View Full Version : Tintype questions ??

Calamity Jane
7-Feb-2005, 10:19
Howdy (again)!

I've been looking at P.O.P. and Tintype in more detail and think I might go with Tintype for my roving portraiture this coming summer.

I've got two questions:

1 - Storing and transportantion of sensitized plates.

If I pre-sensitize a large number of metal plates (prior to hitting the road), how do I store/transport to avoid damaging the emulsion? I am wondering if there is some kind of seperator sheets I can use that wont stick to the emulsion, even if the weather gets warm. If I can bundle them together snug in a stack, they wont bounce around and get damaged.

(Sensitizing plates without a darkroom would be akward and time consuming.)

2 - Framing.

I have seen pictures of Tinplate frames that have an oval cutout (mat) and a folding cover. I'd like to find them in cardboard (=inexpensive!) but haven't had any luck. There's lots of squared-framed, but no ovals with covers. (I'll be working in 4x5) Any ideas?

Thanks gang!

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
7-Feb-2005, 10:32

Tintypes, at least the "authentic" sort, can not be pre-sensitized; like ambrotypes, they are "wet-plate", meaning that in order for the plates to be light-sensitive the base (collodion) must be wet.

There are ways of making dry-plates using collodion and various preservatives, like tannin, so it may be possible to make dry tintypes, but I suspect this will take months of work to get right. In any case, the speed of most dry-plates is pretty slow, so you might be looking at very long exposures. The maker of liquid-light makes a tintype kit, this may or may not work dry. It is certainly worth looking into.

When the wet-plate crowd work outside the studio they use large darkboxes to sensitize and develop on site. Ray Morgenweck builds them. His boxes can be seen here (http://www.geocities.com/starcameracompany/wpequip.htm). He also makes plate-boxes.

Calamity Jane
7-Feb-2005, 10:47
It's the Rockaloid products that I have been looking at - perhaps it is not a true tintype (in the traditional sense).

Rockaloid told me their "tintype kit" uses their "Ag-Plus" photo emulsion, which is a silver halide compound. In the Ag-Plus instructions, under coating plates, it says "After a few minutes, the emulsion will set up or become sticky and can be exposed and developed. Or it can be dried and put away for future use." Alternative Photography (http://www.alternativephotography.com/process_tintype.html) also talks about drying plates for future use but also uses the Rockaloid products. I therefore assume that this isn't a "wet plate process".

7-Feb-2005, 12:56
Calamity, if you do try the Rockaloid tintype kit, please let me know how it works. I've wanted to try it for along time and just haven't gotten around to it yet, but still interested... Thanks...

Donald Qualls
7-Feb-2005, 15:03
Rockaloid's "tintype" kit seems to be a gelatin dry plate with a black substrate. It should resemble a tintype after exposure and development. Storing the sensitized and dried plates would be just like storing old glass plates -- best done in a wooden box with slots cut for the plates, like storage boxes for microscope slides (if you've ever seen one of those). Since you're handy with woodworking tools, CJ, you should be able to make one easily enough, just saw kerfs in a pair of boards the correct distance apart, and that inside a light tight box that can be secured closed (so it doesn't open in transit).

I don't know about the Rockaloid emulsion specifically, but gelatin dry plates in general need not be terribly slow (the last glass plates made in America were T-Max 100 emulsion, and the current manufacture Russian made plates are supposed to be in the ISO 100 range as well); since Rockaloid's emulsion is (like Liquid Light) made primarily for enlarging or contact printing on alternate surfaces, however, I'd expect it to run between ISO 0.5 and ISO 6 equivalent -- that is, similar speed to modern enlarging papers, though probably faster than contact printing papers like Azo. Of course, the need to keep the silver "thin" will increase the effective speed, probably by a couple stops -- you might wind up being able to expose as high as EI 25, but more likely under EI 12 even so.

