Hi folks. I'm new to this forum, so here's my first reply.
I've been troubled with excess contrast using VC paper negatives for years. I've tried film developer instead of paper developer - doesn't help much, just makes the paper even slower.
Recently, a neighbor dug up an old box of Ilford Graded RC paper from his garage. Must be from the '80's. Thought I'd give it a try. Low and behold: this stuff works pretty good for negatives! I can actually get a full tonal range on the negative, with the blue sky showing up as a nice middle gray, rather than dark black, as VC papers would deliver. These negatives yield nice, full tonal range prints, too.
Problem is, I'm gonna run out of this stuff. The local stores only sell VC paper. Guess I'll have to find some graded stuff via mail order and see if it gives me the same results.
I'd like to stick with RC graded for negatives, because the flatness of the RC paper makes contact printing the negatives a bit easier. There's nothing as frustrating as trying to get two pieces of unruly, curling paper to be precisely aligned, with the curling sides facing each other.
One more note about exposing paper negatives: lately I've taken to giving my negs more exposure than my old tests indicated was proper. I find lots of my more recent images look better with more exposure. I think if you leave the shadow parts of the image near paper-white on the negative, you've effectively increased the contrast, due to under exposure. Over expose a bit, and you can tame the extreme contrast of paper negatives.