Enlarger on the way! Now for questions...

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Stephanie Brim, Aug 3, 2007.

  1. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    I will soon have an enlarger on the way from a guy who doesn't need it anymore, finally. This is an exciting prospect for me. I'll get to print. Being a first time printer, I'm not sure of a few things. So questions.

    Would starting with a 5x7 variable contrast paper be okay? I'm wanting to save some funds on the paper and a 250 sheet box is $30 at Freestyle. That should be enough to learn on.

    As a beginner, should I go with Dektol? Are there any good liquid concentrate developers for beginners? Being pregnant, I'd like to avoid powders as much as possible for the next four months, but I can always have Adam mix it up for me.

    Also, since I'm pregnant, I'm more worried about exposure. Probably more than I have to be, but I want to be cautious. I'm thinking of having Adam help me by doing the actual developing of the prints with me just standing and watching him. We'll be in a well ventilated area so I'm not worried about that, but getting any chemical on my skin is something I don't want to do.

    Any advice would be appreciated.
     
  2. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    Oh, and one more thing.

    We want to send out birth announcements with a photo of our baby. I'm going to take the photo and, hopefully, do the printing on Ilford Postcard paper. I figure that since it's available I may as well use it. Any idea if I can pick it up in Iowa, or am I going to have to special order?
     
  3. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    5x7 is just as fine as any size to start. It will most definitely be less expensive.

    Dektol is fine. Ilford Multigrade would be another one. Kodak has some liquid concentrates that are fine too. It doesn't really matter all that much.

    When I started printing, I followed Michael Smith's advice and printed one sheet knowingly too dark, another knowingly too light (takes a couple of sheets to figure out what too dark and too light is), and judge the work print exposure from that. After you get a good exposure, you select what grade you want to print at (sometimes you have to compensate for switching grades). I felt that this was a good method for learning to judge negatives before I print them.
    Other people will probably advice you to make test strips, which is a fine method as well.
    When you're comfortable making a decent work print, you can start experimenting with dodging and/or burning. For that I have used an opaque sheet of paper that is flexible; flexible so I can bend it and form round shapes along with having a straight edge. That's for burning.
    As far as exposure to chemistry, I would say that as long as you wear nitrile gloves, have ventilation sucking the chemistry fumes away from you, while you have a fresh air intake in the other end of the room, creating a negative pressure above your chemistry trays, will help you a lot.
    But I've never been pregnant, so I can of course not guarantee this use of ventilation... :smile:

    Have fun! It's when the printing begins that photography comes full cycle, and the effects of different films and film developers become fully apparent.

    - Thomas
     
  4. DBP

    DBP Member

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    I've been using either the Ilford Multigrade or Agfa Neutol for a while because they come as liquids. Both work fine.
     
  5. mjs

    mjs Member

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    After 250 prints, you ought to be well on your way to being a darn fine printer! 5x7 works as well as anything: for 35mm I rarely print any larger as my pictures seem to fall apart if I go much larger than about 6" x 8". It's a personal preference thing: I've never cared for mural sized prints.

    Dektol is a perfectly good print developer. Personally, I'd go with whatever is easy for you to get. In my area, everyone carries Kodak chemistry so that's what I use. If they carried Ilford, I'd use that. It's more a matter of learning to use it than of being these huge differences between chemicals.

    For prints, there's no reason why you can't use tongs to handle the prints. I like cheap bamboo tongs; they're also made in plastic and stainless steel. I believe that my bamboo tongs cost less than $4 for a set of 2 (one for developer, one for stop and fixer.) You don't need to touch the chemicals at all and with reasonable ventilation you won't be breathing it, either. Using nitrile gloves for backup and a plastic apron to keep splashes off your clothes and you ought to be nearly impervious. Standing beside your man as he does the dirty work -- priceless! Don't forget to scan & post pictures for us, too!

    mjs
     
  6. Mark_S

    Mark_S Subscriber

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    I use dektol, but the ones that come in liquid concentrate are easier to mix, and you avoid the possibility of inhaling the dust.

    I also use a fair amount of Ilford postcard stock, good stuff, and as good as anything to practice on too - one thing though, the RC coating makes it difficult to write on. The most effective thing that I have found is a fine point sharpie - for things like invitations I make up stickers with mailing labels and just stick them on.
     
  7. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Stephanie,

    You will have more than enough to after the delivery! Printing a bunch of postcards will seem less of a priority then . See if the local minilab will make b&w cards from color print film and have bunch of those printed. Save the handmade cards for after you've caught your breath!

    Neal Wydra
     
  8. Akki14

    Akki14 Member

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    I use washing up/dishwashing gloves. They're easier for handling prints than tongs (never got the hang of those tongs, I keep trying too!). Just make sure you either rinse or swish your fingertips in each tray then rinse the gloves after taking the print out to avoid contamination of your trays.
     
