Update Number 2 on My DIY Film Development Tubes

April 14, 2017  •  2 Comments

Testing my DIY LF development tubesTesting my DIY LF development tubesYou may also enjoy my free darkroom photography newsletter and my magazine, The Darkroom Underground, devoted exclusively to analog photography covering a balance of technical and creative topics. I have continued to test my DIY development tubes with Pyrocat HD and the semi-stand process.  I discovered something that I think would be helpful for other photographers to know. You may want to review update number 1, and the original article for context. 

First, and most important, I am happy to report that I have successfully developed 21 sheets of 5x7 sheet film, 10 sheets of 4x5, and 10 sheets of 8x10 in the tubes.  The good news is that the tubes provide a very reliable and repeatable method for doing semi-stand development using large format sheet film and Pyrocat HD.  The bad news is that you can only really effectively develop one sheet at a time.  I suspect I could possibly figure out a way to get 2 or 3 tubes staggered in a development timeline, but that just sounds too stressful! I may have to resort to this for those times when I have a lot of films to develop.  

My development times range from about 45 minutes to 75 minutes (including all steps in the process).  So, if you had 10 sheets of film, you could be looking at a substantial investment of time to develop your films.  That isn't the end of the world, but time is valuable and I would rather invest that time making platinum prints.  

I started down another path and since I own several Jobo expert drums for 8x10, 5x7, and 4x5 sheet films, I have been testing the process for developing multiple sheets at once, using the Jobo Expert drum as an extra large development tube.  It sounds great in theory, but in three separate tests, I get very strange streaking and odd development artifacts on about 20% of the sheet films.  I have concluded this is most likely because it is almost impossible to get the Pyrocat HD developer to fill the full volume of the development chambers fast enough.  I am abandoning this idea because I have wasted enough film at this point. 

I just ordered some BTZS tubes for 8x10 and 4x5.  This could be a more expensive alternative to the DIY PVC tubes for some people.  I am sure they will work, I just need to work through the process and see how it goes.  I don't think there are any real advantages over the DIY PVC tubes, other than you don't have to make the tubes.  I needed the BTZS tubes for a separate project, so I thought I would leverage them for testing the semi-stand development and report back how that goes. 

-Tim Layton 

The Darkroom Underground is your analog photography magazine produced on a quarterly basis serving photographers, artists, collectors, and readers around the world.  The Darkroom Underground publishes a balance of technical and creative articles in every issue along with featured photographers and their portfolios. We are pleased to offer editorial from internationally recognized photographers and writers and also publish articles and portfolios from our readers. 

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Tim Layton
B&W Fine Art Analog Photography
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Eric Searing(non-registered)
The problem I found with tubes for larger sizes and upright minimal agitation methods is volume of fluid required. But since the image sits along the side of the tube one could put another tube within the tube that is sealed and reduce the volume. Example a 4"x12" tube needs 2.5Liters to fill. But if you put a 3" tube inside of the 4" tube you would reduce that to 1 Liter. If you don't mind the volume a 3 inch tube inside of a 4" tube would give you 2 sheets at one time and enough volume for stand (I think).

Similarly if there were a slot processor 9x12x3/4 inches it could be filled with 1.3 liters minus an volume taken by a film holder of sorts. (SSP 445 tank like)
Rolf Schmolling(non-registered)
Hi Tim, I have used the BTZS tubes for 4x5.I wonder if they would work for stand developing (instead of rotation): there is little space atop of the film, the stand/bath is not that stable (in fact I have build me a stand for use with a dark tent, no need for a proper dark darkroom). Of course you would be able to fill the tubes (with some spill) when filling them in a row, but spill WILL happen. Use of a funnel would be recommended, and again you are down to one tube at a time. The combination of putting developer in caps, screw on in the dark, process in light / low light environment in rotation works quite well, even for individual development times for individual sheets of film (N, N+/-). R.
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