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Make Your Own Film Spool

So you just got your new (well, new to you) classic Contax in the mail, and to your horror, it doesn't have a film spool. Forget about buying one from the Internet for $10 or more ... plus shipping. I'm going to show you how to make your own.

Tools Needed

  • Coping saw or small hacksaw
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Trash can and broom
  • Used 35mm film spool. I'm using a Kodak. You can't use an Agfa, because it's not solid. It has a hole in the middle. Not sure about Ilford.

Time Required

This should take you about 30 minutes -- depending on your familiarity with hand tools.

Cutting the spool

Cutting the spool Cutting the spool ... another view

This is the toughest part. You want to cut a slot beginning about halfway up the length of the spool running down to the bottom. You can either handhold or put carefully into a vise. I would recommend using a vise. Be careful with the vice, as you don't want to crush the spool.

Of course, my vise is in storage, so I use the handheld method ... carefully. If you hold by hand, be careful. Although small, a coping saw or hacksaw blade can do some damage! You could also drill a hole into a piece of wood -- then put the end of the spool into the hole, which should hold it securely while sawing.

Begin your cut at an angle -- maybe 30 degrees. The slot you cut will be slightly curved, so that's why a coping saw works best. Use a fine blade, because the plastic is thin and melts when it's heated.

You are cutting toward the end that protrudes from the spool. When finished, the cut should be all the way down to the flange of the spool and half the thickness of the spool.

Finishing and Using

Smoothing the rough edges

Get a piece of fine-grit sandpaper and double it over. Insert it into the groove and smooth it down. Also, be sure to remove any of the excess plastic that will be around the groove.

The reason the groove must be cut halfway through the thickness of the spool is to give the remaining piece enough strength.

Now put the spool into the camera and load some film. I find that if you fold back the leader, it will help the spool hold the film. To give it a head start, wrap the film around the spool one time before inserting into the camera. Of course, you might lose one frame, so keep that in mind. I shoot mostly black and white film, which I roll myself, so that's not a big deal for me. Your attitude toward this might be different, and you might not want to lose one frame.

Replace the back and advance to the first frame. I sometimes have to wiggle the back a bit to ensure that it seats properly. Keep an eye on the rewind knob to make sure it's turning. That's something you should get into the habit of doing anyway.

Now go and shoot some photos. But first, clean up the mess you've made. That's the reason for the trash can and broom.


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