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  1. #1

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    Building Contact / Printing-Out Frames?

    I'm looking to to do Van Dyke printing on some of the ubiquitous watercolor paper we have here in the house. The Van Dyke part of it seems pretty intuitive (sensitizing the paper, etc) but finding a frame to do the exposure is a bit problematic.

    Have any of y'all built one of these creatures? I'd like to make one that can handle from Polaroid 665 size to 8x10 since I plan to (please forgive me for saying the D word) make negatives on transparancy from some of my digital shots for work.

    Seems to me it could be as simple as a piece of chipboard and thick glass from Home Depot and some "A" clamps. Someone mentioned hinging the back so I can peek at the print, too.

    Has anyone actually seen one of these frames in the wild? Adorama has them for sale but without pictures.

  2. #2
    rbarker's Avatar
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    As I understand, you'll want glass on both sides of the negative/coated-paper sandwich. So, unless you're just clamping two sheets of glass together, the frame dimensions would need to be sufficiently over-sized to allow for an empty-frame edge insert to create the pressure between the two glass sheets. One sheet of glass could be edge-glued inside the main frame, and then the other placed on top and held in position by the insert edge-frame.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
    Rio Rancho, NM

  3. #3
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    If you are considering purchasing a contact frame try to find an older Eastman frame. They can be found on eBay, at flea markets, and sometimes in camera shops. Avoid the cheap newer frames which are hinged with duct tape and have weak springs.

    There are custom frames sold by Bostick & Sullivan as well as AWB (Alan Brubaker). I would expect these to be of high quality based on their description. Another source is Photographers' Formulary. Their frames are of an unconvenional design based on springs along the perimeter rather than in the center. This would be similar to your use of clamps along the edges of the glass. Practical though somewhat of a pain and not as elegant or efficient as the conventional long spring that applies pressure from the center. You will find the edge clamp solution does not produce good contact in the center as the print size increases.

    A woodworker with basic skills can construct one of these frames fairly easily. The trick would be finding the springs.

    I'd recommend purchasing a good frame from AWB or B&S. It will be worth the cost in the long run and save a lot of frustration. Also, buy a frame slightly larger than the biggest print you intend to make. For example, use an 11x14 frame (or a 9x11, 10x12, etc.) for 8x10 prints. The larger size will facilitate your use of handcoated papers for processes like van dyke brown. To efficiently coat an 8x10 VDB image area your paper will need to be larger than 8x10.

  4. #4
    Mongo's Avatar
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    If you search eBay for items for sale by the user "sneakykeen" you'll find beautiful contact printing frames. For some strange reason he doesn't build his 8x10 frames with hinged backs (although his larger frames always have hinged backs), but his ads will tell you everything you want to know about a properly constructed frame and his work is well worth considering.
    Film is cheap. Opportunities are priceless.

  5. #5
    rbarker's Avatar
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    Remember, folks, the rhino is talking about Van Dyke printing here. As such, I don't think the conventional printing frames with opaque backs will work, because one (apparently) needs to be able to see the back of the paper.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
    Rio Rancho, NM

  6. #6
    Jeremy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarker
    Remember, folks, the rhino is talking about Van Dyke printing here. As such, I don't think the conventional printing frames with opaque backs will work, because one (apparently) needs to be able to see the back of the paper.
    Nope, you just need to be able to fold back part of the paper separate from the negative so you can see how much more exposure to give it.
    Let's see what I've got in the magic trash can for Mateo!

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  7. #7
    rbarker's Avatar
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    OK, so it sounds like a hinged back would do the trick then. Thanks, Jeremy.
    [COLOR=SlateGray]"You can't depend on your eyes if your imagination is out of focus." -Mark Twain[/COLOR]

    Ralph Barker
    Rio Rancho, NM

  8. #8
    smieglitz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rbarker
    Remember, folks, the rhino is talking about Van Dyke printing here. As such, I don't think the conventional printing frames with opaque backs will work, because one (apparently) needs to be able to see the back of the paper.
    Not so. The hinged back allows one to check exposure along the way but that isn't even needed if you calibrate your process. Having an opaque back is actually desirable to block reflection and non-image exposure through the back of the paper. Black felt is often used to eliminate this reflection and also provide for a more even distribution of pressure from the springs or clamps that hold the frame pieces.

    I recently picked up a NuArc 26-1K plateburner with vacuum frame and unless I tape the negative to the paper, which I won't do, as soon as the vacuum breaks the paper and negative sandwich shifts. So, checking exposure midway is not an option with this system or with a frame lacking the hinged back or with two sheets of glass clamped together.

    If you have a constant exposure source (plateburner, fluorescent tubes, quartz studio lamp, etc.) you can use a step wedge and determine the exact exposure required for your paper and emulsion mix by doing a simple exposure test. (This assumes that your negative has the proper density range for that process of course.) You need to expose the test until the maximum number of steps have printed without any merger of tones. The first step should be exposed to produce the maximum density of which the paper/emulsion mix is capable. All the other steps will print out relative to that maximum density. If you have merged tones on the shadow end, your print exposure is excessive. Once you know the range and have a proper test , it is a simple matter to expose the negative to the exact exposure required. This is a very repeatable way of working and it eliminates the need for the hinged contact print frame.

    With van dyke brown you will find the correct exposure looks too light by a couple steps. The print will gain several steps of density in processing and drydown. The opposite will be true of cyanotype which should be printed to the point of solarization since it will lose several steps during processing.

  9. #9
    Ole
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    I have several printing frames in all sizes from 6.5x9cm to 8x10", including most of the "plate" sizes. They turn up every once in a while on ebay, especially ebay.de or .co.uk. Some of them I have aquired along with other equipment, like two half-plate frames which turned up in the course of buying cut film sheaths for my 9x12cm plate camera.

    New ones are great, but expensive - see www.lotusviewcamera.at - while old ones can be nice or utter cr*p, cheap or expensive, and sometimes sold as "antique picture frame or camera part?".
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
    Norway

  10. #10

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    I got one from photographer's formulary that is quite nice, and the price was not out of hand like many. I also built one but had a lot of trouble finding springs that were tight enough. In fact I never got them right.
    Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy. Pope Paul VI

    So, I think the "greats" were true to their visions, once their visions no longer sucked. Ralph Barker 12/2004

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