How To File Out Your Own Negative Holder

Eric’s Note: This feature is by Trevor Marczylo, a Winnipeg-based street photographer who has made the move to Korea! If anyone in Korea wants to meet up with him- drop him a line! Follow his blog as well.

Trevor: I ‘ve gotten a ton of emails over the last few weeks regards to how I get that black sloppy border around my images in the darkroom. I simply just took a file and hacked into it until I was happy.

So for this week’s article I thought I’d write a quick and simple discription on how to file out your negative holder so you can have your own signature negative border style.

There really isn’t anything to it and all you need is a small flat file and your negative holder, some black paint or nail polish and the will to destroy your neg holder.

First, take your neg holder out from the enlarger or wherever you keep it.

Second, take you file and start to lightly file the inside area. Start off slow to get a feel for file and how much material you are taking off. Keep in mind, how much material you take off from your neg holder will determine the final look of you border. The more you take off the thicker the border, the less you take off the thiner.

While you are filing, try to be a bit creative maybe take a bit more off the sides or less off the bottom or use a more agressive file and hack some lines into an area. Try filing not just up and down but kinda in and around.

Whatever you do, trust me it won’t be wrong. You are making your own one off signature border.

I suggest maybe do a little at a time and go back to your enlarger put the neg holder back in with a negative and shut the lights in the room and turn on the enlarger.

That way you can see what your border is starting to look like. If you feel you would like to file more off then simply go back and repeat.

When you are finished and happy with the final outlook of your neg holder, put some flat black paint or black nailpolish around the area that has been exposed from filing,  Just to be sure not to get any unwanted light reflections on your paper when you are actually in the darkoom printing.

Enjoy and Happy Printing.


See more of Trevor’s work here.

If you have any more questions about filing out your own negative holder, leave a comment below!  

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  • Colin Corneau

    Hey folks

    I did this, to make my own custom neg holder for XPan negatives. I took a slightly different route, which may be of interest.

    Had the luck of a local vocational school being nearby. These guys have a plasma torch, which can cut through metal a-la Star Wars lightsabres.

    I marked off the dimensions of the XPan neg (24mm x 65mm) in pencil and handed the holder over to my shop friends. After I got it back, I filed it smooth, as Trevor’s done here.

    But rather than rely on nail polish, which eventually wears off, I got metal-grade sandpaper. You can find this at any hardware store and with a bit of effort, you can sand the sharp jagged edges smooth. Definitely worth the effort, as the edges are custom filed and ready to go, without worrying about scratching your negs.

    • Trevor Marczylo

      thanks Colin, I forgot to mention to sand down the edges smooth. thanks for bringing that up buddy.
      still making te trips into Winnipeg for Parlour coffee meet ups?

      • Colin Corneau

        A little bit less now, but once it’s motorcycle season again I’m there. Right now I’m saving $$ for the trip to Nepal in April. Never done street photography where there’s snake charmers and elephants in the street…

        • Trevor Marczylo

          would be cool to meet up in another country!

  • Brent.

    Hi Trevor,

    When I made my own custom negative holder, all I did was take two pieces of corrugated cardboard and cut out a hole a little bit bigger than my 35 mm and 120 negs. just sandwich your negs inbetween. It may not look as clean as yours, but I like the look.

    • Trevor Marczylo

      Brent, yes I made a few out off thick hard cardbord for 120 stuff. my neg holder in the photo came with my enlarger when I got it years and years ago. I just simply filed that one out.

  • HA

    Yup, did the same to mine.

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