28mm film repairs




These are some notes I wrote for a friend some of whose 28mm films I repaired.


I shall never remember to tell you all the stuff I should so am writing it down as I go. Please excuse the inevitable bits you know. I have only checked some of the films in detail Peter did most of them, leaving the worst to me. There are a number of problems to report.

Rusty spools. I believe this is due to acid products from film decay rather than normal rust - I've met a lot of it with my own reels. Some of the worst spools I have sanded, treated with rust converter and given a coat of paint. The rust is thick and lumpy and this is just a non-cosmetic palliative to extend spool life a bit. One I have rust-treated but didn't feel should be used. I seem to have ended up with a spare spool by dint of leaving one or two films on cores.

Two reels had Mazak cores, which had simply broken, leaving no lugs to mesh with the dog on the spool spindles. I have re-cored them, one with solid aluminium and one with a small alu core extended by normal plastic cores (2 x 16mm or a cut down 35). This latter arrangement is lighter. I think the original 28mm spool centres are just too small (about 1.25 inch) and cause an awful lot of problems, so I go for the 2 inch minimum as used for 35mm.

As discussed, I have replaced the worst of the cans with newer ones. Can I ask you please to throw away all that horrible surgical-type tape I found on cans and used to tape film down on the reel. Its horrible and sticky and leaves a residue on the film. I have written titles on the cans instead.

Can I also ask you NEVER to tuck the end of the film into the spool core or tape it down, except possibly with a small piece of preferably used proper splicing tape - it is always possible to spool up by friction, especially with 28 where you can get your whole hand down to the core to hold the film. Tucked-in ends buckle and then get shredded by the projector and leader rapidly disappears. I am sure I am teaching my grandmother here.

On the subject of leader, it is like gold dust, partly for the aforementioned reason. What I do therefore is to use a length of 35mm trimmed to 28 at the head end, to cover the bit between lower sprocket and spool when threading. This minimises the need for real leader and allows some re-deployment from any film that by some miracle has retained a good long leader. At worst, the fake leader minimises the amount of title not seen because it has had to serve as leader, and protects the head from any further erosion. At the tail, I use a grudging few inches just to protect the end - see above once more. I'm afraid even these measures have not been enough as your films usually have very little leader.

As you may know, I had a 28mm tape splicer made, at a cost that still makes me wince. But it would be impossible to salvage most of the 28mm films I have seen without it. I hate the destruction of frames caused by cement splicing - that's for joining film, not for repair. What I am trying to do is make projectable as much film as I can with the minimum loss of frames and of course make my attentions reversible as far as possible should a better way become available. Sometimes of course you have to cut, to protect the rest of the film. Even the slightest defect can catch in the projector and greatly extend existing damage (sorry, grandma). And how some of the damage gets done is a mystery to me.

The main problems I meet are

- splices. Some are so dreadful they can only be cut out. The vast majority have defects, so all have to be checked. Frequently the corners (or more) have dried out and started to lift; extra cement can usually be insinuated. This is no use where the film is splitting, usually due to over-enthusiastic scraping off of emulsion having thinned the film exactly at the join, and tape reinforcement is needed. This can usually be done at the edges with little or no sign on screen. Where the splice is just peeling apart, I just overlay it with tape both sides. I found in a Kodak book that overlap splicing with tape is perfectly acceptable and it seems to work fine, so even new splices I make are overlapped. In any event, you can't make a butt joint with 28mm where it is shrunken and warped - you need a good overlap to keep it flat. A KOK might not agree.

The worst splices are ageing sellotape ones. The sticky mess is most unpleasant and persistent and has to be removed with film cleaner. I should mention that some parts of some films have been cleaned with Cresclean, one of the proprietary film treatment fluids. This is only at head or tail where the worst dirt and dryness occurs. Some cans have a tissue soaked in Cresclean in the hope it might work a bit like the old humidifier blotting paper.

- sprocket damage. I have one film where all the pairs of non frame-line sprockets have in effect become singles thru elongation, though it is hard to imagine how this could have been achieved. The film runs fine tho'. The problem comes when the frame line, or what I call working, sprockets are affected. Where there is a split with a "chad" remaining in place a strong repair can be made by re-inforcing with tape from the edge, without it showing on projection, or not much. But if one or both sides has an enlarged hole, while it can be covered with tape and re-punched, the repair is inherently less strong. Somewhat to my surprise, It's Him, which had a fair bit of this sort of damage, did project OK. I can only think the problems and damage are caused by loss of loop, especially the top loop. A problem specific to the KOK is that the claw is completely unforgiving because of the ratchet-type arrangement. If the top loop shortens, there is no give or springing in the claw - if the film don't move when pulled, it gets shredded. I suspect this is also implicated in the kind of damage seen in Train 552, where all the sprockets have serious splits. In my experience, 28mm sprockets don't normally tend to split in the way, say, 9.5mm does, possibly because the two rows of sprockets inherently place less strain on the film.

