Advanced C & R

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Splicing and Repair on 9.5


  1. I have been having something of a rapprochement with cement splicing, with which I have in the past had little truck. I am not really sure quite why. Maybe partly because the CIR-type tape splicer, designed with magnetic stripe in mind, does not fully cover both sides of the join, which feature is intended to leave the stripe uncovered. This is not really relevant on 9.5, and I feel it gives a slightly temporary air to a join, but it can readily be overcome. Although tape does not, in my experience, dry out if it is in the body of the film, it might do so if it is near the front end. The front is very prone to drying anyway, and this often causes problems with leader and titles becoming brittle and cracking and, indeed, with cement splices, which warp, especially if made in the traditional manner with far too much cement. Whatever the reason, I have been using cement increasingly for permanent attachment of leader in particular. However, Chris Bird has made the excellent point that, even if tape does dry out at the front of a film, it is easy to replace and no frames are lost as they would be with cement splices. It would therefore be better to use tape than cement at the start. I think he's right and I will henceforth follow his advice.
  2. Tape is, of course, unmatched in its ability to repair, and I have saved films that would otherwise have lost valuable frames of soundtrack, or would have broken on projection or been completely unprojectable. More on this below.
  3. To revert to cement. I have had to learn how to do cement splicing in a way that seems to me correct I am open to debate on this as it is something with which I have had little success in the past. It is painfully and appallingly obvious that I have not been alone in this problem if you look at much 9.5.
  4. It seems to me that there are two fairly fundamental problems with cement splicing:-

a). We do not have professional quality splicers. This means that they are unlikely to be aligned with any great accuracy or repeatability, or to scrape or cut the film terribly well or precisely, are impossible to adjust, make oversize splices, allow cement to leak from the join, allow film to slip and move and etc and etc. You only have to look at those beautiful, clean, narrow splices you sometimes see at reel joins in 900-footers to see what a professional splice is like. We can't hope to match that, but we can do a lot better - I think I really mean infinitely better - than at least 95% of all 9.5 cement splices I have ever seen, and I have seen thousands.

b). The film itself is completely inconsistent. Bear in mind it was mostly made from 35mm slit into three. Width can vary, as can the precise location of the sprocket holes in relation to the edge of the film. There is also quite a bit of 16mm pitch stock around, or leader perforated from 16. The difference between the pitch of 9.5 and that of 16 is small (to be precise, 16mm is 0.3" or 7.62mm and 9.5 is 7.54mm), but it becomes significant when joining film in a splicer. There is also, of course, the problem of shrinkage, both as between different films, between film and leader and even within the same reel of film. A splicer is not usually adjustable, and has to pick some arbitrary value between the different realities. If a film is too badly shrunken, it can be impossible to get it on the splicer without causing damage by stretching the film over the pins.

