Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 15

Thread: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    AZ
    Posts
    4,329

    Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    One of the common concerns that wetplate collodion photographers have is how long will their plates last, with various varnishes. Most prefer a varnish that is very long lasting, or archival quality. In 2009 I started an experiment as to the archival quality of Sandarac varnish, that is still ongoing, as of 2020.

    Many modern, synthetic materials have been tried, that seem to work well in the short term. Acrylic Polymers such as made by Liquitex are often used. What we know is that in the past, when ambrotypes and tintypes were a new process, photographers used natural varnishes. These are made from materials such as Sandarac, Shellac, or other hard lacquers dissolved in a solvent. These original plates often have survived 150 years and are in excellent condition. Most are stored in Union Cases, or framed though.

    My question was how long will Sandarac varnish last in a moderately harsh outdoor environment? I did not compare it to another plate with Liquitex, unfortunately.

    The formula was out of Coffer's Doer's Guide, and consists of Sandarac crystals, Everclear ethanol alcohol, and Lavender Oil.

    I shot this plate and varnished it in 2009. Somewhere on this forum I think I have it posted. Also here. This is how the plate looked in 2009, freshly varnished:



    I affixed the plate to my front door. There is an overhang, and little direct sun hits the plate, except in the morning, at an acute oblique angle. It hasn't been touched other than moved slightly a few times, in 11 years. The temperature fluctuates between the high 20s in the winter to 107 degrees in the summer. There are frequent rain and dust storms that blast the area. For all intents and purposes, there is no damage or fading of the plate or varnish.


  2. #2
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    5,360

    Re: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    Great to know, Garrett.
    Mark Sawyer posted somewhere else here recently where he described Sandarac varnish as being "harsh".
    I wanted to follow up and ask what makes it a harsh varnish, and what are the alternatives.
    Sandarac has been in use for a long time, and seems to be the go-to varnish. The B&S kit includes it as well.

  3. #3
    Foamer
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    South Dakota
    Posts
    2,030

    Re: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    The original formulas used a lot of shellac.


    Kent in SD
    Qui sedes ad dexteram Patris,
    miserere nobis.

  4. #4

    Re: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    Quote Originally Posted by Ari View Post
    Great to know, Garrett.
    Mark Sawyer posted somewhere else here recently where he described Sandarac varnish as being "harsh".
    I wanted to follow up and ask what makes it a harsh varnish, and what are the alternatives.
    Sandarac has been in use for a long time, and seems to be the go-to varnish. The B&S kit includes it as well.
    "Harsh"?? I wonder what he meant by that.
    Sandarac is a bit more difficult to use than Shellac, but once you get the technique down, its a fantastic finish. I highly recommend getting a dedicated toaster oven and do the baking of the varnish for about 3 minutes at 200F - you will get a clean mirror finish unlike anything you can achieve with an alcohol lamp. Small plates (5x7 and smaller) can be done easily with a lamp, but 8x10s benefit immensely from baking in a toaster.

  5. #5

    Join Date
    Sep 2007
    Location
    AZ
    Posts
    4,329

    Re: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    One risk of Sandarac is that it uses a lot of alcohol. If your base collodion was "old" it is weaker than fresh stuff. Also, mixed collodion get's weaker as it ages too, probably because of the same problem of it's component collodion aging. You will know it's weak if you try to rub the developed image with your finger or a cotton ball and it tears. When fresh, you can rub pretty hard to get the oysters off.

    What happens in these worse case scenarios is the varnish will "melt" the image. You pour the varnish over a plate as always, pool it around for a few seconds, and as you tilt the plate to drain it off, the image gets ruined as it all melts together. Usually only with collodion that is over 6 months old, if not stored in a cold place, or even 1 year if it is. For that reason, I use Liquitex for older chemistry.

