Building Contact / Printing-Out Frames?

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by zenrhino, Nov 28, 2004.

  1. zenrhino

    zenrhino Member

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    I'm looking to to do Van Dyke printing on some of the ubiquitous watercolor paper we have here in the house. The Van Dyke part of it seems pretty intuitive (sensitizing the paper, etc) but finding a frame to do the exposure is a bit problematic.

    Have any of y'all built one of these creatures? I'd like to make one that can handle from Polaroid 665 size to 8x10 since I plan to (please forgive me for saying the D word) make negatives on transparancy from some of my digital shots for work.

    Seems to me it could be as simple as a piece of chipboard and thick glass from Home Depot and some "A" clamps. Someone mentioned hinging the back so I can peek at the print, too.

    Has anyone actually seen one of these frames in the wild? Adorama has them for sale but without pictures.
     
  2. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    As I understand, you'll want glass on both sides of the negative/coated-paper sandwich. So, unless you're just clamping two sheets of glass together, the frame dimensions would need to be sufficiently over-sized to allow for an empty-frame edge insert to create the pressure between the two glass sheets. One sheet of glass could be edge-glued inside the main frame, and then the other placed on top and held in position by the insert edge-frame.
     
  3. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    If you are considering purchasing a contact frame try to find an older Eastman frame. They can be found on eBay, at flea markets, and sometimes in camera shops. Avoid the cheap newer frames which are hinged with duct tape and have weak springs.

    There are custom frames sold by Bostick & Sullivan as well as AWB (Alan Brubaker). I would expect these to be of high quality based on their description. Another source is Photographers' Formulary. Their frames are of an unconvenional design based on springs along the perimeter rather than in the center. This would be similar to your use of clamps along the edges of the glass. Practical though somewhat of a pain and not as elegant or efficient as the conventional long spring that applies pressure from the center. You will find the edge clamp solution does not produce good contact in the center as the print size increases.

    A woodworker with basic skills can construct one of these frames fairly easily. The trick would be finding the springs.

    I'd recommend purchasing a good frame from AWB or B&S. It will be worth the cost in the long run and save a lot of frustration. Also, buy a frame slightly larger than the biggest print you intend to make. For example, use an 11x14 frame (or a 9x11, 10x12, etc.) for 8x10 prints. The larger size will facilitate your use of handcoated papers for processes like van dyke brown. To efficiently coat an 8x10 VDB image area your paper will need to be larger than 8x10.
     
  4. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    If you search eBay for items for sale by the user "sneakykeen" you'll find beautiful contact printing frames. For some strange reason he doesn't build his 8x10 frames with hinged backs (although his larger frames always have hinged backs), but his ads will tell you everything you want to know about a properly constructed frame and his work is well worth considering.
     
  5. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    Remember, folks, the rhino is talking about Van Dyke printing here. As such, I don't think the conventional printing frames with opaque backs will work, because one (apparently) needs to be able to see the back of the paper.
     
  6. Jeremy

    Jeremy Member

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    Nope, you just need to be able to fold back part of the paper separate from the negative so you can see how much more exposure to give it.
     
  7. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    OK, so it sounds like a hinged back would do the trick then. Thanks, Jeremy.
     
  8. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    Not so. The hinged back allows one to check exposure along the way but that isn't even needed if you calibrate your process. Having an opaque back is actually desirable to block reflection and non-image exposure through the back of the paper. Black felt is often used to eliminate this reflection and also provide for a more even distribution of pressure from the springs or clamps that hold the frame pieces.

    I recently picked up a NuArc 26-1K plateburner with vacuum frame and unless I tape the negative to the paper, which I won't do, as soon as the vacuum breaks the paper and negative sandwich shifts. So, checking exposure midway is not an option with this system or with a frame lacking the hinged back or with two sheets of glass clamped together.

    If you have a constant exposure source (plateburner, fluorescent tubes, quartz studio lamp, etc.) you can use a step wedge and determine the exact exposure required for your paper and emulsion mix by doing a simple exposure test. (This assumes that your negative has the proper density range for that process of course.) You need to expose the test until the maximum number of steps have printed without any merger of tones. The first step should be exposed to produce the maximum density of which the paper/emulsion mix is capable. All the other steps will print out relative to that maximum density. If you have merged tones on the shadow end, your print exposure is excessive. Once you know the range and have a proper test , it is a simple matter to expose the negative to the exact exposure required. This is a very repeatable way of working and it eliminates the need for the hinged contact print frame.

