded by fabric falling against one's hands. Another advantage of using stainless steel reels and tanks is that they hold 16 ounces while the Paterson holds I believe 20 ounces. This makes for more efficient use of developer, i.e., a quart of D-76 at 1:1 dilution can process 4 rolls of 120 or 8 rolls of 35mm. And, the Hewes 35mm reels are a joy to load after both Nikor and other brands.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chriscrawfordphoto View Post
I'm curious about Harry Callahan's agitation technique. You should make a video showing how its done!
Chris – Thanks for the tease but I'll resist making a video. Suffice to say that the agitation pattern was fast and vigorous and hurt my bad back like hell. Ah ..... the price we pay for craft skill ...

Another poster mentioned Jobo reels. I used to process 120 colour film in Jobo reels [with a motorised agitation], I remember that the Jobo reels were fairly OK to load – when dry.

......... Chris
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #26
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Originally Posted by Highway 61 View Post
Switch to some stainless steel reels and tanks. You will never regret the horrible plastic stuff.
This was going to be my tip, too. You'll never regret leaving plastic reels behind.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #27
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I don't have problems with 120 on Paterson reels. But I'm careful to wind the film on a bit more slowly than i would for 35mm. Dry reels and a freely moving ball bearing matter most.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #28
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I have no idea how it is possible to load anything in the bag.
I just wait for sun going down, then go to washroom and do my load where.
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Old 4 Weeks Ago   #29
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These are the best plastic reels I have ever used. https://www.freestylephoto.biz/55043...eveloping-Reel
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