Authentic, Fast Dry-plate tintypes?

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by cynan, Sep 18, 2006.

  1. cynan

    cynan Member

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    I'm interested in Victorian photography, mainly tintypes, ambrotypes and would like to produce my own plates at some point. I'd like to give wet-plate a 'go' but the methods involved are a little bit too demanding for me at the moment.
    So my only other option, I think, is dry-plate. There doesn't seem to be an awful lot of information available on the dry-plate tintype. Maybe I've been looking in the wrong place, I don't know...So my question is:
    Can anyone suggest a good book or website outlining the authentic methods used for making dry-plate tintypes from 1880 to the 1950? ...with pictures.
    I live in the UK, so getting my hands on Rockford's tintype chemicals might be problematic.
     
  2. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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  3. cynan

    cynan Member

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    Thanks for that Jerevan that's sort of what I'm looking for, but I'd really like to produce images on metal. I believe that dry-plate tintypes were still being made by the late 1940's so there must be a formula out there - Were tintypists using collodion or gelatin by the late 19th? Hmm...
     
  4. Jerevan

    Jerevan Subscriber

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    I suppose using liquid light on metal would work, otherwise the AJ-12 recipe for gelatin emulsion is in the chemistry section could be something of interest maybe. If you want to do positives on metal with gelatin/silver emulsions such as liquid light, you probably want some kind of reversal process developer of some sort. But that's about the limits of my knowledge. :smile:

    This book is an old but good one, although it needs some understanding of chemistry and an urge to experiment (The Silver Sunbeam): http://albumen.stanford.edu/library/monographs/sunbeam/index.html.

    And this one (A manual of photography: intended as a text book for beginners and a book of reference for advanced photographers):
    http://name.umdl.umich.edu/AEL5141.0001.001
     
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  5. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    I believe John Towler's mid-19th century book entited "The Silver Sunbeam" has a section on early dryplate collodion methods. Googling should turn up the online version.

    joe
     
  6. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Mexican street photographers were still doing direct positive paper portraits and collodion tintypes as late as the early 1970's. I believe many are still doing direct positive paper, but I have not been south of the border in a good many years so I don't know if they are stil doing tintypes.
     
  7. cynan

    cynan Member

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    I understand that the early collodion dry-plates were coated in egg and were much slower around the 1870's... Now, Mexican Street Photographers doing Tintype in the 1970's! Must...find.....out!

    (gotta get out more)
     
  8. htmlguru4242

    htmlguru4242 Member

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    It can be done with liquid emulsion on plates; I believe that Rockland sells a kit, though there's no reason why you can't homebrew something.
     
  9. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    Talk to Calamity Jane about the Rockland stuff... it was a gross waste of money if I recall correctly. She may be able and willing to point you to something more viable.
     
  10. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    As far as I know, none of the tintype or ambrotype processes were positive. They look positive because the backing is deep black.
     
  11. timeUnit

    timeUnit Member

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    "There are no photographs while I'm reloading" - Garry Winogrand

    Ha! Love it. Strangely, it's the same for me! ;-)
     
  12. joshverd

    joshverd Member

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    Developer's role in dry-plate tintype

    There is a small section in the book of Alternative Photographic Processes:
    http://www.amazon.com/Book-Alternative-Photographic-Processes/dp/0766820777/sr=8-1/qid=1166155078/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1/102-4363576-8587352?ie=UTF8&s=books

    But it is very small.

    The book basically says the dry plate process can be done with any liquide emulsion, on any dark backing. The catch is: the developer has to have a small amount of exhausted fixer in it (no actual amount given, to quote the book: "this isn't an exact science"). The hypothesis is that the high silver content from the exhausted fixer serves as an emulsion lightener.

    Hope that helps.

    Josh
     
  13. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i have spoken with people who have used the rockland stuff too
    and they said just the opposite. there is a tintype studio at the smithsonian
    and rockland supplies all the materials for ambrotypes / tintypes there ..
    and from what i understand, john coffer got his start using the rockland
    tintype kits, and used them for years, before he settled down and began doing what he
    is currently doing.

    i just ordered a tintype kit to test the waters. from what i understand the layer
    of emulsion has to be a certain thickness, or they have a less than optimal experience.
    maybe calamity was not using the ag plus emulsion?
    while regular liquid light can be used instead of ag + , but unfortunately the liquid light
    is "runnier" and does not have as high a silver content as the ag +,
    the thicker emulsion ( from what i understand ) is easier to coat with , and
    the high silver content is something the developing agent needs and works best with it ..

    i will post again when i have some examples to show ...
     