    With van dyke brown you will find the correct exposure looks too light by a couple steps. The print will gain several steps of density in processing and drydown. The opposite will be true of cyanotype which should be printed to the point of solarization since it will lose several steps during processing.
     
  9. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I have several printing frames in all sizes from 6.5x9cm to 8x10", including most of the "plate" sizes. They turn up every once in a while on ebay, especially ebay.de or .co.uk. Some of them I have aquired along with other equipment, like two half-plate frames which turned up in the course of buying cut film sheaths for my 9x12cm plate camera.

    New ones are great, but expensive - see www.lotusviewcamera.at - while old ones can be nice or utter cr*p, cheap or expensive, and sometimes sold as "antique picture frame or camera part?".
     
  10. mark

    mark Member

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    I got one from photographer's formulary that is quite nice, and the price was not out of hand like many. I also built one but had a lot of trouble finding springs that were tight enough. In fact I never got them right.
     
  11. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Agree Mark, I have the PF 8x10 model - which is more like 9x11. Can see that the larger negative size might not be flat in the center, the one I have does work for me. Seems like it was about 1/2 of the others.
     
  12. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    One of mine was wooden springs, the others have steel, brass or similar. The wooden ones work quite well, despite being the better part of a cetury old!
     
  13. mark

    mark Member

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    I never thought of wood. Are they just warped pieces of hardwood?
     
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  15. zenrhino

    zenrhino Member

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    Wow. His stuff is beautiful. I think this is one I'll leave to the experts rather than try to do it on the cheap (and pay in frustration later!).

    Thanks for the advice!
     
  16. zenrhino

    zenrhino Member

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    Ok, let me go over this bit by bit since at my level of learning, this is like my trying to read Kant in 5th grade -- fascinating but not quite digestible.

    For exposure I was just going to set it out in the sun on the balcony. Granted, Minnesota daylight in the winter is pretty short. Will this take more than 6 hours or so to expose? My resources are pretty limited, but I do have a number of floursecent lights around the house -- mostly the kind that get put into table lamps.

    What's a step wedge? Is that some sort of shim in the frame?

    Thanks for the exposure advice. It sounds like cooking carmel or roux -- needs to be taken off the stove a touch early.
     
  17. mark

    mark Member

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    A step wedge is a good thing. It is used to calibrate or measure the exposure. It has several different exposures on it representing the different levels of grey from clear base to bullet proof. I am sure someone will pipe in with a more technical explanation but I would say it would make you balcony exposure unit very nice.

    I print my POP paper outside but I am in AZ at 6500 feet with little to block the UV. My times have risen to near 15 minutes for what I think is a good negative as the sun gets lower in the sky. You will probably have that thing on the balcony for a really long time. I've been considering an exposure unit with BL bulbs. DO a search on the site for BLB to get a sense of what it would take. If you are not going to build a printing frame the exposure unit might be well over the top, but who knows.

    Good luck.
     
  18. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    That's about right!

    Norwegian winter sunlight is even rarer - so I keep indoors these days. I use a "growlight" which gives decent exposure in about 20 minutes for van Dykes and cyanotypes. I haven't tried ordinary fluorescent lights, since I already had the growlight :wink:

    As explained, it's a "test negative" with solid blocks of different densities. Very useful, but not half as fun as experimenting with "real" negatives!

    Try cyanotypes: When they look irredeemably overexposed, they should have been exposed 50% more.

    Mark - I'll get back to the wooden springs later - I'm 500km away from them right now, so it's a bit difficult to give you a decent description:smile:
     
  19. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    A step wedge is a strip of film which has been manufactured so that a series of different densities is represented. You can buy them calibrated ($$$) or uncalibrated (~$9) but the uncalibrated ones work just fine. The density of step one is about 0.05 and each step progresses by about one-half stop per step. So, step 2 can be taken to be 0.20, step 3 @ 0.35 and so on until you reach step 21. Now a proper van dyke brown emulsion might print somewhere between 16-18 total steps which would represent about an 8-9 stop total exposure range (with corresponding densities of 2.40 to 2.60) depending on your emulsion mix and specific paper.

