View Full Version : Wet Plate Holder from 8x10 Fidelity???

Kimberly Anderson
15-Jul-2011, 21:48
All this talk lately about wet plate collodion is getting me excited to start gearing up to try it myself. One of my friends is a proficient practitioner and has inspired me to get my own setup going.

Of course one of the main considerations is the holder, and I have decided that making a holder from a Fidelity 8x10 film holder might not be a bad way to go.

I read the article on Unblinking eye, and like the design shown in this link (http://unblinkingeye.com/Articles/WPC/WPC3/WPP04/wpp04.html).

The question is, since I'm making my own holder, and the final plate size will be smaller than 8x10 (clearly), I can decide to make my final size whatever I choose.

Here's my line of thought...I really like the Ambrotypes and would pursue those based on how much I prefer them. I have found black opaque glass available in 16x24 inch sheets for $15.75/sheet (http://www.delphiglass.com/spectrum-glass/opalescent/spectrum-black-opal).

I can cut down 16x24's to 4x6 inches (or any size really...go with me, I'm thinking out loud here....). This makes me think that I could, in fact, use a 5x7 film holder and save the hassle and expense of cutting up an 8x10 holder.

Is there a reason not to go this route? I know that there are these traditional sizes, but 4 3/4 x 6 1/2 doesn't seem to be a size that is efficient to cut down from with the 16x24 sheets that are available. I do like the 8 1/2 x 6 1/2 size, but again, not efficient to cut down w/out much waste of the glass.

I think that the idea of going with traditional sizes is neat and everything, but it appears to the un-educated eye that there might be a few legitimate reasons for *not* going to those sizes?

Yes, we can always do our 'own' thing, and usually I have been very content to re-invent the wheel for my individual situation when the need arises.

I guess I'm looking for a little practical advice coupled with a little bit of history.

Thanks in advance to anyone who is willing to share their input. I appreciate it.

Mark Sawyer
15-Jul-2011, 22:54
I've made half a dozen wet plate holders fairly similar to those in the thread you linked to. It's quite nice to have a variety of sizes available, and have them all fit conventional film backs. I even splurged to have a few extra backs, and have them marked for the frame edges of various sizes.

I like working in the historic sizes of 4.25x5.5 inches (American half-plate) and 4.25x6.5 inches, (European half-plate). I also make my own sizes (5x6, 6x8, and especially 4x8) just because I like those sizes. (I cut quite a few options from scrap matte board and just lived with them a while before deciding what I liked.) My only reservation about your choice of 4x6 is that it is very recognizeably the most common modern "snapshot" format.

A note on converting film holders: try to leave at least 3/4" around each side. I made a 4.25x6.5" plate holder from a 5x7, but it was so cramped that I abandoned it and made a new one from an 8x10 holder.

Another consideration is that, compared to dedicated wet plate backs, film holders are somewhat more complex in construction and harder to keep clean, especially important to consider in a process where a very-wet-with-chemicals plate goes into the holder with each exposure.

Those are the basic pluses and minuses.

alex from holland
15-Jul-2011, 23:42
making a plate holder isn't such a big job :

16-Jul-2011, 04:42
look for the pressure plate holders as well. they were made by kodak and will take 8x10.

buying a holder from bill schwab is the way to go. he has inserts for them. i have one with WP, 5x7, half Plate, and 4x5 inserts.

i am not following what you are talking about regarding the glass. i buy my glass form a glass store.....very cheap i might add. i cut it to the size i need. i have another place in NYC (no help to you) that i get 11x14, 8x10, and 5x7 glass pre-cut and cleaned for like 20 cents a sheet for 8x10.....cheap enough.

Kimberly Anderson
16-Jul-2011, 13:00
black glass for ambrotypes? really? where!?!?

17-Jul-2011, 11:49
I think eddie is talking about clear glass for ambrotypes, which any glass shop or good frame shop should be able to supply cut to size and relatively clean, at a great price. I have been ripping my own clear glass down, getting the glass at Home Depot. Its cheap, and CG ambros look great. Might be better to learn on than the more expensive colored glass. What kind of camera are you using??

Kimberly Anderson
17-Jul-2011, 13:46
I have been cutting my own glass for years as well and I have a very inexpensive local shop that I buy my lights in packs of 5.

I'm sure that learning on CG is a good idea. I just have the idea that I want to end up shooting onto black glass.

I have a Canham 8x10 with a 5x7 back as well as the 8x10...so I could go either way on the film holder size.

I asked Keith if there was anything special he would recommend doing to the camera to prepare and protect it for use with wet-plate. He said not to worry about the camera.

Joe Smigiel
17-Jul-2011, 18:55

I wouldn't worry about being too efficient with cutting plates. My local stained glass shop cuts large sheets to any size I want and only charges for the actual square footage I've requested. I usually buy 17x26 and cut whole plates from it. The shop sells the leftovers to glass artists. Perhaps a local shop will do the same for you. Most online stained glass shops sell either 12x12 or 24x24 sheets.

A dedicated back and holder is IMO a much better setup than a modified film holder for the reasons mentioned in a previous post. I've adapted many film holders from 11x14 down to 4x5 and have finally decided to bite the bullet and have a custom wetplate back and holder made for a camera I'm restoring.

Another thing to consider is that Spectrum Smooth Black Cathedral glass 1009S is thicker than normal window glass and much harder to cut by hand so you might end up having some waste anyways depending on your skill and setup.

If anyone knows of a good, inexpensive source for the thinner 2mm (?) glass that was used for historical glass plates, please poiint me to them.

Kimberly Anderson
17-Jul-2011, 19:04
The custom back sounds interesting. Who is doing the work for you?

17-Jul-2011, 19:53
I will second the custom back solution. I am in the process of building some with a friend and when its all said and done, will be far better than any conversion holder or modern wet plate holder designed to fit into a modern spring back. If you have a friend who's relatively skilled in the wood shop its not too complicated to design a book form holder, and new ground glass holder that will clip into your camera.

Kimberly Anderson
17-Jul-2011, 21:21
I do have said friend...

Joe Smigiel
18-Jul-2011, 14:19
The custom back sounds interesting. Who is doing the work for you?

A local custom furniture maker/designer is taking on the project. I've tried to make my own but I just don't have those skills or tools for the job. Then again, if the cost was more , I'd probably just invest in the tools. Part of our deal is he wants me to hang out during the manufacture in case he has questions on functionality. I get some woodworking instruction in return.

He is making an adapter back from my design to fit three different whole-plate cameras (Eastman #2, ROC Universal & ROC Carleton). Problem is that the cameras take different size spring backs, but I think I have a couple different solutions for that. Obviously, two different adapters could be built to take the same removable GG frame and plate holder. But, I think I have figured out a simple way to mount the same adapter on all three cameras. That way I can have the GG frame hinged to the adapter and only have to carry around a minimum amount of gear.

The plate holder will have a removable access plate to the replaceable darkslide baffle and the holder will accept either horizontal or vertical plates and reducing inserts.

He is also making a reducing adapter for my 11x14 B&J so the same setup will lock onto that camera also.

In the meantime, I'm constructing replacement bellows for the two ROC cameras. I purchased some deep green fake leather from a fabric store this past weekend. Stuff was $55/yard! But the color should look great with the reddish mahogany of the cameras. (I may have also found some new opaque liner material for the bellows at the same store. I've been looking for a replacement for the Porter's/Delta blackout fabric for several years.)

Below are a couple snaps of the ROC Universal. It folds up to 10.25" x 10.25" x 3.25". The wetplate backs will probably add another 1.25" to the folded thickness of the rig. Still should be a lot easier than hauling that 11x14 around to do whole plates.



18-Jul-2011, 14:44

No business connection, but they guy lives nearby and is a trustworthy customer of mine. He sells converted 8x10 holders.