Albumen - questions after first print

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Justin Cormack, Jun 24, 2007.

  1. Justin Cormack

    Justin Cormack Member

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    I finally made my first albumen print today (despite the rain - the sun came close enough to coming out that exposure time was just over half an hour). Also my first POP. I made a few salt prints last autumn before the printing times got too long with the winter coming in.

    I was using Victorian glass whole plate negatives. Still need to work on my own negs - most of them dont have the range for these processes yet. And it is nice to print them again how they once were printed.

    Overall I was very happy with POP (Centennial). Lovely tonality, very responsive in gold toner (before fix) - I ended up letting it tone quite a lot (rich brown) but will have to try the in between tones. (the print I underexposed and tried to tone after fix as an experiment didnt respond much). Only note was that without gold toning it fades a lot in hypo - when I was doing salt prints in dilute rapid fixer they didnt fade much at all. With toning about what I expected - if anything I overexposed a tiny bit expecting more.

    Albumen was not quite as good, although I was very happy for a first try. It was just much less glossy than I expected, and had some of the image-on-the-surface effect that I had with salt prints on some papers (although less so). I will have to check which paper I was using but I think it was Arches, anyway a HOT watercolour paper, as light weight as it is easy to get (ie about 200gsm). Before sensitising it had a light glossy sheen, but nothing like the albumen prints I have seen. I am not sure if this is due to 1. the paper (I have the B&S sample pack to try coating now) 2. the albumen dissolving in processing - is ageing/hardening/cooking/alcohol/multicoating recommended 3. the sizing of the paper under the albumen 4. smoothness of the paper 5. the small amount of water I dissoved the ammonium chloride in before adding to the egg white, which apprently reduces glossiness. Or something else... any tips appreciated.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    For a smooth look, you want a plate finish paper like Strathmore 500 single-ply plate. This is very much like the paper that was used historically. Traditional albumen prints are almost all on very thin paper and mounted to a thicker cardstock. I buy mine from Jerry's Artarama, in case you can't find a source in the UK.

    The albumen does need to be hardened. I make the albumenized paper in large batches so it ages before I use it, but I also steam it so that it is pliable before sensitizing, and this cooks the albumen as well. You could try multiple coats. The effectiveness of this might depend on the paper you are using.

    Some historic prints were calendered for extra gloss. I haven't managed to find someone with a calendering press to try this out.
     
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  3. blokeman

    blokeman Member

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    albumen

    Hi Justin, it took me many attempts to get some decent Albumen prints. I 'accidentally' allowed some coated sheets to age (for over a year) and this seemed to help a lot. So nowadays when I coat, I tend to coat a huge batch. I also painted the albumen solution on by hand, twice, brushing downwards & then across. Two coats. I've heard that any more than two coats risks cracking. I have had better results by hand brushing silver nitrate too, meticulously. Some people will use a glass rod or floating the paper in the solution but these methods failed me.
    I wasn't aware that it is best to use thin paper stock, I'll try it. I've had excellent results with Arches Platine.
    I have some good recommendations for various books, if you want I can PM you the details.
     
  4. blokeman

    blokeman Member

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    ps: what is 'calendering'?
     
  5. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    A calender press has two smooth rollers, one moving at a slower speed and one at a higher speed, and the print is fed through the rollers with the emulsion side facing the faster roller, so that it buffs the surface and improves the gloss.
     
  6. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    David has given some very good advice.
    Strathmore 500 plate finish, single ply is the only paper I have found which produces a decent gloss. I have tried some 20-24 lb papers, primarily hot pressed stationery, with some success. The gloss is there, but not like the plate finished paper.

    I have seen no improvement in gloss with double coating. I do age and harden the albumen prior to printing.
     
  7. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    I take it that the albumen is aged before it is sensitized? What is meant by "hardening" ? Does it harden during aging or is it put in a dry mount press and heated?
     
  8. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    I have a book somewhere, "The Albumen & Salted Paper Book" by, James M. Reilly. " The History and Practice of Photographic Printing 1840-1895" I'll have to find it. I just did a tour of the National Archives in College Park, Md. and then on to the Eastman House in Rochester. We had private viewings in both places and some of the albumen prints just blew me away.
     
  9. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    I found it and it has answered all my questions. The book says there are three possible approaches to hardening the albumen. The easiest is to store the paper in a loft for about 6 months and a natural slow curing process hardens the albumen. The second is to subject the paper to steam which cooks the albumen and renders it insoluble. The third and easiest (IMO) way to harden is by briefly immersing the sheet in a 70 percent solution of isopropyl alcohol. Ok now back to the beginning of the book and I'll start from there.
     
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  10. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    I'll have to read further but I think the main reason for double coating was so the coating would be more even across the paper. They would coat then hang it.. then turn it 180 degrees to hang for the second coat.
     
  11. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I find steaming easier than the alcohol bath, because it is likely that steaming will be necessary anyway to make the paper pliable when it is time to sensitize it.

