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Thread: Ilford fiber matte surface with varnish

  1. #1

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    Ilford fiber matte surface with varnish

    For any interested:

    I fell in love with Ilford Warmtone Fiber in the semi-matte surface when it first came out, for me the ideal subtlety of texture with a surface that can be brought to life with Paul Strand's varnish (see posts, last year or earlier this year) to restore the tonal range. Since Multigrade fiber does not come in this surface, only in a flat matte, I left it out of my thinking during my recent re-start in the darkroom. However, I finally ordered a small box of the matte and ran some tests this weekend. I am happy to report that the flat matte comes similarly to life with the varnish, and even reveals a hint of the texture I like so well with in the semi-matte of WTF -- not quite as much but not the plane-flatness of the paper when dry.

    The different colors of the two papers and their variations with selenium toning offers a wide palette for a range of subjects and moods. 1:19 works well with Classic and WTF, though 1:9 with WTF can give a rich brown. I plan to experiment with 1:29 or 39 with Classic for a little more control, and 1:15 with WTF, conversely, to shorten toning time. times now range from 7 to 14 minutes at temps between 71 and 75 F.
    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  2. #2
    bob carnie's Avatar
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    Re: Ilford fiber matte surface with varnish

    Could you describe the components of the Varnish and how you are applying them to prints?

  3. #3
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Ilford fiber matte surface with varnish

    Any kind of varnish (including butyl acetate print lacquers intended for photographs) are going to go yellow within one or two decades, and may go brittle too (differential long-term expansion/contraction issues). I've successfully done microfiber cloth wipes of gum arabic on RC color prints - not that I recommend that either, but as a wait-and-see test - but don't like the effect on fiber-based prints. I'd never overcoat any print expected to retain long-term value. Casual applications are another story. Regardless, test well first on something unimportant.

  4. #4

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    Re: Ilford fiber matte surface with varnish

    Philip...you might also want to try developing some WTF in Moersch SE-6 (cold tone developer) - for a very rich black.

    I do have some older prints to which (also having been inspired by Paul Strand) I'd applied wax to...and they still look ok. Gotta be very careful of any dust which might become embedded during what I remember to be a very long drying period. At any rate...the product was (is) called "Rennaisence (sp?) Wax" and I do believe that its still available.

    Interesting to hear about a wax varnish partially filling the texture of a mat paper...while also reviving a bit of d-max - sounds pretty nice actually!

  5. #5
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Ilford fiber matte surface with varnish

    If you try Ren. Wax, make sure your applicator is very clean of lint or bits of debris first. Microfiber cloths should be thoroughly shaken out first, then well rinsed and dried prior to any of these products.

  6. #6

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    Re: Ilford fiber matte surface with varnish

    I have included, below, my post on Strand's varnish. It is not a wax or typical varnish, as you will see, but an artist's oil that dries, typically in a day or so. Richard Benson, who printed with/for Strand in the latter's later years, said Strand had tried all manner of varnishing techniques over the years. Walter R. (below) told me that he had been using this one for many decades and never experienced any yellowing.


    I have just (Jan 9, 2018) come across an article by Walter Rosenblum that includes his varnishing technique, which I described almost correctly in my earlier post in this thread. The article is in Fred Picker's newsletters, #78, June '94, page 898 in the collected PDF recently linked in the forum. I quote:

    "...[S]emi-matte paper, which I use, reflects little light and as a result has a reduced tonal scale, so I varnish the surface with a solution consisting of a small amount of Stand oil dissolved in Windsor Newton artist's turpentine (approximately two tablespoons of oil to 8 oz. of turpentine.) I first dry mount the photograph on to a piece of one-ply museum board since I like the photograph to lie flat under the window mat which I use. The museum board is trimmed to the same size as the print. I then apply the varnish with a ball of cotton and then rub it all off immediately. What is left is a microscopic residue that gives life to the matte surface without a gloss. …

    "It is my belief that there is one definite rule that should be followed in the darkroom... one should always exhaust every possibility in terms of paper, developers, and exposure in order to produce a fine print."

    This is taken from "Printing in Black and White, Some notes on printing for the young photographer", a joy to read.
    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est.
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

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