bulking it up

Watson Bulk Film Loader c1950s

Toronto. In a recent auction, there was a memory of a by-gone era. One lot featured a couple of Watson 66 bulk film loaders. The one on the left of the large image appears to be a 1950s era loader made by Burke and James, while the one on the right is a more modern version, somewhat simplified, all plastic now and marketed by Pfaff Products (and likely made in south Asia).

A dyed in the wool amateur would have this or a similar bulk loader high on his (her) list of must buy accessories. 50 or 100 feet of 35mm film was loaded in the dark, then blank  cassettes were dropped in place in daylight and loaded. A template and knife made a neat leader on each cassette.

You could buy blanks, or just reuse commercial cassettes, ignoring the “single use” warning. In this way, the cost of film could be dramatically reduced. For professionals, the savings didn’t cover the convenience of ¬†a bunch of commercial rolls in the nearest pocket ready for action.

While I didn’t have a Watson bulk loader I did have an alternative brand and made regular use of it. In fact Leitz encouraged bulk loaders with the special Leica brass cassettes that opened in the camera’s darkness to allow the film to glide through the camera without recourse to a double felt light trap with its risk of dust particles and tram tracks on the film.

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