Going big on the cheap - Any advice?

Discussion in 'Wet and Dry Hybrid prints' started by R Shaffer, Mar 10, 2011.

  1. R Shaffer

    R Shaffer Member

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    So I have decided I want to try and make some big prints, but on a budget. I would like to print 17" x 22" negatives initially as that is the biggest I print with my Epson 3800. I'm thinking gum & cyanotype, maybe kallitypes later.

    My simple plan is to use the sun for UV.
    I ordered a 24" x 36" X 1/4" clear glass.
    I'll cut a 24 x 36 x 3/4" MDF backboard.
    Arista OHP 17 x 22
    Mortar Mixing trough from Home Depot as tray.

    So do any of you with experience in big prints have any advice for me? Coating, handling exposing, ect

    TIA
     
  2. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    An inexpensive face-tanning unit would give you a more consistent source of UV.
     
  3. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    Hi Rob

    The largest size prints i have done was a cyanotype and a kallitype print @ 34x27 inches (see attached images). I would personally not rely on the sun for exposure. Make a table from mdf and underneath you could place 14 4ft BLB tubes. Before I had a large 40x30inch vacuum frame I tried heavy plate glass, the results were not satisfactory. Because your layering down a lot of sensitizer (around 20ml for that size) the paper I used buckled heavily and requires a significant amount of pressure to expose properly i.e a vaccume frame, otherwise you will get areas of the image that are sharp and some areas that are blurred due to not enough pressure.

    Obviously give it a try with heavy plate glass you results may vary from mine, however i would try and be on the look out for a larger vaccum frame.
     

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  4. jkschreiber

    jkschreiber Member

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    Hi Rob,

    You may want a piece of foam between the glass and MDF. Poor contact will likely be your biggest problem. I don't often print that large, but when I did some 16x21-ish Palladiums for a client a year or so ago I could not get good contact with a junky old 20x24 frame that someone had given me a while back. Dana at B&S kindly loaned me one of their (slightly larger than) 20x24 frames which worked perfectly. I later got one custom-made 20x30 which can handle my largest needs. I do know that Stuart Melvin used to use a homemade setup like you are talking of successfully on even larger pieces. If I remember right, he used pony clamps all around the edges.

    Also a while back when I was making 10x24 and 8x30 panoramic triptychs, I used a couple of those under-the-bed storage containers as trays. One for the processing, using buckets for the various chems - the print stays in the one tray while you dump and fill to and from the buckets. Another, with a bunch of small holes drilled along the bottom of one edge, for washing. It makes working large fairly easy if you don't have a lot of sink and/or counter space.

    Working that large with gum should be fairly easy. Cyanotype will be good practice for coating other thin solution processes. It can be tricky figuring out how much solution to use for those processes like Pt/Pd where you have to measure it out in advance. Absorbency of the paper can be quite variable and differences that are almost insignificant for small prints can be substantial for large ones. My notes indicate that I was using 8-10ml for 240 sq inches brush coated on Platine or Crane's Cover.

    And I gotta wonder if Ralph was making a joke. :wink: I seriously doubt a face-tanning lamp would give an even exposure for anything over 4x5 or 5x7. There does seem to be some ineffable sort of quality to sun-exposed prints that artificial UV sources seem to lack. Or maybe I'm dreaming.

    ~ Keith
     
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  5. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Davec

    Great images!
     
  6. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Keith

    No joke. I use a board, mounted to the wall, to which I can clamp the paper behind a piece of glass. The face-tanning unit is about 4 feet away, directly facing the board. It works just fine, no uneven exposure as far as I can tell. At that distance there is even illumination.
     
  7. PVia

    PVia Member

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    I don't know if Santa Cruz is like Pasadena, but here it is entirely possible to print consistently with sunlight for at least 8-9 months of the year. During that time there are no clouds, nada, zip and the sun is an intense minimum of 7-8 on the UV scale for at least 4-5 hours minimum per day.
     
