View Full Version : fixers for paper

brian steinberger
3-Nov-2005, 15:37
I'm wondering what the "correct" fixer to use for using fiber base papers. I've been using Kodak rapid fixer, but I've read in books (Ansel Adams) that say they don't recommend it. Also, when using two fixing baths, the first fixer can be hardening, but the second one should be non-hardening, correct? That's my understanding. Thanks for any help.


John Kasaian
3-Nov-2005, 17:59

IMHO, prints seem to tone better after a non hardening fixer (if you're toning your prints) I think AA used a selenium toner (I don't exactly recall) The toner helps 'em hold up longer. Fixing after toning would (I think) call for a hardening fixer (but I wouldn't swear to it) as it would give the print a bit of protection.

BTW, this gewurtztramiener I'm having is GREAT! (hic!)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but is Kodak rapid fixer the stuff that comes in a box with the hardener you can add? If so, just don't add the stuff in your first fix. If your looking for a non hardening fixer 'off the shelf' try Photographer's Formulary in Montana, where all the sheep are.

Man, this is good wine! ;-)

Kevin Crisp
3-Nov-2005, 18:30
Brian: The traditional fixer was something acidic like Kodak General Fixer. It is cheap, it stinks up the darkroom , even with ventilation, and fixing times are long. It is a hardening fixer which can make retouching more difficult since the dye sort of beads up on the surface for awhile. Fixing times are in the 5 to 7 minute range with initial constant agitation. When you print as seldom as I get to, I mix it up each time and don't worry about two baths. Two baths would be better if you have the sink length for it, I have an issue there when making large prints. Of course stop bath to neutralize the developer is a good idea to keep it working longer. In high school I "brillantly" figured out you could skip the stop bath and go straight to the fixer, and with prints now about 35 years old things look fine so long as I washed them really well. I would also leave prints in the fixer for what I now realize were absurdly long times like 30 to 45 minutes. With a couple hours washing and use of Permawash, the prints still look fine so long as I did the long wash and the fixer was not worn out. The modern trend, which I read came from Ilford, is to go with an alkaline stop bath such as Rapid Fix, mixed at film strength (i.e., stock to make one gallon), and with much shorter fixing times like a minute or two at the most. You can leave out the sulfuric acid hardener in the small bottle in the cardboard box. Clayton also makes a rapid fixer, which I believe is odorless (not odorfree) and if you call them up for fix times they will tell you just 30 seconds "or so." The two times I called I got that answer, both from people who seemed a little puzzled that somebody would want to know times for processing. I've been using it with 60 to 90 second fix times without difficulties. Have I tested the paper for residual silver or hypo? No, honestly, I haven't. I do wash prints for 2 hours and still use Permawash and the prints with the short fix times in the alkaline fixers look fine going on 10 years for some of them. In theory the fixer washes out more easily if it was exposed to the paper for less time. The short fix time certainly moves things along once you have worked out your printing technique for a particular negative and are making multiple prints. The low odor is nice. Getting back to AA's recommendations, he did recommend the F-6 formula, which is darned close to odorless, but requires the traditional longer fix times of 6 minutes or so. I took a workshop class in Yosemite after his death, but we used his teaching darkroom as it appears in his books, and there was a photoformula book on the shelf with his handwritten notes in it. I copied down his variation on the F6 formula, which I think was the usual published formula with the hardener cut in half. I can find my notes and send you the formula if you're interested. When I have the time to mix this from scratch I use it since it is very pleasant to use. When I'm in a hurry I use the Clayton products.

Jim Ewins
3-Nov-2005, 20:11
I've been using Formulary TF-4 Archival fixer for some time. No problems with bleaching or toning. There is a slight amonia smell when first mixed but soon no odor is noticed. Its long lasting in the tray. If you're producing post cards maybe harding may be good, otherwise!!!

