View Full Version : Benefits of Dry Mounting?

31-Aug-2008, 09:48
The recent FS ad for a dry mount press got my curiosity up. I've looked around and the new price for a press is extortionate.

I see there are a lot of s/h models in some variety (as layman as you can get - hot, cold, heavy, vacuum).

Apart from the obvious benefit of being a medium to consistently mount prints, are there any benefits?

WHY should I get one?

And just as importantly,

WHY should I NOT get one?

Since this degree course I'm on is demanding the highest possible quality of us, I felt that having a mounting station at home might benefit me.

I also have issues with the FB prints I've produced not being totally flat (wavy/curled) regardless of heat on the FB print dryer. For this reason even using the mounting press as a flattening tool may help in presentation - this is called a pre-press or something isn't it?

I'm not looking to buy one that is too big, considering my standard size of print is 12x16 as this is the most financially and logistically viable with digital prints and darkroom prints.

Any thoughts?

I'm kind of looking for a bargain if I get one, I'd hate to spend out a lot of money on something that may be useless. I'm also interested in the heated variations that allow the use of the tape that melts as opposed to any wet form of adhesion.

Don Hutton
31-Aug-2008, 10:11
If you want to print in a wet darkroom on fiber-based papers, a dry mount press is almost an essential piece of gear - I've never found a better way to flatten fiber prints. I've also never found a better way to mount a silver gelatin print made on fiber paper for framing. AA's "The Print" has a nice little section on drymounting. I'd leave the FB print dryers alone too - a great way to get little bits of stuff embedded into the emulsion. Place your prints on drying screens (face up or face down - people do both - I feel face up is safer) and let them dry in the ambient conditions - anywhere from 4 to about 24 hours usually. When they are perfectly dry, give them 15-30 seconds in a drymount press and voila!

Drymount means using a tissue which melts under the application of heat and then sets as the tissue cools down - it is a heated process by definition. I've used a Seal 210 for years works fine. The thermostats are notoriously fickle - spend an extra $5 on a meat thermometer and you will know what temperature the press is. It's important - in my experience, you get one go to get the process right per print - if it doesn't work you throw it away....

In the US, I'd expect a decent 210 (which can do a 16x20 in a single go, although in practice you usually need to do it in two sections because of the mounting board size) to go for about $500 in usable condition. Smaller units are usually a lot cheaper. Seal still has excellent support - you can get just about any spare part for one made in the last 30 years. Try to find a local source as shipping a big unit is exhorbitant. If you're woking with 12x16 size prints, I'd expect a 210 would be about perfect for mounting them onto oversized matboards in a single pass (which is a lot more convenient and easier than doing multiple passes - the likelihood of getting it right increases dramatically....). You need a press with a platen larger than the maximum size print you work on if you want to mount in a single pass on an oversized (substantially larger than the print itself) mat board.

31-Aug-2008, 10:19
i never liked dry mounting prints,
ive got some that i mounted 20 years ago
and the bond is lifting :(

when i need to get prints flat,
i slide them in a bookbinder's nipping press
(book press) between matboard or masonite.
i'd rather window mat, and tip the prints in using archival corners ..
if they aren't bound / stitched into a book.

Nathan Potter
31-Aug-2008, 10:35
I've used a Seal 210 for years, pretty much as Don says above. It's the larger mat size which creates a problem so I reconfigured my 210 by building an extended top bridge and adding longer bars attached to the top platen. By moving the metal side pivots between the top and bottom platens further out I can take mats up to 30 inches wide and infinitely long. Such modification takes some design and fabrication effort though.

As Don says I was unsatisfied with the temperature control so I use a surface thermometer (Pacific Instruments I think) which I calibrate with a good lab mercury thermometer. The temperature control was really critical when used with Ilfochrome prints.

As for the ripple effect with dry mount tissue I can't eliminate it completely but with critical lighting of the print on display it's not really objectionable.

Nate Potter, Austin TX.

