Fiber base print drying racks : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

I'm going to have some drying racks built for fiber based paper and I'm trying to figure out what I need. It occurs to me that in a window screen, the plastic screen itself is on one side. For a drying rack, I would put this screen face up, put the print on it and then put a second screen - with the screen down, on top of the first screen. The two sceens together should hold the paper flat while it drys. Yet all the photographs I've seen of drying racks seem to suggest that the wet prints are squeegee'd and then just left on top of a screen.

Could I get some opinions of what I'm looking for?

-- David Grandy (, March 01, 1999


I dry 'em in the traditional way, face (emulsion) down on a clean screen, without the other screen on top. far as I know that's how it's always done but that doesn't mean your idea is bad. To take the curl out, I put the prints in for a little time at a fairly low setting in the drymount press between archivally sound boards

-- Sean yates (, March 01, 1999.

I think I'm on my third set of fiberglas drying screens. I get them made at the local combination window place, with extra heavy-duty frames and heavy-duty screening. They fit into racks that I had built years ago. The screens are large enough to hold two 11x14's or one 16x20 with extra room. The racks were designed so that there's only about an inch between screens. The prints [face up] do tend to curl some, and I correct for that by putting in the mount press or in two very large books presses with inter-leaved archival boards. Prints go in face-down, with the backing board slightly moistened. The whole thing is screwed down tight and left for a couple of days. Voila, no curl.

-- Dick Fish (, March 01, 1999.

Forget the top won't even begin to hold the print flat. I had a screen company make regular 'window' screens with fiberglass mesh and flat, low profile enameled (any color you want!)aluminum frames. I then built racks under a counter in my work area where the screens slide in and out on simple plastic "L" channel rails. The sides and back of the cases are not allow air to circulate. I sized the screens so 6 8x10's, 4 11x14's or 2 16x20's fit comfortably on them..and they fit neatly under my work counter. RC prints are dried face up, fiber based prints face down. I then flatten fiber based prints in my drymount press (about 20 sec on low heat)and use a steel platen (from Light Impressions) to draw the heat out of each print. This keeps them really flat. For fiber based prints..use an absolute minimum (or no) hardener in your first fixing bath (none in the second) not mix the stop bath too strong; and keep the wash time (and total wet time) to an absolute minimum. This will minimize the tendancy of the paper to curl. I have also used "hammocks" made of fiberglass screen material..a piece of 1"x2" pine stapeled on each end. These can be stretched accross the darkroom (or work room), wall to wall; and taken down, rolled up and stored away when not in use. They work really well; and are ok for limited space, or occasional use.

-- C Matter (, March 02, 1999.

Don't do it, drying racks will disappoint you. You will never get your prints real flat. If so, it would happen only with Ilford, especially Galerie. But then, the papers will not curl, but it will still show bubbles when dry. Drying on a rack has also the risk that the rack-pattern will show on your print too, especially possible after special toners.

The only right way in my opinion/experience is drying on a glass plate, emulsion up. Print on a large paper so that the image has some space. After the squeegee, glue the paper to the glass with white paper tape, which you have to wet to get the glue active (available in every art-shop - I think it's aquarel-tape - not expensive). You can blowdry to get a more glossy surface.

-- Lot (, March 02, 1999.

Racks will dry your prints fine they just wont' be flat .. condition your prints by using an unhardened fixer and a washing agent then dry them face up on a plastic screen. They will curl, some papers more than others..print undersized so 11x on 16x20 paper 8x on 11x and so on you'll need the space maybe not that much but you can trim the edges to relax the curl. Use 2 acid free matte boards and stack books evenly on top if you don't have a seal press or print weights. Drymounting is the only way to protect and flatten your fiber prints. Even drum dryers leave some curl just realize that with fiber it is a fact of life. Lot... bubbles under the gel-coat between the paper base? Or bubbles after dry mounting?

-- Blake (, March 03, 1999.

LOT....(you've got to be kidding??)

-- C Matter (, March 03, 1999.

What do you mean C Matter? Did you ever try to dry Portriga Rapid on a rack? The best way is to dry the paper under tension. Curling and bubbling is and effect of shrinkage, which will result in reduced image-quality. You can only solve this by drying under tension.

-- Lot (, March 03, 1999.

Maybe I chose the wrong word in English for what I mean, Blake (C Matter?). I should have spoken about th ebulging of paper perhaps. I certainly did not mean bubbles of the emulsion from the fiber base. But this bulging will reduce sharpness-impression and contrast-impression even if you have the curling under control.

-- Lot (, March 03, 1999.

I know Lot ...I know I'll be wrestling the curls and swells out of some 11x zone vi brilliant tonight. That stuff scares me. I'm used to Cachet(the gel is a little more durable than the brilliant). I'm gonna try your method though. I wonder if beseler ever made a printaflat? A frame-like dryer with teeth to grab and tension the print while it dries. Get to work on that would ya Doc?

-- Blake and tribby not cmatter or ctein (, March 03, 1999.

