Ninety nine percent of my paper is aged between ten and seventy years of age. All of the Ilfobrom has been good (both the very old yellow packaged boxes and the more recent white and blue). Ilfospeed and Multigrade I've had less luck with - the Ilfospeed seems incapable of getting any true black and some of the Multigrade has been beyond salvation (but I'm referring to II and III here; I can't imagine the IV being bad unless it's been seriously mishandled.) The Kodak Polycontrast I had was actually excellent.
I received a bunch of old paper; quite a few packages of varying mfg, types, grades. They were all from a single source so I suspect (but am not sure) they were stored at least somewhat the same. The packages were not dated but based on packaging, I could get a sense of relative age.
I found great variation of the degree of fog and not always consistent with the apparent age of the paper (based on packaging). I don't have my notes handy, but I believe that some brands/types seemed better than others when it came to fogging.
Newer papers with incorporated developers are less likely to be good, while older papers without seem to work better. This also depends, of course, on the personal history of the paper.
For example, I have used reams of kodak polycontrast II which appears excellent, while every batch of PC IV I've tried has been gray (or worse). I've had good luck with most infords and small label stuff.
Your easiest answer comes from just trying it. Ilfobrom was very good graded paper. I found several boxes of Zone VI Brilliant dated 1983 and it still prints well; to be honest I still need to try it "straight," I jumped straight to the benzotriazole anti-fog (you can get the powder from Photographers Formulary, it mixes very easily into stock solution). The point is that all this conjecture is useless, as Fred Picker used to say "Try it yourself and see." If it is fogged, a few prints will let you know whether or not it is worth using, and benzotriazole is inexpensive, a little will last you a lifetime. While doing tests with small pieces and pennies is fine, its easier to print a negative you like and see what is going on, whether it gives you a good print or not. It will be obvious if you have no highlights, i.e. what should print as bright white prints as grey.
In addition to this old stock, I have my own old stock to try. I will will get some benzotriazole, to bad Freestyle does not sell it. The shipping from the Photographers Formulary is high unless ordering lots of stuff, which I don't need to do at this time.
Also recomended here is potassium bromide, what is the difference or pros & cons between potassium bromide or benzotriazole?
Even if it turns out to be spoiled it could be valueable if you ever decide to lith print. A lot of people put sacrificial paper in a new batch of lith developer to season it. Besides that, if any of the paper is lithable maybe it would still lith well.
As restrainer, I use either potassium bromide or benzatriazole, but prefer the benzatriazole. I use only about 1/10th as much BZ as PB. If you mix a 1% solution of BZ and store it in PET plastic (no oxidation worries with either PB or BZ so any container is OK) it lasts forever. I have had no problems with long storage.
First, fotch, do this: For each package of paper cut off about one square inch of paper (of course, in total darkness: I do not use 'safe'lights). Then, mark each piece on the back with a felt marker in order to identify which package it represents. (Use a simple number system.) Then place half of each piece of paper under an ABSOLUTELY light tight item (for example, a dead flat bottom of an item like a tape dispenser that has felt at the bottom). (NOTE: the raised devices of a coin might allow light to creep in unless you hold the coin down FIRMLY throughout the exposure.) Expose the paper to full room light. Then process normally. If the unexposed part is white, or nearly so, you have struck gold. The paper is good with little modification. If it is medium grey, you must do more than merely process, which I will explain later. If the paper is totally black, that might be an insurmountable problem but one that could greatly be improved with what I say below.
Add about 30 - 50ml of the restrainer per liter of working strength paper developer. (IE, 10% PB or 1% BZ solutions).
The trick to working with age-fogged papers is to develop for as long as you can in order to achieve max black while not developing so long that your 'whites' get any darker than medium grey. Restrainers work only so far in helping to rectify age fog. The rest of the problem is solved with reducer, after the processing is complete.
After development and fixation, do the following to reduce density: first mix potassium ferricyanide (4ml per 250ml of water; I use volume to measure powders, not mass) into a separate container. That is your bleach and will keep indefinitely. Then shortly before you reduce: mix four parts of this bleach to one part of fresh film-strength fixer. This is your undiluted reducer and is a bit different dilution than Farmer's Reducer. Then mix this reducer with from 10 to 50 parts water to make your working strength reducer because if you do not, the reduction will take place too rapidly. You must experiment here and make sure to make your print a bit darker than normal so that the reduction in density will not leave you with a washed out print. Knowing just how much water to add will have to become known through trial and error at the beginning. However, the 4 + 1 ratio of fericyanide and fixer remains constant. Agitate continuously in the reducer and remove just BEFORE achieving desired reduction. It does not hurt to briefly dip the print into the original paper fixer after this reduction. Wash.
You will find that this ratio of Ferricyanide to fixer is best for PRIMARILY reducing the 'dirty' whites in order to make them sparkle, without unduly reducing the blacks. It is remarkable how badly age-fogged paper can be and still allow great prints to result with this method. (However, don't think that you will retain the 'right' to change contrast with variable contrast papers: you will either have a far less ability to do so or you will find that filtration matters not with age-fogged papers) You will become frustrated upon your first attempts and I strongly suggest that you experiment with tiny prints in order to not only waste little paper but to allow rapid experimentation to be easy. You WILL attain confidence but too many of you will still use large sheets of paper and end up totally dismayed. Work small until you really master this process. The mixed reducer will last for maybe one hour since the amount of fixer is kept minimal with my ratio. - David Lyga
This is what you need from freestyle. http://www.freestylephoto.biz/125851...Neutral-100-ml
Originally Posted by fotch
I have a 500 sheet box of 11x14 Kodak Kodabrome II RC Grade 3 that had expired in the early 80s. I know it hasn't spent it's life in the fridge but it's perfectly usable. I had a large roll of 5" Polycontrast that had been expired by about five years. I loved that paper. Sorry if none of this helps answer your question, i've just been pretty lucky with outdated/expired paper. If the paper is bunk, you can always use it for carbon transfer printing!