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Thread: Wet Plate 8x10

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    South Dakota

    Wet Plate 8x10

    Since August I've been doing wet plate (tins) on most weekends and before the time change I was doing it several late afternoons per week as well. I think I've shot over 60 of them by now, maybe more. Even though temperatures on the Northern Plains are now dipping into the teens I am still doing wet plate from the back of my car. I started with 4x5 using my Chamonix 045n and a Lund holder (pain in the ass) and a Lund 5x7 silver tank (it's great!) A month or so ago I began mostly using a 5x7 Gundlach Korona and a Chamonix 5x7 holder (well made but not being true 5x7 makes it a bit of a pain in the butt.) My 4x5 collodion pours are pretty good and I've had no trouble with 5x7 either. While I certainly haven't mastered it I'm getting decent results. So far I've only done tin type but I would like to start shooting ambrotype and glass negatives.

    At present I have no dark room but clearly see a need for one. For starters I really dread getting silver stains in the kitchen sink. My wife gets quite unhappy! I have a spot in my basement that would make a narrow but decent dark room. My long term goal is to get into contact printing and eventually albumin prints. I have no plans to get an enlarger.

    I have a nice collection of lenses 1844 to 1865 and three of those will cover 8x10. Also have three rapid rectilinear 1870 to 1890 and I think all three will cover 8x10. I'd like to get into that format because it's big enough that I don't have to worry about enlargements. The camera I need must be very strong and have a large lens board--at least 6x6 inch. Since I only photo in the field it can't be really heavy and should fold up nicely to hike with. I'm ruling out modern cameras such as the Chamonix, Wista, etc. because they have small lens boards and aren't strong enough to hold a 5+ pound Petzval. The two cameras I've narrowed it down to are an Ansco/Agfa or Kodak 2D. Both are reasonable price, plentiful, have 30+ inch bellows and sliding tripod support, are strong, have large lens boards, relatively light and compact, and most are pretty. (I do want a pretty one like my Gundlach Korona.) I'd also like a 5x7 back as I could then sell my Gundlach Korona (reluctantly!) There are a number of costs involved with 8x10: new Lund silver tank, new Chamonix 8x10 holder (IF true 8x10!), film holders, dry plate holders, and more money for chemicals. I'll also probably end up buying a 14-16 inch Petzval for it too--a nice one made before 1880 and preferably earlier than 1865. I have a pretty sturdy Berlebach wooden tripod and am looking at Ries J250 heads. Will also have to make a new dark room tent for my Subaru Forester as the dark box I'm using now is barely big enough for 5x7. I am attracted to the 8x10 repro tailboard cameras but don't know if any are still being made since Star Camera seems to have dramatically slowed or stopped production. I also want a camera that's more flexible than a tailboard (film, dry plates, wet plates) and more compact I think. I have some excellent 5x7 lenses and will still shoot that format some I think, mostly because I love the lenses I have for it.

    So that's my plan for the upcoming year. I think I'm up to it. I might even be able to sell framed tin types as a lot of people have been asking me about that. My quality seems to be improving every time I go out. Am I missing anything? How hard is it to go from 5x7 to 8x10, other than the additional expense? Any advice?

    Kent in SD
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  2. #2
    jim_jm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2013
    San Diego, CA

    Re: Wet Plate 8x10

    Wow, really nice results Kent!
    I'm using an 5x7 Eastman View #2 for dry plates and film, and an 8x10 Eastman View 2D with film only (so far) but I am getting some dry plate holders for this soon. One of the members here (Nodda Duma) had a Kickstarter earlier this year to manufacture new plate holders in 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 sizes. They met the goal, so we should be seeing nice, new light-tight plate holders early next year. I don't know if these will suit your needs for wet-plate, but they may be worth checking out once they are available for general sale.
    An Eastman View 2D may suit your needs as it's fairly compact when folded, not a lot heavier than the 5x7 (mine's less than 11 lbs) and definitely strong enough to handle bigger lenses. Uses 6x6" lens boards - I just fabricate my own using plywood and mahogany veneer. You can also find 5x7 reducing backs for the 2D. For me, it wasn't a big transition to 8x10 from 5x7. I have tubes to develop the film, and will just tray-develop the plates when I get them.
    I also made the jump to 8x10 so that I could make decent-sized contact prints. It's significantly more encouraging, especially after seeing a Brett Weston exhibit where all the images were contact-printed from his negatives. I'm nowhere near as good, but it gives me something to aspire to.
    Here's my 2D after a cleanup and overhaul, I didn't really refinish or restore it, just wanted it to look nice and be fully functional.

    Click image for larger version. 

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  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jun 2017
    Corvallis, OR

    Re: Wet Plate 8x10

    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    How hard is it to go from 5x7 to 8x10, other than the additional expense? Any advice?

    Kent in SD
    Personally, I found a conspicuous increase in the level of difficulty when going from 5X7 up to 8X10: getting a good pour when working out in the environment (IE: out of the back of the car) becomes much more challenging. A lot depends on the size and capacity of your portable darkroom. If you opt to start working on glass, the real challenge there is getting the glass perfectly clean to get good adhesion of the collodion. It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare glass for making negs or ambrotypes, and you have to get very good at it. If you've been working on "trophy plate" aluminum, you are going to find when using glass, the leap in quality of the images is conspicuous. Trophy plate has a very poor "D max" black compared to asphaltum (or a quality acrylic black paint, for that matter), and you'll see the difference right away. These days, I put a coat of Japan on top of my trophy plate to get a much better image.
    That said, it looks like you are very capable of taking the next step up in size, so judging by your excellent results so far, I'd say you're up for the challenge. You seem to be aware that your materials costs will go up a lot, so I think you are cognizant of that consideration.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Jun 2019

    Re: Wet Plate 8x10

    Hello Kent:
    I have been using a 4X5 wet plate camera made my Mark Voce ( that has a plate holder and swing back for about a year now. He is currently building me an 8X10. Definitly strong enough to hold heavy lenses and the tail back still folds to reduce volume. Some movements can be optionally added to the camera when it is built. When I have used 8X10 trophy metal plates before, I did not have any issues. For glass negatives, I have been using J Lane dry plates in my Chamonix 8X10, not being ready to deal with the additional challenges associated with ambrotypes (my plan is to start using asphaltum as my next challenge; I like Paul's suggestion to coat the trophy aluminum).

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