Alkaline Fixers

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by thefizz, Jun 17, 2011.

  1. thefizz

    thefizz Subscriber

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    With all the reported benefits of alkaline fixers, I’m curious why most manufacturers are only selling acid fixers.

    From what I’ve read, alkaline fixers have the following advantages:

    No need for HCA bath after fixing.
    Shorter wash times.
    Works better with film staining developers.
    Higher capacity.
    Allows one to keep ph level from changing significantly.

    With all these benefits, how come alkaline fixers are not more widely available? Or are they not as good as made out to be?
     
  2. mono

    mono Subscriber

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    That´s exactly what I have found, too!
    And I will give it a try with prints and film. And I will also try water instead of acid stop bath to keep the whole line alkaline as suggested in the Film Cookbook and Darkroom Cookbook and elsewhere.
    Sounds promising.

    PS: Lovely images on your site!
     
  3. Angelo di Mango

    Angelo di Mango Member

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    That is all correct! Another adavntage as it washes more easily is that we don't have unpleasant surprises when we bleach a print prior to toning it. With acid fixers, one may discover "invisible" stains once the print is bleached:-(((
     
  4. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I've been using TF-4 exclusivly for film for the last two years. I love the shorter fix times, shorter wash times, and longevity of the chem. The only thing I dont care for is the amonia odor even when mixed with distilled water, which PF says wont happen(or at least be minor).
     
  5. M Stat

    M Stat Member

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    I've always wondered that myself. When I first started using alkaline fixers, I had to stop and think to myself "Where has this been all my life?!" I was not fully convinced until I had worked with it for quite some time. Now, of course, I just love it. I used the TF-4 for a long time until Photographer's Formulary developed the newer fix, TF-5, which has no ammonium smell to it, and is fully dissolved in the bottle.
     
  6. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I'm considering switching to TF-5 for my paper fix. I'm sticking with TF-4 for my film. According to what I've read, TF-5 is better for fiber prints than for film. I have been using Silvergrain Clearfix Neutral for prints, love it , no odor and fast clearing times and shorter wash times. I'm really sold on Formulary's chems, top quality and decent pricing.
     
  7. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Rick;

    TF-5 works for film or paper both as does TF-4.

    Alkaline fixes cause more swelling of the emulsion which can lead to defects in soft films or papers. Properly hardened film and paper emulsions will work perfectly. Many manufacturers prefer to take the safe route and supply acidic fixes which will work with even very soft films and papers.

    OTOH, Eaton in his book, reports that very soft coatings can suffer from blisters in acidic fixes if a carbonate developer is used. I have never, in my 60+ years in the business, seen this problem with any commercial product though, only with my own handcoated materials if I process early and only when paired with using Dektol.

    PE
     
  8. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Is the rule
    Metol (D76) based developers served better by an acid fix
    Phenidone & Citric type served better by a Alkaline based fix?
     
  9. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Bruce, that is not a rule, a hypotesis, or a theory. It is a myth made up out of smoke and mirrors! :wink:

    PE
     
  10. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Thank you for the info PE. I am really hooked on TF-4 but can't go the smell in trays. I'm going to try TF-5 for that, I dont use the same fix for film and paper as it is(its a personal thing). I used to, but somewhere in my experimenting with new products that changed(dont recollect when or why). Who knows, I may end up using TF-5 for everything if I like it.
     
  11. brucemuir

    brucemuir Member

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    Okay PE.
    I must've digested some info improperly.

    I better find the thread and reread it.

    I thought for sure I read here that M-HQ developers did better in an acid fix but I cant remember the exact reasoning.

    Here I was assuming I'm actually starting to grasp some simple chemistry :sad:
     
  12. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Rick;

    Try a stop bath with TF-4. It pretty much eliminates the smell.

    PE
     
  13. thelawoffives

    thelawoffives Member

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    I would like to piggy-back on this thread with some quick questions:

    1) Is there any downside (other than smell) to using alkaline fixers with modern emulsions? What about older-style emulsions?

    2) When developing older-style emulsions (such as the Efke films) can I just add a hardener to an alkaline fixer, or are there other things to be aware of?

    3) Does anybody have hardener suggestions for adding to an alkaline fixer? Commercial products would be preferred, but I am curious about home-made formulas.

    4) I can't tell from the PF site in what situations one would use TF-4 vs TF-5 and vice-versa, can anyone shed light on this?

    5) I know that it is recommended by Steve Ancell to do away with acid stop bath when using alkaline fixer, but what about HCA? Is it necessary?

    6) How bad is the smell of TF-4, and does it linger? If I am developing in a small apartment, am I likely to upset my wife? To give a personal gauge, I like the smell of stop bath and acid fixers, but really hate the smell of bleach.

    Sorry about tossing in all of these questions, but I have been reading about alkaline fixers for the last few days, and this seemed like a good thread to get some of these questions answered!
     
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  15. Rich Ullsmith

    Rich Ullsmith Subscriber

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    I don't think TF-4 smells bad. It certainly isn't an overwhelming or penetrating thing.

    Concerning the use of HCA: if you are using a two-bath fix with an adequate wash, by all accounts of people who know much more about this than I do, this will be sufficient. But sodium sulfite is cheap, and one tablespoon in a liter of H2O is all you need. You can let it soak while you go get dinner. If you plan on toning, the clearing bath is a nice insurance policy.
     
  16. Athiril

    Athiril Subscriber

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    I just use E-6 fixer on all my film now :tongue:
     
  17. FiatluX

    FiatluX Member

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    Concerning oldschool Efke/Adox CHS, after changing to an alkaline fix (moersch) I have noticed far less, actually no pinpoints and black spots in the emulsion, directly compared to before when using rapid fix. I don't add hardener and use an extremely dilute acid stopbath.
     
