Plate pouring perfected

Time will tell if it is in fact perfect but with lessons learned from the first session, my second plate pouring session went very well.

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Time will tell if it is in fact perfect but with lessons learned from the first session, my second plate pouring session went very well.

First time round I had poured with my left hand, holding the plate in my right then placing the coated plate into the drying tray laid out below the level of the worktop. I had used a shot glass as my pouring utensil, which itself failed to pour cleanly, and my hand obscured my view of the lip of the glass. My hands got very messy and slippery with spilled emulsion and this transferred to the undersides of the plates which subsequently stuck to the lining of the drying tray. I also wasted a lot of precious emulsion from not having a suitable container in which to collect the excess as it was flowed over the plates.

This time, I laid out my darkroom a little differently to allow for more space and a better workflow. I set up the worktop that I normally only set up when my enlarger is in use. The space it takes up restricts the space I have to move around but the extra bench space it gives allowed me to place in a row on the worktop: the unit with my drying trays, two darkroom trays side-by-side for water bathing and space for measures, thermometer, etc. and a big roll of paper towels for keping my hands clean. In the space below the worktop I placed a bucket for discarded paper towels and gloves. I have also purchased on eBay a plain ceramic invalid feeding cup. Its handle and spout should be far better suited to pouring emulsion than the shot glasses!

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The handle and spout of an invalid cup make all the difference to pouring!

The process of liquifying the emulsion was no different from before: simply heat it in its bottle for about twenty minutes by water bathing in a large ceramic mug of hot tap water (about 45ºC) and change the water in the mug regularly to maintain temperature.

Using darkroom trays and smaller flat-bottomed trays I set up two waterbaths, one for the invalid cup containing my emulsion and PhotoFlo mixture and the other for a wide-rimmed ceramic mug in which to catch the overflow from the plates as I poured them. The flat-bottomed trays let the utensils sit without risk of tipping over, as had happened last time with the shot glasses on the channels of the darkroom trays!

I also made a slight change to the proportions of SE1 Emulsion and PhotoFlo. My mixture this time consisted of 30ml SE1 plus 6ml PhotoFlo and with the water baths all maintained at 40ºC-45ºC it flowed well throughout the session. I made two batches, a total of 60ml SE1, and covered twelve 5″x4″ glass plates and twelve 75mmx25mm microscope slides with a little to spare.

My workflow this time was from right to left: Holding the invalid cup in my right hand and the glass plate in my left above the overflow mug, I was able to control the pour while having a good view of the emulsion exiting the spout. With the experience of the first session and the better workflow I felt quite comfortable with the pouring and didn’t experience any difficulties. The excess from each pour was easily caught in the overflow mug and maintained liquidity in the warmth of the water bath to be returned to the pouring cup for re-use. There was almost no waste and my gloved hands remained very much cleaner. All in all a very successful session.

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The waterbath layout. R to L: SE1 Emulsion liquifying in a large mug, invalid cup for pouring the emulsion mixture, wide-rimmed mug to catch the emulsion overflow subsequently returned to the invalid cup. This layout was set up on a worktop in the darkroom with drying trays in a unit further to the left. Being left-handed it suited me well!

I laid strips of wood like rails to support the poured plates in the drying trays. This is to avoid the issue of them sticking to the tray lining. The plates will be left to dry for two or three days before I inspect them and pack them away. I packed them last time after only one day but they were not fully dry which resulted in marks on the surface of the emulsion from the baking paper I used to separate them. I will ensure this batch are fully dry before packing but will still use baking paper to separate them.

Author: Donald Tainsh

A lifelong explorer of photography

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