Question on Handling Rust Damage

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Question on Handling Rust Damage

Unread post by antifrodis » Tue May 01, 2018 9:08 pm

I have a reel of 16mm film that has patches of rust damage on one side. The opposite side of the reel shows no rust. At this point, the film is brittle in places and the rust has fused the edge of the film together in spots. I can't spool it out in its current state. My question is, what can be done? What are some possible options to get the film into a viewable state? I would upload a photo but I received an error message when doing so. Thanks for any input.

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Re: Question on Handling Rust Damage

Unread post by silentfilm » Wed May 02, 2018 11:21 am

Buy some FilmRenew and soak the film in that for a week or two. (Hopefully the film is on a metal reel.) Then wipe the film with a soft cloth. (This will soften and possibly break tape splices, but not cement splices.)

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Re: Question on Handling Rust Damage

Unread post by martinola » Wed May 02, 2018 11:51 am

I'm sure others may have a better response to this. It depends on the rarity of the footage. If this is the complete reel one of "Battle of the Century", I'd be passing it off to the Library of Congress. If these are somebody's home movies that will unlikely get the archive's interest, then I'd feel free to do what I could myself.

First, take pictures of the reel with close ups of any markings that may identify the film. I assume that you've already attempted to unwind the film and find it sticks to the roll and tears. With the understanding that if it is brittle and one edge is already fused, it might be too late to be salvaged and all of your time will have been wasted.

I'd be tempted to disassemble the reel and remove the rusty flange for easy access to the fused side. This may involve using a dremel tool with a metal cutting disc to grind away the tabs, rivets or spokes of the reel (below the edge of the core). With the side of the roll exposed, I'd place it on a set of rewinds and try to slowly wind it off of the damaged reel to a new take-up reel. With access to the damaged side, I'd try to use a sharpened plastic wedge or single edged razor to pry apart the stuck bits. If you find that the emulsion is stripping off of the base, it's pretty far gone.

I've salvaged (sort of) some late 1920s, early 1930's home movies that were in such a state, that they could only be run once thru a projecter gate (too shrunken to use the upper and lower sprocket) right into a trash can while recording it off the screen with a video camera. It was tragic. There was neat footage of the 1930 rose parade/football game and the construction of Boulder (Hoover) Dam. The stuff was shedding white powdery acetic acid and stunk up my studio for days. It took me days to patch the footage together just for it's last run and required much clean up in the studio and partial disassembly of the projector. Was it worth it? Well at least my sister-in-law got to see some of her Dad's home movies, but it was more of an historical record than a treat for the eyes. Hopefully, your case isn't quite as dire and the film can be patched together to nurse thru a proper scanner.

Wishing you the best of luck, as I have been there too.


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Re: Question on Handling Rust Damage

Unread post by antifrodis » Wed May 02, 2018 1:33 pm

This is indeed a very rare Hal Roach film. So I want to take the utmost in precaution with it. I'm just curious, before anything is done, what the chances are of it being recovered. Thanks for all of the input so far. I'm feeling just a bit more optimistic.

Brock Davis
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Re: Question on Handling Rust Damage

Unread post by Brock Davis » Wed May 02, 2018 1:40 pm

I totally agree with Bruce above. I had a film suffering from so much vinegar syndrome that it was sticking to itself if I tried to unwind it. I soaked it for 2 weeks in Film Renew and it unwound perfectly and played fine too. One of the 3 reels was on plastic which warped, and I had to cut the reel away to get the film off!

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