  9. ben-s

    ben-s Member

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    I like Ilford Multigrade. It's convenient as a liquid, it's cheap, and you can get it in 5 litre cans, which is nice if you use a lot.

    Go with tongs for handling prints - I've alays been happy with the plastic patterson ones, although you do need to squeeze them fairly hard to keep a good grip.

    5x7 VC paper should be fine, provided that you have the VC filters (or a VC or colour head) to go with them.

    I think you should be OK as regards exposure if you are in a well ventilated area. The old printers used to rub prints in the developer with their bare hands to bring areas out further. While this isn't recommended, it does show that the basic b&w chemistry is fairly benign.
    Keep a towel handy, and you should be fine.

    Good luck, and I'm sure you'll really enjoy the darkroom work. It's really magic seeing your first print appear on the paper!
     
  10. Gay Larson

    Gay Larson Member

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    5X7 will do well for everything except contact sheets. You'll need 8X10 for those. Good luck, I know you will enjoy it.
     
  11. fschifano

    fschifano Member

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    If you have a paper cutter, you might want to consider buying a box of 8x10 paper. Two 5x7 sheets can be cut from each 8x10 sheet with a little bit left over for test strips. You'll need test strips. It might even work out to be a little less expensive. Freestyle has a 250 sheet box of 8x10 for $58 that will yield 500 sheets of 5x7 with another 500 test strips of 1x5 inches.
     
  12. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    One point to consider: You can cut down larger sizes to make smaller sizes, but you can't combine smaller sizes to make larger sheets. (Well, not seamlessly, anyhow.) The only 250-sheet box of 5x7 paper I see for ~$30 at Freestyle is their Arista.EDU Ultra (really rebranded Foma paper), which is fine for learning; but consider that a 100-sheet box of 8x10 Arista.EDU Ultra is $26. The 5x7 works out to $0.12/sheet. Cutting each 8x10 sheet into two 5x7 sheets and one 1x10 strip works out to $0.13 per 5x7 sheet (if you value the 1x10 strips at $0), so it's very slightly more expensive if you want to print mostly 5x7s, but you'll gain the ability to print 8x10s, as well as the ability to print 4x6 and some other small sizes with less waste than would be the case with 5x7 sheets. The 1x10 strips also do have some value, particularly if you print at 8x10 or cut them down to 1x5 strips; you can use them to help judge exposure without wasting a whole sheet. That said, I don't want to seem like an 8x10 "cheerleader;" I just want to point out the option of cutting down bigger sheets.

    Dektol is popular, and when you're learning, there's something to be said for that. Given your health/toxicity concerns, though, you might want to consider Silvergrain Tektol or Agfa Neutol Plus, (but not Neutol WA or other Neutol varieties, which are entirely different from Neutol Plus). Both Tektol and Neutol Plus are based on phenidone (P) and ascorbic acid (C) rather than metol (M) and hydroquinone (Q). MQ developers are popular, but P and C are generally considered less toxic than M and Q. (I'm not sure why Freestyle has Neutol Plus listed as an ORMD item.) You could check the MSDSes for all three developers. Both Neutol Plus and Tektol ship as liquids, so there are no concerns about airborne powders. Unfortunately, AFAIK Tektol isn't available from anywhere but Digital Truth, so you won't be able to order it along with your paper from Freestyle. Note that I've never used Neutol Plus, although I have used both varieties of Tektol, as well as the mix-it-yourself DS-14, which is an earlier version of Tektol. With Arista.EDU Ultra, I find that Tektol/DS-14 produces results that are very hard to distinguish from Dektol.

    As others have said, both gloves and tongs can be useful in this respect. I suppose you could add a lab coat (or dark clothing stand-in), particularly if you're wearing short sleeves.
     
  13. dphill

    dphill Subscriber

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    I'd recommend Zonal Pro Warmtone Paper Developer for a liquid dev.
    It lasts a long time after opening and you can vary the tone thru dilution. It is my favorite warmtone developer.
    Ilford RC paper for beginning printing. Pearl is a good comprimise between glossy and matte.
    If you are planning on making postcards, Ilford postcard paper might work well with your plans. Although if you don't mind cutting the 5x7 paper down, it would work too.

    Congratulations on your new baby! The enlarger too!

    Dan
     
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  15. sly

    sly Subscriber

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    "You will have more than enough to after the delivery! Printing a bunch of postcards will seem less of a priority then . See if the local minilab will make b&w cards from color print film and have bunch of those printed. Save the handmade cards for after you've caught your breath!"

    I STRONGLY second this, unless you are thinking you're OK with getting the birth announcements out any old time in the first year or so. A baby can suck up time in an unbelievable way. I speak not just from personal experience with my 3 offspring , but from my years of experience working with pregnant and newly delivered women as a midwife.

