I attended a emulsion workshop at GEH a few winters ago - it was wonderful experience.

Ron Mowrey (PE) and Mark Osterman took turns describing the history and process of silver-gelatin emulsions, and guided the attendees through the hands-on portions. It really was "plug 'n play" : Put on a labcoat, gloves and goggles, walk into the lab, and everything was ready: chemicals, glassware, hotplate/stirrer, coating rods, coating wells, paper, etc., Our freshly coated papers were hung to dry in a large room next to the lab. Stacey Vandenburgh (GEH) was invaluable in keeping everything organized and on-schedule. (As if by magic, refreshments such as coffee, tea, pastries and fruit appeared on a regular schedule). We made contact prints on our treasured paper the next day. The group was also lucky enough to view some selections from the GEH archives.

A fantastic experience!


Things were a little different when I got home: small cramped darkroom, a meagre stock of chemicals, no hotplate/stirrer, no coating blades or rods, etc., One can make a basic emulsion with a few glass jars, some silver and salts. You can simply brush it onto paper, and do a few bubbles or dust marks really matter?

So the moral of the story is: yes, a simple, pleasing emulsion can be made easily with a few basic tools. If you want to make a camera-speed, panchromatic film, with good LIK, latitude, and anti-halation, it becomes rather tricky and finicky. You want streak, dust and bubble free coatings? It gets a little more complicated. Now, let's try to do the whole thing again, with the exact same results. Ohoh, perhaps the temperature is one degree off, or it cooked for a minute longer...accuracy and control start becoming significant players. Perhaps one can claim that batch of emulsion costs only a few bucks, IF you don't include the labware, tests and trials, coating tools, hepa air filtration, scrupulous cleaning, precision weigh scales, pH meter etc., etc.,

I sometimes feel that I am cursed with the insatiable thirst to know "why and how" things happen in the emulsion kettle. Good 'old AJ-12 has undergone numerous tweaks in my 'lab': varied addition times, stepped additions, sulfur, TAI-restrained sulfer, dyes and so on. So far, I've only had a few complete failures - most emulsions have been usable and quite capable of recording an image. What I'm learning is of far greater value than the money (a few $k) into building a lab.

Should there be an opportunity to take a workshop at GEH, I would highly recommend it as a fast-track into emulsion-making with some of the best in the business being guides along the way.

A bazillion thanks to Ron (PE) for putting up with my endless questions, supplying answers and suggested reading, and providing much "hand-holding" along the way.