  1. There are many different cement splicers and they don't all make a splice in the same way. Where the cut is made and the overlap and amount of emulsion to be scraped off can vary. This can be a problem when re-making a dried-out splice without cutting out any more advanced-cand-rframes. My current favourite is the Muray shown here, tho it does have its faults and idiosyncrasies the springing of the upper leaves is far too strong, for one thing. I like the fact that it makes a fairly narrow join, and I like the way it provides for scraping the emulsion on one side of the join and the base on the other side. This extra scraping will, I hope, lead to better adhesion and a slightly thinner and therefore less obtrusive splice.
  2. One curiosity with slightly shrunken film is that it seems to matter which of the two pins that will hold it I put a piece of film on first. One way round, the film definitely goes on easier and with less straining of the sprockets.
  3. One of the biggest problems I (and from observation many others) have had with splices is getting them aligned properly so there are no protruding bits at the side of the film to catch on spools or gates etc. I can think I have it lined up, but when I open up the splicer to remove the film, the splice may be way out of line. I have had to resort to placing both ends of the join on the lower plates and manually aligning them before closing the upper leaves to hold the film. (This is sometimes impossible to get quite right because of differing lateral placement of sprocket holes in different stock, eg when attaching leader.) Even then, I was getting it wrong and in the end I was forced to examine the alignment thru a projector lens to get it right. This may, however, be due to my astigmatism and so not affect others. Despite all my care, I still often have to lightly trim the edges of the film at the splice to ensure a smooth join. I keep a sharp craft knife to hand for this. This does not mean, however, that you can correct gross misalignment in this way.
  4. The other big issue, of course, is the application of cement. I have settled on using Agfa Cinecol, mostly because it has a brush that I feel comfortable with - each to their own on this, I suspect. And I have painfully learned that the only way to avoid a horrible messy splice seems to be to use very, very little cement. I scrape the brush on the inside of the neck of the bottle half a dozen times, which also flattens it out a bit. I try not to touch the edge of the upper leaf of the splicer on the scraped side of the join, because then the cement seems to flow under the splice by some sort of capillary action and mark the base side near the join. So I simply place the brush on one side of the sprocket hole and draw it outwards rather than along, repeat for the other side and maybe a quick dab in the centre. I try to avoid brushing across the joint or making repeated contact with the film as this seems to lead to less than satisfactory splices.
  5. One thing I do, almost out of faith, is to press the joint together as hard as I can for about 10 seconds after making it. I do this in the not-terribly-well-substantiated belief that this helps to press air out and ensure full film/cement/film contact right across the join.
  6. What I get when all goes well is a reasonably narrow splice, with no air gaps showing where there is no cement, and no bare area from having scraped too much emulsion off. Even now, I am still doubtful that I have actually made a good and durable splice - surely it needs more cement! I would like to hear other people's views, experience, favoured splicer etc.
  7. Because I am concerned to preserve films as much as possible, I try to re-join rather than re-make existing splices wherever possible and so save two full frames. A splice may have substantial dried out areas and be obviously heading for separation in the near future but otherwise reasonable. I find that inveigling some more cement into the join can work and avoid any further cuts. As long as some of the cement is still attached, there are no problems of alignment and the gap is usually so narrow that capillary action draws the cement in. I rely on the fact that cement does not take on the emulsion side and if at all possible work from this side. I'm afraid I simply use my fingers to squeeze the film together - as long as one avoids getting any cement on the base side, or on those fingers that will touch the base, it is usually possible to avoid leaving cement fingerprints and greasy marks can just be cleaned off. Sometimes the only way to get cement in is from the base side, but even here accuracy and speed can avoid the worst effects. You just need to practice a lot. Sometimes I just tape over a dodgy cement splice if I think it will not re-cement properly - I have felt much more comfortable about this sort of thing since reading in a Kodak film care manual that overlapped tape joins are perfectly acceptable in 35mm practice.

Tape Repair Methods

  1. advanced-cand-rHere is a pic of a 9.5 CIR splicer. First point is that I am not terribly happy with the tape-cutting performance of any of the CIR splicers I have tried; too often, the edge is ragged. If I am doing much tape work, I tend to use a craft knife instead to cut the tape at the edges of the film. I am considering removing the blade altogether.
  2. I mentioned above that the CIR splicer does not cover both sides of the film fully. I overcome this by using a craft knife to cut the tape conventionally at one side, as the built-in knife would do, but then trim along the edge of the film on the bed of the splicer rather than leaving the wrap-round piece on. Turn the film and repeat. (This is basically what the 16 and 35 versions do no wrap-round.) It is important to remove the wrap- round piece from the bed of the splicer, as it otherwise gets picked up by the next normal tape splice (or repair) you make. As I have said before, I find an overlap, however slight, to be essential - floppy joins are a killer on 9.5.
  3. I use the same tape for 9.5 as for 8 - it's only about 9mm wide. This width allows you to reinforce two damaged sprockets at the same time. It covers rather more than a full frame and I think is less obtrusive - it's the edge of the tape that shows up most on the screen, and this way there is only a single line for two frames repaired. The tape can be applied on the left or right; if left, a craft knife or similar blade is essential as the built-in knife will not cut the tape properly.

