Wet Plate Collodion Questions

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by schrochem, Oct 13, 2007.

  1. schrochem

    schrochem Member

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    Well it seems I'm on my way back to analog. I had sold my LF equipment and have been all digital for awhile now. However, I check the APUG gallery daily because it is some of the finest photography I can find on the web. I could start listing names but it would make the post long and off topic :D
    Anyway, I've been lured back by some of the recent tintypes (namely prifti's work). I've also long admired Keriks work but for some reason never thought to try wet plate myself. I even saw some beautiful plates Kendrick made of his cowboys when his show was here in town.
    I have been doing quite a bit of research online with what it takes to make wet plate postitives. I'm definitely intrigued and want to pursue this adventure. However, I have to buy some equipment again..... :smile:
    I'm trying to get on Quinn's forum but I guess he's out of reach right now. I would like to ask a few questions to those of you involved in this process.

    1) Why use glass over aluminum for positives (or vice versa)?
    Where do you buy the glass or aluminum?

    2)In prifti's recent portraits I noticed an array of tones. I am definitely more interested in the warmer tones. How is toning applied?

    3)I have searched the forums and found some useful information but not exactly where to buy the chemicals. I did see links for the collodion, but not the rest. So does anyone have links? Do you make all the chemicals yourself (including the collodion)?

    I have many more questions but I'll leave it at that for now. Perhaps, I'll let this thread perpetuate as the questions arise and I begin the process.

    Thanks for any help
    Scott
     
  2. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Scott, The best thing you can do is order John Coffer's manual and DVD set. Just google his name and it will take you to his web site. His manual is probably the best on the market. It is all hand written. You will have to contact John by snail mail but he responds very quickly. He has no phone or electric. Also Quinn Jacobson's book, "The Contemporary Wet Plate Collodion Experience" is very good. Both guys are Gems to work with and are very helpful. I would suggest taking a workshop, it is a great way to get started. I'm from the Coffer school of wet plate myself but Kerik also runs a great introduction workshop and I think he has one coming up here soon. Robert.....P.S. Prifti's work is awesome as well as Kerik's. Kerik probably pours the cleanest plates I've ever seen.
     
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  3. Bruce Schultz

    Bruce Schultz Member

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    Get glass anywhere. It's just regular glass, although some breaks better than others.
    The plate is trophy plate. Most people buy it from Main Trophy Supply.
    As for the tones, the warm tones are pretty much inherent, but accentuated with cyanide for fixer.
    The chemicals are available from Artcraft Photography Chemicals (they're online).
     
  4. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    1) Regular glass will work. It allows you to choose between a negative or positive image in the field. Aluminum is convenient. Just peel and pour. No cleaning. I prefer to use deep purple glass to make ruby ambrotypes. They have a depth and color that can't be matched by aluminum. Making real ferrotype plates would be a pain IMO.

    2) Using cyanide fixer instead of hypo gives warmer tones and shorter development times seem to do that too. Addition of silver or potassium nitrate to the developer will make it go the other way towards a more neutral color. I also think some collodion formulas may be slightly warmer due to the particular halide salts used.

    3) Artcraft has been mentioned as a source and they have most of what you'll need. Mavidon is another source for plain collodion. Some of the other common photochemicals (hypo, silver nitrate, acetic acid, etc.,) can be purchased through many camera stores or online vendors.

    You don't want to make your own collodion as it is a dangerous process involving dissolving nitrocellulose (guncotton) in ether and alcohol. Much better to buy it readymade.
     
  5. JG Motamedi

    JG Motamedi Member

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    It is surprisingly easy. With a good manual (I have used Coffer's and the Ostermans') you can easily figure it out yourself. On the other hand a workshop is a great way to start. Some of the steps--pouring the collodion and developing the plate--are mechanical skills which need a bit of practice, so watching someone helps quite a bit.

    Regarding image tone, there are many contributing factors but it is easy to get a warm tone so don't let that hold you back.
     
