Contact Printing Frames for Glass Plates
Although I've never practiced the craft, glass plate photography has held my interest for many years. I've purchased old plates and a couple of Ambrotypes at antique shops and there's just something about them that's captivating.
I do know a little about woodworking in general and building contact printing frames in particular. This weekend I'll be talking to Ellen Susan who, as many know is a talented wet plate collodion photographer from Savannah, GA. probably best known for her Soldier Portraits series. Ellen emailed me last year looking for a printing frame, but I didn't have the size she needed in stock.
So now I want to ask her about contact printing glass plates. I'm guessing that print frames are a little different for glass than for film - well, duh. I hope she can tell me something about the unique-ness of glass plate printing frames so I can create some new designs that meet those needs.
I know that there isn't just one expert on the subject though, and there are lots of folks out there who are practicing wet and dry plate processes. I hope some of you would please offer your own ideas and opinions on the topic. Thanks in advance for the help. I hope I can do a little more to help keep the old crafts alive.
If you are using glass plates, why do you need a contact printing frame? The weight of the glass should be enough.
“The contemplation of things as they are, without error or confusion, without substitution or imposture, is in itself a nobler thing than a whole harvest of invention”
I've never made glass plates myself but I have made prints from them. In my experience the weight of the plate itself has NOT been enough to keep solid contact. An interesting endeavor, Dan.
Decades ago in another professional life I used the following non-framed top-to-bottom layers:
* Oversized sheet of heavy 1/4-inch thick glass treated by me for ANR, treated side down.
* Glass plate negative, emulsion side down.
* Photo paper, emulsion side up.
* Black foam or neoprene base pad.
The foam/neoprene base is a softer pad, able to compress sufficiently so that the glass negative does not crack, yet rigid enough to still force the paper flat.
The edge-beveled (for safety) heavy glass sheet is ANR-treated by first cleaning it, then spraying a very light overcoat of clear hairspray onto one side. That side becomes the ANR side. The microscopic dried droplets supply sufficient offset to prevent the rings, but do not show in the print.
Gravity holds the layers together. Obviously no clamping due to the delicate plate negatives. Film negatives may be clamped by adding a rigid board under the base pad. And not exceeding the cracking strength of the top glass sheet.
This is how I currently contact print my 8x10 film negatives under an enlarger. At least until I can convince the other half that a vacuum contact printing frame really is a must-have...
"When making a portrait, my approach is quite the same as when I am portraying a rock. I do not wish to impose my personality upon the sitter, but, keeping myself open to receive reactions from his own special ego, record this with nothing added: except of course when I am working professionally, when money enters in,—then for a price, I become a liar..."
— Edward Weston, Daybooks, Vol. II, February 2, 1932
Dan, my first thought was that all you needed was one of your frames without any glass sized to fit the glass plate. Pop the glass plate negative in the frame, then your paper, then the back and your ready to go. Could it really be that simple?
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I have 6 frames of varying sizes, all of which can be used to contact print dry-plates. As long as the glass that is used to support modern film negatives can be removed, and if the dry-plate fits in the frame as desired, I'm good to go. All my printing frames allow for that. Probably since they are ancient, except for one being an 8x10 frame that I fabricated.
Last edited by DannL.; 12-07-2013 at 12:35 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Reason: Learning to stay on topic.