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Yet MORE Adventures in Wet Plate - Making Varnish

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by , 03-11-2008 at 07:25 AM (1339 Views)
Well, I got some glassware together and had my chemistry in order, so I made my varnish last night. What a pain in the ass! Gum sandarac takes forever to dissolve - I spent over an hour and a half stirring it in alcohol to get it dissolved. Of course, this also involved filtering the varnish almost a dozen times to get all the debris out - gum sandarac is a natural resin from a tree, and it gets bark and dirt and sometimes even insects trapped in it that all have to be filtered out before you can use the varnish. There's a synthetic varnish you can get (whose vendor I can't find) that eliminates a lot of these problems - supposedly it dissolves much faster, and it has no dirt, bark and bugs in it. If I ever find the stuff, I'll post it here to add to my list of suppliers. On the upside, now all the fingernails on my left hand have a nice shine to them.


  1. North Light Press's Avatar
    You could have saved yourself a lot of time and frustration by simply mixing in a mason jar and letting it sit. Give it a few shakes every once in awhile to get the solids to break down, then do not disturb it for a week or so. All the particulate matter will settle out and you'll be left with a very clear varnish to decant into another bottle. Always keep a new mix settling to be ready when you need .
  2. TheFlyingCamera's Avatar
    Well, it would have been nice had my instruction book (The Wet Plate Collodion Experience, by Quinn Jacobson) bothered to address this little detail. It said "shake until dissolved", not "immerse, twiddle occasionally for the next three days, then filter". Shake until dissolved implies relative immediacy.



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