The best I can suggest for protecting the emulsion from sticking due to heat is to keep the plates cool and dry inside their protective slotted storage boxes -- store them with dessicant packets in at least 2-3 nested zipper bags inside your cooler, with some ice or Blue Ice blocks to keep the interior cool. I'm well aware that the Great White North can get above 100 F on summer days -- and the interior of a car or bus can beat that by 30-40 degrees, and with that emulsion pouring at 130 F, you need to keep it cooler than that. Another possibility would be to add a hardener to just the portion of the emulsion you're using immediately to coat plates, immediately before coating. This will probably lengthen the required development time, fixing time, and washing time -- but should make the emulsion much less prone to getting sticky at reasonable temperatures (the emulsion in commercial films doesn't get sticky enough to stick layers together even in a 140 F sun drenched car interior, as long as it's dry).

The one thing I can think of that might work for slip sheets and wouldn't stick to the gelatin if it softens is the silicone coated material used as the peel layer on self-sticking labels, double sided tape, etc. The glossy, slippery side would go toward the gelatin, with the backing (ordinary paper) toward the base side of the next plate. Of course, if you have any gelatin spill over the edge of the plate, or on the back, it may permanently adhere to the paper side of the slip sheets, so you might find it prudent to use double sheets or wrap a sheet around each plate, slippery side in.

Calamity Jane
7-Feb-2005, 16:21
Thanks Donald! I had pretty much decided that a wooden box with slots would be the way to go. Since I'll probably want to pre-coat at least 100 plates, I would probably make a number of boxes. I could fit them all in a larger insulated box with a space for a bag of ice. You are very right about the temperatures on the prairies in the summer! It can easily get over 100F at the end of July (which is when the fair takes place) and my bus can get ALOT hotter - of course I could put my icebox underneath where it isn't as bad.

I heard back from the Museum today and they are THRILLED by the idea of offering Tintypes to the visitors so I ordered some AG-Plus and tintype developer today from Rockaloid to experiment with. I decided to do my own metal plates rather than paying for shipping. I checked out my film holders and I have some old Fidelity holders that look like they open up enough to slip in a metal plate (PHEW! that's one less thing I have to make!) and I have some light aluminum sheet that should fit the film slot in the holders, so I'll cut some aluminum, paint it black, and see if it will work.

I'll let ya'll know how it works out. We have a scanner at work, so I'll scan my first (successful) tintypes for ya'll to have a look at.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
7-Feb-2005, 16:34

You might want to consider using Black Aluminum Engraving Stock. This can be ordered in sheets of 12x24 or 24x48, and has a very nice shiny black surface. I know that regular Collodion adheres very nicely to it, and it provides a very good surface which doesn't need to be cleaned. I would assume that the Rockloid would also work nicely with it. It is also pretty cheap, running about $3 or so for a 12x24 sheet.
http://www.maintrophysupply.com/aluminum.htm (http://www.maintrophysupply.com/aluminum.htm)

Donald Qualls
8-Feb-2005, 13:39
I would suggest testing to be sure, but you most likely don't need the special "positive developer" they sell -- tintype is not a reversal process the way even black and white slides are, and any developer that will develop a print should work fine with the Rockaloid liquid emulsion. Since you'll need to test for exposure and development times anyway to get the look you want, I see nothing to be gained over using regular Dektol, suitably diluted to give working time, though it might produce more contrast than you need/want (you will likely find low contrast desirable, since it will allow more exposure while keeping the highlights from getting too solid). Grain isn't an issue when you'll be viewing the original emulsion by naked eye.

And though the end result is a positive of sorts, in this case (because the silver is developed directly from exposed halide rather than reversed from unexposed) you will likely find you need to expose like a negative (i.e. expose for shadows) and control highlights with development instead of exposing like a slide or Polaroid (i.e. for the highlights) -- but again, you may need to test both ways. Given the rapidity with which you can expose, develop, and view a plate, you can probably accomplish all the testing you'll need in a weekend, if you coat the necessary plates the previous weekend.

Calamity Jane
8-Feb-2005, 14:00
DADGUMIT!!! Just when I get all het-up over this here tintype thingy I run into the problem of plate holders!