    As far as darkroom chemicals go - good ventilation and gloves should protect you. Are you past the first trimester?

    Sly
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 4, 2007
  16. Stephanie Brim

    Stephanie Brim Member

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    Well past, yes. I'm 5 months when I go back to the doctor the 10th.

    And I should be able to do the postcards...sometime...eventually. I'll have Adam to help me. Otherwise there's always blaze-on. :wink:
     
  17. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    sprint makes a good print developer too.
    easy to mix 1:9 ...

    i went to the "factory" a while back to pick up some film developer
    they suggested they would be selling off of their webpage sometime soon ..

    good luck + have fun!

    john
     
  18. Patrick Latour

    Patrick Latour Member

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    I am happy to know that I am not the only one that had to squeeze them like crazy to hold a print...
     
  19. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    You've gotten some good advice, Stephanie! I would agree... getting into the darkroom after the baby arrives may prove difficult. If worse comes to worse, and the baby is approaching a year before the announcements go out... a roll of commercially developed XP2 may be a relief! I love the idea of using Ilford postcard paper, though! And if you can find the time... yay!!!

    Good luck in the dark, and beyond. Can't wait to see a few photos of your model...err...baby!!
     
  20. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    You can have Adam mix Dektol powder to the stock solution that you can further dilute for use without handling the powder yourself. For years I've dilute Kodak Polymax T liquid concentrate as needed for printing with Kodak and other brands of paper. It should be more available than some imported products. Porter's Camera Store in Cedar Falls http://www.porters.com/ stocks it. I also use it for quick rough sheet film developing, for boosting contrast in sheet film, and always for developing Tech Pan to make the most of that film's high contrast and fine grain.

    I suspect modest precautions make darkroom chemicals safer than many of the foods and toxins that people overinduolge in for pleasure.
     
  21. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    I'd just use tongs in the chemicals. You don't want them on your skin anyway, if only because even tiny amounts of fixer on your fingers can get onto the next sheet of paper you handle and leave nasty white finger prints on the image.

    David.
     
  22. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Sometimes those nasty white marks don't show up for years, after you've perhaps sold or given the print to someone whose regard you esteem.
     
  23. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Dear Stephanie,

    As you are new to the darkroom, PM me your home address and I will send
    you the MULTIGRADE manual, should save you a few sheets of paper...
    and a few dollars, always handy at baby time.

    Simon ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  24. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    To keep the fumes down you can use citric acid based stop which has no detectable odour (Ilfostop for example) and a low-odour fixer (Agfa FX Universal is probably the most economical with a neutral pH but there are others from Tetenal and Fotospeed and no doubt others). Luckily, most developers (at least the ones I've used) seem to be low in odour.

    I use stainless steel tongs with a self-closing spring. They have very grippy plastic tips. I was suspicious when I first saw them but in practice they grip the paper very well indeed - both RC and fibre - surprisingly, much more reliable than using the type you have to press.

    Good luck, Bob.
     
  25. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Mr. Gainer should have chimed in. He is a proponent of
    the least toxic combinations of developer chemistries for
    both film and paper.

    Three chemicals are needed; phenidone, ascorbic acid,
    and borax. Ascorbic acid is commonly known as vitamine
    C. Phenidone is so little toxic that it need not be
    mentioned in MSDS sheets.

    To be most sure of non-toxic only solutions I suggest
    compounding your developers at home from the above
    three chemicals plus, for paper developer, a little
    potassium bromide.

    For fixer I suggest sodium thiosulfate alone. Sodium
    thiosulfate is used as a de-chlorinate for swimming
    pools. As a preventative of sulfite caused sulfur
    dioxide fuming, do not use it as a preservative
    but stir up small but workable volumes and
    replace as needed.

    Add a water stop, film and paper, and you've an
    odorless, fumeless, least toxic darkroom. Dan
     
  26. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I don't recall Pat Gainer posting, but I did mention the two commercial PC (phenidone/ascorbic acid) developers I know of: Agfa Neutol Plus and Silvergrain Tektol. Mixing a developer yourself vs. using a pre-mixed liquid developer does add to the risk, since you'll then have powdered chemicals floating about. OTOH, I doubt if many people would give a second thought to mixing powdered vitamin C into a drink or using any of the many powdered detergents that contain borax or sodium carbonate.

    I'm not sure the issue is entirely a matter of phenidone's toxicity; I think it's at least partly because phenidone appears in such small quantities. A typical PC developer has about 0.1g of phenidone per liter of working solution, or proportionally more in a concentrate. I've seen many MSDSes that include notes to the effect that substances at under a 1% concentration are omitted. There's about ten times as much metol in a typical MQ developer, by comparison.

    That said, my understanding is that phenidone is among the least toxic of the common B&W developing agents.