It seems like every month or so there's another story about a film company discontinuing a product line or raising their prices. When pairing this with the widespread abandonment of most photographic retailers, film and chemistry are getting annoyingly difficult to find locally in my neck of the woods.
I remember seeing an article about making your own film developer with Folgers instant coffee and vitamin c powder. Great idea, but I really wanted a more standard developer. I came across a formula for Rodinal over at digitaltruth.com and figured I would give it a shot.
Rodinal is one of the oldest developer formulas, patented in 1891, it has great edge sharpness and can be used with both film and paper. Rodinal is a one-shot developer, meaning that once it has been used, it can be discarded. I am terrible at remembering how many runs have gone through a developer batch, so throwing it out each time guarantees that I’ll never be using exhausted developer.
This developer is in concentrate form and common dilutions are from 1:25 all the way up to 1:100. I normally use it in a 1:100 dilution to maximize contrast and edge sharpness. Using this dilution also decreases the cost per roll developed. This developer is cheap to use, I calculated something between $.015 and $.03 per roll of film, making this a great alternative for folks on a budget.
The process is fairly straight forward and can be done safely indoors with proper ventilation. Make sure to wear gloves and eye protection when dealing with Sodium Hydroxide as it is very corrosive. Purchase separate measuring cups and label them for darkroom use only.
If you are unfamiliar with these chemicals, I encourage you to read their MSDS sheets and follow the recommended safety procedures.
Here’s what you’ll need:
1. A scale
2. 500mg Tylenol tablets (generic works just fine)
3. Sodium Sulfite (available at home brewing supply stores)
4. Sodium Hydroxide (common lye drain cleaning pellets)
5. Distilled Water
6. Amber Bottles (available from natural food stores)
7. Something to crush the Tylenol with (a hammer and envelope work great)
A quick word of advice concerning Sodium Hydroxide, this has become increasing difficult to find because of its common use in the manufacturing of methamphetamine. My local Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Lowes did not carry it; I found it at a True Value hardware store.
I found that order matters. Mixing these out of the specified order will result in a more than average remaining particulate. A buddy of mine who is a chemistry professor helped me get the order straight.
1. Pour 200ml of distilled water into a measuring cup .
2. Measure out 50 grams of Sodium Sulfite .
3. Stir into water. Sodium sulfite's solubility is 23g per 100ml, so there will be un-dissolved
particles left behind. These will dissolve as we continue to add the remaining ingredients.
4. Measure out 20 grams of Sodium Hydroxide (Lye) being careful to avoid skin contact.
5. Stir into water until completely dissolved (The solution will increase in temperature, this is normal).
6. Count out 30, 500mg Tylenol tablets.
7. Crush the tablets and pour into the Water and Sodium Hydroxide mixture while it is still warm.
8. Stir until completely dissolved. Some of the filler from the tablets will not dissolve, this is normal.
9. Place the measuring cup in cool water to return to room temperature.
10. Add distilled water as needed to make 250ml.
11. Cap and let sit for a minimum of 72 hours.
At the end of the 72 hours, you will notice that crystals will have formed on the bottom of the bottle. I generally shake the bottle before use and have not noticed any unusual deposits on my film.
Use as Rodinal. Normal dilutions can be from 1:25 to 1:100. Proper Development times can be found on the Massive Dev Chart. There seems to be a little disagreement concerning how long you can keep the solution. Some folks are saying three months, others are saying five years. At 1:50, using a standard Patterson Universal Four Tank, you can run 40 rolls of film with 250ml of concentrated developer. If you are concerned about it going bad, you can always reduce the formula in half.