Make your own 120 Film Cans

I wrote this ages ago, but it wasn’t in the easiest to find place. I discovered today that Ilford fit inside Agfa, and – with a bit of brute force – an Ilford will fit inside an Ilford. So I made a few more of these …
I’ve often wondered why the relatively tough little metal-clad 35mm roll comes in a neat plastic case, while the bigger and more delicate 120 roll has nothing more than foil to protect it. You can buy 120 film cans, but they are expensive after-market things.

Since I also (used to) shoot 35mm, I tend to end up with a lot of empty film cans. Some brands of film, I noticed, have quite different can diameters. Fuji seems to have the narrowest, Ilford next, and then Agfa the widest. A Fuji can slips quite neatly inside an Agfa can — in fact, if you bore a small hole in the bottom of an Agfa, fill it with water, and slide a Fuji can in as a plunger, it acts as quite an effective single-shot water pistol. But I digress …

But best of all, I discovered that a Fuji can is a tight interference fit into an Ilford can. Since I knew that a 120 spool is a smaller diameter than a 35mm roll, and is less than twice the length, I knew I could do something with this.

ilford and fuji film cans, knife.

You will need:

  • an Ilford film can. It doesn’t need to have a lid, as it will be acting as the base of the “stretch” 120 can.
  • a Fuji film can. I’ve only used the black kind you get with the faster films. I suspect that the clear cans that are used on the rest of the range might work, but won’t be light-tight.
  • a sharp knife. The pictured Opinel may not look much, but it has a razor-like carbon steel blade.

fuji can with end sliced off.

Slice the end off the Fuji can. It helps to poke a hole in the side of the can a couple of millimetres up from the end, and then start slicing where you made the hole.

fuji can jammed in ilford can.

Jam the now baseless Fuji can into the Ilford can, and push it down to the desire length. It really helps if you take the lid off the Fuji can, as otherwise you’d be working against air compression. It also helps if you have a spare 120 spool handy, to check that you haven’t pushed the two cans too far in to be useful.

120 film can in use!

And there you are! It might be rather rough and ready, but it works. I don’t know how durable or waterproof these things are, but they’ll afford considerably more protection than having them rolling about loose in your camera bag.