Wondering about albumen coating on wet or dry paper

Discussion in 'Alternative Processes' started by John Bartley, Dec 20, 2005.

  1. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    I've been reading about different types of alternative processes and the one which strikes my fancy as being a good place to start learning is albumen/silver nitrate printing. I've googled "albumen printing" quite extensively and have read quite a bit about it, and everything I've read seems to say that you should float the paper on the albumen while the paper is dry and that you should expect a bit of curling of the corners until the paper begins to absorb the albumen. My thought is that the object of floating the paper is to get the albumen to absorb into the fibres of the paper on one side, deeply enough so that it locks into place and won't wash off. If the paper was presoaked and then left to drip to a "not quite dry" or "evenly damp" state before it was floated, would it not have a better chance to absorb the albumen evenly? And, would the albumen not penetrate a bit deeper into the paper fibres, eliminating the need for a double coat? What are your thoughts on this?
     
  2. donbga

    donbga Member

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    John,

    Does a wet sponge absorb water more easily than a dry one?

    Don Bryant
     
  3. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    You don't want it to be absorbed too deeply, but to adhere to one side and dry quickly so that it forms a smooth skin. It's also important not to get albumen on the back of the paper. If the paper were wet, floating would probably be more difficult, and I don't think it would dry properly, but you could always try a couple of sheets wet and see what happens.
     
  4. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    Hi Don,

    That's one of several interesting questions. The other questions might be "faster", "more evenly", "more strongly" ? I guess I could compare the floating of dry paper to how well mortar sticks to dry brick. If a strong mortar joint is needed, wetting the bricks will cause the mortar to dry less quickly by drawing less moisture out of the mortar into the brick and will also cause some of the mortar to penetrate a bit more deeply into the grain of the brick so that as it cures it makes a better mechanical bond rather than drying before it cures. I wondered if the action of the albumen would be similar to that of mortar in contact with bricks?

    just a thought ... maybe I'll do as David suggested and give both ways a try when the time comes.
     
  5. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    Another way to do this is to use a slightly oversized paper stock and using a thin bead of something like Elmer's Glue (PVA), go just inside the edges of the paper and glue two sheets back to back. Then you can submerge the paper without worrying about getting albumen on the back side of the paper. Paper prepared this way won't curl as much since the two faces curling counteract each other. You could also sensitize the glued pair by submerging (but that takes a lot of solution), or trim the edges off before sensitizing and use more conventional methods at that point like brushing on the emulsion or using a glass coating rod. In any event, separate the two sheets before printing.

    I've recently experimented with albumen and had some success just using a 4" hake brush for coating and sensitizing with Cranes' Cover stock. Most sources suggest using a 10-12% sensitizer solution but I had better luck using a 20% silver nitrate sensitizer stock with about 2% chloride in the albumen. You want an excess of siver over the chloride. I also had better luck single-coating rather than double-coating with this method.

    Joe
     
  6. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Just an FYI. I recently attended one of a series of lectures on albumen printing at George Eastman House. These are currently part of an ongoing course taking place under a grant from Mellon Inst. and includes participants from all over the world.

    One of the points made was that the paper should be floated dry.

    I'm no expert at this, but the instructor was a Process Historian of this type of photographic printing.

    PE
     
  7. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I think John Coffer uses the method of gluing two sheets back to back, but it seems unnecessarily messy and complicated. It's not that hard to float a dry sheet of paper on a tray of albumen and to get it to coat fairly evenly. Of course the paper curls as it dries. An easier solution is to weight the bottom of the paper with clips, if it's curling upon itself enough to cause albumen to get on the back of the paper, but even that isn't necessary, if it's just curling moderately. I store the albumenized paper in a stiff envelope so it stays relatively flat.

    You should expect the edges to be uneven and use an oversized sheet. After sensitizing and drying, cut it to the size of the negative. If you use an oversized sheet with a large black border, the gold toner will become exhausted faster.

    Joe--Do you get brush marks with the brush method? I've seen some brush sensitized prints, and they had marks, but maybe there was a problem with the technique. If you're getting even results with the brush, how are you brushing?
     
  8. Shinnya

    Shinnya Advertiser Advertiser

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    Hi PE,

    Would you be able to tell me a little more about the workshops at GEH? I went to their website, but did not find the information...

    Is there more sessions on different processes in the near future? Any lead would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.

