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Thread: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

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    schafphoto's Avatar
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    Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    I thought this might be of interest to those people searching for markers to number negatives. I've used many pens doing Historic American Buildings Survey photography. The requirements for marking the rebate edge of the negatives for HABS is:

    Label each negative with the photograph number. Use a Rapidograph pen, or other archival pen
    designed for use on film that is permanent, smudgeproof, and waterproof. Print the number on
    the blank margin of the upper right corner along the edge of the film, as this corner will be
    closest to the negative sleeve opening. For negatives with no blank margin, write in the black
    margin; the printing can be read when tilted towards the light. Print on the base (shiny) side of
    the negative and not on the emulsion (dull) side so that the negative number reads correctly when
    the negative is scanned or printed. If the ink does not take to the negative base, carefully erase a
    portion of the border with a Staedtler Mars® plastic white vinyl eraser. This usually provides a
    surface that will take the ink.
    --
    This is from the latest (January 2020) HDP guidelines: https://www.nps.gov/hdp/standards/Transmittal.pdf

    That said, I hate using Rapidographs! I know some of you like to use them. In my hands, they clog and blotch and I end up with black fingers and smeared negatives because it's not an especially quick-drying approach. I have tried a lot of pens, and I have never needed to "erase a section of the negative to make the ink stick." Here are the pens that work the best for me, I'm interested in your experience too.


    Pens for HABS-HAER 4x5 film marking test
    by Stephen Schafer, on Flickr

    All of these pens (except the Sharpie) are considered archival "pigment" (and have similar ink to to the refillable Rapidograph engineering pens).These permanent pens qualify under the HABS guidelines because they are made with pigment-based not dye-based inks. I prefer the Faber-Castell ECCO 0.4mm tip and the Faber-Castell Pitt artist pen 'S' size. Staedtler Pigment Liner 0.4mm is also very good. The Staedtler Lumocolor F is not as dense but passable and bit fat for 4x5 negatives. The ZIG and Micron pens just don't have the density of black like the German pens, and they smear more for longer. I have rewashed negatives that were marked with the ECCO and PITT pens and they will wipe off while they are wet but are permanent after the film dries again; if you are careful not to smear the edge while washing. This can be handy if the negatives are incorrectly marked, the negs can be rewetted/rewashed, wiped clean, and remarked when dry... or you can be really careful and mark first and re-wash later.


    Sample HABS-HAER 4x5 film marking test
    by Stephen Schafer, on Flickr

    Here's the samples on an almost clear part of an extra HAER tunnel negative. You can get a good sense of the density differences and why a Sharpie Ultra Fine Point Black pen isn't acceptable. Bottom row is the ECCO pen "double hit" the first 4 words were overwritten after 30 seconds to increase the ink density.

    As you can see, the trick is to get a pen tip that is fine enough to write in the tiny film-notch margin area but is not too thick. With thickness comes ink density... but pen-tips over 0.5mm were too thick for my needs, I prefer 0.4mm. Note: Buy two, because I have had identical pens work well, and not so well, depending on their ink flow.


    Smear test for HABS-HAER pens
    by Stephen Schafer, on Flickr

    Each pen was used to mark the shiny (non emulsion side) of the negative and then my finger was wiped lightly across the ink at 5, 10 and 30 seconds. It was a warm day and all the pen markings should be left untouched for at least 10 seconds to avoid transfer and smears, but some inks are worse than others. All these were smear-free at 30 seconds.

    These archival guidelines matter to the Library of Congress since the negatives in the HABS/HAER/HALS collections are intended to have a life expectancy of 500 years, or until the sun explodes.
    We won't be around either way.

    -Schaf
    `
    –Stephen Schafer HABS | HAER | HALS & Architectural Photography | Ventura, California | www.HABSPHOTO.com

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    Re: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    Or,just use the Kaiser Fine Line pens which are permanent, dry instantly and write on any type of film or glass as well as paper, without smudging. Available from most better camera stores.

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    Re: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    As Schaf said, the Micron and Staedtler pigment liner pens work well for me on both 120 and LF film.

    A word of caution to those of you who might, in a moment of weakness, use a 35mm(!) camera - in my experience the Staedtler ink seems to dry very slowly on the 35mm film base. No problem with the Micron. I've encountered this with both Kodak and Ilford black-and-white films, so I'm always careful to use the Micron pen on 35mm.

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    Re: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    Roger,
    You weren’t on the Kaiser factory site. You were on the MAC Group site.
    Here is the pen:

    http://www.kaiser-fototechnik.de/en/...ge.asp?nr=2035

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    Re: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    Schaf, thanks for starting this thread.

    FWIW, I've been using that ZIG pigment pen to annotate the back of RC prints that I've toned for keeping, as pencil doesn't work well at all on the Ilford papers that I mostly use. As you say, it requires some time to dry before it's safe for handling, otherwise works well. But it's very helpful to see these other pigment options identified, and I'll be trying some of them.

    There is a non-pigment pen that, unlike the Sharpie, has been formulated with permanence in mind, and which I've been using successfully on RC inkjet prints - the Pilot Ultra Fine Point Permanent Type (SCA-UF). Perhaps that would work on film. But I think I'd still prefer one of the pigment pens for that application.

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    Re: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    I've been using a Staedtler pigment set for many years for negatives. The set contains tip sizes from 0.05 to 0.8; use mostly the 0.3 and 0.5 for film.

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    Re: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob Salomon View Post
    Roger,
    You weren’t on the Kaiser factory site. You were on the MAC Group site.
    Here is the pen:

    http://www.kaiser-fototechnik.de/en/...ge.asp?nr=2035
    I'll have to order a Kaiser CD pen and give it a try. Any idea if it is dye or pigment based? I can't find an MSDS sheet or anything specific except the Kaiser marketing materials.
    `
    –Stephen Schafer HABS | HAER | HALS & Architectural Photography | Ventura, California | www.HABSPHOTO.com

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    Re: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    Quote Originally Posted by schafphoto View Post
    I'll have to order a Kaiser CD pen and give it a try. Any idea if it is dye or pigment based? I can't find an MSDS sheet or anything specific except the Kaiser marketing materials.
    Check the Gaylord web site. I had that info years ago but have not been involved with them for 5 years now.

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    Re: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    This is terrific information, Schaf, thanks so much for doing this! I've had decent luck with the Rapidograph, but I think that I forgot to wash it after the last time, meaning that it is now most likely in rough shape, a costly mistake to make. The F-C or Staedtler pigment pens sound most promising to me.

    Thanks again,
    Bruce

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    Re: Pens for marking or numbering film negatives - HABS & HAER guidance 2020.

    Schaf, much appreciated! Thanks for taking the to do this.
    Philip Ulanowsky

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

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