Doremus Scudder
4-Nov-2005, 08:00

If you want a non-hardening fixer, there are many to choose from. What you don't want is the standard "Kodak Fixer" or the like that is a sodium thiosulfate fixer with hardener added. This, however is what AA used for his first fixer. For the second fix before toning he used a plain sodium thiosulfate solution with at little sodium sulfite added as a preservative. So, you can use the hardening fixer, just not immediately before the toner. However, AA's method is a bit complicated and unnecessary these days (i.e., since we have rapid fixers now).

I use either Ilford or Kodak rapid fixers, without the hardener for both my fixing baths. No problems with selenium toning. The Ilford fixer (Hypam or Universal) comes with no hardener; the Kodak Rapid Fix does, which means that you have to discard it if you don't use it, which is an inconvenience. These fixers are slightly acidic, but not hardening. There are other brands as well. Usually, if the fixer bills itself as a "rapid fix" you can use it as a non-hardening fix.

There are also alkaline fixers, such as the PF TF-4 which purportedly wash out easier. I have used these in the past for printing and have had good results. I did, however, have some redevelopment problems with sheet film in trays with the TF-4. The alkaline environment re-activates the carried over developer and, if the room lights are turned on too early, this can result in streaks. I have since switched to a mildly acidic rapid fix like the Ilford or Kodak products for all my work.

My personal preferences are: I use Ilford Hypam (Universal) in the 1:9 dilution. This is available in larger quantities and keeps very well. I fix using the two-bath method, fixing at least 1.5 minutes in each bath. I usually do not replace the first bath with the second, since I wash and dry between fixing baths. The second bath is given during the toning session (soak, 2nd fix, tone, hypo-clear, wash). The Ilford "archival sequence" which is based on using a stronger dilution of fixer starts to run out after about 10 prints; the two-bath method will fix 40 8x10's per liter to the same archival standard. Since the time difference is not that great, it was a no-brainer for me to decide what to do.

Some recommendations: Do use a stop bath if you are using an acid fix. Not using one just shortens the life of your fixer--a lot. Sure, if you are only going to make one print, then you can do without the stop for a session, but if you have many to make, don't risk it.
Do use the two-bath fixing method if you are interested in longevity for your prints. Do figure out your fixer's capacity before you begin and keep track of how many prints you put through it. Fixer is cheap: if you are in doubt as to its quality, discard it and mix a fresh batch. If you plan on toning, either wash prints thoroughly before toning (time consuming) or transfer well-fixed prints directly from the fixer to the toning bath with no intermediate rinse.


Tom Westbrook
4-Nov-2005, 09:11
I recently switched to TF-2, a non-rapid, sodium thiosulfate based alkaline fix for paper. The big advantage from my perspective is that it's absolutely odorless. TF-4 was too irritating for use in open trays, though I do use it for film in the Jobo processor. Acid rapid fixers are too stinky to me, too.

I use TF-2 in a two-bath method, 5 min in each bath after a 1 minute water "stop". For intermediate work prints I only fix for 5 min (2-3 min for test strips) to cut down on time. It works great and is pretty cheap and easy to make.

FWIW, having taken a couple of John Sexton's workshops I know he favors sodium thiosulfate acid fix with a bit of hardener in it (see F-6a formula, but use half the alum). I think he uses plain hypo for the second bath before selenium toning.

See www.jackspcs.com/fixer.htm (http://www.jackspcs.com/fixer.htm) for the formulas. The TF-2 formula has an error: use 750ml for the starting water volume.

Craig Wactor
4-Nov-2005, 19:09
Prints tone extremely well when fixed in TF-4. I love the stuff!

Oren Grad
4-Nov-2005, 21:45
The Ilford "archival sequence" which is based on using a stronger dilution of fixer starts to run out after about 10 prints

What is the basis for this? Ilford claims a capacity of 40 sheets of 8x10 FB paper per liter of Hypam 1+4, which is the strength you'd use for the archival sequence.