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Thread: Contact Print Equip

  1. #1

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    Contact Print Equip

    Am beginning to slowly think about adding alt processes with a contact print frame. S-l-o-w-l-y starting in this direction 'cause I've been a confirmed and happy inkjet printer. So this is a complete new-to-me deal.
    I have 2 questions:

    1) Contact Print frame: If you buy one big enough to do what you might want later, can you use an oversize frame for smaller prints without a problem?
    2) Vacuum Print frames: Is this necessary? or does it become necessary at a certain size? I'm seeing plenty of folks do just fine with even VERY large contact frames without vacuum (or at least apparently without vacuum assistance). What pushes for the change of a vacuum assisted image registration? Delicacy of the paper?

    Thanks!

  2. #2

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    Re: Contact Print Equip

    1) You can make smaller prints in oversize frames.
    The pressure of the glass will keep the negative from moving.
    I find that really large frames are a PITA to work with though.
    And they are expensive.

    2) Flatness is what is desired, results are what matters.
    Try a piece of heavy glass first. Like the results? Don't like the results?
    Try a POP frame. Like the results? Don't like the results?
    Then try a vacuum.

    Personally, I find that simple works best for me but maybe not for you.
    Contact printing is like being the captain of your own Nile river barge.
    I've settled on a Printfile Proofer because it keeps my fingerprints off the glass and I know I won't drop it.
    For a light source I use a cheap $20 compact enlarger off eBay thats easy to store and lightweight so makes for an easy set up.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  3. #3

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    Re: Contact Print Equip

    John: Thanks! What size would you describe as "really large" ? And.... how common is it that folks inadvertently smash the glass? Fixable?

  4. #4

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    Re: Contact Print Equip

    Printing frames up to 12x15 are easy to handle, if they are well made and hinged in the middle. However for anything up to 8x10 I prefer a smaller frame. An 8x10 works well for me for everything up to that size. I have 11x14 and 12 x15 which i commonly use for 8x10 because I prefer a large border around my platinum and other alternative process prints.

  5. #5
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Contact Print Equip

    Take a gander at my post in the DIY forum about making a hold-down plate for ULF film on my scanner.

    I use the same basic P99 acrylic sheet for contact printing ULF. Some here have exclaimed it was a bad idea to use acrylic. Well, they can take a look at my prints if they like. Dust can be an issue just like any glass/plexi surface.

    Anyway, I use my plates for 8x10, 8x20 and now 12x20. 4x5 I use an 8x10 contact print holder that came with my enlarger since it's smaller and easier.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Portfolio
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  6. #6

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    Re: Contact Print Equip

    If you can find one, metal contact frames are preferable to wood, in my experience. If you do use wood, be sure it is the kind where the springs are held tight by sliding under metal washers, at least. There are some wood frames I've used where the springs slide directly under the lip of the wooden frame itself - these are the worst! The friction from sliding the springs under the wooden lip shaves off small bits of wood that inevitably get on the glass and mess up your print. The wood eventually becomes so worn away that that the springs won't hold under it anymore, so that's two problems they have. I don't see this design so much with new frames, but I've seen old ones like this.

    For prints up to 11x14, I use contact frames. For anything larger, I'd use heavy glass with weights. I did several 22x30 prints, and it was a challenge to get enough pressure to keep it evenly flat across the surface, especially with gum prints that have had multiple layers already printed on them. A vacuum frame would be a good thing to have for those cases, though for small prints it seems an extravagance.
    For the smaller prints, I've had very satisfying results sandwiching between two sheets of glass and clamping with large binder clips. This has actually worked better than using a crummy worn out frame. My point is, if you can't find a nice frame, I'd recommend using clamped glass sandwich over a junky frame. Junky frames are more trouble than they're worth! Only problem with the clamped glass sandwich is that it's difficult to realize a drop-back, but if you need that feature (ie; if you're doing printing out techniques like salt), it can still be accomplished, just need to be sure the negative and paper are held firmly in place (tape works fine) so you don't lose registration when opening.

    Acrylic is a no-go for alt processes that require UV. Same goes for fancy "museum" glass. Need to use the cheapest glass with no anti-UV properties.

    My current print setup is a large 20w UV LED in the 390nm range, mounted to a heatsink and controlled by a basic Gralab timer. I hang it about 11 inches above the workspace (Edward Weston style!!!) and it covers an 8x10 easily. If I need more coverage, I can move it a bit higher. Printing times are pretty fast; average less than 5 minutes for a gum print. Haven't tried doing large prints with this yet, but I don't see why it wouldn't work, just need longer print times. I wear UV blocking safety glasses and usually leave the room while it prints.

  7. #7

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    Re: Contact Print Equip

    Quote Originally Posted by roscoetuff-Skip Mersereau View Post
    And.... how common is it that folks inadvertently smash the glass? Fixable?
    Pretty common to see old ones with broken glass; can be a good way to get one for cheap. Just be sure it's not totally worn out.
    Replacing the glass is as easy as replacing the glass in any cheap picture frame; get a piece the correct size and drop it in place! Easy to find precut glass in the common sizes used in frames. See my above comment about what glass to avoid

  8. #8
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Contact Print Equip

    Quote Originally Posted by martiansea View Post
    Acrylic is a no-go for alt processes that require UV. Same goes for fancy "museum" glass. Need to use the cheapest glass with no anti-UV properties.
    Thanks for posting this. I had not heard of this, so I looked it up.

    Generic acrylic, including acrylic with a P99 texture, can pass UV-A and UV-B light, but block UV-C. UV-C is very low wavelength and not generally used for alt processes.

    OP-3 acrylic is UV blocking and cuts ALL of the above wavelengths.

    In conclusion, general-purpose acrylic (not sold as UV blocking) should work just fine with alternative process printing. Same goes for glass, as stated. I mentioned P99 acrylic specifically because the texture prevents Newton Rings, which I find troublesome for both traditional and alt processes (and scanning!).
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Portfolio
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

  9. #9

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    Re: Contact Print Equip

    Corran: I have to say, "Ditto to the acrylic", but there's also the rigidity issue it might have to solve. Where are you finding P99 Acrylic? Anywhere special?

  10. #10
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Contact Print Equip

    I order from TAP Plastics:
    https://www.tapplastics.com/acrylic_...on_glare_clear

    Metal bars for "handles" also act as nice weights to hold it down. I haven't noticed any issues. I use the 1/8" thickness btw.
    Bryan | Blog | YouTube | Instagram | Portfolio
    All comments and thoughtful critique welcome

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