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Freedom's just another name for "nothing left to lose."
Saving your bent negatives

Last night I was cleaning out my closet and discovered my negative binder from Germany. To my horror, the first page was pretty bent up (the binder had apparently fallen off the shelf into a box of paperbacks). My favorite negative was destroyed... or so it seemed.

Olga asked, "can't you just iron them back into shape?"




After taking a deep breaths, eating some German chocolate cake, and having a few cups of instant Nescafé, I got to work. Here is how I "ironed" the TX negs back into shape.

1. Get one water glass for each negative you want to save. They must have flat, smooth bases. An 11-ounce Libby tumbler works great for a 645 neg.

2. Put the neg in a new, archival page. I highly recommend the Century Plastics EZ2c polypro pages (top loading ones for 120 negs). Put the negative page on a smooth counter surface, with the bulge/bend UP.

3. Fill each glass with water. Put each one in the microwave for 4 minutes. This should boil the water.

4. Carefully remove the glasses (Hot!), make sure the bottoms are dry, and set the glass down, centered on the negative if possible. *Do not let the negative page become wet!*

5. Repeat for more bends, a little at a time. Leave each glass in place for 5 minutes, then rotate with a fresh, heated one. You may want to change negative pages if they get too wavy. It has no effect on the film flattening; it's more for your self-confidence.

The theory is easy: the hot water heats the thick base of the glass, which in turn softens the film base slighly and allows it to be gradually put back into position. The 13-ounce weight of the glass pushes the base back into straightness. The dry emulsion should not sustain any damage.

Caveats: (1) I tried this with b/w negs; heat may damage color. (2) This will not work if the bend is sharp enough to crease the film. (3) The technique may need to be repeated 4-5 times per bend. (4) This, of course is ALL AT YOUR OWN RISK. Of course, you can't do anything with a bent neg anyway, so what do you have to lose?! I can't say it's perfect, but it did make my bent negatives pretty flat (certainly flat enough that they loaded properly into a glass carrier, and they look flat enough for glassless). As they say, something is better than nothing, and this may save your negs.