Lately I have been shooting a lot of film, mainly 2 1/4 x 3 1/4 ( 2×3) large format. I bought a Speed Graphic Mini camera (circa 1947) in excellent condition off Ebay. I
practically live there when I experience severe bouts of G.A.S (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). Look it up, it’s a thing…. Maybe.
When my Mini came in It came with three negative plates, which carry two shots a piece. In total I had six shots which didn’t leave much room for error. Kind of like a gunslinger in Dodge City. It didn’t occur to me until after I had exposed all six shots that had no way to process the images.
Frantically, I the internet for a tank which processed 2×3. Most sheet film tanks had a minimum size of 4×5. Apparently 2×3 is an endangered species, hard to come by and harder still to find proper tools to process it. Brand new the tanks I located had poor reviews and cost upward of $75. I found one tank on Etsy.com. Alas, before it shipped the seller refunded me stating she had found a crack when she was wrapping it for packing. So I searched for alternative processing options. I found one called taco-ing, but it seemed dicey, especially after having painstakingly composing these images.
Undeterred, I sat down with the items I had available to me for film processing; three round spool tanks and six adjustable plastic film spools. I opened up one spool to the widest setting which is the 120 setting. The film fit in height but needed needed a clip of some sort to secure it in the spool. I will spare you the details of all the failed attempts. I finally ended up with wax coated beading wire from the jewelry department found in the jewelry department at Walmart.
Below are instructions to convert your adjustable 35mm film spool into a spool which will hold two 2×3 negatives. Essentially, if you can process 35mm film at home you can process 2×3 with a few adjustments.
What you will Need:
- Adjustable 35mm – 120 Film Spool
- Spool Processing Tank
- Narrow Gauge Beading Wire
- Small Needle Nose Pliers / Jewelry Pliers
- Small Tin Snips / Jewelry Snips
Step 1: Extend The spools to widest opening by turn the spool halves away from each other and pulling gently. Once fully extended lock in place by turning halves toward each other.
Step 2: Insert narrow gauge beading wire from the top to the bottom.
Step 3: Move the wire over two rings, insert and thread from bottom to top.
Step 4: Fasten wire together to make a loop. To do this I tied the ends together, cut off excess wire, then twisted the remaining tails around each other. Don’t over tighten. Just so that the its closed.*
Step 5: Make three more loops on film spool as described in steps 2-4.
To use, simply slip one end of the negative into loop and the other through the loop on the other end.
One spool set up this way can hold two 2×3 negatives. So each standard tank will process two negatives. I have three tanks and I have converted three spools so I have enough tanks and spools to process all six of my shots from one outing unless I purchase more negative plates. In which case I will need more tanks and spools. See… G.A.S.
I recommend trying to load a dummy negative first in a black room or changing bag. It’s worth sacrificing a negative to practice with. I think this process is easier than trying to spool 35mm film but you should still get comfortable with it before attempting on film you worked so hard to expose.
*Over tightening the wire will add pressure to the top and bottom making it hard to slip the negative into the wire loop. If you have to force it, you might accidentally scratch the negative, which will be very noticeable later. This is another reason to try with a dummy negative first, so you can see if there is too much tension in the spool. If it’s too tight you can restring the loop. Better to find out on a dummy negative than when you are up to your elbows in a changing bag.