Handcoating paper with coating blades

Discussion in 'Silver Gelatin Based Emulsion Making & Coating' started by Photo Engineer, Mar 14, 2009.

  1. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    The book is about done and I am going through it trying to collect (and recollect) all of the questions about hand coating and make sure that they are anwered in the book. I have gone through my e-mail and pm questions as well as those on-line to come up with some comments. I thought I might post some of the preliminary work here. Some of the information on film and plate coating will appear elsewhere.

    Firstoff, the blade I use is exactly that used at Kodak in our research labs. The basic difference is that the end cap (doctor blade) is adjustable, but at Kodak we got a set with spot welded doctor blades at fixed gaps. We could not alter them. We usually had a set of up to 4 of these for paper and 4 for film.

    I started at home by using a puddle pusher wrapped with tape, because two turns of tape was just about exactly 5 mils. Although I made some good coatings, it was messy, used a lot of emulsion and had a lot of defects. I usually could not do better than 4x5. Also, the tape wore out rapidly on paper due to abrasion. This didn't depend much on the type of tape, but more on the paper itself.

    Then I went to the extent of building a well out of a leading glass device taped to the puddle pusher. It was better, but still the tape wore out and the seals on the bonded items eventually began to fail due to the temperature and solvents used. I could have probably gone to a better glue, but by then the prototype stainless steel coating blade arrived and I moved on.

    As a historical note here, when I finally got the metal blades made, the shop told me they would be milled to 0.001" (0.0254 mm) tolerance. About 1/2 of the blades failed to be within specs, so the good ones were used by me or sold at the original price while the defective blades were re-milled and are now sold at a higher price to reflect the need for reworking. Since the milling accuracy problem was found to be beyond their control, I had to use a different shop. I am now no longer offering the blades and will sell what I have from the remilled stock. The blades work in widths from 4" to 16" producing good coatings in that range. Kodak used blades up to 41" wide for production in the early years of the last century. The paper or film was drawn by a stationary blade as the emulsion was pumped down onto the support in an even stream, or was picked up from a trough. (see the Kodak film here on APUG for an example of that) This note is included to answer the questions raised about the increase in price.

    So, I have basically 3 types of blade now. A paper blade, a film blade and a plate blade. This is in answer to the questions regarding the types I have worked with.

    Now, in answer to the remaining questions, here are the keys to coating paper, using these blades, and it is intended to cover all of the questions posed by those wriiting me. If I have left any out, now is the time to ask!

    1. Use a hot press paper or baryta. If hot press, use 100# or higher, if baryta use DW. Cold press paper or thinner paper can be used but can wrinkle during coating. You need a surfactant and this may be different for each emulsion and for each type of paper. Baryta is more difficult to coat on due to the relative hardness and the sizing.

    2. Coat paper cold. Paper when wetted will expand rapidly. Hot paper with hot emulsion expands differentially and will wrinkle, especially at the interface between wet and dry at the edges and as you draw the blade across the paper. (film and plates are best coated hot, but for film it is not as important as it is for plates)

    3. Cut the paper just a tad overwidth. If you cut wide sheets of paper and coat a narrow strip down the center, the stresses on the paper are increased manyfold and lead to wrinkles. Narrow edges of about 1/2" or so are best. Even here there may be wrinkles, but they do not appear until the coating is fully dry, or at least dry enough that the emulsion does not run.

    4. Draw the blade at a constant rate. The rate depends on viscosity and to determine the whole thing - practice in the light with dyed gelatin at the concentration that you intend to coat. I have coated many dozens of sheets of dyed gelatin just to get my draw correct. This is the art part of coating!

    5. Make sure that you let the sheet rest on the cold coating surface for a few moments. The paper should be held reasonably flat at the top and bototm by a small piece of tape or a weight. You will see that the paper surface changes from very glossy to a dull matte. This is when you can move it. I use tape at the top and my finger at the bottom. :D

    6. If you get puddles or runs, the emulsion is too hot, too thin or the paper is too thin or too warm. Cooling everything down will help. However, if the paper is too thin, you may not be able to fix this problem unless you use thicker paper. I have coated on regular 20# typing paper and it will work if you can stand the mess. I've also used a 90# cold press paper that worked well but fell apart during processing.

    In the final analysis, if the paper buckles or wrinkles, something is wrong. It can be any of the above such as thin paper, hot paper, wide edges or others but truly, something is wrong. I have coated from 68F to 75F ambient in my darkroom with the emulsion at 100 - 110F and the gelatin at about 8% with no problem. I have coated from 4x5 to 16x20 with good results, keeping all of the above in mind.

