More information on Fumed Silica and alt processes

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by Klainmeister, Aug 12, 2013.

  1. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Hi All,

    As you know, we've been working with fumed silica quite a bit at Bostick & Sullivan recently. We've experimented with different coating methods, but we find that the traditional roll on method is the most efficient/easy, but has the risk of streaking. A good rule of thumb is to use a foam roller in a tray, get it soaked up and covered with dry silica, and use that on the paper for an even coat. Instead of pouring some on the paper directly, the amount that the roller holds seems to be just right.

    Another method is to make a solution in water and soak the paper in it. This greatly reduces the chance of streaking, but comes at the cost of extra time and the chance of making the paper warped/wavy for the next process. If you were doing a large amount of big prints, this might be a good idea to do the day prior to a large print session. We had success with PT prints 20"+.

    Proof in point of what this does for your PT/PD prints (Cyano and Vandyke equally respond), here is a shot of two prints I did Saturday. The one on the left is straight Palladium with no Fumed Silica, the one on the right is exactly the same negative, same paper, same formula, same exposure, but with silica. Oddly, I found that the silica required less PT/PD solution (by one whole dropper full), mainly because it didn't soak into the paper as rapidly and was easier to get a full coating. Example, this 14x18" print took 3 full droppers of both Palladium and Ferric Oxalate to do with the silica coated paper, without it took 4 (and probably could have used 4.5).

    PrintCompare.jpg

    On a side note, we're going to start posting information and more photos to a Facebook page, blog, and begin How-To videos on all the processes offered via a youtube channel. Stay tuned!
     
  2. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    I had been registered to APIS at 99 at New Mexico but I did not go. My sister was at New Mexico last winter , stayed at Carlsbad for 3 weeks. Bostick and Sullivan plus Alternative Photography forum been my greatest inspiration. Waiting your detailed and long videos Mr.Klain.

    Umut
     
  3. Mustafa Umut Sarac

    Mustafa Umut Sarac Member

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    I liked the silica print more at the right.
     
  4. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Thanks Mustafa. It's a dramatic difference in real life. My cell phone can only capture so much contrast/dmax difference in the two.
     
  5. padraigm

    padraigm Member

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    I just tested a few prints last week (with foam brush) and i have to say there was a clear difference. I will be watching intently on getting a consistent and repeatable method. It really can make a difference..
     
  6. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Soaking the paper definitely works, but not something i can fully recommend yet. Experiments still in the works. We do a lot more R and D in the winter due to the fact it's easier to heat the warehouse in winter than cool it in summer. The foam seems to work fine if you really go at it for longer than you'd like.
     
  7. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    I'm pretty happy using the foam roller brush to apply wet fumed silica. I know some folks out there are pleased as punch working with the dry, but I had issues with it clumping in the tray, and I don't like working with powders as I have a propensity to asthma and respiratory illnesses.
     
  8. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    For some reason I had some buckling issues with the wet on Stonehenge (the paper above) although Platine has never had that issue.
     
  9. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    If one is already getting the DMax and contrast one wants without the Fumed silica, are there any other benefits besides not needing to use as much coating solution? Basically my pt/pd prints already look like the one on the right. Though occasionally they have too much contrast (I use no contrast agent -- Na2, dichromate, Potassium chlorate). I use those negatives for carbon printing!

    Does it change the surface qualities, for example? Mid-tones?
     
  10. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

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    Speculating: I would expect silica changing the hue characteristics of some pop processes (such as Argyrotype, Ziatype...) which are highly sensitive to humidity, towards cooler tones because silica would retain moisture.

    Any real life experiences? I have only tried a couple of prints with silica and despite I liked the contrast / hue and dmax it gave, I left it aside because of streaking. I'm perfectly happy / satisfied with the traditional methods...

    Regards,
    Loris.
     
  11. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    So far I have seen that because of the raised contrast/dmax, the midtones tend to have more of the color of the process revealed. For example, that Palladium print has a nice copper brown to it and the cyanotypes we have done are a beautiful blue...not nearly as washed out.

    Another thought is that we've found it to be a 'paper saver' because it creates a fine layer on top of the paper, it can be used on papers that normally aren't good for that particular process. I forget the name of the paper, but one in particular was horrid for PT/PD printing, add some silica, and viola! it prints fine.

    The last benefit, and I know I am beginning to sound like a salesman here, is that it takes away gloss from certain processes. We were really getting tired of the gloss on the coated papers used for Albumen when Dick added silica to give it a matte finish. Not only did it work, but then we noticed the DMAX increase. Go figure.
     
  12. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    Hi, can i ask what paper you used in the comparison image and do you have some accurate dmax readings from the uncoated paper coated and the one with fumed silica as this would help interpreting your findings. Also has anyone established how and if fumed silica effects the archival properties of platinum/palladium prints?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2013
  13. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    I'll have to do another set of prints to do the dmax readings as one of the print got shipped off. I can do this though, just give us some time. The paper was Stonehenge.