  8. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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  9. iansand

    iansand Member

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    I don't see any problems using the method you have indicated, I would stick a layer of foam on to your MDF as suggested, I worked this way on my initial big prints. Perhaps run some sand paper on the edges of the glass so you don't cut yourself. I would use a UV sun bed as an exposure unit for lots of reasons. If you could sit the glass in a frame with hinges (just like a basic silkscreen unit) it would be even better. Glass that size and thickness is very heavy and risky to use. One of the problems with the sun is that it heats up the dark parts of your neg which can make it buckle. I now stick my paper on to aluminum. Where I live the humidity can change causing the paper to stretch and contract, making it more difficult to register subsequent colors. If the paper has shrunk, you can damp the back of it with a sponge and that with solve the problem.
    A vacuum bed is really the best way to go. Over here they are difficult to find second hand and not cheap. I ended up with one that is way too big but it was relatively inexpensive.

    Have fun

    Ian
     
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    R Shaffer

    R Shaffer Member

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    Dave

    As usual those are gorgeous prints. My dream dim room will have a set-up like yours, but alas my very small home does not have the space for such equipment. I had forgotten about your article on large prints, so I'm going to go back and reread that thread.
     
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    R Shaffer

    R Shaffer Member

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    Keith,

    That's in line with where with what I am thinking, glass & board with clamps around the edges. I have a 1/2" closed cell foam pad that I think will be big enough to cover the board. I had not even thought about buckets, but I will certainly need some large ( clean ) containers. If need be I can fabricate a contact frame, I made my own that is 16 x 20 and works quite well, good even pressure. In the back of my mind I think part of this project is trying to keep somewhat primitive.

    I really hope you are right about the sun adding some special magic.
     
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    R Shaffer

    R Shaffer Member

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    Ralph,

    I would not have thought that a facial tanning lamp would put out enough UV at 4ft. But that is something I will consider. I know there are many advantages to using a consistent UV source. About how long were your exposures?

    As far as sunshine goes, my UV won't be as consistent as Pasadena. I'm a couple blocks from the beach, so summer is mostly fog with occasional sunny afternoons after around 1pm. Spring & Fall will be prime time, so I'm gearing up now as the sun moves higher in the sky.
     
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    R Shaffer

    R Shaffer Member

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    Ian,

    I discussed with the glass shop what my intended use was going to be and she was very helpful in determining the thickness and type of glass. Also the shop is going to grind all the edges smooth.

    I think perhaps your last couple of gallery posts with those big beautiful gum prints may be what pushed me over the edge to try something big. They really must be something to behold.

    I am curious as to what all you guys are using for coating the paper? I have a couple of 3" hake brushes and a 3" magic brush knock-off. That does not seem big enough, any suggestions?
     
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  15. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    That, of course, depends on the negative and your process, but for my Cyanotypes, it takes a few minutes.
     
  16. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    34 inch coating rod. Its tricky initially, with practice i find it works well. Some people use a rod and a brush. Use the rod to get the first layer down and brush up.

    Revisiting that old thread i watched that video again of Isabel Muoz, she has a trough of sensitiser and brushes it on, its a nice technique. Interesting how she humidfys before she coats rather than after. You can see it here :

    YouTube - Isabel Muoz [making off]
     
  17. OP
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    R Shaffer

    R Shaffer Member

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    I reread that thread as well and watched the Munoz video ( @ 6min 45s for pd printing ). Lots of good info there in that thread. I tried using a rod for smaller prints and could never get the hang of it, so I'm gonna look for a big wide hake brush like in the video. Amazing how quickly she coats that big sheet. And her work is just stunning.
     
  18. Ben Altman

    Ben Altman Member

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    Rob,

    Check out this thread too: Brush Marks in Large Platinum Prints

    I have not done a lot of this yet, but the thing I picked up from that video was working from the trough of sensitizer rather than tipping a big pool in the middle of a large piece of paper and trying to spread it from there. I've found it works well to simply pour the sensitizer onto a 6" x 10" sheet of plexi and pick it up with the brush as needed. You don't have to pour it all at once, either - half the mix at a time works well. Much more control this way.

    Ben
     
  19. iansand

    iansand Member

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    Rob

    Can't help with the brush question. I have just been using large synthetic ones (nylon I think) Good luck and I look forward to seeing some results

    Ian
     
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    R Shaffer

    R Shaffer Member

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    That is another good thread and interesting technique. Do you need to bow the plexi or does the sensitizer just stay pretty much in the middle?

