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Bulk Loading Film

4th October, 2018 by Daniel

Something I’d been considering for a while (since I heard it was a thing that existed! I didn’t know about it..!) was obtaining the bits needed to make up my own film rolls.
Now why would you want to do this?

Well, there’s a couple of reasons as far as I can think of

  • economy – it works out cheaper(!) – My local place sells 30m of HP5 for less than £60. A rough estimate is that would give you 18 rolls of 36 exposures. The same shop charges £5 for one of those rolls, so you’re saving about a third on film costs.
  • control – it feels quite good to have yet another part of the process as something you can do yourself (like home developing).
  • custom rolls – perhaps you can’t quite see yourself taking 24 or 36 exposures of something, or you’re quite impatient having taken some pictures and wanting to see the results before you’ve found something else worthy of taking pictures of before you finish the roll, making your own rolls means you can choose the length yourself.

So if you think you would ever need a fair few rolls of the same film. It makes sense.

The picture above is the set I bought from eBay. The loader itself came in the box shown, now either it’s been sat on someone’s shelf for decades unsold (I can’t imagine many people are buying these now) or they are still manufactured with the same box & instructions design.

I made a couple of mistakes loading up my first bulk roll. I hadn’t wound the film the right way around the sprocket reel on it so the first attempts I made at loading a canister stripped the sprocket holes a bit. I’m pretty sure in the process of trying to figure it out there were a couple of times I would have let light in. So we shall see how it goes. I guess I’ve kind of written off this whole bulk reel, but you never know it might produce some interesting pictures after development (and now I know how to do it for next time!)

The other thing you will need if you want to be able to reuse canisters is one of these:

It’s called a film picker and its to retrieve the end of the film from inside the canister after it’s been wound back in after being exposed in a camera.

Why do you need this? Well regretfully for all my development of film so far, I’ve been opening my canister in the dark bag with a bottle opener. This does the job fine, but it means you cannot reuse the canister afterwards. You can buy plastic reusable canisters where the cap screws off. But it feels nicer to reuse existing ones – especially if you can get the ones with the correct DX coding on them so your camera picks up the ISO setting (but you can usually set this manually if it’s wrong).

How do you use it? Well it can take a bit of practice. Here’s the magic trick.

  • Wind the film back yourself until you’ve heard it click (the end of the film has gone past the opening) repeat four times.
  • Shove the canister onto the white plastic ends of the picker. It should rest neatly on it afterwards.
  • Slide the first slider up (usually marked A or 1)
  • Wind the film back again two clicks stopping immediately after you hear the second click.
  • Slide up the other slider (B).
  • Pull the canister away from the picker with a bit of force

After which you should have a bit of film leader poking out from the canister. You can now develop your film. Once you’ve got the film wound onto the developer reel (all in your dark bag of course) you then just leave a little bit poking out the end and snip it off. So when you bulk load onto it, you can scotch tape onto this short end the new film you’re going to load into the canister.



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