    Warmly,
    Tsuyoshi



     
  9. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    This matches everything I've read. Did he give any reasons why this is necessary? I'm just curious.

    cheers
     
  10. mikepry

    mikepry Subscriber

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    I went through quite a spell a couple years ago printing nothing but albumen. I used the Strathmore 500 series drawing paper and although it's a really nice paper it took awhile to get on to it and fight the curling (in the dish when floating). I found a method that worked extremely well for coating the albumen. The thought of soaking the paper is kinda on track but what I would do is take my utility sink in the basement and put about 5-6 inches of really hot water in it. On the top I would place a fiberglass screen and place a few sheets on it and then another screen on top of those. I would let them catch the steam coming off the water for awhile and then flip the whole thing over and let the steam waft around the other side. I wouldn't let it get to much but just enough to break down it's defenses so to speak.

    Now for the part that is kinda weird but really worked well.......
    I would have a mug of my favorite hot beverage on hand (Lyons Tea) and after I placed one of the pre steamed sheets in the albumen and the moment it started to curl a little(and man can that Strathnore curl) I would take a rather large drink of my hot tea and blow my breath on the part that was curling and it would lay tight down and "relax." Up to that point it was a tug of war with the curling thing no matter what paper I used and this really did work great.

    I started out single coating but the double coat produced the most beautiful prints. It gave them a dimension the single coat couldn't. Anyways that worked for me and it's really not a big deal to set up and do. Try it.

    I even tried to use one of those steamer things from walgreens but that was to much and the paper became quite wavy on the sides and didn't take up the albumen evenly enough.

    Hope that can be of some help!
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    The workshops at GEH are apparently of two varieties.

    One consists of a series of specialized workshop which is conducted by one of the Process Historians. They are on some sort of schedule, and if you can't find it on the web site, I'll try to get over there and get one to put up here. If I can't get there, I'll call them.

    The other type is under the Mellon grant in which they have full time students from all over the world working on a full semester of work which covers all forms of photography from the early phases up to modern technology. I was there at a round table discussion about my emulsion making work showing them samples of my prints and the coating blades and we made plans for my showing them what I am doing in a 'how to' session for spring. The albumen portion of the course has just ended. I got a note from the instructor that they had moved on to another type of photographic imaging.

    Why they use dry paper was explained as follows:

    1. Dry paper is like a sponge (sound familiar?)

    2. You should put a static charge on the paper with a brush before laying it on the surface. They did this with every sheet as it laid flat on the countertop.

    3. You get better uniformity and it lies flat.

    Now, based on what I read above (and this was the first time I ever saw this process), I saw paper handled by the students lie flat on the surface when applied properly to the tray, and be bubble free and uniform from side-to-side.

    I saw a few bubbles that were expertly taken care of and I saw edge non-uniformity expertly taken care of. I also saw a few prints and they were truly superb! These people from Russia, Spain, Israel, Argentina and the US among others were doing an amazing job.

    The facilities are outstanding. The instructors are top notch. The photographic collection (equipment and photographs both) is superb. And, they just acquired George Eastman's original notebooks for safe keeping. They are available for study, I understand, and contain a lot of the early formulas.

    PE
     
  12. juan

    juan Subscriber

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    It could be beginners luck, but I smoothly coated albumen with one of the sponge brushes from the hardware store. That worked better than a hake brush for me.

    I've had trouble finding a glass container large enough - glass baking trays advertised as being 11x13 actually measure 7 1/2 x 9 1/2 inches at the bottom where the albumen would be. Does the container actually have to be glass as some sites say?
    juan
     
  13. Shinnya

    Shinnya Advertiser Advertiser

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    Thanks, PE. I really appreciate your time.

    Warmly,
    Tsuyoshi
     
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  15. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    Thank you everyone for your replies. They will be a great help with my thoughts on this process.

    cheers
     
  16. Don M

    Don M Member

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    In my experience,if the paper is wet it will tend to sink,getting albumen on the back. Also the water in the paper will dilute the albumen,giving you a matte albumen finish.

    you need to use thin writing paper like Cranes, so that you can push the edges down when the curl up, once they get wet they will stay down---if you use heavy paper you will push the paper "under" while trying to get the edges down.

    If you want a glossy finish you'll need two coates,the first coat will have to be steam cured or it will wash off when you do the second one(I cook mine in the microwave)

    if you want a matte(eggshell finish) dilute the albumen 1:1 with water or with a 2% solution of starch( corn, arrowroot etc).

    If you're planning on using it in camera--- imo, you're better off doing it on glass,Add the bromide and iodide to the albumen before you whip them up then spread a small amount on the glass like gelatin- don't warm up the albumen to help it flow, warm the glass--again this has to be heat cured( microwave) but try not to make it too hard.
    (safelight time)--dunk it in a 10% solution of silver nitrate for a min. or so, then in a 15 % solution of amonium chloride--give a good wash in running water-- let it dry---you're good to go--


    good luck
     
  17. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    Thank you for this Don. I wondered if someone else had tried it. There's no way that I could have been the first to think about it here on APUG :smile:.

