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Loading the film into a developing spiral

Once the film has been exposed it will need to be processed in order to produce a working negative.

The most common method for hand processing is undertaken by using a Daylight processing tank. This piece of kit allows the film to be loaded on to a ‘spiral’ or ‘reel’, in the dark, and then enclosed in a light tight container or ‘tank’, ready for the addition of the processing chemicals.

Loading Spiral - Jack Coote

Possibly the most difficult part of using such a tank is loading the film on to the spiral. The key to successful loading is practice. Following the instructions that come with the tank, practice loading a few times with an old or unwanted roll of film in daylight so you can see and get the feel for how the technique works. Once you feel confident in daylight, try it with your eyes closed. Please don’t forget that when loading your exposed film this must be done in total darkness! For ease of loading it is important to ensure that the spiral is completely dry. Working to a set routine and with all the necessary tools placed in the same position each time will help to ensure that things go with ease.

The grooves of the spiral hold the different parts of the film away from one another, so that the developer can circulate freely. If the film is not loaded correctly, uneven development causes spoiled pictures.

Note: if the film end has not been wound completely into the cassette, you can trim the end and start it in the spiral in daylight. Of course the exposed part of the film must be wound on in complete darkness.

Take hold of the cassette and your end cap remover and turn out the light. Lever the cap off the cassette, and slide the film spool part way out. Find the film’s shaped leader, slot this through the light-trap opening, and then slide the spool back. This saves having 1 .4m/4ft 8in of loose film falling on the floor

Pick up the spiral and find the projecting lugs which mark the film entry point.

Have these lined up and pointing towards you. Grip the end of the film and pull about 5cm/2in into the first channel, between the lugs. Pull about 30cm/i ft of film out of the cassette. Rotate the sides of the reel back and forth to wind the film into the spiral.

When you reach the end of the film cut this away from the cassette spool. Give a few extra turns to wind the film all the way on. Finally, put the spiral into the developing tank with its plastic sealing ring (if needed), and screw on the tank lid. The film is now sealed inside a light-tight container, so you can switch on the room lights.