    Remember, this applies only to Fibre Based paper. This does not apply to Resin Coated paper.

    I would also like to mention that local water supply and air pressure may affect the coating properties on both film and paper. Since you must rinse the blades after every use and dry them, the drying towel(s) are also important. I have used some paper towels that had a bad effect on coating. These types of paper towel seem to contain a skin conditioner. Also, any oil or grease will adversely affect coating. All of my blades are washed in detergent and then distilled water before I ship them or use them.

    Your hands can leave defects on coatings due to oils in the skin. Only touch your paper at the edges.

    PE
     
  2. dwross

    dwross Member

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    Great news, Ron. It sounds like you're really making progress. The Light Farm will be delighted to list your book as a primary reference.

    The horn you should really be tooting is about your blades. The last I heard here: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum205/44817-coating-blade-update.html, you were getting out of the blade business. Also, the Photographers' Formulary only lists 4x5 and 8x10 blades. How are you coating 16x20? I've just ordered long glass rods so I can try to make an 18" coating system. Up 'til now, I've been constrained to 12" wide coats by the largest commercial puddle pusher available. But, you know my philosophy: when you hit a commercial wall, plow your 4-wheeler d.y.i right thru the sucker. I know you agree. I'm very excited to see an example of your monster coating? Can you post an image here, or do we have to wait for your book?:D

    Denise
     
  3. Emulsion

    Emulsion Member

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    PE,
    Great news.

    I and Iḿ sure many others are very keen to purchase your book.

    Thanks
    Emulsion.
     
  4. Photo Engineer

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    I am getting out of it! Too frustrating. I'm just reviewing it for a Q&A in the book along with film coating.

    I am also getting out of the business because it is too difficult to find a shop that wants to do this type of work at all, and do it well. I have to use 2 shops, one for the coarse work of cutting and grinding, drilling and tapping, and another for polishing and finishing. Actually both shops resist doing it and it takes forever to get a blade or a group of them made, sometimes over a year.

    I have only single examples of 11", 12", and 16" blades and have used them on just a few coatings. It takes 12 ml to coat 1 square foot, or 1 8x10 (you coat just a bit oversize), and so it takes roughly 48 ml of emulsion to coat a 16x20. Since I can only make negatives that size digitally (13x19 actually), I have little use for the pictures. I might just expose the sheet, process it and take a photo of the black sheet.

    The largest I can scan is just a little over 8x10.

    I did bring the plate, film and 11" blade to the workshops and we used them to make the plates and film coatings as well as one or two 11x14 sheets so the students have seen those.

    PE
     
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  5. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Ron,

    Will you be including guidance on creating / obtaining stainless steel coating blades, or suggestions of alternatives?

    Tom.
     
  6. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Tom;

    I hope to have a complete set of drawings in the book. A friend of mine drew them. I just have to remember to ask his permission to use them. :smile:

    PE
     
  7. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    For stainless steel coating blades?

    Tom.
     
  8. Photo Engineer

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    Yes. AAMOF, I was just looking at them. I have them in a PDF file here on my computer.

    PE
     
  9. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Will your book be self published?

    Tom.
     
  10. Photo Engineer

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    Tom, that is TBD at this point. I have an author friend who now self publishes after dealing with two big publishing houses and giving up after selling 8 novels world-wide. He is trying to assist me as are several others.

    PE
     
  11. Tom Kershaw

    Tom Kershaw Subscriber

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    Will the DVD set be released concurrently with the book?

    Tom.
     
  12. Photo Engineer

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    Again, TBD. I am thinking 3 types of release, DVD, Book and Book + DVD. IDK yet. I've shown the DVD to a few people and the book is ready to at least show. So, I hope to get opinions.

    PE
     
  13. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    I know an experienced text book editor who needs some work, if that would be helpful.

    Barry
     
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  15. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    It seems that without a source of the coating blades, potential users of the book and Dvd will be at a great disadvantage to getting the highest quality results. Is it possible that some vendor such as Photographers Formulary might pick up the contracting out of the manufacturing of the blades? At least in sizes up to 8x10?
     
  16. Photo Engineer

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    With the huge rush to buy blades and to coat film and paper, I don't know how anyone could keep up production levels to meet sales. :D

    Tongue firmly in cheek!

    PE
     
  17. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    My guess is that the existence of a book and/or DVD would spur interest in the blades. If the book includes specifications, could result in some cottage industries catering to that interest. Just a thought.
     