    I found that Jerrys artorama has 6" wide hakes brushes for under $10
    Mandalay Professional Goat Hair Hake Brushes - JerrysArtarama.com

    Anyone familiar with the Mandalay brushes? If they are decent I may get a few, but if all they do is drop hairs... well then

    Also I found that some people are using the 6" foam rollers. I have those already and use them for PVA sizing.

    I have not seen any wide synthetic wash brushes. Ian, could you post a link.
     
  21. Ben Altman

    Ben Altman Member

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    As long as you do not pour out too much at a time, it beads up and just sits there. Could get more sophisticated and glue a low rim around it if you wanted.

    Ben
     
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    R Shaffer

    R Shaffer Member

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    Just thought I would update where things are with my big print project.

    Have the glass, plywood back board, foam pad & clamps for the contact frame ( 24" X 36" )
    Stocked up on supplies for cyanotype, gum & paper sizing
    Stocked up on 17 x 22 Arista OHP ( that was expensive )
    I dialed in exposure time and created a new QTR curve for cyanotype sun exposures
    I stocked up on Rives BFK paper
    I have the plexiglass to make a single 24" x 34" tray & hope to fabricate it tomorrow.

    So I ran the numbers and it really takes a lot of water ( 7 liters ) just to fill the tray up 1/2 inch. That is gonna be a bitch if I try to do kallitypes, but I hope I can get by with a 3-4 liters.

    I checked the large mortar mixing trays they sell at the HomeDepot. They look really good, well made, heavy & cheap, but not big enough to process a full 22 x 30 sheet. The dimensions they advertise are for the outside, not the inside, which measures around 18" x 24" for the flat area. If it were just a few inches bigger it would have been perfect.

    Those u-tube videos Don posted last week were well timed. I'll just go with the 3" foam brushes I already have for coating.

    So with a little luck I may be making my first big print next week. Really having a time of it trying to pick out which image to print.
     
  23. Davec101

    Davec101 Member

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    Good luck with it all Ron, i know how challenging it can be, its also frustrating when you find those large garden trays that are just a tad to small, as they would make things easier and cheaper. Have you considered Vandyke? its less trays and less trouble I found, Sandy gave me some guidance on this process with toning with platinum or palladium. I got some nice results.
     
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  24. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    Did you look at the washing machine trays at home depot? They are trays designed to fit under the machine to protect the floors. They come in flat bottom (recommended) and ribbed bottom (not recommended). I use them for my 20x24 inch platinum work. I print the images on full size sheets of paper. The trays are flimsy, so I stack two of them together for easier handling. I process a print from start to finish in one double tray so I don't have to lift the paper. I tried multiple trays and found it almost impossible not to tear or crease the paper when it is wet.

    After the final wash, I tilt the tray about 45 degrees and let the print drain for 20 or 30 minutes. You can tell by feel when the print is dry enough to be moved to a drying rack with out tearing. The trays I got at home depot have a small circular area impressed in the bottom of the tray near one edge. I have to be careful to not have the paper over the circular area when drying as it will leave a circular imprint on the print.

    When I bought the trays, they were around $30 each, I have no idea how much they cost now.
     
  25. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    Hi Ray

    It seems you have bit the bullet on most items.
    A one time purchase is the trays, here is what I suggest.
    Find a plastic welder dude, buy the grey plastic and weld the trays to your spec's
    make them a bit oversize and put on handles, this is thick pvc and is solid
    It is a bit pricey but once done you will never have to do again.
    I have had these trays made for me and I will never look back.
    Sometimes , it really is worth going to extremes.

    Bob
     
  26. donbga

    donbga Member

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    Check this link for trays:

    White High Density Polyethylene Print Trays | U.S. Plastic Corp.

    White High Density Polyethylene Trays | U.S. Plastic Corp.


    The good news is for alt. processes you only need 1 tray, though lifting and draining a large tray (or dish as they say elsewhere) may be tricky and strenuous.
     
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