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  15. FarmGal

    FarmGal Member

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    John Coffer once said words to the effect of the rockland kit was so awful it helped inspire him to crack the wetplate forumula which is way superior in so many ways.
     
  16. hermit

    hermit Member

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    Collodion were not positives!

    I do collodion wet and dry plates all the time. The Tin-types and ambrotypes are basically nothing but under exposed negatives. Put a black background on them and the optical illusion appears positive. With the glass plate version you can hold it up to light and see it is a weak negative, hold it in front of a black surface and it is positive. The whole number on having to have some special reversal developer is a rip off. Done both process, and end up fully agreeing with John Coffer.

    I've done dry plates and screwed up on exposure and some have been very similar, weak negative but put against a black background, the same old positive. Intensified a few to experiment with for the fun of it, and they were the same on glass. Intend to try some dry tin types this late fall/winter when I do a lot of plates since the dry plates are perfect for winter weather.

    Years ago did some Rockland on home made plates as I had left over emulsion, and then since the kit didn't have excess developer left over, developed them in regular paper developer and they worked, some in D-76 I believe and they worked. My homemade plates were a joke, but the images where it wasn't streaked from brushing it on, was fine. Any liquid emulsion would behave the same, weak negative on black background will appear positive! Save a few, or more than a few bucks!

    J Truman
     
  17. alexhill

    alexhill Member

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    I've been working on this for a few months. I have been using a homemade silver bromide emulsion similar to liquid light on glass. I've managed to make a passable ambrotype, but I'm not satisfied yet.

    So far I've been properly exposing my plates to be processed as an ambrotype. I've developed in PMK, stopped in water, and fixed in KCN. The KCN is by far the best fixer I've used. Whoever is using sodium thiosulfate or rapid fixer is lying to themselves about the worthiness of their fixers. The PMK is not an ideal developer at all. I'm currently waiting on my ferrous sulfate to arrive so I can make a classic ambrotype developer with it.

    Once I've got a satisfying ambrotype I plan on writing it up and sharing my experience.
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    it actually wasn't a gross waste of time, just the opposite ...
    she had bad developer, that rockland replaced
    and once she got her developer straightened out she did very well
    http://www.apug.org/forums/viewpost.php?p=128944
    she just went in a different direction afterwards and did hybrid / silver ..
    http://www.largeformatphotography.i...php?13062-Going-into-the-photography-business!
    ===

    its weird that there is bad press on this process. it is actually pretty easy ( and fun )
    and it works very well to make something just as "authentic" as the wet plate tintypes ...
    but without having to use collodion/ether and potassium cyanide.
    and it was made on black paper stock as well as glass and metal plates.
    http://notesonphotographs.org/index.php?title=Ferrotype_Process
    it just takes melting the gelatin emulsion and running it on a CLEAN plate
    and then putting it on something flat+cold to set.

    and if its because it is sold as a "kit" ( like the collodion kits sold by b+s)
    than it is easy if someone wants to make their own emulsion and developer ...
    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum229/55561-aj-12-various-things.html
    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum205/35394-dryplate-ferrotypes.html

    others who are doing it

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/joshuablackwilkins/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/visualadventure/
    http://www.christopherschwer.com/www.christopherschwer.com/Dry_Plate_Tintype.html
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/guyjbrown/

    its easy to put a small plate in a small camera too ..
    no large format is needed ... i've stuck a plate in a 35mm camera, a 120/box camera
    as well as larger ones ... as long as there is a bulb setting its easy ...
     
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  19. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Well this is encouraging news to hear. I've been pretty much our of the loop on everything for the past few years with family illnesses and work, but life is beginning t slow back down for me now and I'm looking at old interests I had rat holed away. And then this ancient thread pops up from the grave in my subscribed list.

    Weird.
     
  20. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi michael

    making these tintypes is a piece of cake !
    you need to coat the plates / tins with a lot of emulsion, the process likes lots of emulsion.
    rate it at about iso 1 ..
    when the glass or metal plate develops it looks like it didn't work
    until you put it directly into the fixer, once it is the fixer it clears and gives a really nice image.
    its about as much effort and difficulty as shooting a paper negative :smile:

    have fun !
    john
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 6, 2013
  21. dsefcik

    dsefcik Member

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    Hi John, old thread I know, maybe you are still active here...can you elaborate on the thickness you are using? I am struggling with finding the correct thickness, I suspect I am putting too much on the plates and end up with a thick yellow haze but you and others suggest using a thick layer but Rockland recommends using a thin layer.

