Wet plate tintype recipes

June 15, 2015  •  7 Comments

NEWSLETTER SUBSCRIPTION

 

Today I have made an update of the RECIPES page. I placed its copy here in blog, so you can share your experience and recipes or ask questions.

The recipes are covering making of wet plate tintype with Lea's Landscape #7 collodion

 

GENERAL NOTES

Wet plate chemistry is not complicated, but is dangerous. I strongly recommend to prepare your own solutions - it's cheaper and you have control over critical part of the process. You should find a good source of raw chemicals. If you want to produce clean plates, the purity of chemicals is an essential condition.  

Be careful when you are working with chemicals and you should use protective gear all the time.

Find a safe storage out of kids reach. 

Some of wet plate chemicals are highly flammable. 

You should use separate bowls, cups, cones, bottles, spoons for every chemistry. Be careful not to cross contaminate your chemistry. Just pure chemicals results in pure plates.

 

COLLODION

SILVER BATH

DEVELOPER

FIXER

 

COLLODION - LEA’S LANDSCAPE #7

 

WARNING: Alcohol, collodion and ether are highly flammable. Avoid open fire. To work with these chemicals, you should have a good ventilation in your darkroom

 

What do you need

Scales

Small glass bowl 

Small glass rod

A candle

Bottle for ethanol-ether solution 

Bottle for ethanol

Bottle for collodion

Protective gloves and breath mask

Grain alcohol                 100 ml

Cadmium bromide         1,5 g

Ammonium bromide         1,3 g

Cadmium Iodide             3,4 g

Ammonium Iodide          2,6g

Ethanol  (96-98% alcohol)  20 ml 

Ethanol Ether  1:1          60 ml

Collodion pure         120 ml

Plastic cone for Iodising solution

Bottle for Iodising solution

Plastic cone for final working collodion

Bottle for final working collodion

 

Lea’s Landscape is not to easiest to prepare, but I like its quality for landscape, still life and even in portrait photography. Preparing working collodion solution is a two step process. At the first step you prepare Iodising solution, just alcohol mixed with salts. You can store it for a very long time. In the second step you mix working collodion. It has to ripe for at least three days before use. The final working solution is deteriorating with time. It is loosing sensitivity and its contrast is increased by loosing details in shadows. I prefer to work with fresh collodion, but I often mix it with a bit of an old batch. More about this later.

I’m storing ether in 1:1 mix solution with alcohol - it should be more stable than pure ether. You can store it outside of your house, It will not freeze. (Diethyl ether freezing point is -116 degrees of Celsius, 96% ethanol freeze around - 100 degrees of Celsius)

 

Steps

COLLODION - IODIZING SOLUTION

1. You have to dissolve salts in distilled water, but you should minimize the amount of water you are using. Fill the glass bowl with 6 ml of distilled water

2. Dissolve in the bowl Cadmium Bromide. Use small glass rod for mixing. If necessary, you can heat a glass bowl over a candle flame. 

3. Dissolve in the bowl other salts. Ad new salt only after previous one is fully dissolved

4. Set plastic cone on bottle for Iodising solution

5. Fill solution from bowl into cone

6. Fill measure cylinder with 100 ml of ethanol

7. Fill ethanol into cone. Be careful to wash with ethanol all salt solution from the cone into the bottle.

 

COLLODION - WORKING SOLUTION

1. Set plastic cone on the final collodion bottle.

2. Fill the bottle with 120 ml of collodion. (I have a special small bottle for pure collodion, with marks for 120 and 240 ml)

3. Fill the bottle with 40 ml of Iodising solution

4. Fill the bottle with 60 ml of ethanol - ether 1:1 solution

5. Fill the bottle with 20 ml of alcohol

6. Tap bottle, mix it and let it stay for a few days.

 

Fresh working collodion can be milky. It will clear (or rip) in a few hours or days. Fresh collodion is very sensitive and it can produce very flat overexcited images. 

 

How does it work

Collodion is mix of gun powder, ethanol and ether. Very flammable solution, be careful how you store it and especially when you are traveling with it. 