  18. dwross

    dwross Member

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    Hand coating emulsions, excellently, on just about any receptive surface is trivial to the point of being incidental to the handcrafted silver gelatin emulsion process. I will be talking about emulsion making and demonstrating coating at APIS (Alternative Processes International Symposium) in Santa Fe at the end of July and again at the 2nd Annual Pacific Northwest Photographers meeting at UW Vancouver, the second weekend in September. In addition, I have a sample book of work at the Photographers Formulary in Montana. If you're there for a workshop this summer, ask to take a look.

    Ron, you really should think about self-publishing. I'm sure David Vickers of CiM (Creative Image Maker magazine) would love to share his experiences with Lulu with you. He just published 'Glass Plate Photography' that way. I haven't gotten my copy yet, but I understand it turned out very well. (Full disclosure: I wrote the article on Gelatin Dry Plate and Dry Plate 101, along with a portfolio of dry plate work in 5"x7" and Whole Plate sizes.) As long as your blades are no longer going to be available, perhaps you could leave that part out of your book and DVD. One less thing might help you get published sooner. The synergy that Doug and others have mentioned is worth remembering. Your book and DVD will help sell the 'emulsion chemistry' you and PF are working on - still 'coming soon' on their homepage. Once people start making emulsions because they're not concerned about the coating process, they'll buy your book and/or DVD, and 'round and 'round it goes. (Well, you asked for input!:smile:)

    Denise
    www.thelightfarm.com
     
  19. jgjbowen

    jgjbowen Member

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    Ron,

    As someone who owns one of the blades, but has not taken a course (YET), please leave the "blade" chapters in your book and DVD...

    Just my 2 cents,
     
  20. Photo Engineer

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    John;

    There is no problem. It was planned from the start that they will be in the book. The problem prompting this thread was how much there should be, and did I address most of the questions out there?

    PE
     
  21. jgjbowen

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    Thanks PE
     
  22. jgjbowen

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    Ron,

    Perhaps you could publish a pdf of your book on CD. It certainly keeps your costs to a minimum. You could keep a list of the purchasers of your book and send them an e-mail supplement to handle new/updated information, or sell a revised second edition if it merits the effort.

    The important thing is to get something out the door. We will all be at a great loss if something should happen that prevents you from passing your knowledge down to future generations. Sounds like you've got it 99.44% done and the last .56% could take forever to finish. As they say in the movie business "a movie is NEVER finished, just finally abandoned."

    Bruce Barlow released his "Finely Focused" pdf CD without illustrations, then later added the illustrations and sent all of the early purchasers an "updated" version free of charge.

    I look forward to the release of both the book and DVD.
     
  23. dwross

    dwross Member

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    Ron,

    I think John's idea is excellent. It seems to be the way things are being done in today's publishing climate, and it would be a great way to start generating an income stream from all your hard work and investment. I know my ideas on what counts as 'real publishing' have been steadily evolving, and I'm sure that is true for most of us. You could sell a kaboodle of information, one chapter at a time.

    And, for anyone who may have forgotten or be new to this forum, here's a sample of Ron's work (posted on the Photographers Formulary webpage, with narration by the most excellent Tony Mournian).
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i4q0Ryh9pBE
     
  24. Graham06

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    PE, do you know about http://www.lulu.com/ ?
    A few friends have written their own books, and the service is perfectly suited to them. I doubt there are a million people out there waiting to buy your book. Lulu looks like it will save you hassle and risk, and you might even make something.
     
  25. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I have information on several web publishers including POD sites such as booklocker.com. I am working with associate to find the appropriate venue.

    PE
     
  26. sanking

    sanking Member

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    Ron,

    I am sorry to hear that the blade project did not work out. You invested a lot of time and energy and hopefully that will be appreciated by those who purchase your book, and I will be one of the first.

    I would suggest that folks might want to consider threaded rods for applying the emulsion. If heated you just run the rod over the paper and it applies the emulsion evenly, dissipating bubbles formed by the cooling gelatin and pushing any surface debris away. I have been using these rod for sizing art papers for the final support for carbon printing and the gelatin layer I put on is probably close to the wet height of your paper emulsions.

    Anyone interested in threaded rods should consult with RD Specialties for your needs. http://www.rdspecialties.com/Page.asp?Script=1

    I think this may be a more practical alternative for some people than the blades, and especially since the blades won't be available.

    Sandy King






     
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