Wondering about albumen coating on wet or dry paper
I've been reading about different types of alternative processes and the one which strikes my fancy as being a good place to start learning is albumen/silver nitrate printing. I've googled "albumen printing" quite extensively and have read quite a bit about it, and everything I've read seems to say that you should float the paper on the albumen while the paper is dry and that you should expect a bit of curling of the corners until the paper begins to absorb the albumen. My thought is that the object of floating the paper is to get the albumen to absorb into the fibres of the paper on one side, deeply enough so that it locks into place and won't wash off. If the paper was presoaked and then left to drip to a "not quite dry" or "evenly damp" state before it was floated, would it not have a better chance to absorb the albumen evenly? And, would the albumen not penetrate a bit deeper into the paper fibres, eliminating the need for a double coat? What are your thoughts on this?
Originally Posted by John Bartley
Does a wet sponge absorb water more easily than a dry one?
You don't want it to be absorbed too deeply, but to adhere to one side and dry quickly so that it forms a smooth skin. It's also important not to get albumen on the back of the paper. If the paper were wet, floating would probably be more difficult, and I don't think it would dry properly, but you could always try a couple of sheets wet and see what happens.
Originally Posted by donbga
That's one of several interesting questions. The other questions might be "faster", "more evenly", "more strongly" ? I guess I could compare the floating of dry paper to how well mortar sticks to dry brick. If a strong mortar joint is needed, wetting the bricks will cause the mortar to dry less quickly by drawing less moisture out of the mortar into the brick and will also cause some of the mortar to penetrate a bit more deeply into the grain of the brick so that as it cures it makes a better mechanical bond rather than drying before it cures. I wondered if the action of the albumen would be similar to that of mortar in contact with bricks?
just a thought ... maybe I'll do as David suggested and give both ways a try when the time comes.
Another way to do this is to use a slightly oversized paper stock and using a thin bead of something like Elmer's Glue (PVA), go just inside the edges of the paper and glue two sheets back to back. Then you can submerge the paper without worrying about getting albumen on the back side of the paper. Paper prepared this way won't curl as much since the two faces curling counteract each other. You could also sensitize the glued pair by submerging (but that takes a lot of solution), or trim the edges off before sensitizing and use more conventional methods at that point like brushing on the emulsion or using a glass coating rod. In any event, separate the two sheets before printing.
I've recently experimented with albumen and had some success just using a 4" hake brush for coating and sensitizing with Cranes' Cover stock. Most sources suggest using a 10-12% sensitizer solution but I had better luck using a 20% silver nitrate sensitizer stock with about 2% chloride in the albumen. You want an excess of siver over the chloride. I also had better luck single-coating rather than double-coating with this method.
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Just an FYI. I recently attended one of a series of lectures on albumen printing at George Eastman House. These are currently part of an ongoing course taking place under a grant from Mellon Inst. and includes participants from all over the world.
One of the points made was that the paper should be floated dry.
I'm no expert at this, but the instructor was a Process Historian of this type of photographic printing.
I think John Coffer uses the method of gluing two sheets back to back, but it seems unnecessarily messy and complicated. It's not that hard to float a dry sheet of paper on a tray of albumen and to get it to coat fairly evenly. Of course the paper curls as it dries. An easier solution is to weight the bottom of the paper with clips, if it's curling upon itself enough to cause albumen to get on the back of the paper, but even that isn't necessary, if it's just curling moderately. I store the albumenized paper in a stiff envelope so it stays relatively flat.
You should expect the edges to be uneven and use an oversized sheet. After sensitizing and drying, cut it to the size of the negative. If you use an oversized sheet with a large black border, the gold toner will become exhausted faster.
Joe--Do you get brush marks with the brush method? I've seen some brush sensitized prints, and they had marks, but maybe there was a problem with the technique. If you're getting even results with the brush, how are you brushing?
Would you be able to tell me a little more about the workshops at GEH? I went to their website, but did not find the information...
Is there more sessions on different processes in the near future? Any lead would be appreciated. Thank you for your time.
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
This matches everything I've read. Did he give any reasons why this is necessary? I'm just curious.
Originally Posted by Photo Engineer
I went through quite a spell a couple years ago printing nothing but albumen. I used the Strathmore 500 series drawing paper and although it's a really nice paper it took awhile to get on to it and fight the curling (in the dish when floating). I found a method that worked extremely well for coating the albumen. The thought of soaking the paper is kinda on track but what I would do is take my utility sink in the basement and put about 5-6 inches of really hot water in it. On the top I would place a fiberglass screen and place a few sheets on it and then another screen on top of those. I would let them catch the steam coming off the water for awhile and then flip the whole thing over and let the steam waft around the other side. I wouldn't let it get to much but just enough to break down it's defenses so to speak.
Now for the part that is kinda weird but really worked well.......
I would have a mug of my favorite hot beverage on hand (Lyons Tea) and after I placed one of the pre steamed sheets in the albumen and the moment it started to curl a little(and man can that Strathnore curl) I would take a rather large drink of my hot tea and blow my breath on the part that was curling and it would lay tight down and "relax." Up to that point it was a tug of war with the curling thing no matter what paper I used and this really did work great.
I started out single coating but the double coat produced the most beautiful prints. It gave them a dimension the single coat couldn't. Anyways that worked for me and it's really not a big deal to set up and do. Try it.
I even tried to use one of those steamer things from walgreens but that was to much and the paper became quite wavy on the sides and didn't take up the albumen evenly enough.
Hope that can be of some help!
"EVERY film and paper is good .......... for something"