Bruce Watson
31-Aug-2008, 10:50
Dry mounting fiber darkroom prints has been the normal way to present silver gelatin prints (and most alternative process prints) for a long time. The main reason for this is it's one of the few ways to get and keep a print flat. Recently (within the last 20 years more or less) it's been discovered that there's at least one other benefit. Dry mounting a print to a matte board seals the back of the print (the [factory applied] gelatin overcoat does a pretty good job of sealing the front). Any atmospheric pollution now has an additional bit of material to migrate through to get to the print itself.

The main reason not to dry mount is because curators don't like anything that is not reversible. And dry mounting is really not easily reversible. In other words, if anything happens to the matte board (dented or bent corner, water damage, flocking, staining, etc) then the print is fairly well screwed as well even if the print itself is fine at that point.

It's the combination of reversibility and the general lack of waviness of inkjet prints that has led to dry mounting being replaced by hinge mounting for inkjet prints. But from what I can tell dry mounting is still going strong with darkroom prints and many of the alternative processes.

Clearly then, dry mounting is just another tool. Whether our not you choose to use it perhaps depends on your purpose.

31-Aug-2008, 11:30
Thanks for the input so far. A few of the points I had picked up from various threads.

I guess the size of the press is the worst part of this process. I'm pretty sure I could afford and maintain one so long as I find the space to put it, and the strength/manpower to position it where and when. I'd hate to buy one then have nowhere to keep it.

I'm not sure of the weight I can get away with upstairs in this house. Doubtful there are any locally.

As per more help and comments, keep em coming!

Pete Watkins
31-Aug-2008, 11:36
Our local picture framer uses a hot mounting press.
I've got a couple, one bigger than the other, and they are great for flattening fiber based prints. I also hot mount some of my prints. They are flamin' heavy though!

David A. Goldfarb
31-Aug-2008, 11:54
Drymounted prints look neat and flat, but conservators don't like drymounting, as Bruce Watson has pointed out. Not reversible=not archival by definition, independent of whether it makes the print last longer. That doesn't mean that, if you become a successful artist, curators won't accept your drymounted prints. They deal with what they get, but they'd rather have unmounted prints or prints that are easily remountable and that take up less space in storage.

In New York galleries, one sees less and less drymounting of new prints. They're pretty flat, but not perfectly flat, and that doesn't seem to be having an influence on sales. I think that perfect flatness may just be a passing fashion, though some have told me that it is heresy to say so.

Thin prints, like single weight Azo prints or albumen prints that are much more prone to curl than gelatin prints, usually need some sort of secure flat mounting. Starch mounting is an alternative that conservators find more acceptable than drymounting. I've experimented with it a bit, and it takes some practice to do neatly.

On the other hand, other forms of mounting, like face mounting, are popular for some kinds of work (large color prints typically), and that's certainly not reversible. I suspect face mounting will last as long as a color print will last, so perhaps this is why it is accepted for big color prints.

Permanent mounting to aluminum is another option, and I suppose that the fact that it isn't easily reversed is balanced by the fact that aluminum is much more stable than mount board.

That said, even if you don't drymount, a drymount press is handy for flattening prints. I drymount albumen prints (until I feel more secure about starch mounting), but silver prints I usually print with a wide border, flatten the prints in a drymount press, hinge mount, and overmat.

31-Aug-2008, 12:39
Agreed with everyone above. I only use my press to flatten prints (which I finish off under a heavy weight).

Just by basic physics, when you marry two materials of different compositions and densities, they will expand and contract at different rates from heat and humidity. Similar as board is to paper in the larger scheme of things, I feel it is essentially flawed for this reason.

Peter Rip
31-Aug-2008, 13:10
BTW - I have a Seal 500T with a large 26”x34” platen that I've used to dry mount super large (> 40x50) prints. I'd like to sell it. But it weighs 300lbs. So, if you're in the San Francisco area, contact me at peter [at] ripster.com

Mark Sawyer
31-Aug-2008, 13:36
Agreed with everyone above. I only use my press to flatten prints (which I finish off under a heavy weight).

Just by basic physics, when you marry two materials of different compositions and densities, they will expand and contract at different rates from heat and humidity. Similar as board is to paper in the larger scheme of things, I feel it is essentially flawed for this reason.