Looked at my Fidelity and Lisco holders and there's NO WAY I can modify them for plates!

There's a fellow on the Net who will modify your camera and make a holder for only $300 U.S. - YEA RIGHT!

Back off to AutoCAD to do some design and then to the shop to build plate holder - GRRRRR! Oh well, there's still winter left up here.....

Anybody know how to cut a REAL narrow slot in wood? Like maybe 0.060" wide????

8-Feb-2005, 14:03
Donald, You could use just about any developer with the Rokaloid materials, but it wouldn't work right. Just put any B&W negative on top of a piece of black material, shiny or not. It doesn't work. The silver crystals are black in color and do not show as a 'positive'. In order to use 'standard' developers, you'd have to bleach the negative to turn the silver back into, well, silver. I had a long discussion about making dry plate tinypes a few years ago with a large group. The result was; coat a plate with any emulsion. develop in any developer, then bleach... Or, use the Rokaloid kit.... It's not a reversal process, but it does bleach the silver to obtain the true silver color...

On the other hand, bleaching the negatives is not all that hard. I just wouldn't advise the sulfuric acid bleaches that seem so common as they can also be quite hazardous...

8-Feb-2005, 14:09
Calamity, either go back to thin steel or just buy the whole Rokaloid kit. They do state that their plates will fit any standard holder. You can also buy uncoated plates from them. Or you could find such sheets at hardware store. I buy 'tin sheet' at my hardware store for various auto patching or tin punching. I don't have the measurement, but they do come very thin, and you really don't need anythigng that thick...

As far as cutting a narrow slot, my first two ideas would be a Dremel with either a small routing bit or horizontal with a saw blade. Or a real router with one of the very small straight bits that can be found...

Donald Qualls
8-Feb-2005, 14:47
Calamity, before you spend a lot of time and aggravation building plate holders, why don't you check eBay for glass plate type Premo style holders from prior to, say, 1920 or so? Those were normally used with film sheaths, because they were made to accept glass plates -- but you don't even care if the sheaths are missing (as they often are after 80-100 years). The glass plates are a couple mm bigger both ways than modern sheet film; the film sheath is why -- but your modern film holders are designed to take the film without the sheath. You can, of course, cut your tintype plates to fit whatever holder you wind up with.

With my 9x12, this is still the way I use them -- film sheath in the holder taking the place of a plate, and film in the sheath. In your case, you need to go the other way. The Premo style holders didn't have a thin slot, they hinged open, had little leaf springs under the plate, and the hinged front cover held the glass at the proper position (with the springs keeping the plate against the front cover -- thickness matched that of the frame on the ground glass, of course). You could pretty easily do the same thing to fit a 4x5 spring back or Graflok, I'd think, using a steel or aluminum front plate to get the thickness to match the film spacing in your existing holders. You need a way to lock the cover closed, of course, and you need to accomodate the dark slide and light seal its slot -- which is why it's probably simpler to get a few of the Premo style holders. AFAIK, they will fit a modern 4x5 spring back (they were the design that evolved into the ANSI holders used now), though if they don't, you might well find it simpler to design a replacement back to fit the holders (on the camera you built) than to design and make a dozen holders to accomodate the plates and dark slides and maintain focus.

If it does come to making your own holders, you can get narrow-kerf saw blades that go as thin as 1.5 mm -- a kerf of 1.5 mm is almost exactly .060", 1/16 inch (.063") should be just right for .060" thick plates, and a normal saw kerf isn't quite twice that, around 3/32 inch as I recall. In fact, that width kerf might be perfectly fine both for holders and storage boxes, if you can manage springs inside the holders to keep the plate against the front side of the kerf and precisely locate that edge of the cut in the holder frame.