  6. #6
    Tin Can's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Posts
    13,971

    Re: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    Noted, good advice
    sin eater

  7. #7
    Unwitting Thread Killer Ari's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Ottawa, Canada
    Posts
    5,360

    Re: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    Quote Originally Posted by paulbarden View Post
    "Harsh"?? I wonder what he meant by that.
    Sandarac is a bit more difficult to use than Shellac, but once you get the technique down, its a fantastic finish.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mark Sawyer View Post
    I scan with the lid open, largely because I prefer a black background around the edge. It's also customary to scan before varnishing to avoid dust/flaws in the varnish, a soft varnish sticking to the glass,(dry unvarnished plates won't), and, if you're using Sandarac or other harsh varnish, potential partial or total loss of the image.
    I can only think he meant it in relation to scanning a plate, which is where his comment appeared.

  8. #8

    Re: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    Quote Originally Posted by Ari View Post
    I can only think he meant it in relation to scanning a plate, which is where his comment appeared.
    Ahh, now I understand. He's talking about the possibility of ruining a plate with varnish if the collodion is old. As Garrett states above, if the collodion has aged to a certain point, it becomes much more fragile and is liable to dissolve when varnish is applied to its surface. I've seen it happen a couple of times when testing VERY old collodion: you pour the Sandarac on and within a few seconds, the image starts to blur and slide around the plate. Its an alarming thing to witness. But in this case, I made the plate specifically to test the state of the collodion before making plates that mattered. Since it failed the varnish test, it was discarded as too decomposed.

  9. #9
    bob carnie's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2004
    Location
    Toronto, Ontario,
    Posts
    4,567

    Re: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    Quote Originally Posted by goamules View Post
    One of the common concerns that wetplate collodion photographers have is how long will their plates last, with various varnishes. Most prefer a varnish that is very long lasting, or archival quality. In 2009 I started an experiment as to the archival quality of Sandarac varnish, that is still ongoing, as of 2020.

    Many modern, synthetic materials have been tried, that seem to work well in the short term. Acrylic Polymers such as made by Liquitex are often used. What we know is that in the past, when ambrotypes and tintypes were a new process, photographers used natural varnishes. These are made from materials such as Sandarac, Shellac, or other hard lacquers dissolved in a solvent. These original plates often have survived 150 years and are in excellent condition. Most are stored in Union Cases, or framed though.

    My question was how long will Sandarac varnish last in a moderately harsh outdoor environment? I did not compare it to another plate with Liquitex, unfortunately.

    The formula was out of Coffer's Doer's Guide, and consists of Sandarac crystals, Everclear ethanol alcohol, and Lavender Oil.

    I shot this plate and varnished it in 2009. Somewhere on this forum I think I have it posted. Also here. This is how the plate looked in 2009, freshly varnished:



    I affixed the plate to my front door. There is an overhang, and little direct sun hits the plate, except in the morning, at an acute oblique angle. It hasn't been touched other than moved slightly a few times, in 11 years. The temperature fluctuates between the high 20s in the winter to 107 degrees in the summer. There are frequent rain and dust storms that blast the area. For all intents and purposes, there is no damage or fading of the plate or varnish.

    Ok so the first image which is warm and golden and the second image is quite desaturated... I am a bit confused

  10. #10
    Vaughn's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Humboldt County, CA
    Posts
    7,628

    Re: Archival Properties of Varnishes used in Wetplate

    Just photoshop differences, I think -- I see no fading or surface defects.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

Similar Threads

  1. Replies: 5
    Last Post: 3-Jan-2014, 14:43
  2. Digital Lens Properties
    By Nathan Potter in forum Lenses & Lens Accessories
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 23-Feb-2009, 23:07
  3. Archival properties of tradional paper stock.
    By Steven Barall in forum Darkroom: Film, Processing & Printing
    Replies: 3
    Last Post: 23-Oct-2005, 14:32
  4. Vac-U-Mount Properties
    By wfwhitaker in forum Business
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: 20-Apr-2004, 16:02

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •