Old-style print washing—Please fill me in

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by jmcd, May 10, 2009.

  1. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    How did Edward Weston wash his prints? From what I read he made many prints in a good session. I know he had a little light bulb under his developer tray to keep it warm, but I am guessing he used a simple tray method involving elbow grease to wash prints.

    I am wondering how well it would work to simply shuffle prints continuously through a tray of water, and dump for fresh water after an interval.

    Would this work well? At what interval would you dump the tray to add fresh water? How many changes of water might be suggested? If you know of an effective tray washing routine, yours or an oldtimer's, I would enjoy hearing about it.
     
  2. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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  3. wogster

    wogster Member

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    Using the old timers washing methods, might not work so well today. They often used FB papers with hardening slow working fixers. They also had cheap, plentiful water and no concerns over water contamination with chemicals and silver.

    Today we have RC papers and fast working non-hardening fixers, so that you don't need long washing times. Water is much more expensive now, and in many parts of the world there are conservation concerns. We now know that wash water contains fixer and silver, so there are pollution concerns as well. Perhaps a better question would be, how does one get archival prints using modern washing methods?
     
  4. sun of sand

    sun of sand Member

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    I don't know how to help you but maybe this will
    simple =/ needing a bunch of answers from people on an internet photo site
    Seems like you want some some kind of extremely educated simple answer
    or
    something even more intelligent than an educated guess but not anything so precise as to be called scientific

    Just seems if you want "simple" you should keep it simple
    When you want proven ask for proven
    I don't know whether there can any inbetween


    Put some prints in a tray
    soak em for an hour with some shuffling
    repeat 3-5 times
    or just leave overnight

    Will that work just as well
    I don't really care
    will it work well
    Seems like it would do fine
    Will it work just as well
    I don't care
    I'll care when it doesn't and I need it to
    Then I'll be done with simplification
    simple science performed
    ....
     
  5. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    ******
    There are threads along this line. It is my understanding that the fixer, etc. diffuses into the water and that sufficient agitation and changes of water can get the prints "clean." That constant running water, with outflow at bottom, is not an absolute necessity.
    All this, I am led to believe, is dependent upon several variables--freshness of fixer, type of fixer, etc.
     
  6. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    Large floor-standing rotary print washers existed as far back as the the 1920's. Print washing in smaller applications was not much different than today for the last 60 years or so, such as a tray with a tray siphon, or smaller table-top rotary print washers.
     
  7. Wade D

    Wade D Member

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    I am on well water in southern California and try to use it sparingly. I soak prints in a large tray changing the water every 15 minutes or so. Then a final wash of 5 minutes in running water works well. This is for RC prints. FB prints are treated in hypo clearing agent then the same wash as for RC. This has worked well for years.
     
  8. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Other than the clinging surface fixer all the remaining fixer
    finds it's way into the body of surrounding water by a process
    of diffusion. Fixer brought to the surface by diffusion continues
    it's course through out the body of water. That is, the process
    of diffusion does not stop at the emulsion's or paper's
    boundary.

    Running water washes are a BIG waste of water. Running water
    is not at all a necessity. Still water, with print separation works
    well. Fred Picker would agree and has said as much. See the
    Sticky concerning film washing. Dan
     
  9. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I tend to use my upright washer for diffussion after an initial blast:

    I use hypo clear and then wash for ten minutes on fast/moderate flow then do three or four changes of water, removing them on the last while the water is moving. I dont believe that when ilford says that after using hypo clear the print should be very close to its best after 5-10 mins, people wash for an hour plus on full blast when their (Ilford) results and those from Nova appear to show little to no reduction in fixer product in the paper.
     
  10. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    I should add that I have done 20x24s in trays with about six changes of water over about half a day with intermittent agitation, then toned them perfectly with no spots, marks or the like. no idea whether archival but they are still on my wall, catching a fair bit of windowlight and look fine. I suspect they will for another 50+ years...
     
  11. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    A fixed print contains a considerable amount of thiosulfate, which must be removed to optimize the longevity of the silver image.

    The process of print washing is a combination of displacement and diffusion. Just prior to the wash, a relatively large amount of excess fixer is gently clinging to the print through surface adhesion. An initial, brief but rapid, rinse in water quickly displaces this excess fixer, simply washing it off the surface. However, there is still plenty of thiosulfate left in the print, and this is a bit harder to get rid of. It has been deeply absorbed by the emulsion and saturates the print fibers. The remaining thiosulfate can only be removed by the process of diffusion.