    I have read that the first coat should/can be hardened with a soak in alcohol and ... ? (I forget right now). Is the steaming a second step in hardening, or an alternate to the alcohol?

    cheers
     
  18. Don M

    Don M Member

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    My understanding is is that heat/alcohol is an either /or thing..Albumen in it's natural state is water soluble,and there's plenty of water in it, so it has to be cured in some way in order to apply a second coat without washing off the first..I've have never used alcohol but my understanding is it works fine.This is a 150 yo process and they used what they had.The support being paper there were not many options.On glass they used direct open flame to heat the glass in order to cure the albumen---I use a microwave because I have one. There might be many other options--who knows. Sometimes technology gets to a point where everything is working fine and it just kind of stops moving foward or takes a rest(you still have a P3-P4 in your box? what happened to Moores Law? are we at 10 gig yet? 8?)


    BTW -this is not meant to be "advice" or "how to'-- Just a reference point

    you'll work things out in your own fashion as you go along.
     
  19. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    If you steam the albumenized paper before sensitizing or applying another coat of albumen, you harden the albumen and humidify the paper at the same time, so that the paper is easier to work with.
     
  20. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    At GEH, the dipped albumen coated paper is hung to 'set' for a few minutes. During this time it is inspected and checked for a uniform coating of albumen. They used a glass rod to burst any large bubbles and ran the rod around the edges to help remove any concentrations of the albument.

    Then the paper was taken, still on the hanger, over to a box which was warmed by having a hot plate sitting in the bottom. The previous step prevented drops of albumen from dropping onto the hotplate.

    As sheets were added to the 'hot box', the previous sheets were moved forward to the front of the hot box until they were virtually dry. Then they were removed from the hot box to finish drying at room temp.

    With all of the students going full blast, they turned out a room full of albumen coated sheets. And, BTW, I think that their salts were already in the albumen so that the next step would have been the dip in silver nitrate. I was unable to attend the session the next day.

    PE
     
  21. Don M

    Don M Member

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    I peel my sheet off the albumen holding it by a dog ear and let it drip for a few seconds,then I lay it face up in a sheet of 300# water color paper,and inspect for bubbles/missed spots----then into the microwave---I "cook" it until the edges start to curl then I put it in a pad of watercolor paper. When I'm done coating I weight down the pad, and the next day all the sheets are flat. If I'm going to double coat,I repeat the process.


    If you're doing albumen prints the salt would already be in the albumen. I don't use salt because I'm doing VDB on matte albumen paper.
     
  22. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    David,

    Yes. Brush marks are evident on the albumens. Of the few I've done I have more even results using a single coat of albumen. I think with additional practice with a 3" hake I could all but eliminate them. This links to a comparison from a previous thread. The first scan is a salt print, the second a single-coated albumen, and the third a double-coated albumen print.

    Joe
     
  23. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    Thanks, Joe.

    I don't know if it's possible to eliminate the brush marks, if you use a brush. That's the sense I got from Daniel Levin when I asked about it. Something seems to happen when the sensitizer contacts the albumen, that if it's not done absolutely smoothly, you'll get a mark. For instance, if you don't float the albumenized paper in a single motion, you'll get a line every time you stop.

    He said he has seen successful results with a coating rod, but hasn't tried it himself. The technique was to pour a line of sensitizer at one end of the sheet and draw it across in one pull, then trim to size, cutting off the uneven edges, when dry.
     
  24. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    David, this comment about lines seems sensible, as the salt and silver are 'wicking' themselves together if you have stops and starts, rather than just moving together in a smooth blend. This would give rise to changes in concentration of salt or silver and therefore give rise to changes in the light sensitive material that forms. This would cause speed changes and fog changes in the material and would give rise to small 'crease' marks.

    I'm hoping to use one of my coating blades in this type of work eventually, to see if the problems can be alleviated. That was one of the reasons for talking to GEH people.

    PE
     
  25. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    That seems like a logical explanation, PE. We looked at one of Daniel's first attempts at a 20x24" albumen print, and the lines from jerky floatation technique were clear (again, just a matter of practice to work that out).
     
  26. Jim Noel

    Jim Noel Member

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    Back to your original statement that you are thinking of beginning your alternative printing with albumen.
    I print essentially all of the alt processes. IMHO The two with the most pitfalls are carbon and albumen.
    I suggest you begin with VD brown, or cyanotype or palladium/platinum. These will enable you to learn about papers, sizing, coating sensitizers, etc. After some experience with these I believe you will find albumen less daunting.
    Jim