    TIA,
    Daren
     
  22. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi daren

    sorry for my shoddy advice ( without an true explanation) !

    rockland suggests using a thin layer of FRESH ag+
    the reason for their thin layer is their emulsion has a a lot of silver in it ... and it is fresh...

    i would start with a thin layer of emulsion, as long as it is fresh. .. if it is expired like mine, i would add layers.


    BUT ...

    if you can do some tests, this is what i would do … ( i do this every time i use emulsion for ferrotypes or paper negatives )

    take a metal plate ( 4x5? ) and clip it into 4 pieces, each piece should be about the same size
    about a 35mm negative. if you have a old 35mm camera you can experiment with, … you will do you exposures in there.
    just stick the plate on the opening and close the back the pressure plate will hold it in place.

    coat each of your plates with 1 extra coat of emulsion. so 1 plate have a extremely thin layer, your next one 1 layer more,for you 4 layers
    shoot them one after another of the same subject matter and develop them and see which one works best for you. you can even do in camera
    "test strips" by putting a pice of paper in front of your lens to do successive exposures ...

    once you get an idea of your coating layer, and style ( free flow, brushed, dabbed &C ) you can then coat a bigger plate and see
    if your experiment translated well for the bigger plate. that is what i do, with paper in the back of a 35mm camera.

    this will give you an idea of speed, contrast and if your process is working, without wasting a ton emulsion, and a ton of plates only to have to
    wash them off and be discontent with the process. that said, some of my favorite exposures are from a 35mm camera, not big ones.
    after a while, jewel prints kind of grow on you :smile:

    my thick-coat recommendations work best if you are using expired emulsion, rescued from the trash heap.

    john
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 2, 2015
  23. dsefcik

    dsefcik Member

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    Thanks John, appreciate the advice...that said I should have noted what I am using....

    AG+, brand new bottle
    4X5 plates

    So "thick" vs "thin"...

    My first batch was a "thick" coating smeared with my finger, the film holder dark slide hit the top of a couple coatings on the plates. I exposed at ISO 1.6 using a light blue filter in front of the exposure meter. This batch also had lots of crazing of the emulsion.

    My second batch was what I would consider "thin", I heated the emulsion quite a bit and it poured on like quite sloppy, it was running all over the plate and spilling all over. I moved quickly to get it dispersed and spread across the plate without using my fingers at all, just gravity and motion. These I exposed at ISO 3 thinking they were pretty darn thin. This batch had no crazing but lots of pinholes despite me cleaning the plates with alcohol, not touching anything and not shaking the emulsion.

    The first batch was dark but images were discernible
    The second batch was a little better but both had a very thick yellow'ish haze, almost like some old faded mustard color wax paper was in front of them. Scanning them I could break thru the hazy yellow layer and bring out some of the photos but a digital is not what I am ultimately after.

    Here are some examples of batch #1

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]


    Here are a couple from batch #2

    [​IMG]


    "Rocky Bones" my dog was impatient for this 2 second exposure and moved his head
    [​IMG]

    For both batches the plates are much harder to discern an image from than these scans show, much of the detail is lost looking at the actual plates.

    John, I thought I read somewhere you suggested that the yellow'ish haze was from the fixer not fully working it's magic...I am wondering if maybe my fixer solution is to blame. I did mix the kit's fixer at 1/3 the recipe and it is entirely possibly I was not 100% (or 90% or 80%) accurate in measuring the mix.

    Of course I can experiment some more with different thickness of emulsion and exposures but it seems like something else may not be quite right and was just hoping to solicit any advice from folks who might know why I am getting this haze. The folks at Rockland suggested I may be over exposing so I tried that in the second batch.