Very good idea, this printaflat, dryflat, I'd say. Beseler has a negative-holder for 4*5 inch negatives which pulls the negative straight when closing the negative-holder. This construction could be used for prints too, I suspect. I heard you're in the business, so if you succeed in getting it produced, I'm ready to take 10% commission for the better trade-name.

-- Lot (, March 03, 1999.

Lot..I only meant that I can't believe that you go through all of that for each print (and then trimming the prints to size, later??). How many sheets of glass to you keep around???. Stretching the paper certainly works..this is an old lithography trick...but believe's just not necessary. Are you perhaps printing on single weight paper???. If fiberglass drying screens are kept clean and used properly they work very well. I've never had the kind of extreme curling (and 'bubbling') problems you describe..even with Portriga Rapid. I currently use Zone VI Brilliant fiber base pretty regularly. Again..if the stop, and fix chemistry are correct..and water bath storage /and / or washing times are not excessive..I've always been able to successfully flatten what curling does occur in my drymount press as I described earlier.

-- C Matter (, March 04, 1999.

Dick Fish's book press thing works well, too. I've used something like this in the past. The reason fiber based prints curl is because they are only coated on the emulsion side with the gelatin based emulsion layer. The gelatin absorbs moisture and expands when it is wet...then shrinks as it drys. As this shrinking force is not countered on the pulls the paper base..(curls). The less the gelatin shrinks..the less the prints will curl. This is why correct chemistry is crucial. A too strong acid soiution will cause the gelatin to contract..(almost 'curdle', if you will). Conversely..RC prints are equally resin coated on both they stay pretty flat (assuming that the chemistry is correct) Even using a 'stretching' technique like Lot describes mostly keeps the edges of the sheet from curling up. We tried this in the past...and we still got bulges in the middle of the sheet when the paper was completely dry which had to be flattened in a press. I've tried drying FB prints both face up and face down..and find that they tend to curl less when dried face down. The whole point to using figerglass screening is that it is basically chemically inert (at least to photo chemicals) and it is easy to keep clean. Before fiberglass screen was available..people used cheesecloth.

-- C Matter (, March 04, 1999.

C Matter, I thought you meant that. I've been through all the procedures you describe and for me they do not reach the quality of prints dried on glassplate, except drying on a heated polished iron plate and rolling it while drying (but this gives much more gloss, which is an aesthetical choice for special photo's - in my view). I keep three glassplates around.

I only print negatives which I find worth of hanging on the wall. So, in fact I only make exposition prints. If not, I use RC (for others who do not see my point of fiberbase). I seldom produce more than one or two prints a night. I just don't see the use of producing an overload of images. If a negative/contactprint does not move me from my seat to print it my way, there's something wrong with the photo. I do not trust your statement that you've got no problems with rackdrying that much, because I so often see photographers exhibiting prints bulging in the image area even with excellent photos.

-- Lot Wouda (, March 04, 1999.

Trimming to size later indeed; on double weight too: 111. I do not own a drymount press, it's too expensive here; I thought the question is from a 'beginner' who is not willing to pay such a lot of money. Drymounting afterwards is after all not much more time-consuming than glueing the paper to a glassplate, I estimate. I doubt if th echemistry has an influence on shrinkage: the papers just shrinks different than the emulsion, even on non-exposed and non-developed prints.

-- Lot (, March 04, 1999.

(I never realized that drying racks were such an emotional issue)

-- C Matter (, March 04, 1999.

It's not the drying racks that are emotional (BTW, I just answered your questions carefully), but the fiber-based paper, especially chlorobromide, because it serves so many barriers/challenges to overcome to get what you really want. I always found that the print in wet state was always the most beautiful positive of the negative. It just took me some effort to get this in dry state too.

-- Lot (, March 04, 1999.

Uh. Can I mention Ansel Adams on this board? He has the most beautifully mounted prints I've ever seen and he used drying racks. He made them so they are very closely spaced so curling is cut down considerably. About 1/2" I think. I use them and then just place each dry print in between some mat board and stack some books on top. I also put them between my flattening system when they are slightly damp. Not toooooo damp. Just slightly. No curl next morning. I find that my A.A. and Weston collection works best. When you need flatness use the heavey weights. I don't mount all my prints to a mat board. I use clam shell type mounts for some and they stay flat with just a little tape on the corners. I've used just about every paper known to man and beast and don't have much trouble. I usually make 10-20 11x14 and 16x20 prints during a session. I just remember to flatten them before they get really dry. Hope that helps. Oh yeah. I dry them FACE UP. And use 1 very small drop of photoflow just to cut any surface tension and squeegee them with a very soft windshield wiper blade. Trib. Have you tried the new old oriental from freestyle yet? I don't want to buy any unless I hear good things about it. Lumberjack. PS- Trib, how about a mailing address. I've got something you might like. No it doesn't go boom.

-- james (, March 05, 1999.

No Jack I haven't but i absolutely adored the old oriental..maybe time to try. Also tried twice to email you my snail mail locatation but it bounced...hehehe serves me right huh? Try emailing me at the above and I'll try again.

-- Trib (, March 08, 1999.

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