Donald Qualls
8-Feb-2005, 14:55
Rich, I'm curious -- if the silver has been bleached (presumably to halide), why haven't tintypes (and ambrotypes, which were the same thing on glass with a separate black backing) printed out to black from light exposure over the intervening 70-120 years since they were made? I've held ordinary negatives in front of a black background -- the silver scatters light and looks light compared to the background (kind of a yellowish color, not surprisingly similar to a tintype). I understood this was the way a tintype or ambrotype worked -- in fact, everything I've read said ambrotypes were made exactly the same way as collodion wet plate negatives, only with thinner silver. Nothing I've ever read suggested bleaching as part of the process.

Yes, silver grains look black against a white background, or with a light behind -- but they scatter more light than a black background, and so look relatively light in that situation. Same silver.

Perhaps (partial) bleaching is done in the Rockaloid process to "thin" silver that, with standard print-type exposure and development, would be too dense, resulting in loss of highlight contrast (as is the case when I view a modern negative in scatter light)? If so, it should be relatively simple to test for a combination of exposure and development that would produce the same effect without the bleaching step.

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
8-Feb-2005, 15:52
You can easily convert one of your fidelities by following these instructions:

http://www.collodion.org/plateholderconversion.html (http://www.collodion.org/plateholderconversion.html)

Alternatively, you could find a dryplate holder on eBay. The nice ones (Linhof) run about $30, the regular ones run about $15 or so.

Calamity Jane
8-Feb-2005, 17:13
There may be salvation for the sheet film holders.

I measured the film slot in my Liscos (0.010") and my Fidelities (0.012"). According to metal suppliers, I can get steel, brass, or aluminum in 0.010" so it should fit in the Fidelity holders, albeit rather snug. I have some 0.013" aluminum and it easily flexes enough to slip into the holders (although it will require tweezers to pull it out!)

BTW: My Delta 100 negatives measure 0.0075" thick, in case anybody ever wondered :-)

I have painted an aluminum sheet and will see how much flexing the paint can take when dried hard.

Paint adds 0.0005 to 0.001", but it wouldn't be a problem to mask the edges - makes an easy way to hold them while painting.

Now to find a local metal dealer who has 0.010" stock!

8-Feb-2005, 21:54

Original tintype ot Ferrotypes are nt technically bleached as a new dry tintype would be. They use a totally different positive develope of ferrous sulfate, galacial acetic acid and grain alcohol. This produces the _positive_ on the asphalted tin plate (yes, ashphalt, not paint).. Rockaloid also promotes their developer as a positive developer! Besides this, they did tend to black out which is why almost all of them were supplied with covers! I have covered and uncovered tintypes in the 100 year old range. The uncovered ones faired far worse...

You may think a standard negative looks like a tintype when held against a black background, but all that would mean is you either have a very odd negative or you haven't seen a real tintype. There is no comparison, which is why I pursued a new process dry tintype several years ago.

The bleached negative will work and look very much like a true tintype, but it will also deteriorate over time. I never said it wouldn't. If it was that simple, Rockaloid wouldn't be selling a positive developer for their tintypes. It's just a quick and easy process to duplicate the looks of a tintype without buying special chemicals. There is also a silver toner (or is it chrome? can't remember at the moment) that turns the crytals into a pure silver color for special efects. I bought that also to try dry tintypes, but again never got around to it. That process is supposed to be permanent!

So to clear up a lot of misconceptions about "tintypes:. There is absolutely no 'tin' involved. They are a true positive developed on a steel plate coated with black asphalt (which has to be baked after coating). It's NOT enamel paint and NOT a negative, and no tin...

Donald Qualls
9-Feb-2005, 07:01
The "tin" in "tintype" refers to the common appellation for thin steel or iron sheet in the late 19th century -- "tin plate" which probably refers to the fact that much of it was, in fact, plated with tin for corrosion resistance (same origin as "tin can"). Yes, I was aware original tintypes were often done on asphalted plates, though I understood they were also done on japanned (i.e. lacquered) plates at times; the asphalt mostly served to make the plate recyclable in case of a bad image (the collodion would be dissolved away with ether and the plate rebaked to smooth the asphalt and prepare the plate for recoating).

