Washing of 4x5 negatives

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I've just developed my first batch of 4x5 negatives (in a Combi-T tank system) and seem to be seriously damaging my negatives in the wash. Right now, I am washing them by simply placing all 6 negatives in an 8x10 tray and allowing water from the kitchen tap to gently fall into the tray (I empty the tray every 5 minutes or so). This is the method I read of in the Ansel Adams "Negative" book. I must be doing something wrong to lose (very small, but annoying) parts of the emulsion and have serious scratches. Is there a better way to wash negatives than in the tray?


-- Robert Ruderman (ruderman@seanet.com), April 28, 1998


I've used the Combi Tank for 4x5 processing for 6 months. I haven't read Adams'negative book but I was told that the emulsion on 4x5 film is extremely delicate and that you can scratch it unless you're super careful (and even then). The thing to remember is the more you handle the negative, the greater the chance you have of scratching them. And by simply letting the water run on the negatives, one negative can scratch another.

Rather than putting the negatives in the 8x10 tray to wash them, leave them in the Combi's negative holder and place the entire tank (the black tank and the negative holder) in the 8 x10 tray and let the water run into the tank and then out through the valve at the bottom of the tank. They'll still be washed and you don't have to handle them.

I use a clearing agent, so I wash them for 10 minutes with the water running. I don't know what the recommendation is if you're not using running water.

-- Stuart Goldstein (satgre@worldnet.att.net), April 28, 1998.

when i started developing my own film, i used ansels' book as a guide. man, was i ever dissappointed with the results. i am a very careful person, but no matter how carefully i manipulated the negs, i scratched them. after 50 or so sheets of wasted film i got smart and went to hangers and tanks. i have regular developing tanks and also special " tupperware" tanks. look in the thrift stores. you'll find narrow little juice holders or whatever they are used for that can be used to process 1 or 2 sheets using hangers. no fuss no muss. no scratches or air holes. wonderful to get good negs even if the composition sucks. try it and you will never go back to tray processing. saves your skin too. let me know how you like it. bye.

-- james mickelson (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), May 02, 1998.

Three suggestions: 1) Use hardener in your fix. I don't harden my prints but I ALWAYS harden negs! 2) Use a smaller tray so that the edges can't scratch the other sheets. A 5x7 tray with several holes drilled in the end should work well as a washer for 4x5 film. Run the water in very slowly so that it drains as fast as it fills. 3) Use a washing aid to shorten wash times. I use Perma Wash.

-- Peter Hughes (ravenart@redshift.com), May 31, 1998.

Washing sheet film in a tray is just begging for disaster. I use a Gravity works film washer with a sheet film basket and it works great. Before I got that, I washed in sheet film hangers and a sheet film tank. That worked good too. One more fine point: I put a large car fuel filter in line with the water supply of my film washer. The results have been noticeably better since doing this.

As for Ansel Adams. No one can deny the good results he achieved using his methods. Basically, I use the same methods. I develop sheet film in trays and only very rarely do I damage a negative doing it this way. Remember, when removing the bottom (face up) sheet from the stack when agitating, bend the outer end down then lower the entire sheet. This avoids scraping the negative against the sheet above it. They never rub against each other this way.

-- Tom Johnston (tajohnston@lucent.com), November 24, 1998.

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