  6. Guillaume Zuili

    Guillaume Zuili Subscriber

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    Hi Smieglitz,
    Where do you get readymade collodion ?
    Best,
    G.
     
  7. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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    collodion

    Mavidon is another source for plain collodion

    Hello all,
    I use large format cameras, I am becoming increasingly interested in tintypes and collodion processes, I looked at the Mavidon website and it lists ready-made collodion. So this can be used directly for plates?
    I am new to this so still rather wet behind the ears...
    Secondly, could someone recommend a source to purchase a wet-plate back for my whole plate camera? I am in the UK.
    Thanks!
    Anton
     
  8. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Make sure you buy plain collodion USP and not flexible collodion. Flexible collodion has formaldehyde in it and it will not work with wet plate. Harry once you purchase the collodion it still needs to be salted and mixed with ether and grain alcohol(190 proof) then allowed to clear before you pour your first plate. There are numerous formulas out there for your mixtures. If your camera takes a regular film holder then you can convert a film holder to use for wet plate. Also AWB will build you a wet plate holder that works just like a film holder. Star Cameras will also build wet plate backs but that would mean sending your camera in for modification. Now if your whole plate camera is just missing the plate holder and everything else is there for wet plate you can just have a wet plate holder made to fit it at Star Camera also.
     
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  9. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Clarkson Labs is another source for chems. Mike Jacobson at Artcraft can set you up with everything you need and his prices are probably the best.
     
  10. Anton Lukoszevieze

    Anton Lukoszevieze Subscriber

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    Thanks for the info. Robert,
    I have film holders, but am just getting an older camera that has dry plate holders (book form). Are these OK or do I need something different? Also, what is the best collodion and tintype book to buy, in your opinion? I have been looking around at various sites, etc.
    Anton
     
  11. schrochem

    schrochem Member

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    Thanks very much for the information.
    Yes I had read about Coffer and Quinn's books and DVDs. I will most likely be sending off for the Coffer one. I think the DVD would be quite helpful. I found the YouTube videos quick explanatory.
    As I suspected the responses conjured up more questions.
    Thanks for the info of glass vs. metal. I went to the main trophy site and I'm not sure which type or thickness is typical. Someone care to help me out there? Also, what thickness of glass is typical?
    Smieglitz thanks for all the information. I can know see all the possibilities with colored glass....very cool. Also, your mention of the silver nitrate in the developer making it go towards neutral brought up another question. Do anyone use the developer once and discard for this reason?
    RobertP thanks for all the information. One of your last comments is the first I've read of having to add salts, ether and ethyl alcohol to the collodion. So are they just selling the gun cotton? Where do you get ether? I know ether should be tough to get because of 'other' naughty uses out there.
    Last question for now: any reason why the plates can't 'dipped' or 'dunked' in collodion to get smooth coverage? I'm talking about positives but assuming it's because of the waste of collodion (and then silver later). I could also see that being a problem on glass, but on aluminum it seems like the only problem would be wasting chemicals.
    Thanks again for the help.
     
  12. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    John Coffer's Book and DVD set. I've never seen the dry plate holders but they should probably work fine for tintypes. My only concern would be if they are able to handle the thicker glass used for ambrotypes and glass plate negatives. You may need to do a little modification to them. I'll post a pic of my wet plate holder and show you what I mean.
     
  13. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Scott, The collodion is the gun cotton already dissolved in ether. You add additional ether and alcohol. Clarkson Labs sells ether.
     
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  15. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Harry, Apparently I don't know how to insert a pic into a post. If you like you can send me your email address and I'll forward you pics of my wet plate holder.
     
  16. schrochem

    schrochem Member

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    Robert, thanks for the information on the collodion.
    To insert a pic you have to use 'post reply' instead of the quick reply at the bottom. After you get to the post reply screen, click on the paper clip to upload a picture from your computer.
     