    I've tried Strathmore 500 2-ply plate as well, and it gives a nice surface, but I found it harder to coat using the float method, because it curls up in the tray more. If you want to try 2-ply or heavier, you might just leave a larger margin to cut off before printing.
     
  12. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    David have you ever tried John Coffer's trick. He folds the paper in half(large sheets) and glues the three edges so the paper is sealed. He then does all his coating. (floating method is my guess) floating both sides of the paper. I guess you could say it is totally immersed. After it is dried he then cuts the edges away and he then has two sheets of albumen paper instead of one. No need to worry about edges curling because your floating both sides anyway. Now someone will probably chime in and say that is not John Coffer's method and I will have to retract this but my memory is not what it use to be. But when I heard about it I thought it would be a perfectly easy way of doing it. I'll be seeing John next month so I will ask him about it.
     
  13. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    The person I learned from said he tried that, and it just seemed messy, and that it's not so hard to float the paper if you learn the technique, so I just learned the technique, and don't see any need to add the extra steps of gluing the sheets together and cutting them apart.
     
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  15. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    David, Do you ammonia fume your sensitized paper? It is suppose to give you richer more brilliant prints. I know it is not needed but I was wondering if you have added that to your paper prep. Thanks, Robert
     
  16. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    No. It seems like a solution to a problem I'm not having. The main issue is getting negatives of the right density, and the other elements will fall into place.
     
  17. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    What density range is ideal for albumen? I know for platinum printing I usually shoot for a density range around 1.4 - 1.7 UV transmission. For albumen I imagine it would be in the 2.2 range. Are you using glass wet plate negatives where you use negative intensification to achieve the desired density range or are you using film? I'm not suggesting that ammonia fuming is used for solving a problem. I'm just saying many use it to make a subtle difference. Their negatives may be perfect but they may want a little more brilliance from their paper.
     
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  18. Justin Cormack

    Justin Cormack Member

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    Thanks everyone (especially David). I think based on what the paper looked like before and after that it was a hardening issue. I will try steam on the paper I have, but given the amount of paper that can be coated from a dozen or two eggs ageing also sounds like a good idea.

    Brushing the silver seemed to work fine. Thin paper was important as thick paper curled too much to stay on the surface of the albumen. But nothing I tried was as thin as the old prints I have, or as glossy.

    Steaming didnt seem necessary - the paper was fine after a week or so of flattening. But it would probably help reduce the amount that dissolved in processing, which seems likely to be the main issue.
     
  19. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I haven't owned a densitometer since I started albumen printing, but the density range should be on the order of 2 to 2.2. If it prints well on Azo grade 2, it's about one zone too short. I find that a good negative requires a one hour exposure in indirect sunlight (or maybe 20 minutes in direct sunlight).

    I'm surprised you're not seeing any wicking effects from brushing. Maybe that comes from not hardening the albumen first, but that causes other problems. I haven't seen any brush sensitized albumen prints that don't have brush marks. If you don't float, and if you have sufficient ambient humidity, you may be able to get away without steaming, but if the paper isn't sufficiently pliable, it's hard to float it in one smooth motion.

    I'm generally using TXP, Fortepan 400 (until it runs out), Efke PL100, and FP4+ in ABC pyro these days, but I've also gotten good negs from old TMX in D-76 (new TMX has a UV mask that interferes with albumen and other UV dependent processes). I find, though, that I have to just decide to expose and develop for albumen for the best results, and these negs don't in general print well on any silver paper except maybe some 1950s Haloid Industro grade 2 that I have that's lost some contrast, so it's a bit like having Azo grade 1.
     
  20. z-man

    z-man Member

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    COATING BY FLOATING

    according to that book the reason for double coating was specifically to even out the emulsion layer since drying took place while the sheets were hanging like wash on the line

    my own personal experience is that to get an even coat in one shot you must use a different method of coating

    when i worked for the "identicolor" franchise we would routinely coat as many as 20 layers on top of each other and these emulsions where loaded with pigments

    the trick was the very singular way the coating rod was made-and the technique that you used with it which which could produce a completely consistant thickness

    when albumin paper was a commercial mass produced product, the method of production was designed for high numbers of product for sale to the same end market that todays projection print paper is aimed at: photographic printers

    if production numbers are your desired result then emulation of those methods would make sense

    if consistant layer thickness is desired then the speed of production must suffer

    a single wt rc photo paper sheet fixed without exposure can take many different types of coatings and will provide a very high gloss if the coating is consistent

    i don't know if albumin will take the kind of metal plate treatment that we used in the 60's to put a high gloss on fiber base paper-rc was invented to do away with that along with the washing issues

    the idea is to keep the emulsion on top of the support-the more it sinks in the lower the gloss-a non permiable support such as textured mylar drafting film coated by the method i know will obviously be very high gloss

    any photo paper for dye ink jet is designed to minimize absorbtion -even the textured ones

    if you mount 2 such sheets back to back you prevent curling when wet and would have the modern equivilent of the old methods of mounting a light wt paper on a stiffener

    i intend to use that technique for my next run of emulsion coating

    vaya con dios
     
  21. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think albumen would crack or probably stick to hot ferrotyping plates.

