Gelatin emulsion beginner

Discussion in 'Silver Gelatin Based Emulsion Making & Coating' started by Asarnil, Jun 27, 2010.

  1. Asarnil

    Asarnil Member

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    Hello all!
    Few weeks ago I started my adventure with hand-made gelatin emulsion for glass plates. I found Mark Osterman recipe and guide. I followed it as firmly as I could but of course there were some small differences (mostly caused by lack of specific equipement, I also use food grade gelatin, not photographic grade - it's not easily accessible here sadly).
    The results are somehow not satisfying and I cannot eliminate the problem that I'm having which is lifting off of the emulsion. 80 % of the plated I made has lifted off, it doesn't happen always the same way - sometimes it looks like the emulsion isnt "glued" to the surface if the plate at all and it just go off under water. Some other times it looks like the surface of the emulsion itself is melting and it's not smooth anymore, it has a wrinkled texture. There were also times that in the middle of the plate under the emulsion some kind of bubbles appeared and the emulsion started to lift from this spots on. Finally on a few plates the emulsion shrinked and after forming a web of ruptures also left off.
    All those effects are happening on the same moment - after developping while washing and before fixing.

    I tried several theories I came up with why it is happening. I ruled out bad developer, too hot temperature, bad water for washing (I tried with running and destilled water), different thickness of the emulsion, different methods of cooling emulsion after coating, lack of chrome alum (I made a 2% alum bath before and after developping). Nothing worked.

    Then I found this forum and I thought maybe I'll try to ask for some advice here because now I'm seriously clueless. I hope you guys will help me out.

    Thanks in advance (and sorry about not-so-good english),
    Asarnil.
     
  2. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    Hi, Asarnil. Welcome to APUG and congratulations on your first emulsions.

    You certainly have a can of puzzles. Hopefully, it's just one thing that needs changing. The most likely candidate is dirty glass. Getting your sheets really, really clean is key. I make a paste of liquid dishwashing detergent (one without any extra ingredients like dyes and perfumes) calcium carbonate and ethyl alcohol (Everclear or Vodka) and rub it around on the glass with a soft nail brush. Rinse first under running tap water; then in a bath of distilled water and alcohol. Air dry and never again touch the surface with bare fingers. You can also check your local stores for a powder (not paste) meant for cleaning fine glassware. I've used 'Barkeepers Friend' in a pinch.

    Try clean glass before you make other changes. If that doesn't completely solve the problem, run up the concentration on your alum bath to 5%. I don't know if you are putting alum in the recipe finals, but I don't put hardener in my dry plate recipe and I don't seem to miss it.

    Best of luck and fun,
    d
     
  3. Asarnil

    Asarnil Member

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    Denise, thank you answering.
    Even though I don't clean my plates as firmly as you, I used calcium carbonate (mixed with everclear alcohol and destilled water) on the first plates and only detergent (usual product to wash dishes) on the others. It doesn't seem to make any difference actually because the few plates that didn't come off were washed by either calcium carbonate or the detergent. Of course I'm trying to clean them as strictly as possible, I check for any stains or any dirt under bright light.
    I don't add alum to the finals but I'm considering to add it just before coating.
    Now I'm thinking that it all might be caused by my drying box that I made off a big carton box. The problem is there is absolutely no ventilation in it even though it's quite big. The plates lie down horizontally not vertically - don't know if it has any influence or not...
    I look forward to any advices you can give me, I'm really clueless now.
     
  4. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Well, I would add that you should be using Chrome Alum as hardener in the emulsion at about 5 ml/100 ml of emulsion using a 10% solution. If that does not work, then soak your plates in 5% Chrome Alum just before development. Hold for 5 minutes, wash 5 minutes and then develop.

    Plain Alum (the white powder) is not a good hardener. Chrome Alum (the purple powder) is a good hardener.

    PE
     
  5. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    Asarnil,

    Great clue about the drying. It could very well be that your coatings aren't completely dry. Make sure to report back with the results of changing that variable :smile:.

