Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Fun With Wet Plate Chenistry

Gosh, this is going to be interesting! Lets go over my adventures today in wet plate chemistry/ First thing I noticed, I needed to think a lot!! In my regular darkroom work which I have been doing for 30 plus years everything flows fluidly and relatively easily Today thou with this new wet plate stuff, confusion rained, could not find tools, found tools, dropped tools, poured in this when I should have poured in that! It when on and on like that all morning.

The main issue of the day came up when I tried to read the PH of my old Bostick and Sullivan silver nitrate bath I figured out and did the specific gravity for the bath right adding some silver to make it 9% but when I checked the PH it said 8.2. What? It is supposed to be around 4 for positive ambrotypes/tintypes. So following my limited training I added some Nitric acid to lower the PH number. But instead of going down it went up! Dazed and confused I continued to add Nitric acid and the number continued to climb. What the f-ck!! In desperation I sent out a call to my new online collodion friends and was told I needed to calibrate the meter. Duh!! I thought it was already set up. With some effort I was able to do that. Then I rechecked my silver nitrate PH which was 2.5....F-CK!!  I ran back to YouTube and dug out a video Borut Penterlin made about boiling your silver bath. In the video he screwed up his bath by adding too much Nitric acid just like I did. His fix was to put in baking soda (make it more alkiline?) to bring up the PH. You then measure the PH and when it is 4 you sun the white gooey mess. When I added the baking soda the PH went back up to 4.2. I now have it sitting outside in a beaker with paper towel to stop the bugs from going swimming. I am hoping the bath will eventually clear as Borut promised. It might take several days to do that.

So that is the bad part. The good is that I made up a second brand new bath of silver nitrate. I was able to use the gravity meter to get a 9% solution. The PH was right around 4 (4.2) which was good. I then made up some vinegar based iron developer, that went well. I am soaking a aluminum plate with collodion on it which you need to do with a fresh silver bath, forget what that is called. I also adapted the Graphic 1234 holder (kinda) to hold a 4x5 aluminum plate.

A confusing day, but a learning day. Lots yet to lean before I start making the 35x35 inch plates! This folks is going to be INTERESTING!