Another thing to think about, given the costs of doing wet plate, is what is the largest size plate you want to make? When you are ready to invest in things like your portable dark box, silver bath, etc, plan ahead and budget for those things in the largest size you'll want to make. If you start off with a 4x5 silver bath, and then decide you want to do 8x10 plates, you'll have to get all new stuff, and upgrading your darkbox will be very costly. And god help you if you decide you want to do ULF plates at some point.
Another thing to consider, how "period correct" are you planning to be? Most folks doing tintypes these days are using trophy aluminum which is not period correct. Ambrotypes are readily doable if you're wanting to stay correct, but good luck finding a source for blackened (japanned) iron sheet. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with the aluminum, but if period correctness is your goal, it's not your best choice.
BTW, you might try digging around Ebay for 4X5 plate holders. They don't require much modification for use, though they were designed with dry plates in mind (not wet). I found a few that were in good shape for little money and the only modification that needs doing is a little bit of varnish on the inside.
If you are the big tree, we are the small axe
I too have thought of this several times, and the level of "period correctness" is probably going to be limited.
Another thing to consider, how "period correct" are you planning to be?
I started reading a 19th manual that I have as a PDF scan somewhere. I found it on Google books.
Not only is Japanned Iron difficult to find, but the manual gives a very detailed description of how use nitric acid and high quality cotton to manufacture the required gun cotton, nitro cellulose, to make the base for the emulsion for the plates.
Well, this stuff is explosive, and not a little bit explosive. It may not be like nitroglycerine, but it ain't the base for Kodak safety film either.
Can you do it? Sure, they did it a hundred and fifty years ago - all the time - and they were just very respectful of the process. But how much risk do you want to take for the level of authenticity.
I like my fingers.
Besides that, I suspect (but I didn't really check) that home manufacture of nitro cellulose is regulated by the BATFE. It is, after all, a prime component in weapons manufacturing. In the eyes of a Federal Marshall you might not be able to explain away that you have a "right to make photographs in a public place."
After I got to that point I started modifying just how "authentic" I was willing to try to be. I really doubt one could get a "hobbyist explosives license" like you can an amateur radio license, and I'm not quite ready to meet those dudes behinds bars. Despite what some may tell you, those guys in the big house are really different.
EDIT: OK, I found it. It is "The Ferrotype and How to Make It" by Estabrook. It is actually digitized by Microsoft, not Google. And it is too big to attach. It's published by Anthony and Scovil, and the twelfth edition was printed in 1903. So it is newer than the the civil war era, but the information seems to be period correct.
Last edited by michaelbsc; 08-11-2011 at 12:56 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Originally Posted by michaelbsc
nitrocellulose ( collodion ) can be purchased, and usually isn't made by a wet plate
photographer these days. it is typically thinned with ether and everclear, but not manufactured.
you are right about the "sensitivity" issued ... it's dangerous-stuff
and KCN isn't a walk in the park either ...
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Last edited by jnanian; 08-11-2011 at 01:51 PM. Click to view previous post history.
I was under the impression that the collodion of today is only similar to the old nitrocellulose, not exactly the same thing.
Originally Posted by jnanian
Do I understand that incorrectly? Certainly wouldn't be the first thing I've gotten wrong here.
If anyone wants a copy of this book I mentioned drop me a PM and I'll send you an email address. It's interesting for historical purpose, but it didn't take me long to get through my head that I'm not doing all that. I'm buying stuff off the internet.
Originally Posted by michaelbsc
the collodion you read about is pretty much the same thing that
is used today michael - not the kind
of thing that you want to make in your basement ...
there is another kind called "flexible collodion "
it has camphor in it ... that is the different stuff you might be thinking of ...
except for the camphor ... it is the same ...
and is probably the version of collodion that is used
in "compound w" and nail polish ...
How about a Seneca Senior box camera?
I was sorting through yet another pile of old camera stuff from my father-in-law's estate and came across a Seneca Senior 4x5 box camera:
Okay, so the camera is 40 or 50 years post Civil War so it would be anachronistic if used in a period setting. However, it could be a start. Couldn't it?
I don't think most people would be able to tell that the camera isn't completely period. When your average person sees an "Old Camera" they probably wouldn't know the difference.
The guy who does the blacksmith work is the one who got me thinking about this.
His forge has an electric motor. In the time I was there, only one person noticed all day. When asked, he admitted that the motor wasn't correct for the period. He explained the differences between period blacksmiths and the work he did. Then he got out a big pair of bellows and invited the person to be his apprentice for the rest of the day. The objection was dropped pretty quickly after that.
So... I clean this baby up, get it working and I get a tintype kit from Rockland Colloid to practice with. It won't be perfect but it will be something to practice with until I get enough experience to do period correct work.
This way, I learn the ropes, gain some experience and save my pennies. Then, some day, maybe, I can do it the right way?
What do you think?