Disclaimer: This is not so much a lesson, as a journal entry in our film developing process. It was the first time we developed using household chemicals, so there’s much for us to learn. Still, it is hoped that you gain something from this. Special thanks to Daniel Keating for sending this starter kit. -Nick
A family friend in California, Daniel Keating, has been called the “MacGyver of Film” by my Uncle. I only knew of one way to develop film, with the Ilford/Cinestill/Kodak commercial developer kits. Daniel reached out to me wanting to know if I would like to try developing with household chemicals and a 5% phenidone/glycol solution. Of course I want to learn a way to develop that is not only cheaper, but better for the environment. So, I awaited eagerly for the care package of developing material to arrive! They came all wrapped up in plastic and Nick and I were joking about my drug mail (haha). I transferred them to jars after I tried them out! My scale was not working as it should have and was only measuring on the gram and half gram, I am sure it was a bit of OE (operator error), but either way, I think… I know our mixture was off from what it was supposed to be.
The recipe for the mix was as follows:
Put 250ml tap water into the beaker or pyrex type measuring cup and add the ingredients in the following order—stir to dissolve between each chem added :
0.4g of the sodium hydroxide (100% Lye Drain Cleaner)—stir to dissolve
0.7grams Sodium Bicarbonate (Arm & Hammer Baking Soda)
0.5 gram Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C Powder)—adding this will create a slight fizzing reaction, allow to dissipate
0.1ml of the Phenidone/glycol solution -measure with small insulin syringe included
Top off to 300ml
Mix right before use—do not store mixed developer solution more than a few hours
Dev times are generally 15-19 minutes for most films. OK to use acid stop baths but plain water is fine. Normal fix & wash
I developed my Kodak T-Max 400 film for 17 minutes. This ended up being WAY too long. My film ended up being pushed to over developed. There were images but you could only see them if a very bright light was being shone through the negative.
After talking to Daniel some more and picking his brain on things he said that it sounded like we had a ‘hot’ batch of chemicals, which made sense since our mixture was not 100% accurate. This being said, he said that we could take the lead that we cut off and put it in a shot glass or small container, fill it with our batch of chemicals, and start a timer. Whatever the time is when the film turns black we will take that number and multiply by 3. That will be how long we have to develop our film. We will start doing this with all our homemade mixtures from now on. Shoot! Maybe even our traditional chemicals as well! The light box was not bright enough to capture the photos so we used Nick’s phone again to capture some of the pictures in FilmBox.
We have a lot to learn in the world of chemicals and creating our own mixtures for developing! Stay tuned for more ways to develop, like using Rosemary!
Here is the fun YouTube video of us trying this out!