How to Make a Fully Functional 110 Film Developing Reel


Just last week I placed a bid on a lovely camera: a Pentax Auto 110. This small but very well built camera is the cutest and tiniest SLR I have ever seen. When I won the auction I started preparing for its arrival: buy some batteries, order some film, find a developing reel… And that’s where I ran into trouble! As hard as I tried, I couldn’t find a reel to develop 110 film, anywhere! So I had to pull up my sleeves and get dirty.

When I bought the Pentax Auto 110 I didn’t realize it would be so hard to find a developing reel for this small format film. But since I had been developing all my own film for the last two months, B&W, color, 35mm, and 120, I had no intention to return to my old ways and drop it off at the lab. Surely there was a solution out there.

Truth is, there are a couple of options, but none turned out in my favor. First, there is the Yankee Clipper II tank. This tank comes with an adjustable reel that will take 110 film. Problem: it is out of stock. By a stroke of luck I found a second hand tank in the US, but the incredulous shipping fee didn’t make it a feasible option. Second, I was told the older version of the Paterson system, the Paterson Universal 3, also comes with a reel for 110. Problem: they have been out of production for decades, and waiting for a used one to pass by on an auction site would take forever, so again, not an option. Third possibility: it appears there are some stainless steel reels out there. Problem: this reel wouldn’t work with any of my developing tanks. So I got left with the least desirable option: if you can’t buy it, you make it!

Looking for online instructions on how I would best approach this led me to this tutorial. Though the basic idea was good, start from a normal Paterson reel and cut it down to fit 110, the outcome presented looked a bit like a brutal hack job.

Taken from instructables

On top of the ragged look it had also lost all functionality:

  • The ball bearings were taken out, so no more automatic film feeding
  • The reel was glued shut, fixed, no more possibility to open it up and carefully remove your freshly developed film.

Both are features that I didn’t want to lose in my version of a 110 reel. The ball bearings are what makes spooling your film in a dark bag so much easier, and being able to open the reel helps prevent unnecessary scratching of your wet film. Somehow I managed to produce a 110 reel that remained fully functional and the best thing is it took me less than 10 minutes. Here is how in 3 simple steps:

Step 1: resize the center tube with the biggest diameter

You have to size down the tube to 12mm (or as close to that as possible). To make things easier I put some red tape around the tube at the correct distance and used a fine metal saw to do the cutting. When it’s done, you can sand down any sharp edges. Don’t throw away the piece of tube you just cut off, you’ll need it!

Step 2: remove a very small but very specific piece from the center tube with smallest diameter

The piece you need to remove is the small triangular shape that serves as a stop when closing the reel. Look closely to the before and after pics below.

Step 3: resize the piece of tube you just cut of

The idea is to keep the reel so that it can be opened and closed, therefore no glue can be used. Instead we’ll use the small tube we just cut off. If you look it the inside you’ll see the structures used for locking and unlocking the reel. Those can still be used, just on a different position on the tube. The smallest diameter tube has 3 positions for these structures to lock in to: close to the base, somewhere halfway up, and at the very top. That’s where we want them to be. So flip the tube so that the locking structures are up and slide it down the smaller tube (this will only be possible if step 2 was done right, if it doesn’t slide over the thinner tube locate the obstruction and cut it away with a knife). In my case, the tube was 2mm too high for the locking mechanism to take. So I sliced away thin slivers of plastic until it did take. A good sanding might also do the trick. If you have trouble understanding what I just explained, take a good look at the pictures below and it will become clear.

That’s it, you’re all done! Just put the pieces together and your good to start developing 110 film!

To prove to you all that it works well, I did a little functionality test. Check out the video!

written by sandravo on 2013-06-17 #gear #tutorials #videos #diy #110-film #tipster #development #reel #develop #paterson


  1. stratski
    stratski ·

    Have you started developing yet? I recently modified this same spool for 110, but somehow my film doesn't get coverd in chemicals properly when I use it. (See…) Perhaps it's because I usa a Jobo Autolab, and I should try developing by hand... I''m interested in yoyr results.

  2. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    Hi @Stratski, I ran one film using this reel (orca bw 100) and that came out fine (haven't uploaded it here). Then I sadly discovered my new pentax auto 110 doesn't work without the flash, so I had to return it... The adjusted reel hasn't seen anymore action since. I used a system 4 paterson tank, stand development. When I opended the reel after the final wash, the film was sitting in the weel, perfectly spaced as any other format film. Since I no longer have a 110 camera you could have my adjusted reel, ;-)

  3. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    I keep forgetting this @username is case sensitive... @stratski, the previous message was for you ;-)

  4. ck_berlin
    ck_berlin ·

    I took a 35mm spool, modified it and it is working fine. I took a Jobo spool for the 1500 system (…).854.0.html) and shortened the spool with the bigger inside diameter to a lenght of approax 8mm. I have uploaded some picture here:…

  5. stratski
    stratski ·

    @sandravo, @ck_berlin: Thanks! I guess I should just try again, maybe do a roll by hand just to be sure. I should hang on to your spool for now if I were you, you never know what you run into...