Collodion is just a base, emulsion, which will create a film layer on plate. Salts in collodion are what is important. Bromides and Iodides from collodion will in Silver bath create light sensitive halids. You can change sensitivity and contrast of working collodion by changing the amount and composition of different salts in Iodising solution. You can lost a high amount of time and other sources that way. I prefer to stick with a standard recipe. Much better way how to deal with the contrast in wet plates is careful manage exposure time. http://www.jurokovacik.com/blog/2015/1/Contrast-and-exposure-of-wet-plates

I have tree bottles of working ripped collodion. Number one is marked new and is filled fit the newest, just ripped batch, usually no older than a week. The second bottle is filled with collodion I’m actually using for plates. The third bottle contains collodion I use to catch collodion from plates when I’m pouring collodion on them, its accumulated “old collodion” 

I often mix into the second bottle fresh collodion from the first bottle and old collodion from the third bottle (not more than 10-15% of old collodion). For regeneration of old collodion you can add into it up to 20% of ethanol-ether 1:1 solution. 

Never fill old collodion, you don’t want to use anymore, in your sink. It can to choke it easily. 

Woking collodion in the second bottle should be always filtered.

You can use denatured alcohol for cleaning collodion bottles or cans - it's much cheaper then clean them with pure alcohol. 

 

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SILVER BATH

 

WARNING: Never ever do anything with Silver Nitrate or silver bath without glasses. 

 

If you are doing wet plate and not use KCN as a fixer, silver bath will be the most dangerous thing in your darkroom. SILVER NITRATE, AgNO3,  is a very aggressive chemical. Be very careful with it. Your eyes should be protected all the time you are working with AgNO3. Silver Nitrate in your eyes can blind you easily. Silver Nitrate will darken every organic material, your clothes will be irreparably destroyed. Dark spots from fingers will diminish in days, take them as the mark of your profession. Consider a safe storage option, especially if you have kids in the house. Be careful with this bastard. 

 

What do you need

Scales

500 ml graduated cylinder

Plastic cap for Silver Nitrate

Plastic cone for Silver Nitrate

Protective nitric gloves and glasses

1 litter of distilled water

90 grams of Silver Nitrate AgNO3

Protective gloves and glasses

 

Steps

1. Measure in plastic cup 90 g of Silver Nitrate, AgNO3

2. Fill 500 ml cylinder with 500 ml of distilled water

3. Set plastic cone on 1 litter bottle

4. Pour Silver Nitrate from plastic cup into plastic cone

5. Slowly pour water from cylinder into cone.  Take care to wash all Silver Nitrate grains from cone into bottle

6.  Fill cylinder with 500 ml of distilled water and pour it into bottle

 

How does it work

When the plate with collodion layer is dipped in Silver Nitrate bath, salts from collodion (iodides and bromides) are reacting with silver and creating light sensitive halides. You can check progress of silver bathing by visual inspection. (You have to use safe light) Colour of collodion on the plate is changing from transparent to milky. Plate should be in a silver bath from 3 to 5 minutes. 

Fresh silver bath has to be iodised before use. Just prepare on a glass plate with standard collodion and let in in silver bath for a night (You should use at this stage glass plate, not tintype).  

Be careful not to contaminate your silver bath with tap water. When you are washing your silver bath tank, you should use distilled water for the last rinse. 

 

Silver bath maintenance

You should check specific gravity of fresh bath with a hydrometer and write it down. You will use it later for silver bath maintenance

Rule number one - filter silver bath after every photo session. 

Silver bath in use will is contained with organic remnants and with ether and alcohol from plates. The solution is sunning. Pour your silver into a bottle with very wide neck. Cover it with any breathable cloth and let it stay in sunlight for a few hours. I prefer to make sun bath as often as possible, at least twice a week

I regularly refill silver bath with a fresh solution. Your silver bath would stay in working condition for very long time. The best sign that silver bath is losing its power are dark dots (black holes) clearly visible in light parts of the plate. 

From time to time you can control specific gravity of your silver bath and add a distilled water, if it is too high or silver nitrate, if it is too low.