    PE: Typo alert: 5ml/100 ml will give you a 5% solution.
    d
     
  6. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I make a 10% solution of Chrome Alum in water and add 5 ml of this to 100 grams of emulsion which is about 10% gelatin, prior to coating. I hope this clarifies things.

    PE
     
  7. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    Thanks. I can see now what you meant in the previous post.

    I do think that's a bit too much hardener. Mark's recipe calls for 4ml of 5% chrome alum in his ~350 ml recipe. He cautions (and I agree) that too much hardener will prevent the processing chemistry from penetrating the dried emulsion. Hardener was originally added to dry plate emulsions as an 'insurance policy' against warm processing conditions, and Mark's recipe is true to its historical roots. With today's typical conditions of modern plumbing and easily-procured cold water, hardened emulsion is likely less of a necessity. I've never used chrome alum, but the couple of times I tried just a little glyoxal, the emulsion lifted off the plate in as pretty and perfect a sheet as you could ask for. Fine, maybe, for emulsion transfers, but definitely not the outcome I was hoping for :tongue:. Mark's final advise on the subject is excellent: try different concentrations to find out what is best for your own circumstances.
     
  8. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Denise;

    Chrome Alum adheres to glass through a chemical reaction, or so I've been told. As such, the reaction is somewhat slow and the high concentration seems to work for me. I do agree though that tests are needed and time as well. Let the plates cure for a few days and they will be fine.

    As for too much hardener, yes, you can lose speed and contrast so just develop longer! It will work. The great fear is having the emulsion harden before you coat it. That will happen at the wrong pH. Of course, it is just as frustrating to have the emulsion float off a plate. That means that it was hard enough but did not adhere properly to the plate for one reason or another.

    Mark also suggests rasping the edges of the emulsion side of a plate before coating, using sand paper or a file, to roughen the edges of the plate. He finds that the emulsion will thus frill or loosen less and there will be less liftoff of the emulsion. I have tried it and found it to be a "maybe" not a definite "yes" as far as making an improvement goes. Of course, I have to try it more to gain a full feeling for any improvement.

    PE
     
  9. Ray Rogers

    Ray Rogers Member

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    Awe turning to ahh...

    Well, not reeeeeally.
    People still have to "deal" with unfriendly environmental conditions at times.
    I remember the fun of discovering that my work had bleached out compleately as it dried... I wanted to "optimize & minimize" so I had prepared a "virgin" emulsion with no additives... then I looked at the floor.

    What an ugly little puddle that was.
    Maybe 34+ C. that day.

    But you are correct, it is possible to process and dry plates w/o any hardener, under ideal conditions.

    Do you luckily have a "glass thumb"?
    I suspect you must be "charmed" !

    When it works, it works quite well.
    but when it fails, it fails pretty good too!

    BTW,
    WHAT is a soft nail brush?!!
     
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  10. Asarnil

    Asarnil Member

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    Well, thank you all for the kind responses, I really appreciate it.
    I just got back from my darkroom after using the last part of the emulsion I had. Finally I went with what PE suggested and added 1 ml of chrome alume to 20 ml of melted emulsion. I managed to coat 7 plates with it. The main difference between the plates I did before (with 80% of them lift off) and now is that they are drying now on the wooden rack (exatly the same Mark used in his guide) in a pretty big darkroom with much more air then inside a cartoon box. I strongly believe that it will do the trick (I really cross fingers on it as it will boost my motivation up finally).
    Anywho, tomorrow I'll use and develop 3 of them and I'll keep you guys updated.
    Oh, I thought I mention one more thing (Ray Rogers mentioned it also). It's scalding hot here right now and I think it might have some influence also. I even had an idea to put the plate in a fridge after exposing and before developping to make sure the air temparature doesn't melt it (I don't even know if it's possible). What do you think? Is it worth it? Or may it cause more bad than good. :smile:
    Cheers!
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Raw gelatin in water melts at 20 deg C with no hardener. So, yes it is possible to melt unhardened gelatin. Hand coated plates should cure for a while to harden and they should be processed at 20 deg C to be on the safe side.