  17. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Thanks Scott, I'll give it a try
     
  18. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    http://www.apug.org/forums/attachme...ment.php?attachmentid=8769&stc=1&d=1192373843....Here is my wet plate holder. There is a spring clip in the center of the door on the left side of the first pic that is hard to see. This holder has inserts that allow me to shoot 5x7...8x10....11x14...and 14x14. When doing a glass plate the glass is used alone but when doing a tintype/ aluminum plate you have to use a backing glass to take up the extra depth in the holder. It also helps keep the spring clip from bowing the tin plate or aluminum plate. Also someone asked about the thickness of the aluminum from Main Trophy. For large plates you want to order the thicker trophy aluminum. You can use the thinner stuff for plates under 8x10 but since the smallest I shoot is 5x7 I just order it all in the thicker material.
     

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  19. schrochem

    schrochem Member

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    Thanks for posting those Robert. I'd always wondered what the wet plate holders look like. In the second picture are you showing both glass and aluminum? In the third photo how is the plate held in place?
     
  20. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Yes after the aluminum plate is sensitized it would be placed in the holder collodion side down toward the darkslide. The glass would then be placed on top of that. Notice the little corner pieces at the corners of the insert. That is what the plates rest on. There is a spring clip in the center of the door that is hard to see( I'll take a better pic of it). When the door is closed it presses against the plates to hold them in place.
     
  21. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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  22. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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  23. smieglitz

    smieglitz Subscriber

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    I think Coffer's book is the most popular and straightforward. It would be the first on I would recommend, especially with the DVD set. It does help to actually see someone experienced go through the process either on video or at a workshop.

    Thge plain collodion USP is a mixture of guncotton dissolved in ether and ethanol. You still have to add the salts that will become light sensitive in the silver nitrate solution, and, additional thinning of the collodion is needed by adding ether and alcohol to the mix. Some people use grain alcohol (it needs to be ~190 proof ethanol to keep additional water out of the sensitized collodion) and some use denatured alcohol because of its low cost. It appears that additional ether may not actually be needed unless one is striving to do everything as period as possible.

    I started to experiment with using a collodion thinned with only grain alcohol (omitting additional ether) and it seemed to work fairly well. My choice of salts confounded the experiment a bit, and I did not get very far with it this summer, but it looks promising and others report that salted collodions without additional ether work well for them.

    Here's a full-plate ruby ambrotype from that experimental mix:

    [​IMG]
    APUG's own Daniel Lin

    This one was made on purple glass using sodium bromide and sodium iodide salts in the mix. Those salts seem to make the collodion set quicker and reduce the time available to work with the material compared to other salts (of pottassium, ammonia, cadmium, etc.).

    I usually use my developer and then save and filter it. After it is filtered, I mix it half and half with fresh developer to actually get a bit more silver deposited on the plate (the first use strips some silver off the plate and puts it into the developer) and to shift the color more neutral.

    A couple reasons for not dip/dunking the plate in collodion:

    1) a thick coating is hard to properly clear
    2) any solution on the back of the plate may migrate to the front and cause artifacts (e.g., "oysters") that most don't want in their plates. The rapid evaporation of ether and alcohol wicks everything to the front of the plate. This is also why points of contact are reduced between the plate and holder, and why dryplate holders won't work well for wetplate.
    3) collodion and some of the salts are fairly expensive and coating the back would waste the materials for no benefit.
     
  24. schrochem

    schrochem Member

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    Great Robert! Now I see. That's a sweet camera you have there! That holder looks really nice. It looks like it is one side only. Is that correct? I would assume most wet plate holders are just one side unlike the double sided sheet holders and possibly dry plates??
     
  25. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    Yes wet plate holders are one sided.
     
  26. RobertP

    RobertP Subscriber

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    http://www.apug.org/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=8776&stc=1&d=1192377982...Scott, I'm very new to the process too but I'm having a ball with it. It is possible to get decent plates from the start. The skill is in the pouring of the plates to get full coverage and a nice even coat. Here is one of my very first plates that I attempted on my own. I spent a few days with John Coffer to get me started and I highly recommend his workshop. Robert
     

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