I’ve never played with acidity of my silver bath solution. I’ve never ad an acid into my silver bath. I prefer to avoid heavy maintenance as long as possible. (But from time to time I check pH with paper test strips) 

Boiling of Silver Nitrate bath can be really dangerous because of a poisoned vapour and has to be done outside. 

If you have a problem with your plates, there is a big chance, that your silver bath is NOT the source of problem. I have three contemporary wet plate photography manuals, written by Quinn Jacobson, John Coffer and Mark Osterman. (Every of them is a valuable reading) I think it was in a John Coffer's book, where is the sentence - if you have technical problems with your plates, the silver bath is the least likely source of them. Before you start to do something with your silver bath, check everything else.

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DEVELOPER

 

What do you need

Scales

Plastic cap for Ferrous Sulphate

100 ml graduated cylinder

500 ml graduated cylinder

1 litter bottle for developer (can be plastic)

Plastic cone for developer

500 ml distilled water

20g Ferrous Sulfate (FeSO4)

20 ml Grain Alcohol

15ml Glacial Acid (Acetic acid, CH3CO2H)

Protective acid resistant gloves and glasses

 

Steps

1. Measure in plastic cup 20 g of Ferrous Sulphate

2. Fill 500 ml cylinder with 500 ml of distilled water

3. Fill small cylinder with 15 ml of Glacial Acid 

4. Pour ACID from small cylinder INTO WATER in big cylinder. NEVER EVER DO IT IN OPPOSITE DIRECTION!

5. Fill EMPTY small cylinder with 20 ml of Grain Alcohol

6. Pour alcohol from small cylinder into water-acid solution in big cylinder

7. Set plastic cone on 1 litter bottle for developer

8. Pour grains of Ferrous Sulphate from plastic cup into plastic cone

9. Slowly pour water-acid-alcohol solution from cylinder into cone.  Take care to wash all Ferrous Sulphate grains from cone into bottle. If Ferrous Sulphate grains are caked, joust pour a bit of solution into a cone and wait. Cooked grains will break after few seconds.

10. The developer should be filtered before use. 

 

How does it work

Ferrous sulphate is an active part of the developer. It’s cheap, you should use pure chemical quality of it all the time.  

Developing is very fast and abrupt reaction. Acid works as a retainer, which help to increase developing time up to 20 seconds. 

Alcohol is decreasing viscosity of developer and helps to spread developer fast and evenly over the plate. 

Developing of plates is a very fast process. I’m using for pouring of developer on a plate a spirit glass, holding the plate in the left hand. Highlights should be visible in seconds. You should stop developing - poor water on your plate - in the moment, when you can see mid tones. I consider as a good exposure the plate with 15-18 seconds of developmnet time.

You can use developer when Ferrous Sulphate is fully dissolved. I prefer to mix developer at least a day before using. New developer is blue. Older developer will turn its color into orange. It will lose its power with time, but it will work fine. I prefer to use at least a week to four week old developer. After one month I dispose it. The developer should be filtered before using. 

 

Summer Developer for temperatures above 30 degrees of Celsius

 

500 ml distilled water

20g Ferrous Sulfate (FeSO4)

30 ml Grain Alcohol

20 ml Glacial Acid (Acetic acid, CH3CO2H)

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FIXER

 

I’m using for tintypes 20% solution of Ilford Rapid fixer with distilled water. The fresh solution works pretty fast and is slowing down in time. Fixing time at least 5 and no more then 10 minutes

 

 

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Comments

dwarak Calayampundi(non-registered)
Thanks for the comment appreciate it.....
Juro Kovacik
PH value is important, It is better to check is from time to time. I have never ever silver bath with PH 6-7, so I don't know if it would work
Dwarak Calayampundi(non-registered)
Hello
I recently got into tintypes and have a question on the silver nitrate bath. People check the specific gravity to be 1080 and a pH value of 4 how important is the pH value. Or will it still work if you have a pH value of 6 or 7 please advice.
Juraj Kovacik(non-registered)
no, it would not be a real problem
Ross(non-registered)
Oh no! I just made my first silver nitrate bath and left a (tintype) in the silver bath overnight. Didn't realize that is was supposed to be only glass until I read your blog until. Hope I didn't blow my new silver bath and a bunch of $ right off he bat.
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