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  1. You need to get the tape up against the pin, but not so as to curve round it, as it will then end up partly covering the sprocket hole. There may be uses for a different size of tape; on 17.5 I use 9mm and 15mm depending on the specific requirement.
  2. Edge splits, rough patches, nicks etc can easily be repaired by drawing the tape only a short distance across the film, then making a freehand cut with a craft knife at the rear to provide a similar-sized wrap-round. This is one area where a wrap really is needed.advanced-cand-r In cases like this, where the leading edge of the tape will actually be used, fingers are going to leave marks. I use a very narrow screwdriver to catch the sticky side of the tape, with a finger on top for grip. This still leaves a mark on the tape but not as bad as the mark and grease of fingers. I have found that the tape originally supplied with the CIR marked permanently. I use PEC tape; marks usually vanish when the tape is pressed down. By the by, I really cannot do any of this intricate work in gloves, which get bits on the tape anyway.
  3. As with cement splicing, sometimes film has shrunk so much that to get it even over the pins either of the splicing point can damage the sprocket holes, let alone the outer pins as well. This, of course, applies only in repair work, not when you have cut the film for a splice. I find I have to fudge - I fit the film to only one pin and get the tape on as best I can. I then lower the film presser strip (that thing hinged at the same place as the punch head) but insert the tip of my finger to prevent it going all the way down onto the film and so forcing the sprocket holes over any of the other pins. I then carefully operate the punch head to pierce the tape without pressing the film itself down onto the other pins.

I've tried another couple of tricks with the tape splicer. I have a sound feature where the first three reels suffer from splitting, especially at the start, ie the titles. The splitting is strongly biased to the non-sound-track side. The second part is fine. Never one to give up if I think a film can be made to run, I am experimenting with applying tape along the length of the film, covering just the area between the sprocket holes and the edge. I am not attempting any wrap-round; I apply the tape with the film lying on a flat film can, with the bulk of the tape sticking to the can. I then trim off the excess tape with a craft knife against the edge of the film. I'm surprised how simple this was, given the sort of problem one usually gets with long lengths of eg sellotape. A bit specialised, I suppose, but it might be useful.

The other trick is to ensure the soundtrack is nearest to you, then apply tape only up to the track. A freehand cut is then needed to give an wrap-round that does the same on the other side of the film. This is difficult both to judge and to cut straight; I'm considering the possibility of somehow fitting a strip of metal to the splicer at the right point to provide a cutting edge for this operation.

I am also experimenting with yet more ways of doing tape repairs to 9.5. I have come across a sound film which has several stretches of maybe a foot at a time, where the sprockets have all been "pulled", so that there are splits from each corner of the sprocket hole down about a third of the way into the picture area. This is a frequent problem on 9.5 and, uncorrected, will just get worse and end up with unacceptably large cuts out of the film and soundtrack. I have therefore fitted a tape dispenser (holder made from old Meccano (TM)) at the front of my 9.5 splicer. With this, and theadvanced-cand-r soundtrack at the back of the film channel, I can draw tape from the reel onto the film, stopping short of the soundtrack. I have made a bit of metal to fit at the front of the tape channel, sized to provide a cutting edge that will ensure the tape wrap-around also clears the soundtrack. It won't look too pretty on the screen, but it should save the soundtrack. This has involved removing the tape cutting blade, but you may recall I was already contemplating this.

I've been making even more changes to my 9.5 tape splicer. I was finding that with older, shrunken film, the pins were doing almost as much damage as I was repairing. The pins are no doubt set at standard spacing, and old 9.5 ent standard any more. So I knocked out the two outer pins (I kept them, of course) and this has made a great improvement. The only drawback I've found is that the film is sometimes reluctant to stay in the slot until you get the tape on it, but this is a small price to pay.

I never seem to use the tape in its original position any more. Working from my new tape spool fitting at the front, I use a very slim jeweller's screwdriver to pick up the tape and place it on the film. By cutting at one place, I get a piece just the right size to wrap round and completely cover both sides of the film. By laying the tape short of the track on a sound film, and cutting at a different place, I can reinforce sprockets without covering the track. I've also more or less stopped using the film cutter, and just use scissors, since I always leave an overlap splices - I hate floppy, bendy butt joins.

An Economy tape splicer for 9.5

I've been checking and repairing 9.5 films again. Some of you may recall the dicky fit I threw the last time I was doing this; I wrote about it in the Group 9.5 magazine. As before, I am appalled by the careless, even reckless damage I see. Because there will NEVER be any more 9.5 films on anything but the tiniest scale. So if we don't protect what weve got... 