The developer you describe, an acidic ferrous sulfate solution, does sound like a bleach rather than a selective reducer (copper sulfate in sulfuric acid has been used as a bleach for making modern B&W reversal positives, and for bleaching the silver image from a negative to create a phase hologram; this type of bleach converts developed silver to soluble silver sulfate) -- perhaps the image visible in an original tintype isn't formed of silver at all, but rather is due to an effect of the grain alcohol on the collodion, catalyzed by a reaction between the ferrous sulfate and the latent image silver in the collodion emulsion (ethanol, even at 95% strength, would not normally dissolve or soften collodion). That would explain much of what you describe concerning the differences between an original tintype and a "silver negative on black" scatter positive.

There are many factors that could make uncovered ferrotypes last less well than those in cases, not least being that those not originally cased were likely those made at a lower price, very possibly by less exacting workers, and may not have been lacquered (or coated with lower grade lacquer), may have been inadequately fixed or washed, or simply may have suffered a combination of mechanical damage and oxidation in the intervening 70-150 years, from which the cased plates would have been better protected by the case.

Calamity Jane
9-Feb-2005, 08:47
. . . my head hurts . . .

9-Feb-2005, 09:28
Calamity: LOL I understand... The best explanation of the process I've found so far is in the book "Coming Into Focus", a great resource for 'alternative' photography.

Donald: It's amazing how many people either have no idea what asphalting is and don't believe it was used for tinypes. It's refreshing to find someone who knows! My last paragraph up there was more for the general public. There seems to be a lot of misconceptions around about tintypes. Someday I would really love to try the original process. It not only doesn't sound that difficult, but gees, they used to do it i the middle of nowhere in wagons... And one of the somehwat amazing details is that if the emulsion is used on a glass plate, developed with a 'normal' negative developer (producing a glass negative), the glass plate could then be used to produce multiple copies with tintypes. This contradicts the old notion that all tintypes were 'originals'. People were just as creative, or more, back then.

And I have no doubt that we could have no idea what individual photographer did 100 years ago. Without the easy supply chain we have today, I'm sure they got very creative with they materials. Just as we can't tell about the quality of their work. It's a shame more of them didn't keep and preserve notes about their process...

Whoops, and there's 'lunch call'. My boys get very upset if I'm late (two large dogs) ;-)

Jason Greenberg Motamedi
9-Feb-2005, 10:42
As someone who has been messing around with wet-plate, I have been following this conversation with some interest. A few things I would like to clear up. First, you cannot "print" a tintype from a negative--collodion or otherwise--it would produce a negative tin. Many tintypes or ambrotypes were reproductions, however they were simply reproductions of originals shot 1:1 or thereabouts. Also, "Japanning" tintype plates has nothing to do with varnish or lacquer. While I think the term originally referred to the deep blacks achieved by Japanese lacquered wood, it was used by 19th Century photographers to mean coating in asphalt, and then a quick bake to harden it.

9-Feb-2005, 11:18
Jason, yuo're 100% right about printing with a negative. My mind got off track there a bit. What I meant to say was that if you process the glass plate with the _positive_ developer, that could be used to produce further tintypes... Sorry about that.

As far as "Jappaning" goes. I think there's another term that has been wrongly used for a long time. You're probably right about that also. I know it is applied to many products that are simply enamled.

Donald Qualls
9-Feb-2005, 12:04
The lacquer I was referring to was the overcoat that was (or should have been) applied over all collodion emulsions to protect the silver image layer. Some of the lacquers used were better than others, some yellowed more and some less; sometimes the lacquer was simple spar varnish (nitrocellulose lacquer, just collodion dissolved in a solvent like ether to the consistency of thin syrup) and other times it was closer to shellac (which used a carrier of methanol).

Japanning did originally imply the hyper-multicoated lacquerwork made in China and Japan, but came to refer to any black coated material. I have read numerous references to tintypes being made on enamel, not just asphalt, but none on actual japanned lacquer (too expensive, even with coolie labor at a few pennies a day). Alphalt came to be universal because of cost (including the ability to reuse a failed plate).