    As long as there is a difference in thiosulfate concentration between the print and the wash water, thiosulfate will diffuse from the print into the water. This gradually reduces the thiosulfate concentration in the print and increases it in the wash water. Diffusion continues until both are of the same concentration and an equilibrium is reached, at which point, no further diffusion takes place.

    Replacing the saturated wash water entirely with fresh water repeats the process, and a new equilibrium at a lower residual thiosulfate level is obtained. However, diffusion is an exponential process that decreases geometrically with time. This means that the rate of diffusion slows down rapidly towards the equilibrium. Print washing is quicker if the wash water is not entirely replaced in certain intervals, but slowly displaced with a constant flow of fresh water across the print surfaces, keeping the concentration difference, and therefore the rate of diffusion, at a maximum during the entire wash.

    Other essential elements for effective washing are the use of washing aid, water replenishment and temperature.
     
  12. Tom Stanworth

    Tom Stanworth Member

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    useful explanation and extra insight Ralph. Makes a lot of sense.
     
  13. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    Thanks to all for your thoughtful replies. Rethinking my own process, hoping to be more efficient with water, is what got me looking into the paper-washing process again.

    It seems that a condensed thread on effective, print washing methods would be very helpful as a sticky. Some measurable variables could include time for effective wash, and amount of water used for print.
     
  14. Greg Davis

    Greg Davis Member

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    According to Cole Weston in Darkroom 2, his father used a Kodak Tray Siphon to wash his prints. My old professor told us that if we couldn't get a washer, but wanted to do work at home we could wash by filling a tray with water, shuffling the prints continuously for 5 minutes, then dumping the water out, refilling and shuffling for another 5 minutes, and so on for a total of one hour. This would use 12 trays worth of water. At 1/2 gallon per tray for an 11x14 tray and 6-12 prints you would use 6 gallons of water to wash. This is for fiber paper. RC would be fine with 3 cycles of water instead of 12.
     
  15. jmcd

    jmcd Member

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    Greg, thanks for letting me know that Edward used the Kodak tray siphon.

    I am getting some silver nitrate to make the HT-2 residual hypo test, and plan to test out a couple of methods. One will be the method outlined by your teacher. Thanks for passing that along.
     
  16. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Unbelievable. A ridiculous, absurd amount of work, time,
    and water. Enough to discourage any one from taking up
    darkroom photography. Twelve changes of water and
    twixt changes, shuffle, shuffle, shuffle, then shuffle
    some more.

    ONE long soak can produce prints which are entirely
    stainless by the HT-2 test. I've had prints entirely clean
    of stain after ONE long soak. Clean sooner than I had
    expected.

    I've decided that such effortless water stingy results are do
    to the very dilute one-shot fix which precedes a hold
    and soak. A long 12 plus hour soak follows.

    The method is not completely work free or time required none.
    The water from the hold-soak tray, once the last print has had
    a few minutes, is poured into a second tray and stirred. The
    prints and separators are then placed in the second tray.
    The top separator is placed on the bottom of tray 2.
    And so tray 1 empties top to bottom and tray 2
    builds bottom to top. The prints should have
    30 to 60 minute of soaking in tray 2. After
    they are ready for the long soak.

    The long soak is a repeat of the hold-soak sequence save for
    the amount of soak time; from hold-soak tray 2 to tray 1, the
    first of the long soak trays. I usually make a transfer to tray
    2 an hour or so before removing the prints. They are then
    sponge dried and racked.

    It's a least hassle, least water, least time consuming way to
    wash. Those that use fixer in a customary way should follow
    the fix with a rinse, a hca, a rinse then the above
    outlined method. Dan
     
  17. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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    Tray washing is the simple effective way to wash prints. A tray wash is the low cost, water efficent and fastest method. Use an alkaline fix at film strength, fix for 60s, discard the fix after 10-12 8x10s per L. No need to use a hypo clear with a fix like TF4, unless you tone in selinium. If toned, process in hypo clear for 10 min.

    Tray wash for 20-30 min with intermintent agitation, filling and dumping water in the tray 6 or 7 times. Do not let the prints overlap/stick or load up the tray with prints. (3) 8x10s in a 12x16 inch tray is about right.

    I watch CNN while washing. Who says guys can't multitask as long as the tasks are simple.