Fiber-Base Print Processing Sequence
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July 15, 1998
By means of a single tray (please see the article about the single - tray method of print processing elsewhere on this website) placed on a low stand (about 6 to 8 inches) and a group of wide - mouth containers in my processing sink, I use the following sequence for FB print making:

UNDER SAFELIGHT:

  1. Move dry sheet from its box to enlarger. Handle with clean, dry fingers, at edges only.
  2. Move dry sheet to empty (dry or wet) tray. Handle with clean, dry fingers.
  3. Pour developer into tray. Agitate as usual by rocking tray. Pour developer back into its container at end of development time. Recently I have been using the Ansco 120 formula for print developer, diluted 1+2 with distilled water, for a 3 minute development time. This developer yields a soft print with a long tonal scale. It is suitable for very rich results in selenium toner at 1+5 dilution.
  4. Rinse sheet by pouring plain water into tray. Agitate and be sure to cause water to go *under* sheet as well. Pour water off and repeat. Describing how to be sure the water goes under the sheet is like talking about how to tie shoelaces. A few minutes spent rocking the tray and observing the 'wave' and how it ripples back and forth will teach anyone how to make sure the rinse or particular solution (like hypo clear) gets under the sheet.
  5. Pour stop bath into tray. Stop bath is absolutely odorless citric acid bath, 15 grams per liter. Agitate and be sure stop goes under sheet as well. Return stop to container.
  6. Rinse sheet two or three times as in step 4.
  7. Pour Fix1 (first fix) into tray and agitate 3 to 5 minutes. Both fixers are the (cheap, easily prepared and absolutely odorless) "plain fixer" described in Ansel Adams, "The Print." Also please see the article on "Plain Fixer" elsewhere on this website. White light may be turned on after 90 seconds to two minutes. Return Fix1 to its container.
 

UNDER WHITE LIGHT:

  1. Pour Fix2 into tray and agitate 3 to 5 minutes. No rinse between fixes. Return Fix2 to its container.
  2. Pour selenium toner into tray. NOTE: no rinse between Fix2 and toner. Agitate for requisite time. Return toner to its container. Lately I have been using selenium toner mixed 1+5 with distilled water, for 10 minutes on Ilford MGW paper ("Warmtone"). I often use it at 30 to 34 Celsius. Although many darkroom workers pile their prints up in a holding tray and tone them all together, I prefer to do each one separately. I find 'shuffling' a stack of large prints (frequently 16x20 or 20x24 in my case) very unpleasant. Also, I touch the face of the print with absolutely nothing, including the gloves people often use when shuffling prints.
  3. Rinse print two or three times, pouring off rinse water each time. Agitate print in each rinse being sure water goes under the sheet. Pour off last rinse water.
  4. Pour first hypo clear (2% sodium sulfite solution, used for one session only) into tray. Agitate 3 minutes or more being sure solution goes under the sheet. Return first hypo clear to its container.
  5. Pour second hypo clear (2% sodium sulfite solution) into tray. Agitate 3 minutes or more being sure solution goes under the sheet. Return second hypo clear to its container.

    Note re Hypo Clear: If a quantity of sodium sulfite is purchased in bulk (usually sold in 25 kilogram bags) the price per gram is very low. Commercial hypo clearing products are mainly sodium sulfite. I prefer to dissolve one tablespoon (a little over 20 grams with my tablespoon) of sodium sulfite per liter of hypo clearing bath. It dissolves easily and quickly, so I simply do it for each printing session. I use it only for one session, so my hypo clearing baths are always fresh. I use a double hypo clear for the same reasons as the double fixing bath. The first does most of the work, and the second is extremely effective in completing the job. I find the anhydrous form is the best to buy in terms of price per gram of sulfite itself and in terms of ease of use in the darkroom. (It dissolves easily at room temperature.)
  6. Rinse print two or three times, pouring off rinse water each time. Agitate print in each rinse being sure water goes under the sheet. Pour off last rinse water.
  7. Lift print carefully with clean fingers and place in print washer.

    Clean the tray before starting next print. Run plain rinse water over top edges of tray and down inside walls, and dump. Then tilt tray and pour rinse water down sloping tray interior. Dump and repeat until you are satisfied. Drain excess water. There is no need to dry the tray. The next print can be placed into the wet tray with no ill effect. The length of time between placing the fresh sheet into the wet tray and pouring on the developer need not be more than a few seconds.

    Dry the top edges of the tray (where your hands touch the tray!) with a bit of paper towel (or, for real cheapskates like me, a square of toilet paper.)

    Make as many prints as desired, or enough to fill print washer. Prints may be washed immediately or wait overnight, or up to 24 hours.

    Please note that my prints are never hardened (there is no hardener or associated chemicals in my fixer). Some people feel prints made without hardener and washed in warm water are prone to damage because the emulsion may soften. I have never experienced any ill effects of going without hardener. It is extremely easy to be meticulous and gentle with prints.

  8. Turn on print washer and wash prints 90 minutes. Water temperature must be no lower than 20C (68F), temperature in 75F to 80F range may be best. Inspect prints from time to time (ten to fifteen minute intervals). Lift from washer and replace if print surfaces are covered with bubbles. Be absolutely certain your hands are clean.
  9. Lift prints from washer with plastic clips that have copper or plastic loops to go over line. Hang prints by their clips from a stiff line (ordinary string or rope line sags too much). Hang large prints from both top corners, 11x14s and smaller prints from one corner.
  10. Using a squirt bottle (the kind of bottle used to package soft drinks, with a 'nipple' closure fitting), run distilled water down both sides of the print. If the floor must be protected use a bucket on top of newspaper or rags.
  11. Allow the prints to dry undisturbed. Room humidity must be 'not too dry, not too wet'. (Human comfort range is ideal.) Turn off sources of air movement such as fans and heaters. If protecting the wet prints from dust (or keeping a bit of humidity close to them while they dry) is necessary, it is simple to create a 'tent' of plastic. Cut up several green plastic garbage bags and tape them to the ceiling above the hanging prints, and let them hang down surrounding the prints. A second row can be taped to the bottom edges of the first to make a deeper tent. A more permanent version of the plastic tent can be made from four spring-loaded roller blinds. Cover them with plastic (use the 4 mil polyethylene available at hardware stores) and attach them to the ceiling in a rectangle surrounding the print drying area. Pulling them down encloses the prints completely. For very dry conditions, a humidifier could be placed under the tent.
 

NOTES:

  • This sequence involves almost no touching the print.
  • Touching the wet print occurs only going into and out of the print washer.
  • Tongs and gloves are eliminated.
  • No squeegee or print - drying screen touches the print.
  • Except for corners and edges, the face of the print is never touched at all.
  • The tray never has time for developer stains to build up (this does occur in developer container, which never touches the print).
  • Tray (not paper!) may have selenium toner deposits, but these are slow to build up and easily cleaned with laundry detergent and laundry (chlorine) bleach.
  • There is only one tray to keep clean.
  • By simply adding wide - mouth containers, additional developers can be used, or added at any time during a working session.
  • By simply replacing the single tray, sheet size can be changed at any time during a working session.
  • Different concentrations of selenium toner can be kept on hand during a working session.
  • Temperature of any solution can be maintained or altered by setting any container or containers in individual water baths.
  • Human skin receives no chemical exposure whatsoever.
Copyright Lloyd Erlick. All rights reserved.