  6. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    @ck_berlin Thanks for your input! Surely the Jobo users will appreciate it! Looks pretty similar to what I did. How does the reel stay closed? Can you still snap it in place or did you glue it shut? I have never used Jobo tanks, so I'm clueless :-)

  7. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    @stratski I have been on the look out for another pentax auto 110, which I adored! Found one in the Netherlands but the owner won't ship to Belgium :-( Any other great little 110 SLRs out there I should know about?

  8. stratski
    stratski ·

    @sandravo: Bummer! Keep looking, I'd say. I got mine by coincidence at a local flea market I happened to pass.

  9. shoujoai
    shoujoai ·

    My girlfriend bought the Pentax 110 yesterday too - such a cute camera! We'll check if our local laboratory develops the films, and if not, we really need this tipster <3 thanks for sharing!

  10. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    @shoujouai It's cute but it is so real! It doesn't feel like a toy but like a real SLR! Loved how easy it is to focus! I need to find a replacement!!!!

  11. maria_vlachou
    maria_vlachou ·

    You're a genius!!! Just finished mine and it's awesome! Thank you for the great tip! :-)))

  12. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    @maria_vlachou Awesome that you tried it out! Even better that it works! Just a tip to make opening and closing a bit easier: the small piece of tube can be slippery when it's wet, so keep a rubber band or one of those rubber bracelets (like the live strong bracelets) nearby. The rubber gives you a very good grip.

  13. sandravo
    sandravo ·

    @atria007 Here you go my friend, the article that goes with the video: how to make your own 110 paterson reel.

  14. maria_vlachou
    maria_vlachou ·

    Thanks for the heads up! Now I can start developing all those 110s that I shot ages ago! :-)

  15. atria007
    atria007 ·

    @sandravo wowwww i will do sure!!!! so great tips in seriously....i was thinking that u did this!!!! hahahah great great!!!! ^_^

  16. stouf
    stouf ·

    Very cool! Although, I think I'll never shoot 110 : )

  17. cryboy
    cryboy ·

    Great! I have a Paterson System 4 tank too and I will use your method to develop 110 films!

  18. wirrah
    wirrah ·

    Just a belated thank you for this. I had some spare older Paterson reels. They don't have the triangular stop but otherwise the whole procedure worked for these as well.

  19. aguillem
  20. dktucson
    dktucson ·

    Great hack!! besides the 110 this also applies to the Minolta 16 format. The cartridge is easily reloaded and you can shoot uber fine grain microfilm (850 lines of resolution per millimeter) that can be had dirt cheap (line 100ft for $12). or 16mm movie film --I scored 450ft for $14.95 and make my own ECN2 chems

  21. pannydeters
    pannydeters ·

    I made one of these following these instructions. It was very easy to do, and it works great. Thanks!

  22. alancolephotography
    alancolephotography ·

    Elegant solution! I went on a similar search after buying a Minox, and settled on taping the subminiature 9x11 film, emulsion-side-out, to the backing side of a strip of developed, fixed, washed and dried 35mm film, winding the 35mm film with its piggyback attachment onto a stainless reel, taping the free end of the 9x11 to the 35mm strip after it was rolled onto the reel, and developing it in a 35mm tank as usual.

    Sure, it takes 8oz of chemistry, but so little of it gets exhausted that you can develop a second or third roll in it. And if you're playing with this stuff, wasting a few ounces of developer won't keep supper off the table.

    I'll do the same when I get up the nerve to cut the index arm off if a Minox 110 so that I can run single-perf 16mm movie film through it.

    All the best!

  23. axelv
    axelv ·

    ATTENTION!!! Read this -- this mod is EVEN EASIER with the latest version reels. If you have the latest JOBO reels, all you need to do is to cut the bigger diameter tube, sand it a little bit, and that's the only modification you will need. It will even snap back into the locking mechanism of the thinner tube without additional mods. My guess is that Jobo simplified the reel design and delivers every 35mm reel INCLUDING the 16mm film lock mechanism. This is awesome. I was pleasantly surprised to find this even easier. Ready to develop Tri-X 16mm now, shot with my $6 mint Minolta 16 P. :) Message me for pictures. I will also post this on my flickr.

  24. stereograph
    stereograph ·

    thanks for the tipster.
    remodelling was hard but it works.
    so worth the effort! :-)…

  25. tracyellen
    tracyellen ·

    Fantastic tutorial - I now have a 110 film spool - massive thank you!!

  26. seesaw_fatkid
    seesaw_fatkid ·

    Excellent tip! That takes care of half the battle... any pointers to reloadable 110 cartridges, or how you’re opening the commercial ones to dev the film?
    It turns out, when cutting down 120 to use in 127 (4x4) cameras, the “leftover” film is perfectly sized for 110. If there was only a good way to hand-load it for use...

  27. neufotomacher
    neufotomacher ·

    @seesaw_fatkid Do you develop your own 127 film?

  28. thevastdifference
    thevastdifference ·

    Nice write up.. I'm having trouble removing the cut tube piece from the spindle with the inner center piece (does that make sense?) Is there a trick to getting it off or did I cut the wrong part :(

  29. apf102
    apf102 ·

    This was super helpful. Thanks so much. Sadly my DIY skills are not as good as yours so I messed up the top closing mechanism a bit (all wonky). However I did discover that the separator clips you can put inside Paterson tanks will attach on the top too, so you can actually just use one of those for a very quick and easy solution. Can’t wait to try this out. Sadly my Pentax 110 arrived broken ☹️

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