Waxing Prints

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Paddy

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I was wondering who might know some details regarding waxing fibre-based prints. I've come across a bit of information, and have bought the wax, but would like to know more about some of the tools/materials that are best suited for applying & finishing. It's manufactured in the U.S. and sold/distributed by the Conservator's Products Company (www.conservators-products.com) Online "Renaissance Wax" is sold by Woodcraft, and Light Impressions Direct. Here in Canada, the product "conservator's wax" is readily available from Lee Valley Tools. (www.leevalley.com) Interestingly it sells at Lee Valley for the same price as in the states which translates to a good bargain for U.S. buyers.

From the little I've read, it appears that matte surfaced fibre prints are best suited for this technique, and that the wax is best applied in very small amounts, balled up inside cheesecloth, then later buffed to a low gloss sheen.

Looking forward to your replies.
 

sanking

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Paddy said:
I was wondering who might know some details regarding waxing fibre-based prints. I've come across a bit of information, and have bought the wax, but would like to know more about some of the tools/materials that are best suited for applying & finishing. It's manufactured in the U.S. and sold/distributed by the Conservator's Products Company (www.conservators-products.com) Online "Renaissance Wax" is sold by Woodcraft, and Light Impressions Direct. Here in Canada, the product "conservator's wax" is readily available from Lee Valley Tools. (www.leevalley.com) Interestingly it sells at Lee Valley for the same price as in the states which translates to a good bargain for U.S. buyers.

From the little I've read, it appears that matte surfaced fibre prints are best suited for this technique, and that the wax is best applied in very small amounts, balled up inside cheesecloth, then later buffed to a low gloss sheen.

Looking forward to your replies.


Clay Harmon wrote something about this a year or so ago. He mentioned the Renaissance Wax but noted that he prefered Gamblin Cold Wax Medium, but I can not remember why. The technique he described was pretty simple and easy to follow. Basically, you just rub a small amount of wax on the print using a clear piece of cloth such as an old teashirt, then buff the print with a clean piece of cloth, and finish up buffing with a horsehair brush of the kind sold for polishing shoes.

I tried this myself with some palladium prints and fond it to be very easy to do, and it sure gave a little extra snap to my prints.

Sandy
 
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Paddy

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Thanks for the info Sandy. The arts supply store that's a few minutes walk from here carries the Gamblin cold wax medium, so I'll be able to give both products a try.

Happy holidays!
 

Sean

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I'm not familiar with 'waxing' prints, what are the pros & cons of this? Is this considered archival? Seems like the wax would have issues over a long period of time?
 

sanking

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Sean said:
I'm not familiar with 'waxing' prints, what are the pros & cons of this? Is this considered archival? Seems like the wax would have issues over a long period of time?

As you no doubt have noticed a silver print on matte paper, or alternative prints on art and drawing papers, have a depth and contrast that is partially lost when dry. Waxing restores some density and snap to such prints. That is the pro.

Waxing has a long history of use in photography. I assume that it could be removed if necessary, and if that is correct then it would be consided archival. However, removing wax would involve an agressive action on the surface of the print so waxing is fairly controversial. I know some photographers who never wax, others who wax only if a customer asks for it, and others who routinely wax.

Sandy
 
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Paddy

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I'm not sure about the contents of the Gamblins wax, but Conservator's Wax is considered archival, and acid free, being used by museums for cleaning wood and other materials. It's promoted as safe for use on fibre prints, and while there is a mineral a spirit in the contents, it evaporates very quickly upon being applied.

I'm not sure how one would remove it, if needed, but I'll be making some inquiries to the manufacturer very soon.
 

David A. Goldfarb

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In general, waxes will come off with naphtha, and ammonia also removes wax. I would guess that naphtha would be safer for photographs (in a well ventilated area well protected from fire hazards--lighter fluid is mainly naphtha), since it evaporates quickly, and that ammonia might require rewashing the print.
 

Aggie

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Renisannce wax and bees wax penetrate down durther than just the surface. No way to remove them. Oil of lavender is what is used to preserve tintypes.
 
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Gamblin CWM is mostly beeswax and a refined mineral spirit. I think you may find that it is a little too thick for easy application directly (at least I find that to be the case on pt/pd prints). I suggest you get a small bottle of Gamblin OMS also, so you can cut the CWM with the same solvent used in the product. It cuts in fairly easily, and then the wax is much easier to spread in a thin and even coat.

I use a stiff stippling brush for that work, and then switch to a shoe polish brush once evenly applied, and then if I want a higher sheen, will finish with a clean cotton towel for a buffing.

The more coats you put on, the higher the gloss becomes.

As for longevity, you might want to look at the permanence of encaustic painting for a general sense of the archival qualities of beeswax.


---Michael
 
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rbarker

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Alex Hawley said:
What about something like Johnson's Paste Wax?
Only suitable for photos of wooded scenes or oil fields. :wink:

Seriously, although some Johnson paste wax might work, I'd suspect most products aimed at furniture, floors, and the like may contain petroleium distillates intended to provide penetrating protection. I would think those components would likely damage photographs, but I don't really know.
 

Aggie

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Bee's wax was used in some of the early artwork (ancient) that is still around today. I have hundreds of mat prints here, so I just might try some of these things and see how they hold up.
 

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A friend is using shoe polish to wax his FB - Erdal Shoe Polish, color less, solvent free, with bee wax... should be available world wide (see www.erdal.de).

There was a looong discussion on the topic on a german forum, someone mentioned that polishes with Carnabau-wax would work best (based on a book by Otto Croy, a 1950s classic author) - he switched to a special car polish made by Sonax (based on water as a solvent, too), using it for many years without negative influence on the images.

Franz copied the whole chapter of the book, giving some recipes. You may read it at http://phototec.de/phorum_neu/read.php?f=3&i=46540&t=46416

Ones the waxing wears out, you can rewax.
 

Bob F.

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The British Museum does not appear to consider beeswax or carnauba to be sufficiently inert and commissioned the creation of Renaissance Wax as a replacement in the 1950s (ref': http://www.woodfinishsupply.com/RenWax.html).

I obviously have not got a clue myself, but I would be inclined to follow the lead of such august institutions as the BM, the V&A, the Smithsonian, MOMA etc (seems to be popular with gunsmiths & military museums too for some reason :wink: )...

This is of interest to me because I have just ordered the chemicals to start Vandyke printing (only got a 4x5" camera but it's a start - I suspect an 8x10 is in my future in the next 6 months if all goes well...).
 

mobtown_4x5

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I have gotten a lot of compliments on the surface apperance of prints done with matte paper and a very thin coat of Turtle brand carnuba car wax. I have no idea how archival it may or may not be.
 

mikepry

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Minor White used "Blue Coral" car wax on his prints. I have used it on a few prints in the past and even though the paper I used it on wasn't matte it gave the photograph more depth and thus more dimension. I have a print I waxed about 5 years ago that is showing no ill effects so far.
 

edz

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mikepry said:
Minor White used "Blue Coral" car wax on his prints. I have used it on a few prints in the past and even though the paper I used it on wasn't matte it gave the photograph more depth and thus more dimension. I have a print I waxed about 5 years ago that is showing no ill effects so far.
Blue Coral is not very good for prints. Its not even that good for auto paint. Back in the "old days" before clear coat paints It was typically used when the paint is not very fresh to help get a nice shine and the apperance of a good finish. That's why it was a favorite among used car dealers. I use some Blue Coral, but mainly Mother's Pure Carnuba, for my bicycles but would not use it on my prints. These pastes are OK but I'd strongly avoid most all waxes that are sold in liquid form as they all contain silicon.

There is also no need to grab for these since its very simple to make one's own print waxes.

One can "tune" the wax to ones needs by varying the composition of.

  • Wax Mix
    • Beeswax
    • Carnuba wax
    • Microcrystaline wax
  • terpentine or other appropriate solvent to the wax and resin.
  • damar (the more damar the more the gloss, the more beeswax the more a kind of matted shine) or other resins (even amber or mastic depending on the want of a special look) .

I tend to make my waxes from a mix of 100g bleached (white) beeswax, 100g terpentine and some damar (5-10g) and don't bother with the carnuba. One heats the terpentine and disolves the wax then damar and mixes untill it forms a nice emulsion and lets cool.

I tend to not be that great a fan of the microcrystaline waxes and despite the "hype" around a certain English brand of convervators wax (which is btw. actually very good) beeswax and terpertine are quite archival in our application (the problem that lead to the development of "that wax" by the British Museum were related to other materials and not our field of application where beeswax and terpentine I'd argue are superior to petroleum wax in spirits)..
 

edz

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rjr said:
A friend is using shoe polish to wax his FB - Erdal Shoe Polish, color less, solvent free, with bee wax... should be available world wide (see www.erdal.de).
Erdal is not very good shoe polish. Kiwi was, once upon a time, very good but like all shoe polishes they have "moved with the times" to the advantage of ease of use against utility.
The best shoe polish made to traditonal paste standards is sold by Edward Meier in Munich www.edmeier.de (btw. most probably also the best shoe shop in central Europe). The polish was at one time (and might still be) made for Ed Meier by Erdal but is not the same as the product that Erdal sells under their own label.
 

Peter Schrager

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Waxing

Paul Strand was known to wax his prints. But I believe he used Gum Arabic. I have never been able to find the exact method he used so I never tried it. There is some reference to this in the Ansel Adams photo series but I'm too lazy to dig it out
Peter
 

edz

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peters said:
Paul Strand was known to wax his prints. But I believe he used Gum Arabic. I have never been able to find the exact method he used so I never tried it. There is some reference to this in the Ansel Adams photo series but I'm too lazy to dig it out
Peter

The reference in A.A. was, if I recall, not to a wax but to a simple brew of a ready-mixed varnish thinned down with carbon tetrachloride.

There are many good varnishes around and these range from among amber, copal, dammar, mastic and other resins in suitable solvent mixes. A favorite of the pre-war era was an explosive mix of dammar disolved in ether and spirits. Common too were Zapon (cellulose) varnishes (such as I expect Stand's choice) thinned down for better handling with some organic solvent.

I like wax over varnish but find that amber varnish has a unique look for special applications.
 

kwmullet

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Edward,

Thanks VERY much for the wonderful information with a wax recipe and varnishing. Could you talk a bit about application technique and archival ramifications? Also I'd like to know more specifics about varnishing.

I'd bet wax and varnish recipes & techniques would be a welcome addition in the recipes section of the site.

Where does someone get photo-quality beeswax, Carnuba wax and Dammar/Damar? What is Damar?

Like all the best answers, yours have initiated a great many further questions.

-KwM-
 

Wally H

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I'm not familiar with this waxing issue, but if one is looking for a little 'snap' from that process, in particular the blacks, I use a technique that increases the blacks / snap. After I have mounted a print my final step is to steam them. I do this by passing the print over a steaming tea pot. If you want to see the affect more clearly try it but cover one half the print so it does not get steamed. The down side to this is that it can't be done until the print is mounted as the print will curl again due to the moisture in the steam...
 
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