Fibre washing bottleneck
Most of the time I've been using resin paper, but increasingly I'm moving over to fibre and I find that the dramatically increased washing times are producing a bottleneck in my workflow. With a 5-10 min rinse, 5 min HCA, 30 min wash, 4-20 min tone, 20-30 min wash cycle, my 16x12 Patterson rapid washer is just not cutting it!
Given that a multi-slot archival washer is most unlikely to make an arrival in my bathroom anytime soon, and that fish tanks appear to be a darn sight dearer in the UK than the US which makes a home-build solution unfeasable...
How do all you fibre-based printers without multi-slot washers organise your workflows?
All help gratefully received!
Thanks in advance,
For many years I used a Kodak tray syphon attached to a 16 x 20 tray and washed up to 4 16 x 12 prints in each run, more if the prints are smaller. The syphon is efficient and could be the answer. Get in touch with Mr Cad who will probably have one and don't forget to haggle.
Sounds like you are working serially - ie, washing prints at the same time that you are making new ones.
I have always used the holding tray option. I have trays set up for developer, stop, and fix, and a fourth tray of plain water. Prints accumulate in this holding tray during the session. About once hour I dump the water from the holding tray and refill it - otherwise, the plain water tends to become dilute fixer after several hours.
When I complete the session, I fill another tray with hypo clear, and move the prints from the holding tray into the wash aid. Prints sit in the wash aid while I dump the rest of the chemicals and rinse out those trays. Periodically I will shuffle the prints in the wash aid (moving them from bottom to top of the stack). This takes 5-8 minutes which is about perfect for the wash aid cycle.
Then I fill a tray with selenium toner, and wearing rubber gloves, move the prints to that tray. I shuffle the prints in this tray for the toning time (this varies depending on the age of the toning solution and the prints), and then back to the hypo clear tray for another couple of minutes while I put the toner back in its bottle.
I fill a tray with plain water. I move the prints into this tray and shuffle them a couple of times, and then let them sit in still water while I dump and rinse the wash aid tray, and then refill it with plain water. After about 5 minutes, I move the prints into the fresh water, shuffle, and then let them sit while I tidy the darkroom, complete my printing notes, etc.
After about 10 minutes, I transfer the prints to a tray of fresh water, shuffle a couple of times, and then let them sit. This cycle repeats for about an hour, after which I squeegee the prints and place them on screens to dry.
I organize my workflow over a few days. I'll spend time printing, then a day or two later, when I can get back in the darkroom, I'll just tone. Depending on how much work I have, I may do two printing sessions, then tone everything together the next time I'm in the darkroom
I use a holding tray option as well. After the print goes through the dev/stop/fix, then it goes into a holding tray of water. Anything not worth saving such as test strips and work prints gets tossed at this point. When I'm finished printing I'll get a first wash going into a large 16x20 siphon tray, dump chemicals and prepare a tray of perma-wash. After about five or ten minutes, I'll move the prints into the perma wash tray. If I have a lot of prints, I'll set up two trays. Then I dump the water out completely from the siphon tray and refill it with fresh water, then wash the prints in a final wash for about 30 minutes, and I'll shuffle the prints around during the wash cycle, squeegee then dry on screens. At this point I usually have to go fetch a child from school!
For toning, I set up three trays, a water tray, toner tray, and the big siphon tray. I'll soak the prints in water usually two at a time for about two minutes, then move them into the toner for as long as they need, then into the siphon tray. When I am finished toning I repeat the wash cycle, 5 minute first wash, perma-wash for a few minutes, then 30 minute final wash, squeegee and dry on screens.
It takes a little more time to get prints really finished, but my sessions in the darkroom are limited by my kids' schedules!!
In Tim Rudman's toning book, he recommends not leaving the prints in a holding tray of water as this will retain a fair amount of fix - as far as I understand it, too long in the fix can be equally less archivally advantageous as too short a time in there. He suggests that, if you are to use a holding tray between fixing and washing, it is preferable for this to be an HCA solution.
I hope I have read this right as this is what I have been doing when not using an alkaline fix.
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I agree with Les's assessement of the Kodak tray siphon. Until recently it was my main method of washing prints. I used it for over 30 years. It is highly efficient, especially when you use a wash aid. If you use a large tray and occasionally shuffle the prints to keep them from sticking together, you may improve your efficiency. I still use the tray siphon for pre-rinsing prior to using a wash aid.
I also use a splash of wash aid in my holding tray but I'm really not sure it's necessary. A big tray of plain water with only a few prints soaking for a long period of time probably helps with removing the hypo by diluting it. Of course, you have to let the hypo drain well from the print and not slop it into the holding tray.
Hmmm.... Well, based on the above I can see a few changes that I can make straight away!
Yes, I have been processing serially which (as you can imagine) has been slowing me to a crawl. I'm also paranoid about washing fibre thus I usually wash one print at a time and on the occasions when I wash more than one I use dividers to stop them overlapping.
I think my "rapid washer" is basically a tray siphon by any other name. I will look into getting a siphon as it would effectively double my washing capacity at a stroke without needing to stack prints in the washer. Many thanks to Les and Lee for the tip.
I've also read Dr Rudman's books and am a little nervous of going for the holding tray path. I think I may compromise and amend the cycle as follows: 5 mins prewash in the rapid washer or under the tray siphon, 5 mins HCA then into a clean water holding tray. When I'm done printing then 30 mins wash in the rapid washer / tray siphon using dividers to keep them from overlapping, tone and another 20-30 mins wash as before. If I get desperate I may stack prints in the washers, but I'd prefer to avoid it if I can.
Opinions of the above more than welcome, and please keep your own methods coming!
Actually, I think you have a good idea for the cycle. I've used the holding tray method for awhile, but I may try to amend things a bit as well. A good idea for stacking prints in a tray is always have them face emulsion to emulsion with the occasional shuffle.
For most "normal" work (i.e. "my" stuff), I use a holding tray for up to about 4 prints, then shift to washing. During "shuffle" washing, I keep the emulsion sides oriented in the same direction, pulling each print successively from the bottom of the stack, and flipping it. That way, I can tell that all prints have received essentially equal time with both sides exposed to the "fresh" water at the top of the stack. But, I wash in a different area, outside my darkroom, so continuing to print while washing doesn't work for me.
I tend to handle "special" prints (e.g. those being sold) on a more individual basis, however.
[COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]
Rio Rancho, NM
I have a Kodak siphon washer I can sell you, if you're interested. I tend to HCA then wash my prints whilst I print fresh ones. There is an inevitable bottle-neck, but I simply put the 'excess' prints in a holding tray 'til it's their turn for washing. To be perfectly honest, if I'm printing on FB, I rarely print from more than one neg per session. That way, I can keep my throughput down. This works well for me as my Silverprint printwasher is only a six slot model. I do any toning at a later date. Anyway, the Kodak siphon is quite old, but in good condition, boxed with instructions. I see you have the good sense to live in NW England. I live in Lancaster, Lancs. If you're interested, contact me at: