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Thread: Wet Plate Beginner's Questions Thread

  1. #1

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    Wet Plate Beginner's Questions Thread

    I thought it might be a good idea to start a thread for those of us just getting started with wet plate - I've got lots of little questions that keep coming up and don't want to clog up this whole subforum with them! Hoping this will become a resource for people interested in trying wet plate or starting out, and that some experienced members will also populate the thread and share their wisdom

    This morning I was preparing the sandarac varnish and a few questions arose:
    • I seem to only get about ~20mL of the sandarac/alcohol mixture through a coffee filter before it effectively stops letting anything through. Is this unavoidable, or is there a better type of filtration I should use? It took quite a while (and quite a lot of filters!).
    • My recipe calls for 220mL ethanol and 38g of gum sandarac. Now that I've dissolved the gum and filtered everything, I'm left with just shy of 200mL, due to absorbtion from the filters and spillage. The next step is to add 22ml lavender oil and 4ml distilled water; my gut instinct is to do just that, but was wondering if I should reduce those slightly to compensate for the loss of the ethanol/sandarac solution?
    • I've got it in a nice clear lab bottle for now, but was thinking of moving it to an old glass pomegranate syrup bottle with a cork stopper I had laying around. In addition to freeing up the lab bottle, the syrup bottle is just the right size for the quantity I've made, and has a cool "Old World" look, not to mention a nice little spout for pouring. Any concerns with a cork stopper or would I be fine to use it for my varnish? It is quite a dark green class, so hard to tell the colour of the varnish or if there are any impurities in it, if that matters for anything down the road.
    • Is there a recommended way to clean the alcohol/sandarac residue off of glass? Found it very resistant to coming off.


    I was also doing a test fit of some of the aluminium trophy plates I ordered and had a few questions there. The retailer indicated they were thin enough to be used without having to cut or modify the film holder, which is true. Like the other plates I've seen in videos, the actual dimensions are a little different than a standard 4x5 piece of sheet film, so it doesn't necessarily go under the rails that keep sheet film in place as it's not quite wide enough. On the other hand, it's ever so slightly longer than the exposed part. This seems to keep it more or less in place when the loading flap is shut, although giving it a firm whack does jostle it out of place.

    • Does anyone else shoot like this? Anything to I should be doing as far as technique, etc? I will be modifying a film holder for ambrotypes anyways, so not married to the idea.
    • I have a line on the trophy supplier whom the retailer buys from - they advertise being able to cut to spec, so I could potentially buy ones that fit the holder more exactly (be held in place by the film rails). Does anyone use plates wide enough to fit under the film rails of the holder? Any pros/cons to that method? I'm thinking the scratches they'd put in the emulsion would be a potential reason not to do it.


    Plenty more to come, I'm sure!

  2. #2
    Foamer
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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner's Questions Thread

    I'll pass on the varnish questions but will discuss the holder. It sounds like you are trying to use a film holder. My thinking is this will gum up eventually and is not the way to go. What I suggest is buying a dedicated wet plate holder. The cheapest one for 4x5 I've found is from Lund, but I see you live at the end of the earth so shipping might be quite a bit, plus the shipping time. If you go the route of converting a holder then yes, you can cut to any dimension. I suggest using one of those heavy duty "guillotine" paper cutters.


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

  3. #3

    Re: Wet Plate Beginner's Questions Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by ethics_gradient View Post
    I seem to only get about ~20mL of the sandarac/alcohol mixture through a coffee filter before it effectively stops letting anything through. Is this unavoidable, or is there a better type of filtration I should use? It took quite a while (and quite a lot of filters!).
    In my experience it is best to decant the varnish before filtering. I throw everything into a mason jar and shake it everytime I walk by for a few days. Then I let it sit for a few more days until all the bugs, sticks, and dirt is settled on the bottom of the jar. You can either carefully pour it into a coffee filter or better, suck it up from the top and drop into the filter (I use a disposable 5ml pipette). I think it takes two filters to get through the 250ml I typically make. If you pull the filter up off the bottom of the funnel so contact is minimal it helps the flow a bit. Typically I filter at least twice. First round with cheap coffee filters. Wait a day, decant and filter with more expensive filters.

  4. #4

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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner's Questions Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by Two23 View Post
    I'll pass on the varnish questions but will discuss the holder. It sounds like you are trying to use a film holder. My thinking is this will gum up eventually and is not the way to go. What I suggest is buying a dedicated wet plate holder. The cheapest one for 4x5 I've found is from Lund, but I see you live at the end of the earth so shipping might be quite a bit, plus the shipping time. If you go the route of converting a holder then yes, you can cut to any dimension. I suggest using one of those heavy duty "guillotine" paper cutters.


    Kent in SD
    Thanks, Kent! My understanding is that it's fairly common to use converted 4x5 holders - what advantages as far as cleanliness do the dedicated ones have?

    We do have some of those guillotine type cutters at work so I may try ordering larger sheets and cutting my own if it's much cheaper.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jason Greenberg Motamedi View Post
    In my experience it is best to decant the varnish before filtering. I throw everything into a mason jar and shake it everytime I walk by for a few days. Then I let it sit for a few more days until all the bugs, sticks, and dirt is settled on the bottom of the jar. You can either carefully pour it into a coffee filter or better, suck it up from the top and drop into the filter (I use a disposable 5ml pipette). I think it takes two filters to get through the 250ml I typically make. If you pull the filter up off the bottom of the funnel so contact is minimal it helps the flow a bit. Typically I filter at least twice. First round with cheap coffee filters. Wait a day, decant and filter with more expensive filters.
    I happened to wind up doing a similar process: I kept it by the computer and gave it a good shake every now and then yesterday, then let it sit overnight. Pretty much everything had settled to the bottom by the morning, but I dumped everything into a Pyrex measuring cup then filtered - wound up doing two filtering runs as well. I'm quite happy with the clarity of the finished product, but next time I'll be more careful to try and keep the dregs out of the initial decanting, even if it costs me some volume. What are the more expensive types of filters that you use?

  5. #5
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    Re: Wet Plate Beginner's Questions Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by ethics_gradient View Post
    Thanks, Kent! My understanding is that it's fairly common to use converted 4x5 holders - what advantages as far as cleanliness do the dedicated ones have?

    We do have some of those guillotine type cutters at work so I may try ordering larger sheets and cutting my own if it's much cheaper.



    I happened to wind up doing a similar process: I kept it by the computer and gave it a good shake every now and then yesterday, then let it sit overnight. Pretty much everything had settled to the bottom by the morning, but I dumped everything into a Pyrex measuring cup then filtered - wound up doing two filtering runs as well. I'm quite happy with the clarity of the finished product, but next time I'll be more careful to try and keep the dregs out of the initial decanting, even if it costs me some volume. What are the more expensive types of filters that you use?

    The dedicated holders are easier to clean, and that's important. If gunk builds up along the edges it tends to migrate back onto the next plate. This causes flaws. The dedicated holders are also easier to use than your current method. Chamonix makes a very nice holder and they can ship from China. Theirs too are "film size" and not true 4x5 inch.


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

  6. #6

    Re: Wet Plate Beginner's Questions Thread

    Quote Originally Posted by ethics_gradient View Post
    What are the more expensive types of filters that you use?
    I use medium-speed filter paper from a local lab supply. I have quantitative filters (as opposed to qualitative) but I don't think this matters.

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