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DaveP 6th May 2015 02:38 PM

Wisdom of rolling your own by hand
Afternoon all.

I'm finding 36-exp rolls of 35mm a bit long for my tastes when I'm using 400 speed film. I find myself sticking a roll in the Xpan due to low light, shooting half a dozen shots (there's 20 on a roll with the Xpan), then it goes dark and the next day I'm wanting to go back to 100 speed but instead have a camera full of 400 to shoot through or waste.

So, I was looking into buying some 400-speed as a 100ft bulk roll and rolling my own half-length cassettes. I was wondering what anyone's experience of rolling their own by hand is, instead of using a bulk loader?

I don't own a loader and would have to buy one, and some of them look quite expensive these days new. I do have a huge changing tent so space isn't a problem, and dust should be OK. I was thinking of sticking a couple of nails in an old wooden ruler about 85cm apart, hooking the sprockets on the nails to measure, cut, then manhandle into cassettes.

Is this a bonkers idea? Would life just be a lot easier with a loader? I wouldn't be doing dozens of rolls day in day out, maybe just do a half dozen which would last anything from a week or so to a few months. I'd be keen to hear other people's widom/horrorstories on this subject.


Tony Marlow 6th May 2015 02:52 PM

If you wanted a loader I have one tucked away somewhere. If you would like it let me know.


alexmuir 6th May 2015 02:55 PM

I use an AP loader, and would recommend getting something similar. The part-used roll remains safely stored in a dust free environment. Doing without would mean taking the bulk roll back and forth from a container, and increasing the chances of dust, etc on your film. I was lucky to buy my loader new before they became so expensive. They do, however, crop up regularly on eBay, and are not always expensive. The bulk rolls are now the best part of 70, so I would think it best to be on the safe side, and use a loader.

Richard Gould 6th May 2015 03:25 PM

Firstcall do an own brand bulk loader for around 25, maybe worth a look, compared to the AP loader they do at 54 it looks pretty good value,

DaveP 6th May 2015 03:41 PM

Hmm, maybe a loader would be wise then. One thing in favour of the freehand method to me is not having to drag the film twice through a cassette felt trap.

Are loaders (other than the well-regarded AP model), much of a muchness then, or anything in particular to watch out for?

Tony thanks for the offer, I may well be in touch....

Alan Clark 6th May 2015 04:27 PM

Dave, I used to use bulk film and a loader many years ago. When I found that the loader, or the process itself, was scratching the film I abandoned the loader and simply rolled my own, as you have described. It worked very well. I have been thinking of going back to doing this as, like you, I am finding 36 exposure lengths of film too long for my current purposes.
Give it a go!


Mike O'Pray 6th May 2015 04:29 PM


Originally Posted by DaveP (Post 102395)

Is this a bonkers idea? Would life just be a lot easier with a loader?

No to the first Q and yes to the second. Some people seem to manage hand-rolling but I often wonder if the apprenticeship was harder and longer than they want to admit to.

The great thing about a loader is that you can load in a couple of minutes on a whim so to speak so no need to prepare in advance

If you have been offered a loader then I'd take it.


Argentum 6th May 2015 04:37 PM

Buy a second camera body. Then you have a backup too.

David Lingham 6th May 2015 04:40 PM

It is a good idea, you can experiment with different film speeds and developer times etc. Only down side I found is it will increase your processing costs. As you are still using the same volume of developer for 12 frames as you would for 36.

B&W Neil 6th May 2015 05:22 PM

I tried bulk lengths back in the 80s and found far too many issues were creeping in, mainly dust and scratch marks, and that did it for me.


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