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Thread: Contact Printing Machines

  1. #1
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Contact Printing Machines

    Does anyone here use one of those old contact printing machines for LF contacts here--the kind with many bulbs in a box underneath, a diffuser and sheet of glas s for the neg(s), and then the paper goes face down on that, and there is a plat en to hold the whole thing down? I've used one long ago, but just for small for mat contact sheets, before I was using LF.

    Do you feel you can get enough control over burning and dodging by switching on and off the lamps (compared to contact printing in the conventional way and dodg ing by hand), or are these devices really just suitable for proofs, and not for fine prints (without making lith masks and such)?

  2. #2

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    Contact Printing Machines

    I use one. I got one primarily because I was really fritzing my eyes with a bare bulb above the printing frame. These do make life a bit easier on that score. Switching off certain bulbs provides gross dodging possibilities. However, most of these printers come with a glass plate between the bulbs and the paper that lies on the top glass plate. On the middle glass plate, you can place dodging tools cut to any shape your heart desires. Also, if you like that kind of stuff, you can play fancy games such as utilizing paint (for example, to dodge with blue light and burn with green light for VC papers, or just dodge with a yellow dye to hold back the blue light with graded papers). I don't like applying paint on the glass, so I cleared a dozen or so sheets of lith film in a fixer, giving me sheets of plain film - I paint the dye mask on the film and life is kind of easy after that. Cheers, DJ

  3. #3

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    Contact Printing Machines

    I have one too, although it only has 9 lamps...I have used a large Arkay contact printer years ago that had 25 some odd lamps, and would take long rolls of paper as well. I think Stouffer is about the only company that still makes contact printers, although these are really expensive, production lab equipment. The lamps are on rods actually, that you can vary the height on I believe....

    Mine has 3 layers of glass as well as an opal type sheet for diffusion. It has a red bulb switched to the platen lock, so when the lid is open the safelight is on, when you shut the platen--the white lights switch on. It has masking blades as well...mine's an 8x10 model. I've used it with VC papers as well, I actually have some old roll-sheets of contrast filters scavenged off a 70's era contact printer...I've used one or two that had the filters on these reel type attachments....

    I use it mostly for duping old negs 1:1, but have used it with Azo as well...I run it off a voltage stabilizer, and my exposures are like 10 seconds with Azo. Even with just the 9 lamps, you can get good control switching them on & off individually...I have used small cut-outs of tissue or frosted acetate on the middle stage below, as well as tacking wax-paper to the masking blades on top as well....

    I learned some of this stuff from old-timers that I've met from when contact printers were the thing used in the production labs...and they still are in some places...if you can find an old Photolab index from the 50's or a Kodak lab manual of that vintage as well, you can see some of this technique explained.

  4. #4
    Whatever David A. Goldfarb's Avatar
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    Contact Printing Machines

    Thanks for the responses and keep them coming. I occasionally see these things available cheaply, and they seem like an interesting possibility. I may try one.

  5. #5

    Contact Printing Machines

    I've used one for 6 foot long Cirkut negs and the control you get is better than lights on top. Having said that I find them too slow to set up for one off jobs but great for production runs. I now print my Cirkut negs with a dichroic head over the top, much faster to set up, dodging and burning no problem once you get the hang of moving around a big neg, this is good for three or four prints but you can't beat a contact printer for speed when you're doing production runs.

  6. #6

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    Contact Printing Machines

    yeah, you can find them dirt cheap used now because they're sorta like "white elephants" for used camera shops....mine was crammed under a bunch of junk in the back of a store...I paid about twenty bucks for it...

  7. #7

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    Re: Contact Printing Machines

    Is this old enough to be worth anything?
    it is a Burk and James 5X7 contact printer
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marler/164462517/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marler/164462514/
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marler/164462512/

    it is stamped Burk and James Chicago Pat. Applied for

    Email rmarler@gmail if you want to buy it

  8. #8

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    Re: Contact Printing Machines

    David,
    I have an old wooden beast that has a split back, some 25 UV bulbs and a shelf for diffuser and dodging materials. It takes a translucent plex sheet to cut it down enough to print on AZO, and ND sheet from Lee must be used to get it anywhere near usable for thick negs and #2 fiber enlarging paper. While I haven't tried it with POP, I'd be it gives great performance on that stuff.

    The best thing about it is the fantastic contact that is acheived. I hand a loupe to people to examine contact prints, and usually, people start saying "WOW!" when they look around. Much better than most frame setups for sharpness. This is what makes it worth it to me over other solutions.

    Dodging can be done with placement of ND sheet, cut paper, inkjet masks and all sorts of things, however personally, I find that #2 AZO with a decent neg doesn't want any dodging in many cases - if the paper has a wide range, one misses that feature less. So, your concern about dodging and burning is true, however other than the danger of UV light, it would be possible to put something on the end of a wire and then move it around - but you wouldn't see what you're doing very well! If you don' want to do workarounds, your concern is quite well founded.

    The cool thing about the old beast is the "honesty" of it. If the print looks great, then it was mostly that way in-camera. No frills, but pure joy when it works out. Very fast to make additional prints once dialed in too.

    What is a pain though is that it is designed for 8x10 paper ( well, it's good to line things up with ease and speed ). Fine prints are especially nice with a luxurious larger paper size that allows future conservation and easy matting. This seems to be the only serious drawback to the system. If you contact smaller negs, such as 5x7, it seems that you might want one with the metal paper alignment brackets - mine doesn't have those. I can't imagine the pain in the arse of removing glass, twisting rare bulbs and all that - no way.

    There are also companies that make reasonably priced vaccum frames - such a frame combined with a simple point light source would be darned near ideal to work with, as then dodging and burning is simple, plus contact is also excellent. In both cases, you've got glass to clean all the time, however at least the vacuum frame eliminates that crummy clamping all the time on the back, or the unreliable contact of two sheets of glass.

    There was an Arkay around on eBay a while back - now that was one tough, but expensive, contact printer. I think it was made for the USAF. That machine allowed individual light switching from the outside - what you need, right?

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