View Full Version : Collodion substitute for plate pouring practice?

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09-17-2008, 01:23 PM
Since it'll be a while before I've assembled all the equipment and chemicals I need for wet-plate I'd like to start practicing my pours. From watching the YouTube videos of Quinn Jacobsen, Will Dunniway and others it looks like collodion is a lot more runny than usual descriptions would have you think. I've tried using corn syrup, but to get that runny it has to be pretty hot and it hurts like a SOB when it runs down my arm! Is there anything else that costs less than the $100/L of collodion that is useful for practicing?

Marc Leest
09-17-2008, 01:28 PM
fresh cream does the trick.


09-17-2008, 02:23 PM
maybe simple syrup?
you can also probably get flexible collodion at
your local pharmacy ( i know i can ) maybe you can
make believe it is the real thing, dilute it with everclear &C
and pour THAT ... once you get it on your plate and it drys, you can
draw on it with ink, and take a pin, pry up a corner and peel off the celluloid ...
it takes pen/ink and its fun to play with ...

just keep it away from any source of heat ;)
it's very "sensitive" ...

09-17-2008, 03:53 PM
Denise Ross uses artists Gesso diluted with water as a substitute for emulsion in practicing (or demo) of dry plate preparation.

You can dilute it a bit more to achieve the right consistency....

bill schwab
09-17-2008, 04:53 PM
Wait until you get the real thing and practice as you learn. You'll be surprised after watching others do it how easy it is to pick-up. A steady, level hand will do it. You'll get the trick. Spend your time getting the real stuff together.

If you must, try corn or sunflower oil... a tad thicker, but it is close.

Have fun!!

09-18-2008, 10:15 AM
I recommend 1/2 and 1/2


09-18-2008, 10:38 AM
BTW...where can you buy collodion pre-mixed?

09-18-2008, 10:45 AM
If you mean pre-salted with all the other goodies but silver nitrate, you can't. It ages too rapidly to be a commercially viable product. You buy the raw USP Collodion from Mavidon ( http://www.mavidon.com ) ( http://www.mavidon.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=288&osCsid=72e8c42448b6852e255ed7fa227846f9 )

And it isn't quite as expensive as you think. Unless you start pouring 8x10 and bigger plates, a little USP goes a LONG way.

09-18-2008, 10:52 AM
Thanks...so the collodion from Mavidon has the ether already in it.

Now what about storage, since the stuff is so flammable?

I'm looking to take a workshop in wet plate, so my questions will probably be answered there, but I'm trying to do as much research ahead of time as I can...

09-18-2008, 10:57 AM
PVia, most of the recipes out there for the different Collodion mixtures actually require you to add a bit more Ether to the Mavidon USP Collodion when you mix up the collodion for pouring.
I know some people have substituted Everclear for the extra Ether. I think Smieglitz does this. If he doesn't see this thread you might want to shoot him a PM and ask him about it.

09-18-2008, 02:15 PM
Some the cadmium salts actually thicken the collodion compared to other salts. And the collodion seems to me to thin a bit as it breaks down over time. As you use it and have the storage bottle uncorked for awhile over and over again, the solvents evaporate and the collodion thickens. So, there is no one viscosity to call normal. Cream might be a good approximation as someone mentioned earlier.

As far as storage, ether reacts with oxygen to form peroxides over time. Peroxides can be explosive so most ether has something added to inhibit (but not totally prevent) peroxide formation. Too much BHT additive affects its use for wetplate, so some suppliers of ether specifically earmarked for photographic use may eliminate the BHT or they might use ethanol to stabilize the ether. You should only purchase the smallest quantity you foresee using over a period of a couple months. Most institutions recommend disposal of ether stocks after 6 months. After decanting some ether, raising the level in the storage bottle using glass marbles will reduce the oxygen in the container and help minimize peroxide formation. Use of an inert gas blanket over the fluid in the storage container also will serve to isolate the ether from oxygen. Mixing the ether into collodion or ethanol immediately after you receive it will help stabilize it and go a long way towards minimizing the peroxide formation issue. Ether and collodion should be stored away from ignition surfaces (open flames and hot surfaces) in a cool, dark place where ventilation is adequate to prevent fumes from building up. Don't store either in a residence or in a standard refrigerator. Standard refrigerators can accumulate ether fumes and when the door opens and fan motor kicks on, boom. Special explosion-proof refrigerators (and ventilations systems) are available for use with these chemicals, but the cost may be prohibitive. The cooler you can keep the ether, the better. I bought a 5-day picnic cooler specifically for storage of ether and collodion and I change the ice packs every few days during warm weather. The cooler is stored in a secure area outside my residence. If you had a detached storage shed that could be locked away from the house and in the shade, that would make a pretty good place to store the cooler and chemicals. Just remember to ice the stuff down.

Best plan is to mix and use it up quickly, and shoot a lot of plates so storage isn't a problem.

I have used low-ether, high-alcohol formulas to keep from having ether around, but I've come to the conclusion that the standard formulas produce collodion films which are not as fragile and are less prone to ripping or lifting from the plate surface. So, I've gone back to purchasing minimum quantities of ether that I think I'll use up in a couple months. And, I mix alcohol and the salts into the ether to form a more stable stock solution.


09-18-2008, 03:43 PM
Joe, fantastic info and thanks for your time!

How much collodion/ether in ml does it take to pour a plate, say 5x7 or whatever size?

Just want to see how much I may use in a given period...

09-18-2008, 10:19 PM
Joe, fantastic info and thanks for your time!

How much collodion/ether in ml does it take to pour a plate, say 5x7 or whatever size?

Just want to see how much I may use in a given period...

I've never measured the amount per plate. However, I've never used more than about 75ml in a day even with pouring 10x12s. The smallest readily available quantities seem to be 500ml to 625ml bottles of ether or collodion and combined with alcohol will give over a liter of a working formula. That's a lot of plates. If you find you are using it rapidly, you could always order more than the minimum quantities.

I buy the Everclear 2 half-gallons at a time since it is not readily available where I reside. I also use denatured alcohol to clean vessels instead of using the grain alcohol so I save a bit of money there. But I'd always buy the minimum quantity of ether and use it up as quickly as possible rather than store it.

Dana at Bostick and Sullivan has communicated to me that they would be willing to package quantities of ether less than 500ml if requested.