    To provide an example: step 1 should print out as the maximum density the process is capable of while perhaps step 16 would be paper white and step 15 just the lightest of gray tones. Steps 16-21 would all be white. If you increased the exposure the entire range would shift with step 1&2 maximum density but now step 16 is light gray and 17-21 paper white. This would indicate an overexposure of one step which is equal to one-half stop. You want to adjust exposure to get the maximum number of steps printed without blocking up and at the same time having the maximum density possible. This range will vary with your paper and emulsion mix.

    The true emulsion exposure range is actually pretty easy to determine with the step wedge. The tough part is adjusting your image negative exposure and processing so that it matches the contrast (exposure range) of the process you are working with. VDB is fairly high while Pt/Pd is less and normal silver printing below that. I'd rank the processes from lowest to highest negative contrast needed as: gum bichromate, silver, cyanotype, Pt/Pd, VDB, Albumen, POP, salted paper. A negative made for van dyke brownprinting really won't make a good silverprint even if a contrast #0 filter or paper is used.

    I have a few web pages showing VDB exposure test using step wedges. The urls are:

    http://my.net-link.net/~jsmigiel/images/technical/VDB_TMAX.jpg

    and

    http://my.net-link.net/~jsmigiel/images/technical/TMX_TMY_HP5.jpg

    These tests were done because it was discovered new TMAX 100 has an UV blocking base which makes it a poor choice for printing in alternative processes like VDB. The tests compare exposures through new and old TMAX films, HP5+, and just the step wedge on paper. They also show the effect of processing and drydown with vdb (the difference between the marks for exposure [EXP] and dry print).

    As far as the exposure source, pick up some UV black light tubes that fit standard 24" fluorescent fixtures but be aware that the UV can damge your eyes so don't watch the exposure process. The Sun will also work but since it is not consistent this time of year you will need to use one of the hinged frames to check the progress of exposure. VDB is fairly fast so I doubt your exposures will be anywhere near six hours midday. My exposures with the NuArc are about 20 minutes IIRC and, 6" from UV tubes even faster. (But, the NuArc is preferred because it is so consistent and eliminates the guesswork and monitoring.)
     
  20. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    You might want to pick up a copy of John Barnier's "Coming Into Focus." It is a good alternative process book and has a section on using step wedges for brownprints (argyrotypes maybe instead of vdb? but the info applies to all). Other good alternative process books are Schaeffer's Ansel Adams Guide book 2, Farber's Alternative Photographic Processes, and Christopher James' Handbook of Alternative Photographic Processes. And of course, the alt bible is Crawford's Keepers of Light. Each has its merits and shortfalls, but I think Barniers is the best overall in terms of explanations and imagery.
     
  21. jimread

    jimread Member

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  22. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Inspired by Jim's article on the alternative photography site, I also made my own frame using 1x2" poplar. I used birch cabinet-grade plywood for the back, and ordinary window glass.

    Rather than cut a rabbet into the poplar, I milled a 1/4" strip that is 1/4" wider than the width of the frame material. I routed a bevel on one edge, and then face glued this to the frame to create a piece with a rabbet to hold the glass. The reason for this was that I needed the full thickness of the frame material to hold the glass and hinged back.

    Rather than metal springs, I attached four small (1/4") blocks that I attached to the frame with screws. These blocks serve to hold the back in place.

    The back has a sheet of black foam on the inner face, topped with a layer of black felt. The felt/foam layer is compressable, so when the back fits into the frame and the blocks are turned to hold it in place, the foam/felt layer compresses to hold the negative/paper in place. The hinge is full width.

    The overall cost was significantly less than purchasing a new printing frame, and it was a fun project last winter.
     
  23. jimread

    jimread Member

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    Dear Louie,

    Well thats really nice of you to say that I inspired you, its not often that anyone says thnaks let alone that.

    I must admit that the back bellowed out on mine and I had to turn it upside down so that it would grip the paper/neg firmly.

    The people who designed those old ones must have ahd the same experience and got round it by usning the centre spring. I notice further back in this thread that some frames have wooden springs. I never would (wood) have though if that, what a good idea, plywood is after all quite flexible. I will either make another or convert my own when I get round to it, as they say.

    Kind regards - Jim
     
  24. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    In a college course many years ago we made VDB and cyanotypes with half-tone negatives. These should be similar to computer generated transparencies if the transparency ink or toner is opaque to UV. If so, once a good half-tone has been made, VDB or cyanotype exposure is very consistant. A hinged back may be unnecessary. Flourescent lights with high UV output are much more convenient than sunlight.
     
  25. jimread

    jimread Member

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  26. unrealalex

    unrealalex Member

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