    I appreciate you taking time to respond to this old thread, I will keep at it and if you have any more thoughts or ideas about this it would be even more appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Daren
     
  24. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi daren

    yeah, maybe the fixer isn't fixing enough ( rough guess ) seeing the yellowy almost looks like
    when you turn the lights on and inspect the film you just processed and it isn't completely fixed yet ( kind of milky ).
    and maybe it is yellowish because of the magic developer's thiocyanate bleaches it yellowy?
    i'd mix a fresh batch of fixer( with hardener ) for your next experiments and see how that goes.
    the folks at rockland said it was over exposed ... maybe its both ?
    if you can do the clip-test it might help you sort things out ...

    it looks like the 2nd plates that are thinner have more details ( less yellow ). i am not sure how you are preparing you plates
    but pinholes might be dots where emulsion didn't stick onto the plate ...

    what i do is this ... ( and it is the same for glass and metal )
    i put the plate under HOT water and have a little scrub brush and i brush it and wash it with washing soda. i was told to do this
    decades ago and it has always worked fine.
    make sure the water "sheets" off and doesn't get "hung up" on any of the metal or glass, when it sheets ( flows ), let it dry.
    i have read that you might get a more even coating of emulsion by adding a drop of photo flo to the emulsion.
    it will help the emulsion slide on the plate. i have done it, and i really can't tell one way or the other ...

    when i coat i have a extremely cold pizza stone next to me.
    i have emulsion in something i can pour it from and i hold the plate with a finger underneath
    and a finger on the edges and pour in the center and tip it to all 4 corners before letting it run back into a second container for run-off.
    its usually a thin coat ...
    i put it in the cold stone and let it set and coat another
    and another
    and another
    and then ...
    i put a 2nd coat on which goes on much easier and better than the first coat ...
    back on the stone to set ( both glass and metal )

    and when if it is dark outside i put the plates in a wood plate drying rack i found somewhere years ago and let them sit on edge to cure overnight.
    if i can't go outside the room because the sun is still up,
    i have an empty box of paper i put them in 1 layer and a paper save i put them in as well ...

    ( the coating takes a little practice to get the hang of but once you learn it isn't as hard as it once was.
    i've also used a foam and hake brush but the brush strokes are evident, so i'd rather pour ... )

    i don't get too many pinholes or crazing ... but frilling from time to time, even on paper.
    maybe my "thick coat" isn't really as "thick" as it seems i am saying it is ...i don't measure it ...
    i don't use a coating rod with wire wrapped underneath, or an emulsion well or anything like that ..
    they are just poured and chilled ...

    good luck with your ferrotypes,
    i hope my suggestions work out for you !
    john
     
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  25. dsefcik

    dsefcik Member

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    Lots of great advice John, thanks so much..! I will get back to some more experiments this week and see how it goes, I need to be a bit more methodical about it.

    I am using all the stock ingredients that come with the bulk kit, the developer, fixer, emulsion, etc...and I am following the instructions. I don't get the pinholes either, I cleaned the plates and did not touch anything, not even the emulsion.
     
  26. seanjmc

    seanjmc Member

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    Chiming in on thickness

    Hi Daren, Hi John, just wanted to chime in here...basically you want as thin an emulsion as you can get away with so that you don't have the hazey stuff upon completion. When the plate is dry under a safelight it should be an off-white. Putting on more than one coat makes it extremely difficult to clear, I wouldn't do it unless you are spraying it with thin coats. Melting the emulsion up to but not more than 110 degrees and letting if flow off as it wants to holding the plate (if 4x5) at a 45 degree angle for no more than 5 seconds should do it. The test is: if, upon correct exposure, (do ISO 3, don't bother with the blue filter), the plate does not clear in the developer after 3 minutes then you are coating it too much, (or exposing it too much)..Make sure you agitate constantly...

    The fixer step should only serve to harden the emulsion and get rid of a few stubborn white spots that didn't clear in the developer. You CAN get rid of general whiteness, but if you are hoping to clear a greater part of the image in the fixer bath, you will never have an image that is not hopelessly 'hazy.' If it all clears in the Developer it will be great.

    Another symptom with this hazy stuff is improper air circulation when the plates are drying. You can't put them in a box or something unless you have rigged up an airflow system.

    All John's advice with the stone is good, but not necessary, just hold the plates rather flat in your hand and they should 'gel' within a half minute or so then you can put them down on a 'not so level' flat surface and the emulsion won't pool. Having the 'stone' allows you to go faster, but then you can't cook pizza to crisp perfection if you are coating plates now can you?

    What else? Post here or email me...not sure if it's in bad taste to post my tintype web section here or not: http://sean-mccormick.com/#/tintypes/

    Happy to finally be able to give back a little here...