Good modern dry-mount tissue is (for all practical purposes) archivally inert and resistant to dimensional change with heat and humidity. It acts as a gas barrier at the print verso, keeping pollutants and buffers out, which is good for the print, unless it's been poorly washed, and then it's bad for the print, (but not as bad as the chemicals left behind by the poor washing).

Regarding expansion and swelling, it will keep the fiber base of the print from expanding and contracting, but that won't affect the stability of the print any more than clamping a piece of wood to keep it from warping hurts the wood.

If the matte is damaged, a new window matte can be cut fairly easily, so that's not an issue.

Putting a print in a hot dry mount press is probably the most damaging part of the process, whether you're dry-mounting or just flattening. But we all do it anyways...

I dry-mount my prints because that's how I want them to be presented. It's a proven-enough process, and curators who refuse to accept it are interfering with the artist's presentation decision over what is a very minor issue at most, and argueably not an issue at all.

Jeffrey Sipress
31-Aug-2008, 17:52
If you're less experienced with using the drymount press, like I am, you will find using it to be a big pain in the ass. Dealing with the adhesive and accurate location is difficult. The few times I got it right, the resulting ripply surface of the print was maddening. Fortunately I print exclusively inkjet, and hang the print between the mat boards. The drymount press, a Seal 210, sits unused. Want it?

bob carnie
1-Sep-2008, 08:05
We are using a material called Dibond which is a thin aluminum sandwiching an inert plexi material much like sintra.
We use a 40x60 inch hot press and the results are very good. For large prints we optically center the fibre print and then use the white, black or grey aluminum create the borders.
This saves the cost of overmat for a display show.
The dibond comes in various thicknesses and is very stable and not prone to warping like rag board.

I have also seen a lot of prints mounted directly to aluminum 1/8" thick and very smooth mount . cold or hot.

Handling large fibre prints in the mounting stage is problematic and usually it takes two of us to do it right.

2-Sep-2008, 11:50

One of the advantages of having a dry-mount press is that you can utilize a "standard" mounting (mine is 8x10 on 11x14 board) for evaluation prints. It is surprising how different a perfectly flat print looks as compared to one with even a little curl, and if you are serious you should assume that your best prints will eventually be seen flat and with mat borders, not curled and with someone's fingers at the edges. Standard mounts store efficiently, can be used for informal presentations, and make it easier to see the merits of the image, as opposed to those of the print.

By buying mat board (as opposed to archival mounting board) in full cartons, I can do a "standard" mount for about $1.25 (US), and this is low enough enough to not discourage mounting a picture that might turn out to be a keeper. It is surprising how many times a print, propped up somewhere that I will see it in passing, turns out to be either much better or much worse that I had originally thought.

At this scale, a Seal 160 is perfectly adequate, and will mount 11x14s on 16x20 boards with no trouble. A work surface the size of an office desk is sufficient, if there is some elbow room around it.

As far as the merits of mounting versus hingeing: a century of photographers can't all be wrong, and if you really have to care what curators think of your work, you can probably justify hiring someone else to do the mounting for you! :)

Alan Rabe
2-Sep-2008, 12:37
I have had a seal 110S for 20 years it will do upto an 11x14 in one pressing and can do larger sizes in mutliple presses. I have done upto 16X20 with no problems. It has the smallest footprint and only weighs about 50lbs.

2-Sep-2008, 13:31
You can also just use a hot iron.

JW Dewdney
2-Sep-2008, 16:21
You can also use dry mounting for archivally sound mounting - and for making hinges that are reversible (easily removed - not folding both ways, of course!). A tacking iron will work fine for this

I also have a seal 500T - if anyone wants to use it - just let me know. Feel free to contact me... I know having one's own press isn't the easiest thing and I'm happy to share mine with those in need. The cost is one beer.

N Dhananjay
2-Sep-2008, 20:28
I can think of two reasons to dry mount. One is aesthetic - to get the print to lie flat and clean on the mount board. The other is archival - the dry mount tissue provides a second barrier to pollutants attacking the print from the back - see the link below for details. http://www.superiorarchivalmats.com/sam/Article.html

Cheers, DJ