View Full Version : SpotTone still manufactured?

Christopher Nisperos
26-May-2005, 18:30
Actually, I know the answer to this question. I just wanted to stay within posting guidelines so I could transmit this important information . . . .

There is a rumor that the owner of Retouch Methods (SpotTone mfr.), Mr. Charles Opdyke, is dead. Well, judging by my conversation with him today, that rumor is greatly exagerated! He is a bit upset by this erroneous information and says that he, too, had heard that a salesman from a former competitor was spreading the rumor to customers in California. Unfortunately, he confirmed the news that SpotTone (et al) is dead. Story is, after 33 years, he lost the lease to the factory, then couldn't find an adequate space to restart, and then he ran into some health problems. All this, combined with the digital tidal wave looming, and the fact that many of the analine dyes used in making his products are no longer available . . . AND, him being of retirement age (he's 72) -- he decided to call it quits. He does not seem very likely to start-up again, but wants to enjoy his retirement time and maybe travel a bit, he says. "Retouch Methods was good to me", he said.

Sadly, it seems that in the rush to move out of the factory (he was given four weeks notice to clean out 33 years of stuff) a couple thousand bottles of product simply got thrown out, and some of the formulas got lost.

For the history books: Mr. Opdyke told me that Retouch Methods was started in 1932 by Mr. Carl K. Kelly, a retoucher with a penchant for writing poetry. Kelly used pencils, crayons and chalk in his work, and noticed that it these left visible traces on the surface of photos, so, --being a do-it-yourselfer (like many photographers!) ---he decided to cook up some dyes (literally). He first began to sell the dyes on Saturdays from a card table set up in NYC's Willoughby-Peerless Camera. Soon, sales were good enough for him to stop retouching and work full time, cooking dyes. He began in the basement of his home in Madison, New Jersey, but it stank up the house so much that he was forced to find a commercial location in Chatham, New Jersey.

When, in the late 1960's, Kelly asked a waitress in his favorite diner if she knew of anyone reliable to help him with his business, she recommended her husband, Charles Opdyke --- at the time, a chemical salesman and photo hobbyist. Opdyke started as a part-time helper and liked it so much that he eventually bought the business, relying regularly on Kelly when technical questions popped up.

This is all from the horse's mouth, so I hope it clears up all the rumors.


26-May-2005, 18:37
Thanks Chris for the SpotTone history lesson! As a NJ photographer and long time user of their products I truely enjoyed reading this and only wished I was in Chatham on that particular garbage day!!!

Ryan McIntosh
26-May-2005, 18:46
Thanks for your info! I used to use "Spot-Tone" but a few years ago, I started using the "Spot Pens" and I regret it. Those "Spot Pens" are a pain in butt and never come out looking right.

Thanks again,


Mike H.
26-May-2005, 20:40
Loved the history lesson also. Guess I'll have to stretch my one bottle of SpotTone out over the next ten to twenty years of my productive photography life. Fortunately, all MY prints turn out practically perfect, as Mary Poppins would say. :-)

David A. Goldfarb
27-May-2005, 06:06
Thanks for doing the research. That's interesting. I guess when I use the last of my SpotTone, I'll learn to use Weston's method with India ink and gum arabic.

Philippe Gauthier
27-May-2005, 08:31
Yes, interesting history lesson. I'll think of these two men next time I spot a picture.

Ralph Barker
27-May-2005, 09:48
I'm glad to hear that the rumors of Mr. Opdyke's death are greatly exagerated, and wish him the best in his retirement.

My first set of SpotTone dyes lasted me almost 30 years. The new set, purchased a year or so ago, will likely last until well after the rumors of my death have been confirmed as true, and I'm far beyond retouching. ;-)

Gene Crumpler
27-May-2005, 12:17
Marshall has spotting materials. John and Ann Sexton have been using then for some time. My spot tone bottles dry out every year or so, but I just water them down and keep on going. BTW-I have promised a club member that he will get my spot tone when I go into the old folks home and have to do all digital:>)