    A prehardener and a hardening fix are both good.

    PE
     
  12. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    I'll take your question in the spirit intended and say, 'Thank you', but I cringe a bit, nevertheless. No glass thumb, no magic -- just consistent work. People shouldn't get the impression emulsionmaking takes special talent. Success comes from doggedly chasing down answers, exactly as Asarnil is doing with his melting emulsions.

    http://www.google.com/products?q=na...esult_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CDYQrQQwAA
     
  13. alexhill

    alexhill Member

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    Keep it up Asarnil. I've been trying to keep my chemistry at 68*f or slightly cooler. The nice thing about homemade emulsion is you can see what your developing. I check mine every 5 mins under safelight with the rest of the time in the dark.

    Keep us posted!
     
  14. Ray Rogers

    Ray Rogers Member

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    Apologies for the humor...

    Ah, but you see, THAT IS a special talent. :wink:

    By temperment, not everyone is capable of the relentless pursuit of success in the face and midst of failures.

    Anyway, I am sorry you do not wish to be thought of as having a "Magic Touch" but OK...
    If that's the case I concede you don't.
     
  15. Asarnil

    Asarnil Member

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    Just to keep you updated - it worked!!
    The emulsion didn't come off from 3 out of 3 plates I developed today (didn't have time to do more). The surface is nice and smooth, no frilling, no peeling, no lifting off, awsome, I couldn't be happier :smile:
    And even though the images aren't perfect (probably due to very thin layer of emulsion and badly judged exposure parameters) I finally get good results on all the plates I did.
    Like I said earlier - I changed 2 things - I dried the plates in ventilated room and I added chrome alum. I have no idea which one did the trick (I'd say it's the ventilation afterall though) but surely one of them did.
    I'll try to post tonight the scans so you guys can judge the quality :smile:
    Cheers!
     
  16. Asarnil

    Asarnil Member

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    Sorry for double posting, but I wanted to show you what i finally did :smile:
    The quality is awfull because I scaned it in a really bad scanner and just inverted the image in PS, no adjustements.
    I'll work on the prints this week and I'll post it here.
    So what do you think about it? Not bad for a beginner? :wink:

    http://img139.imageshack.us/img139/1110/sk0002a.jpg

    Anywho, cheers!
     
  17. dwross

    dwross Subscriber

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    Ah! The master of the understatement as well as gelatin :smile: Absolutely lovely, and not just the plate itself. Very nice image. Where, may I ask? Much better test image than my infinitely patient stuffed animals.
     
  18. Photo Engineer

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    Very well done. Congratulations!

    PE
     
  19. Asarnil

    Asarnil Member

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    Hehe, well thanks Denise :smile:
    The place is Torun, Poland, a half-burned, abandoned house almost at the center of a big, urban crossing, very lovely (kinda dangerous though due to some drunks wondering about).
    I decided that the first gelatin cycle will be about ruins, abandoned edifices and old post-industrial buildings.
    And BTW your stuffed animals are cute and hey! they'll never blink! :wink:

    EDIT: thanks to PE too :smile:
     
  20. hrst

    hrst Member

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    Very nice, can't wait to see the print of this scanned.
     
  21. Asarnil

    Asarnil Member

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    Ok, so I finally managed to scan the prints of the 9 pictures forming one cycle about abandoned ruins.
    I'm not sure how the attachement system works here, I hope it uploaded well and that you can see them.
    I look forward to hear from you what do you think about it :smile:
    Cheers!
     

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  22. Emulsion

    Emulsion Member

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    Great results! The minor imperfections even add to the overall image.

    Please keep us updated on your future work,

    Emulsion.
     
  23. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Very very nice.

    PE
     
  24. hrst

    hrst Member

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    Real, interesting photographs are much more fun to look at than test charts. Thanks for sharing and keep going!
     
  25. athanasius80

    athanasius80 Member

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    Bravo!