I have a small box filled with old negatives. Most of which are very tightly curled up on themselves and look like small cigarettes. They are about 60mm wide by various lengths. They may be 120/220 but they are all cut to individual photos so who knows.

Some could be unwound enough that I was able to flatten them (somewhat) between books, but some just refuse to unroll and a few break when forced.

I need some way to relax the negatives enough for me to scan them between two sheets of anti-newton glass.

I suppose some of it could possibly be nitrocellulose but none of it has deteriorated like I've seen in some photos of it. However, this is another reason I'd like to finish this project and get it out of the house.


1 Answer 1


Make a film straightening solution -- ½ ounce glycerin to 16 ounces of water. Soak the curled film in plain water, in time the film will become limp. Transfer the film to the straighten solution, soak for 1 hour. Rinse in running water for 5 minutes. Soak for 30 seconds in PhotoFlow (wetting agent). Hand out to air dry.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Glycerin is Glycerin - OK from drugstore or grocery store. Glycerin is water soluble in all proportions. You can increase the recipe 100% is needed. Don't worry, it will not harm the film. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2017 at 13:40
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    \$\begingroup\$ Probably sage advice, but with anything like this, TEST on a single frame or strip first -- something non-critical. \$\endgroup\$
    – bvy
    May 12, 2017 at 15:21
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    \$\begingroup\$ An old trick for curled and scratched negatives is to soak them in water followed by a soak in undiluted glycerin. The now saturated with glycerin negatives are squeegeed onto a glass enlarger negative carrier. Glycerin has about the same index of refraction as the gelatin emulsion. It fills the scratches and this mitigates. After squeegeeing, check carefully for air bubbles, if present re-squeegee. We even had glass negative carriers with a fluid basin used to rescue scratched negatives. \$\endgroup\$ May 12, 2017 at 16:13
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    \$\begingroup\$ You can up the glycerin to an undiluted concentration. The curl is due to an imbalance in the shrinkage rate. Wet film makes the emulsion swell. Upon drying, the emulsion shrinks. There are many coats, each has a different coefficient for expansion and contraction. Likely the film was fixed in a hardening fixer. Alkaline can soften. Change the soak to baking power. Try 1 teaspoon in a cup of water. This should soften. Rinse lightly, then PhotoFlow. You may need to place the negatives between layers of blotter paper. Then place a weight atop. Hopefully this will work. \$\endgroup\$ May 14, 2017 at 2:48
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    \$\begingroup\$ The film is designed to be air-dried using air at about 120 degrees F. 50 degrees C. I think prolonged soaking will be the best approach. Not likely to harm the film. Try a sample and soak for 8 hours. Add baking soda to the bath. This will make the gelatin layers swell. I would place between blotter paper and allow the sandwich to dry in its own time. You can speed up drying by a few minutes soak in rubbing alcohol. Try this on one frame to see if this will straighten out the film. \$\endgroup\$ May 16, 2017 at 19:50

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