  18. Ian Grant

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    There can be if a stop bath isn't used there's a greater risk of dichroic fogging particularly with prints.

    To use a hardener a fixer must be acidic and have additional buffering to help maintain that pH, The difference between Ilford Rapid Fixer and Hypam is additional buffering in the latter allows an optional hardener to be used.

    As above

    Can't help with Q4. You don't need to use a stop bath with any fixer for film processing provided you give a good wash/rinse instead, there's a long thread about this.

    For printing though a stop bath is advised because carry over is more considerable and dichroic fogging from un-neutralise developer in fibre based papers is an issue. While a water rinse instead would be possible with FB papers it would need to be.

    A HCA has two functions with an acid fixer it has a pH of around 8 so is midly alkali which aids washing but the sulphite also helps remove residual silver thiosulpate complexes particularly in Fibre based papers. So can still be beneficial, but it really depends on your fixing regime.

    With the alkaline fixers I've used there's sometimes been a very slight smell of ammonia, just detectable once diluted, this goes with use as a little stop bath gets carried over into the fixer. Ammonia is't as sharp a smell as the Chlorine given off by Sodium Hypchlorite bleach.

    Some alkaline fixers are barely alkaline, in use they may have a pH in the 6 - 7 region which technically is on the acidic side of neutral, others may start higher hence the free ammonia.

    Fixers like Ilford Rapid fixer and Hypam have a pH of 5.2 to 5.4 that's not significantly acidic when you realise lack coffee has a pH of 5, Ciric acid 2.2 (2%) and Acetic acid stop bath 2.9.

    I've not used a hardening fixer with EFKE/Adox films for a few years now, they were in fact the first of the modern thin coat films rather than old style emulsions. EFKE have now hardened the emulsions slightly so they are very significantly better than when I first used them in the early 1970's.

    You may want to keep using them with an acid fixer, alternatively you can use a hardening stop bath or a developer like Pyrocat HD which has a tanning (hardening) action during development.

    Ian
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 18, 2011
  19. Philippe-Georges

    Philippe-Georges Member

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    The cheapest neutral-to-alkalic industrial made fixer is FUJI's UNILEC for C-41, but it works as a marvel on B&W too, can be rejuvenated and it lasts very long.
    The down side: it comes in 20 lit. jugs...
     
  20. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    It's working pH is 6.7 although fresh solution is pH 7.5.

    Ian
     
  21. thelawoffives

    thelawoffives Member

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    Regarding Efke/Adox films, some of your comments here lead me to believe that the emulsion is not as soft and delicate as I have come to believe. If I exercise care when handling the wet negatives, do I really need to introduce a hardener at some phase of my process? I don't want to make it sound as if I am opposed to hardener, rather I am going through a process of experimenting with different fixing routines/methods/agents, and I am trying to determine the impact of the variables on the process.
     
  22. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Bill when I first used Adox/EFKE films (1970's) they were extremely delicate, a temperature variation and the emulsion would slide off the support, yes it was very soft. In the end I either used a hardening stop bath based on Chrome alum, or added 2 or 3 drops of Formaldehyde to a one shot developer just prior to processing.

    Some time in the 80's the films began to be hardened better, I've not used a hardening fixer since about 1975 and I find as long as you take care during processing then the films don't scratch. It is important to pay particular attention to the process temperature, keeping all stages within a degree Celsius of the initial dev temperature, and it's best to work at 20° C if you can.

    Ian
     
  23. Роберт

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    Efke 35mm and roll film are also both on Polyester clear layer now. In a reel development you can use all regular chemicals. Just keep the temperature under 22C and never sqeegee the Efke films.

    I like that Orthopan Efke 25 film. Nice grey scale, fine grain, pretty good resolution and ..... sharp! Beutler (based on Metol) 1+1+10 is my favorite developer for this film.
     
  24. chimneyfinder

    chimneyfinder Member

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    Thought I would chirp in on the availability of off the shelf alkaline fixers in the UK and Europe, if some viewers are wandering about never having come across TF-4. Fotospeed make FX40 Alkaline Fixer. I have been using it for the past couple of years at 1:4 with the same usage as a Rapid acid fixer. (At 1:7 I found that it is not half as effective and so not an economical dilution). I use a litre solution for @ 10 films or 20-25 prints and find that it stores well in full bottles. It probably has a greater fixing capacity, but that is just my own limitation. With fibre paper I'm happy with a 5 minute overflow tray wash followed by 35-40 minutes in my archival washer and a simple selenium test reveals no staining, (I think a 30 minute wash is enough). It hasn't proven to be more expensive and the smell is only noticeable if you take a whiff directly over the tray.
    For me, there is no reason to go back to acid fixer, though I did get some giveaway acid fixer recently that I use for some RC printing, because, after 30 years printing I can't think why not to either.
    Mark Walker.
     
  25. nworth

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    I think the main reason for acid fixers was aluminum based hardeners. You will notice that most acid fixers available commercially are designed to work with hardeners. The fixer has to be quite acid not to precipitate alumina from potassium alum. Other complaints about alkaline fixers which may have influence are the greater possibility of stains, shorter tray life of some formulas, and odor of some ammonium thiosulfate based formulas.
     
  26. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    You cannot use any chrome or aluminum hardener with an alkaline fix, nor can you use an aldehyde hardener with an ammonium fix. You are therefore forced to harden either with a hardening stop (with wash afterwards) or a prehardener with a wash afterwards.

    PE