The creation of multiple copies from a glass original could have been done in transmission with either a reversal silver positive or a positive copy of a negative original (though all those steps would likely have been made by rephotography, like copying a slide with a modern camera, rather than by contact, since the wet collodion would stick to the surface of the original plate, probably destroying both). Even Daguerreotypes were regularly rephotographed to make copies. Even if, as seems to be the case, the image on an ambrotype or tintype is not silver scatter from what would otherwise be an ordinary negative, the ambrotype would read as a negative in transmission even though the image is a positive in reflection -- clear areas show the black background, but *something * is scattering light in the light areas, and scattering will read as density in transmission.

9-Feb-2005, 13:36

There's a site called cwreenactors.com or something like that, sorry I can't remember the url. There are probably a dozen of these folks and they travel around the southeast, doing the reenactment circuit--sellling ambrotypes and tintype portraits on the spot. They do it by hand, the old fashioned way, or as close as possible and in typical reenactor zeal, they can be quite fastidious about the detail of the process and presentation.

The history museum I work for hired one of these guys a few years ago to do a demo for an event we had. He was doing ambrotypes, but he told us afterwards about the business end of it all, and it's pretty amazing. A year or so later, I met a guy doing a similar thing at a Fourth of July event I was photographing at the Capitol. He wasn't quite as much of a total reenactor as some of the others--it's a whole subculture really, down to thread count in clothing and all sorts of tiny details---but he was a former pro lab printer who got into the process, and eventually quit his day job. He made tintypes and ambrotypes on the spot, but offered them for sale outside of what they call a "union case" which is the frame compartment type piece that you would find a daguerrotype in, and later an ambrotype. The tintypes usually weren't in union cases, unless they were trying to mimic an ambrotype. The union cases or the other folders, could present a problem depending on how fancy you wanted them to be. His cases, were really just frames with some black backing, or a simple wooden box. Not that copper or brass metal frames tipped into the wood & leather & velvet type boxes.

Anyway, I'll try to find a link to that site if you're interested. Just wanted to let you know that there are people out there doing this sort of thing for a living. Civil War reenactments are a cottage industry really...if I recall correctly, they were charging about 15 bucks for a tintype, which doesn's seem like much, but one fellow told us he'd sell about 300 or more in a weekend....I don't know how much help these people would be as far as assisting someone starting from the ground up, but the guy I spoke with on the Fourth, had pretty much figured it out himself, and got a crash course in a workshop or two. From a hardcore reenactor point of view though, he was probably not as "true" for lack of a better word, in that he used a sewing machine for his clothes and wore modern glasses and the like....they can be pretty intense when it comes to historical details and accuracy.

oh well, since I'm talking about the patron base--my opinions only, not my employers.

9-Feb-2005, 13:47
here's the site:

http://www.cwreenactors.com/collodion/ (http://www.cwreenactors.com/collodion/)

Calamity Jane
9-Feb-2005, 16:06
Thanks K. - I've been there numerous time over the years. I do a form of re-enacting myself but not to the degree of authenticity they work to. I just want something that looks old fashioned but is quick and easy for me and isn't expensive. It's your average museum tourists that I want to sell to and they aren't going to be put off if it's on aluminum plate instead of japaned tin and they wont have a clue whether the chemistry is authentic or modern ;-)

9-Feb-2005, 17:06
hopefully your average museum tourist won't be the ones I've dealt with , who want to know the thread count in a uniform on display... Quick & easy and looks old fashioned? How about that polaroid sepia film? If you buy polaroid by the case, it gets pretty cheap--especially on gov't contract, if that museum is public. I'd be interested in knowing what you wind up doing and how it works out though.

14-Apr-2014, 12:37
Good afternoon...In this post of almost 11 yrs ago you mentioned a new process dry tintype..
Are you making your own emulsion and coating asphalted tin plates?
I appreciate any information as I to have worked with the Rockland process and just want to see what else is out there..

14-Apr-2014, 19:52
Whatever happened to C. J.? I asked a few years ago and no one responded. She is a lady with a hard load to bear -- I wish her well.