- edge splitting. A very thin strip of tape outside the sprockets can work for splits with no loss of material. Where part of the film has gone, or the split extends inside the sprocket, a bigger repair across the sprocket holes is needed, some of which will show on the screen. Sometimes splits have been previously widened out into a V,  à la 35mm. My view is these are bound to catch or split (indeed I have seen an example where the split started at the V), so I tape over. There seems to be quite a bit of edge scraping with 28, where the film is roughened to a greater or lesser extent, with the risk it will catch at some point and rip the film.

All of the above is based on experience with my Premier, with its intermittent sprocket. A KOK, where the claw doesn't give that extra bit of wrap to take some of the load from the working sprocket, may not work as well. Brian Giles has told me the KOK claw is very sensitive to any obstruction in the holes, eg a hole not cleanly punched. This is presumably because only spring pressure is driving the claw into the hole. I have no direct experience of this, so all I can do is counsel extra care on a KOK as I can only be confident that my repairs work on a Premier.


Individual Films

It's Him/ That's Him (the two reels have different main titles)

A real marathon 8 hours, maybe more. There's a huge amount of damage to the film. Many of the sprocket holes are elongated and quite a bit of this affects the working sprockets. I've reinforced with tape, but although it went thru my Premier, who knows with a KOK?

Little Maurice Loves Rosalie

Another marathon. This one was in pieces on the reel. Im not sure even if the joined-up bits were in the right order. A great deal of damage and literally scores and scores of splices, every last one of which required some attention. Same problem of damage to working sprockets. Whether the film as I have reassembled it is in the right order I know not.

Max as a Gymnast/Serpentine Dances

Lot of sprocket damage, but mainly the non-working ones. Separately you have another piece of Serpentine. It may be the two could be consolidated with benefit as they don't seem identical - needs an editor!

Wonderful Armour

Tatty, fair bit of edge scraping and some damage to working sprockets. Had to cut some frames where there were diagonal tears over several inches. (On projection this proved to be one of the best trick films I have yet seen on 28. Joined on after is another, shorter trick film, equally good but untitled.)

Mad Family Reel 2

Generally good but with a bit of sprocket damage (incl working ones) near each end. No end title.

Remi Daubrais Part 5

Generally good. Interestingly, I can't seem to find this film in any catalogue so far.

Little Maurice Marries Rosalie.

Another marathon. Lots of sprocket damage, including elongation of working ones and many chads. Towards the end the film needed strengthening at nearly every frame. No end title. A previous repair effort used sellotape to strengthen sprocket holes on the single sprocket side only. Couldn't face removing them all, just where they weren't in the right place to do the job.

Bombardment of the Bosphorus

Generally good.

Raid on Train No. 522

The damage beggars belief. I did quite a lot, especially near the end where nearly every sprocket hole is split, but to do it all would be a labour of Hercules. Anyway, the film is so brittle it would probably be of little use. I don't think it's projectable - it's likely to rip at almost any point and only the owner should try. Great shame - would love to have seen it. There was an odd couple of frames loose in the can, which are still there as I didn't find where they came from.

Little Maurice Proposes to Rosalie

I nearly gave up on this one, but a skim thru showed the second half was much better, even good in parts, so I persisted. Bit of a marathon again, tho. Lot of frame line sprocket elongation (both sides at once), where taping is only going to have limited effect. I couldn't face removing all the original sellotape repairs made to the single-sprocket side. It hasn't been shown after repair, as I have this title and Peter filmed it some time ago.

Brittany Wedding/The Board

Apart from a single patch of bad damage near the start, this reel is in good shape throughout, tho The Board has no title. As BW is the most common film I have come across among UK collectors, I took the unusual step of cutting out the worst bit, so as to give at least one film in good shape. I've left the bit in the can for you to see. The only possible problem is if the KOK do not like my splices and other repairs. If you ever get your hands on a cement splicer, my tape joins are sufficiently overlapped that it should be possible to remake them with care. This reel has not been shown either; same reason as above.

Whose Carpet is it?

Another film with quite a lot of damage, including elongated working sprockets, which have been taped. No head or end title.

An Escapade of Marie Antoinette

In good condition except there are a fair few splices, all of which had partly dried out despite liberal use of cement when they were first made. You can tell it was liberal by the clever way it has spread to the next layer of film, or even the one after.

