How do you manage to get negatives clean?

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by BetterSense, Apr 6, 2009.

  1. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I'm puzzled over my inability to print clean photos at enlargements over 10x. I can see and deal with large particles of dust. Proper dust is a problem I can handle. If I can see it, I can get rid of it. But sometimes I can't even see what's causing it. The latest 11x14 image I printed from 35mm had light flecks all over it, even though I could not see them on the light table through my 50mm lens-loupe. It's reasonable to conclude that I just couldn't see the little particles that were causing it. Attempts at cleaning the negative with compressed air and kimwipes, culminating in aggressive scrubbing with an isopropyl lens wipe, usually just herded the flecks around the negative. Now it's possible that the emulsion is damaged from the scrubbing. Should I buy some purpose-made Edwal negative cleaner? Rewash the negative in distilled water and photoflo? Get a microscope? Give up and spend hours spotting little grey dots all over my prints? Go over to the dark side? Stop printing 35mm so big?
     
  2. David William White

    David William White Member

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    Just for clarity, you are printing from the negative via enlarger onto paper on the baseboard?
     
  3. pnance

    pnance Member

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    I start with clean negatives, stored in glassine envelops (not plastic with static), I never scrub my negatives (yuck), before printing, I brush off the negative surfaces with a negative brush used only for this purpose, after mounting in the carrier I give a final small blowing with a can of Dust Off (or like product). I hardly ever have a dust spot on my prints.

    Are you printing in a dusty enviornment?
     
  4. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    Yes

    Not really, although it is pretty dry here. These aren't visible dust spots. I cannot see them through my loupe. They are very small flecks, and they do not print totally white, but rather a lighter shade of grey. They are only visible at large magnifications, and if you stand back a bit they almost disappear. But they are still quite visible from up close.
     
  5. Inayat Noor

    Inayat Noor Subscriber

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    Bettersense,

    I sometimes have the same problem. I use an Omega D2 and when I see the white flecks in my prints I know it's time to take apart the head and wipe everything with my orange anti static cloth.

    Inayat
     
  6. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    I think you'll find that if you hold your negs at an oblique angle in the light path from the enlarger you will see the dust flecks. When it's dry is the worst - static caused dust to be attracted to the film, and winter is the worst because of the lack of humidity. I've found I have to take care at every step of the process - and even then I can only minimize the dust. In the winter I'll often run hot water for a while before I start, just to settle the dust.

    If you could measure the white flecks on the enlarged print - imagine what size the original dust particle is! Too small for the loupe!

    Bob H
     
  7. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    Ground your enlarger; Use a Q tip dipped in lens cleaner. If you have enough dexterity, do what a guy with whom I worked did. He could hold the Q tip, unscrew the top of the lens cleaner bottle with the same hand, dip the Q tip, then screw the cap back. Claimed it kept dust out of the lens cleaner.

    For me, I just use an anti-static neg brush; look at the neg obliquely at the spill light. Dust not apparent by direct viewing often shows up that way. And sometimes you could the !@# dust actually settling on your formerly pristine neg. For bad problesms, nose grease first on the neg; then spotone and spit on the remainingdust specks on the print, if any. I am definitely low tech.
     
  8. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I use an Omega C700 head, if that makes an difference. What kind of anti-static cloth do you have? I've been wanting a zerostat gun forever for use with my records, but they are so expensive anymore.
     
  9. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Sometimes that really fine dust you find at high magnification is particles from the rinse water, not dust settling on the film. Clean distilled water and rinse agent help with this one.
     
  10. nyoung

    nyoung Member

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    Even lower tech than John above, I never really found a cloth/brush/gadget that didn't leave something of its own behind.
    I can wipe off 35mm negs between two of my very clean fingers and do a better job than the cloth/brush/gadgets.
    Skin oil from my fingers is as good as nose grease.
    If that doesn't work, I've resorted to Edwal No-Scratch applied to the shiny side of the negative.
    It is a miracle elixir composed - judging from the smell - mostly of clear linseed oil. After printing you have to wipe it off with a soft rag before putting the neg in a sleeve.
    Eventually, printing in very dry West Texas drove me to diffusion and cold light enlarging to minimize visibility of the specks.
     
  11. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    My understanding is you set up to print in a closet. Closets are real dust traps. It should be vacuumed thoroughly; and of course, there is no clothing in there, right!?

    And, be aware that the more you dust the neg, the more you can set up static charges that attract the dust. And I found, when using them, that the much-vaunted anti-static cloths never helped much.

    I am not an electrician, so can't recommend how to do it; but you should check to make sure that the terminal into which you plug your enlarger cord is definitely grounded.

    If there are just a few specks you see on the neg by oblique light, I knew guys who could pick the little buggers up with the tip of a spotting brush. I never could.
     
  12. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I'm not an electrician, either; however, I know that hardware and home improvement stores sell little gadgets you can plug into an outlet that have lights that light up (or don't) when there are various problems. As I recall, they're pretty cheap -- on the order of $10 -- so it's worth getting one to check all the outlets in your home. In fact, I just Googled the model number of the one I've got in my toolbox; here's the first hit, just so you can see what I mean.
     
  13. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear BetterSense

    While this is probably not your problem, I have found that some boxes of paper have more dust (from cutting I assume) than others. I find a quick shot of compressed air after the paper is in the easel cleans up a lot of problems.

    Neal Wydra
     
  14. BobNewYork

    BobNewYork Member

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    That's interesting - makes a lot of sense to me. I had just never though of that. Time to buy bulk Dust Off.

    Actually I use a product called "Blow Off" which I know will interest the lads in the U.K. I, of course call it "Fart in a Can"! Been trying to get the company to produce a grass removal product they could call "Sod Off" :D:D

    Bob H
     
  15. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Years ago I invested in an inexpensive air cleaner. These look like small room heaters, and recirculate the air through a replacable filter element. This DOES help quite abit with dust removal. Keep your enlarger covered at all times(except in use), At least once every 3 months(or more)disassemble and THOROUGHLY wipe down the internals of the enlarger, You could also try grounding the metal chassis of your machine-I've done this last step with good results.
     
  16. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    If the dust spots are in the same place on prints from different negatives, then the dust is in the enlarger. Also dust spots that are not very sharp are usually in the enlarger. Dust on the condenser lenses are usually the problem.

    To check, put an empty neg carrier in the enlarger, open the lends up, turn the light on, and put a large piece of clean white paper on the easel (turn off the darkroom lights). Move the paper slightly as you rack the focus up and down and look for black specks that do not move with the paper. If you see any black spots, then you have dust on your condenser lenses. The sharpest dust spots are those nearest the negative. Dust higher up in the condenser system get softer when you focus where the negative is.

    Good luck! Dust is is a bane!

    Vaughn