    It is important to get the albumen layer to form a skin at the surface of the paper before it is full absorbed into the paper base. I dry the albumenized paper on a line under hot lamps. Some people use a space heater.

    Some people use a coating rod for sensitizing. I don't know if anyone is using a coating rod successfully for applying the albumen. Albumen doesn't set as it cools in the way that gelatin does (it's coated at room temperature), so some of the techniques for coating gelatin emulsions don't necessarily help with albumen.

    The technique for sensitizing with a coating rod is to lay down a line of silver nitrate at one end of the albumenized paper and draw it across the sheet in one smooth motion. If you try to spread it around or go back, you get wicking marks as with brush coating.

    My impression is that the float method was used for commercially produced albumenized paper in the 19th century. There were just lots of women standing over trays in those German factories. The paper was unsensitized, so the photographer still had to sensitize the paper with silver nitrate.
     
  22. z-man

    z-man Member

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    coating but not floating

    dan

    i have never coated a gel emulsion the way i mentioned -only gum variations and casien/albumin variations

    i think you are right about the old mass production methods

    unfortunatly your knowledge of rod coating is limited to the faulty 'pushing ' that is so common and only used to lay down sens sols-the road to hell is paved with good intentions

    the identicolor process used a ss rod wrapped in wire

    that way the dia of the wire determines the thickness of the emulsion-just like a notched trowel spreads mastick or stucco

    very tricky but once you get it and understand it you can make a rod to turn out emulsion layers that are almost as consistant as machine coating

    i paid the bills that way for some time and i can affirm that all the problems that you know re rods don't exist if you do it this way

    i suspect that since i use supermkt egg substitute instead of fresh eggs my consisency in the actual emulsion mix is also more consistent then what you expect

    no i won't tell-my emulsions are proprietary

    i desribed the rod-but you should know that it is part of a patented/tmkd franchise and you should procede with caution if you hvae not payed for the franchise

    tip: use a non stick griddle to hot press any surface that is cranky/sticky/fragile

    vaya con dios
     
  23. Justin Cormack

    Justin Cormack Member

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    I wouldnt have thought that anyone would coat the albumen by anything other than floating. Its the silver stage thats less clear. I was just testing a sample so I used brushing to apply the silver nitrate but I think the lack of hardening probably made it less noticeable.
     
  24. z-man

    z-man Member

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    MASS PRODUCTION YOUR GOAL?

    JUSTIN

    mass production methods of 100+yrs ago would certainly work today

    are you intending to make 1k+ sheets a day for sale?

    the way i see it the albumin was really a size component to produce a glossy surface to put the silver based light sensitive solutions on top of

    a sheet of rc projection photo paper that has been fixed with out exposure to light gives you a stable glossy gelatine surface that you can overcoat with any light sensative solution of your choice doing away with the albumin and getting to the issue of a light sensitve solution of your choice

    albumin was the solution solution at the time to the problem of: how to get a consistant glossy surface-it went out of prodution because faster/cheaper/easier MASS PRODUCTION methods superceded it

    paper coated with albumin and exposed and fixed is NOT archival-the albumin cracks and highlight staining allways takes place-that may be the real reason why it was superceded

    i and many others love the look of it-but you can get the look without the problems

    ex:: water color paper with a pure gelatine overcoat is available

    if you want to mix the eggs and coat yourself fine-but are you trying to repeat the massproduction procedures of 100 yrs ago or are you wanting to create art?

    rag cotton ink jet paper becomes an obvioius solution to many of these issues

    if i want to coat 1 sheet with a gum/gelatine/casien/whatever quick and dirty, i pour a puddle and push/pull it with a fine tooth comb flip it onto a low heat non stick griddle and i'm ready to sensitise just like that

    to learn how to push/pull sensetizer solutions with a rod get some coffee and practice on your support of choice sized your way-the color of the coffee gives immediate feed back on how even your technique is

    i taught at the university leval years ago but i suspect that my students never revealed how they got the successful methods i gave them

    vaya con dios
     
  25. colivet

    colivet Member

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    So how do you deal with the micro million bubbles that show up when you pull the paper from the albumen. How do you get a perfect coating?
     
  26. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Before coating, let the tray settle, then use a strip of paper to push the bubbles to the side of the tray.

    I fold the edges of the paper along the two short sides to make two handles, hold the paper over the tray in a "U" and float it on the albumen so that the paper presses on the surface from the center out to the edges. Be careful not to get albumen on the back of the sheet.

    I remove the sheet by sliding it out of the tray from the near edge and then letting it drip over the tray before hanging it. While it is hanging and wet right out of the tray, you can pop small bubbles and fill them in. Some people use a glass coating rod for this purpose. I always make an oversize sheet and cut it down, so bubbles at the edges aren't a problem.