View Full Version : Wet Plate Chemicals: Storage & Kids

6-Apr-2011, 16:12
Hi all,

After seeing some of the amazing examples on this website, I would love to get into wet plate photography. I don't mind the dangers for myself - I work with some pretty nasty organophosphates for a living. I have the personal protective equipment and have been mixing chemicals for years.

The only thing is, I have small children. I keep reading the warnings on collodion about the fumes and explosive nature and I just don't think I want it in the same house as my family. What do other people here do? Chemical safe? Are the chemicals really that bad?

Is an outdoor storage shed an option? Would it have to be temperature controlled? The temperature in this area of the country goes down to 15 degrees F in the winter and up to 105 in the summer. Is collodion much more explosive than the gallon of gasoline I keep in my garage?

Potassium cyanide is not an option for me. the other fixers are fine. It is really the collodion that I am concerned about.

Thank you for any responses,


7-Apr-2011, 03:05

I have no direct experience with collodion per se.

But I am an Industrial Hygienist and I deal with chemical safety every day.

It is an explosive reagent due to the nitrocellulose component. And it contains diethylether. All ethers contain an "ether bond"... yes I know (no kidding.) But ether bonds are unstable and tend to form peroxide bonds which is highly explosive. Our rule in labs where I worked over the years was ethers had a 6-month to 1-year shelf-life after which they were disposed of.

Also... the flammability rating of collodion using the NFPA rating scheme is 4 which is the highest rating. In the town where my company has its chemical storage terminal we are forbidden to store anything with an NFPA rating greater than 3.

So those are the basic hazards.

If I were to store it in my home I would buy a flammable safety cabinet to keep it in and use the lock to keep the children out. I would also keep the cabinet in a temperature controlled area... i.e., not out in the temperature extremes you mentioned.

Feel free to contact me with a PM if you would like to chat more and I'll forward you my personal email address.

Cheers and work safe.

Bob G.

Marek Warunkiewicz
7-Apr-2011, 03:10
I would get a good manual, John Coffer's, and read the wetplate forum (http://www.collodion.com/). There are ways to get around the ether situation by immediately mixing it with alcohol (95%) and using that with a modified formula. There are also recipes like "Poor Boy" or "Po Boy" (depends on who writes the recipe) that does not use any extra ether. I do use Potassium Cyanide but treat it with the respect it deserves.


7-Apr-2011, 03:24
Most (all) available (to the general public) ether is stabilised (can be BHT). Mixing the ether with ethanol and collodion is also a good way to stop the formation of peroxide.

In the 3 years or so I practice and follow the Collodion Forum I have never heard any real proven stories about peroxide formation among WPC workers (yes peroxide formation is real, I know that)

Obviously ether has it's dangerous properties, so prepare your self well!



7-Apr-2011, 04:55
Kudos to Bob G for referencing NFPA code. There's a publication for just about anything you can think of. My job focuses on publications 70 (NEC), 72 (Fire Alarm Handbook) and 101 (Life Safety).
These books from NFPA.org aren't free, but it's a good rule of thumb to live and work by. Be aware of your surroundings. Be aware of potential dangers. Be smart.