This is why I am such a fervent advocate of tape for 9.5 in particular. Cement has its place, but the problem with cement is that you can only join, you cannot repair. Unless of course you use sprocket patches and my advice is:- DONT!. They are the invention of the Devil and it is rare for me to see a sprocket patch that is any good; usually they have involved spreading cement all around the patch, thus ruining the picture instead of saving it. Whats the point? I'd rather cut. Many sprocket patches that I see have dried out anyway (as have many splices) and are ready to fall off. On the other hand, I have experience of tape patches lasting for 40 years without causing a problem. So I use tape extensively, and have found many ways of making runnable a film that would otherwise have to be heavily cut about or even dumped. I don't claim tape will do everything by any means, and it is far from an ideal solution, but it is a valuable tool in the armoury of the 9.5 collector. The problem is, Dr. Leo Catozzo now wants huge sums for his CIR tape splicers, when he can be bothered to make a batch. The last price I paid was £180 and I believe they are much more expensive now. I decided, therefore, to see if I could make an economy tape splicer, but using only readily available materials and tools, so that anyone can do it. You definitely need a file of a decent size, and a set of "rat-tail" files, cheap as chips and readily available on market stalls etc. The other really useful thing would be a drill in a stand, but it may be possible to manage even without that (but remember when drilling in metal it must be held tight in a vice for safety and that a spot of oil helps a lot). Other than that, just drills, screwdrivers, nuts and bolts, which the average householder will already have, or stuff that can be gotten from a DIY store. 

The big problem with using tape is punching the sprocket holes out afterwards. It is also helpful to have a means of aligning the film and getting the sprocket spacing right when making splices, tho this is less necessary for repair. Anything else, you can wing it. Now, making round holes is easy; making rectangular holes, certainly to the degree of accuracy we require, is much harder. I decided to start with a basic 9.5 splicer of a design which gave me an easy way to get my rectangular hole. I found that the splicer shown in the pictures has locating pins that are held in place by a large blob of solder. It takes time to melt, but eventually you can push the centre pin out, giving you a nice rectangular hole. A bit of cleaning up and judicious enlarging with the tip of a rats tail file and we have a hole of our target size, which is 1mm x 2.4mm. It is important to leave in place the other pins, and the flaps that hold down the film. 

The other vital component is a punch, again of about our target size (final size is trial and error by fitting it into the hole). I made this from a strip of steel about 3mm thick and 12mm wide the only slightly unusual material I used but which many DIY stores now stock. Here are two views, taken before final filing to finished size. As you can see, I filed from one side only to get to the required thickness, because

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it was easier and probably more accurate. Final fitting involved shaving a bit off very carefully and trying it in the hole repeatedly.  

In order to use the splicer effectively, it needs to be fixed down to some sort of board, with provision for holding a roll of tape. Shown above is a tape holder I made earlier, from Meccano. I used nylon rod here, but a bit of broom handle, padded out if necessary with card, will suffice. Incidentally, it is vital to use tape that is completely clear; the CIR splicers used at least to come with a roll of what looked like sellotape and was very cloudy in appearance. However, fixing the splicer down is tricky as it has no mounting holes. It does, however, have a hole each end. I used a standard DIY angle bracket, cut to size and drilled to take a nut and bolt at the same height as the hole in the end of the splicer. A further nut against the end of the splicer can be tightened to hold it firmly. What you can't see is that I fixed a support under the central hole (with cutaways for the bits of tape punched out to escape) to avoid any risk of bending the bed of the splicer with repeated use.

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The rest really is about mounting the punch to an arm. I used a spool arm from a Eumig P8 that had already made the supreme sacrifice by

donating its transformer for a 9.5 lighting conversion, plus some lumps of wood and more angle brackets. I found two problems here. First, the arm may be too short or the wrong height or both, and so the punch doesnt enter the hole cleanly, because it is at an angle, travelling along an arc of a circle. The second thing is that its tricky to align the arm accurately enough and firmly enough. This could no doubt be done, but not without a lot more work. As long as you get a pretty close fit, there is sufficient flex in the arm mounting that you can push and pull to align the punch each time you use it without much problem. The materials used here include a threaded knob I got from Chronos, an unnecessary embellishment probably. I reckon it would be quite satisfactory simply to fit the punch into some sort of holder and just use it in the hand. Why don't you give it a go? I have deliberately kept all this as simple as I can, but there are obviously all sorts of improvements that might be made. I'ts up to you! 

