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Thread: Sensitizing box vs tray, and cadmium vs lithium?

  1. #1

    Join Date
    Jul 2017

    Question Sensitizing box vs tray, and cadmium vs lithium?

    I've been looking at wet plate again. Thinking about finally starting to order some of the staple items so I can finally make progress on working up to giving it a go. Among the first things is the sensitizing box. I assumed nearly everyone uses a box but while scouring videos and info, I see a few folks using a tray? I would have thought the box is "safer" (but I guess safe is relative depending on the other chemicals some folks may opt to use, and as well that most of the chemicals are explosive...) but I was curious as to the thoughts there. The sensitizing boxes seem to be rather expensive for what they are. I'm sure I could make my own but not sure I could do a better job than just buying one for the time tradeoff and folks that sell boxes already know what they are doing But it, as well as a holder, seem to be the two biggest cost points to getting things going.

    Secondarily, I had planned to use lithium-based collodion. It seems folks like UVP have pre-made ones that are listed as "fast" which is a nice bonus (UVP3). It seems most lithium collodions do not last as long but I think that's an ok trade-off to avoid the cadmium. When I was looking into all this before, I was able to find good info on the differences between cadmium and lithium-based collodion but haven't been able to find those again. I do have a collodion book around here somewhere which I think explains it. I'm not sure where I put it so I'll need to start tearing the house apart to look for it.... in the meantime, any quick takeaways I should be aware of?

    I wanted to avoid both cadmium and potassium-cyanide. I know those opinions are far reaching, but for now those are boundaries I have given myself especially for if/when I start mixing my own collodion from scratch. I actually rather like the cooler more neutral tones anyway.

    The main concern was speed. I'm used to J Lane dry plates which I usually expose around 1 ISO which seems to be the "faster" of the collodion speeds?

    As an aside, J Lane's plates are lovely! And I do plan on continuing to use those. I was mostly looking at tintype portraits for wet plate where I can shoot them here at home and develop in my darkroom shed or where I can eventually have a portable darkroom. I'll continue to use dry plates for landscape and when traveling where I just don't want to (or can't) tote around a portable darkroom. In fact I find dry plates are certainly safer but they dramatically extend the time it takes to iterate (which can also be costly when buying pre-made plates). This was one issue that has kept me from exploring ambrotypes more on the dry-plate side.

  2. #2

    Join Date
    Sep 2007

    Re: Sensitizing box vs tray, and cadmium vs lithium?

    Different collodion recipes can be faster or slower. I can't remember which is fastest, but if you do your research you should be able to see. I used Old Workhorse (with cad) and when fresh it could be shot at least 1 ISO. I'd get about a 3 second exposure at mid day at about F8. You needed a shutter if you opened up your lens more. It slows down every week or two. By a month, it is about half the speed it was the first week.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Jul 2017

    Re: Sensitizing box vs tray, and cadmium vs lithium?

    Thanks for the info! I ended up giving UVP3 a go and was getting about 1 ISO albeit with a coated lens (which at the time I forgot might block UV). I ordered it in two parts and only mixed up a small batch. It's now a few weeks old so I expect it will be quite a bit slower as it is known to age quickly. It'll be a few weeks yet before I can do more wet plate.

    I ended up using trays and it worked out though I'm getting scum on my plate during development which doesn't clear in the fix. I have to lightly wipe it off in the wash. Kinda ruins part of the fun of wet-plate and need to troubleshoot what's going on there. Guessing contaminants from the trays maybe. I bought the silver bath premixed but have bought a hydrometer and will be getting grain alcohol and silver crystals just to have some on hand and then look at sunning the existing bath.

    A traveling tank is definitely in my future...

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