    As for archival, our chemist (Phd), says that because silica is in a pure form and is completely environmentally stable, it should have zero net effect on archival stability. Our joking test is to take a print after it dries, tape it to the front door and let it face the New Mexico sun at 7,000' for a few days. The same sun that bleaches the plastics on my car in less that 2 weeks. In that highly unscientific test, it behaved just like any other PD/PT print.
     
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  15. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    Okay thanks if you could report on the dmax readings that would be helpful. Its interesting that you are using Stonehenge, the only way i got stonehenge to work in the past is by pre-treating with an acid bath. I presume you had not acid pre-treated the stonehenge before applying the fumed silca? The paper does have a nice finish to it when it works with a good dmax around 1.40 to 1.50.

    In relation to the archival qualities of applying silica as a base for platinum/palladium printing I will defer to your PhD scientist as its not a something I am familiar with. I suspect those who are more scientifically qualified than myself might also have an opinion thats worth sharing.
     
  16. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

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    Kleinmeister, parallel to Dave's question, how is the mechanical stability of the coating? I mean what happens if I smudge the image with my fingertip or use an eraser or try to spot the tip of a cutting knife or accidentally stick a piece of tape onto the surface or ... you got the idea. The coating / therefore image is completely stable right? (I haven't had any adverse effect with normal handling in my tests but haven't specifically stress tested the mechanical integrity of the coating either...)

    Thanks & regards,
    Loris.
     
  17. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Good questions,

    Stonehenge is not something that we really use much with PD/PT either, but like I mentioned in another post, we joke this is a 'paper saver' because it sits on the surface, it can greatly change the paper character for alt printing.

    Regarding mechanical stability, i've never been able to see my fingerprints on the paper (it's kinda like a lustre finish). Of course, I also wasn't eating potato chips either at the time. For spotting, we've used the same dyes, knife methods as one would perform on traditional prints with no ill-effect. Is there a specific test you would be interested in me performing?

    A little history: this type of coating was used heavily back in the day of blueprints. The patents show that the companies used it for increased contrast, sharpness, and paper stability. I have no way to guess how many millions of square feet this stuff was used, but some of the largest cyano companies employed this technique. In fact, we are doing some testing on a new paper that seems they might have caught wind and started applying this as well.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 15, 2013
  18. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    Thats interesting, is it possible to view these patents online regarding its use for blueprints and is there any historical evidence of its use for platinum/palladium printing?
     
  19. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Just a side note.

    It looks like those who have finely calibrated their digital negatives for their process will have to recalibrate if switching to the fumed silica.

    And a question...

    Can one treat paper with the fumed silica and then put it aside for future use? The answer seems to be yes, chemically (it being so inert). But what about physically -- any danger of rubbing off the silica or otherwise damaging the surface in storage?

    Vaughn
     
  20. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Oh lordy, https://www.google.com/?tbm=pts#bav...b853df609103&q=fumed+silica+&safe=off&tbm=pts

    I'll try to find the one from American Cyano or whatever that company is called. I think I have it bookmarked on another machine somewhere. Too many patents!
     
  21. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    Vaughn,

    I've been using the same negs as before. Yes they look different, but I usually watch closely to my highlights and shadows, which are still present. The midtone coloration is usually darken, and an overall more contrasty appearance, but exposure and curve wise...i guess one just needs to compare.

    That shot posted in the OP was from paper that had been coated weeks back, thrown around, discovered, tucked away, found again and used by me as an experiment. It just happened to turn out so well that it was sent to a friend. It seems to be very stable.
     
  22. padraigm

    padraigm Member

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    I printed a digital negative twice where I changed nothing between the two other than one was FS coated. I by far preferred the FS version and did not see a reason to recalibrate. Deeper blacks with more pop and presence to the print. Perhaps the dig neg could be tweaked to look the same I just don't have enough experience with the process yet. But I also did notice as previously noted that I seem to have more solution to coat than usual. Still early days for me but I am interested no doubt.
     
  23. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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    We'll be doing some more tests and I'll get a video up soon displaying techniques, etc. It's always chaos where we do this stuff, so I apologize if it's not highly scientific. A lot of us print by feel more than by measurement nowadays.
     
  24. Loris Medici

    Loris Medici Member

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    Thanks Klainmeister, no I don't have any test you would perform for me, thank you for your kind offer. I would prefer to do my own testing before, if I ever decide to use silica fume in a production situation. BTW, I'm absolutely not concerned about the chemical effects of silica fume on the image since silica is pretty stable / inert stuff, my only concern was the mechanical effects but your remark about the usage of this type of coating in Blueprinting industry gave me quite a confidence; most blueprints are made on thin paper and meant to last...

    Regards,
    Loris.
     
  25. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    Hi Klainmeister, If you could do a set of dmax readings and include a step wedge like in the photo attached that would help us to see how effective fumed silca/alumina is and how it might be changing the entire tonal range compared to a print that is uncoated on the same paper. I have stock of silica and alumina but just have not had a chance to really experiment with it. Thanks
     

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  26. Klainmeister

    Klainmeister Member

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