You can see lots of stuff about tape repairs in Care and Repair (if you go to the foot of that page, there is a link to a second page). Below are a few notes that may help if you have no experience of tape splicing. These cover many of the problems with sprocket holes that are encountered on 9.5, particularly where pairs of sprocket holes have one edge weakened, leaving a "chad" or sliver of film that can fall out on projection. Where the chad is still in place, tape reinforcement makes a strong repair and avoids repeated splicing and cutting. This is even more important with sound films, of course.


Using the splicer 

1. Cut the film I use ordinary scissors leaving more than half of the sprocket hole on each half of the join. This gives a noticeable overlap,  which I think is essential. I don't think it is realistically possible to make successful butt joints, especially on shrunken and dried film. The film near the core of a cassette, or even the small cores on some reels, is so twisted it is quite impossible. To quote from the Kodak Book of Film Care "A butt tape splice is considered somewhat superior to an overlap tape joint only [my emphasis] because it is less noticeable (and possibly less noisy) on screen." The Book regards overlap splices as nothing unusual and in my experience they are at least as good as, and no more noticeable than, cement splices. 

2. Apply the tape. I mount the tape in front of the splicer and pull tape off its reel using a small-size jewellers screwdriver under it. This enables me to position the end of the tape at the far edge of the film, leaving no overhang. The screwdriver does not appear to leave a permanent mark (fingers would). The tape is then pressed down and is cut, using a single-sided razor blade or craft knife, along the surface of the splicer, as straight as possible. In time, you will wear a nice groove to follow. I guesstimate where the cut needs to be to give a full wrap-round. (I dont like the way the CIR splicer leaves an edge gap on one side, as tho for a non-existent mag track.) 

3. Remove the film from the bed and wrap the tape round, ensuring a close fit to the edge of the film. Trim any excess with a blade or knife; I find it best to keep one especially for this, as cutting on the bed of the splicer does blunt the blade. Increasingly often, I now just use the scissors again with care, the excess can be trimmed without cutting the film. 

4. Replace the film in the splicer, close all the film holders and punch. You may have noted that the CIR splicer has a long strip beneath the arm with the cutter and punch; this stops the film lifting up as the punch is raised. In this splicer, the centre film holder performs that task, as the punch passes thru it. I have left the punch completely square, but one could experiment with a slant across the width or even a V-shape of the CIR type. 


 5. When making joins, any shrinkage of the film is naturally taken up in the join. When making repairs, however, the sprocket holes in shrunken film can be damaged if they have to be forced to fit over both pins on the splicer bed. With my CIR splicer, I have removed two of the four pins to avoid causing damage in this way. With this economy model, it may sometimes be preferable to use only one of the pins and not close the film holder over the other. Where we are dealing with intact film, there is no alignment problem. 

6. I usually apply the tape with one edge following the edge of a sprocket hole (usually one edge is damaged and not the other). The rest of the tape then more than covers the next sprocket hole. In this way, two sprockets can be reinforced at the same time, minimising on-screen visibility as one edge of the tape is masked off in the gate. This can be done working to the left or the right. I try to avoid taping over actual gaps where the sprocket hole has been enlarged, especially if there are several in a row. It looks horrid on the screen and ordinary tape is not designed for this. I sometimes overlap the tape over the offending hole from both sides to give a double layer of tape in an emergency (eg a nearly-vanished notched title). 

7. This technique can be applied to sound films so as to cover only the picture and not the soundtrack, which seems to me sensible. What I do is draw out enough tape to cover the picture and lay it on the film (sound track away from me). I then cut the film, as in 2 above, but at a different place, in the hope of missing the soundtrack again when the tape is wrapped round. 

8. The other main repair technique I use does not involve the punch. Edge tears can be covered by a short strip of tape wrapped round the edge. The splicer isn't strictly necessary but provides a helpful base to work on. 

9. If a cement splice is dried out and coming apart, it can be sufficient to just tape over it as tho' making a tape splice. This avoids cutting out any film. Sometimes it is enough to insinuate a bit of extra cement, with the help of capillary action, but if there is damage, eg cracking along a line where the scraper has cut in too deeply, the tape can avoid a cut.

 Looking After