Ivory Hunters

I now know where the end of my tether is; its about two thirds of the way thru Ivory Hunters. The titles have most of the working sprockets elongated, and this kind of damage recurs sporadically thru the film, disappearing just long enough to lull one into a false sense of security, then leaping out again. Its not as though it's a good film; I do have a copy but when I ran it I found it most distasteful as it's just killing an elephant for "fun". Yeuch! So I stopped. As most of the problem is on the single-sprocket side, anyone who thought it worthwhile could do it themselves.

The Aspirator/Apache Dances (Parisian kind)

I did check and repair this one quite extensively, but I have forgotten the details as it was before I started this note.

The Rest of the Films

Most of them have been thru my projector, altho this ain't much of a guarantee for the future. I suspect that there is still a lot of work to be done to bring them fully up to scratch, but see Ivory Hunters above. I haven't checked or repaired them in detail, tho Peter gave them a quick skim.



More 28mm Repairs

More advice to a hapless 28mm owner.


There are many problems with your films, so I have devised a set of rules for you.

1.Remember these films are getting on for 90 years old.

They are brittle, shrunken, dried out and warped.

The grip of the emulsion on the base may be failing.

They have been subject in the past to much inexpert (to put it mildly) handling and repair.

The splices may be drying out and coming apart or splitting at the sides.

Some splices may no longer go thru the projector.

Spools can be rusty and bent and damage the films on rewinding.

Etc., etc., etc.

2. In short, they are a disaster waiting to happen unless treated with the utmost care and attention. This means:-

Don't watch the film, watch the projector.

Be scrupulous to the point of paranoia about ensuring threading is right.

Don't crank too fast. The KOK is unforgiving and will just as happily shred your films as show them. This in turn means no use of the generator, which requires heroic levels of cranking - find another power supply.

Stop the projector at the SLIGHTEST sign of trouble - loss of top loop, film off the sprocket, take-up not working, ANY CHANGE IN THE SOUND THE PROJECTOR MAKES, etc. Fix the problem

Beware the sprocket the teeth are sharp and can do considerable damage if the film comes partly off.

Mark any point where you think there may be damage and check on rewind.

Never insert the end of the film into the notch on the spool. It is always possible to attach the film by friction, especially as you can get your hand right down to the core on 28mm spools. It just causes damage and eventually the loss of the leader and then the end of the film. (See Lena R2)

3. Quite apart from all this, there is a danger the KOK may not like my repairs, even if they go thru my Premier. I am sorry all this sounds terribly obvious and teaching-my-grandmother-to-suck-eggs, but I never cease to be amazed at the damage I see in films I check, and I cannot comprehend why it was just allowed to go on and on and on, when it must have been obvious there was a problem. Just look at two of your own films to see what happens in the hands of someone who doesn't care.


4. Now to the individual films. The news is not good. Jui Jitsu is shrunken, thinned, buckled and the surface is crazed. It will never run and wouldn't be watchable if it did. Both the Historical Paris and Tom Tit and Robin Redbreast have been damaged beyond repair. These are the two to look at for what loonies can do to a film. As for the rest:-


Lena and the Geese. 2r.

R2. Pretty knocked about. Scratched and ripped in places - one very long diagonal split was caused by the cutting of a "V" in the side of the film where there was a split, which presumably then caught somewhere. Another split I had to cut out - there was no matching piece. Of three smaller rips at splices I repaired two and cut one out as it was at a title. Some quite severe scratches down the side. Sprockets weakened and splitting from the 3 sprocket side towards the middle of the film. Increasingly weak and splitting towards end - no end title. Not clear how much has been lost.

R1. Buckled, splicey, splitting as per R2. Some sprocket damage near start and huge longitudinal rips in the titles.

Should run OK now it's repaired, at least on my proj.



This is not the Trout and the cuttlefish but that comedy extract you showed me on your KOK.

A bit splicey, but the real problem is something has been picking at the sprocket holes all down one side, just on the inside. Periodically, the damage actually breaks into the sprocket hole itself and causes a very peculiar double split. It starts at the centre line of the sprocket and at the corner of same. You get a very sharp corner of film that sticks up when the film bends. From time to time it has caught, and a small piece of film has been completely removed. Should run now it's repaired.


Good Dog/Nightingale

No it's not. What it appears to be, I fear, is part of Rastus Loses His Elephant, tho' I may be wrong, as it has no titles. Ironically, it is in pretty good condition. It has quite a few tape splices and some tear repairs, but only one is mine, the rest were already there. The sprocket holes weren't punched out tho, so I did that.