Arkay 1620 Rotary Print Washer vs. Archival Models : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Has anyone investigated, or done comparisons between the Arkay 1620 Rotary Print Washer versus archival models, like a Kostiner, Gravity Works, Calumet, or Zone VI? I'm interested primarily in their washing effectiveness, although water conservation is a consideration. I suppose archival washers themselves vary in their effectiveness, so let's assume a "good" archival washer.

I use an Arkay, and I'm trying decide whether or not I should go to the trouble of replacing it.

-- neil poulsen (, July 28, 2000


I don't know how to compare the washers, but I can impart a little info. on the subject just based on what others use. I had always been told that the only way to wash archivally is to get one of the higher-quality toaster-type archival washers and put up with small runs of prints. I have been told that you need to wash in an archival washer for an hour at 100' F at a slow flow, after clearing in a hypo remover mixed with a little selenium.

I was treated to a tour of the darkroom of the Historic American Engineering Record and Historic American Buildings Survey by Jack Boucher, head of the HABS Photographic Division, and he showed me their washer...a huge rotary drum washer like yours, in the process of washing hundreds of single-weight contact prints at once. He scoffed at the need for the toaster-types. For those who don't know, HABS/HAER records historic structures throughout the country to specific standards in archival b&w 5x7. All work is chemically tested for permanence and stability, with a target of having it last for 500 years. So a rotary washer is good enough for them. I'm looking around for one of my own because I waste a lot of water in not being able to wash more prints at a time.

-- Rob Tucher (, July 28, 2000.

I use a couple of Zone VI upright washers. They work for the realatively low volumn of prints I do. I used a rotary washer in a darkroom long ago and it worked fine. The only down side was the occasional scratched and kinked print. For what its worth the 20x24 Zone VI washer holds a whole lot of water. I learned the hard way after the drain plug failed and it flooded the darkroom.

-- ron mcelroy (, July 28, 2000.

There is one very important lesson to be learned from maufacturers that make claims about the incredible efficiency, greatness, and excellence of their products. Madison Avenue hype is designed to do just one thing.....and that is separate you and your money. All the BS about archivally washing prints is one prime example.

The physics of diffusion and partial pressure depends little on how much money you spend on an archival washer. Utilize good technique and wash your prints sufficiently long in clean frsh water and diffusion will take care of the rest. Test to confirm that the wash time has been sufficient and you do not have to worry about cascading water, up and down flows, and other inane things.

Physics is physics, sufficient and frequesnt water changes will allow ions to flow from greater to lower concentrations.

Good luck.

PS, for those who don't believe or understand this feel free to spend as much as you want on pretty acrylic tanks. My feelings will not be hurt in the least. I use a large Rubber Maid container with pvc dividers and a spray bar I built from a pvc pipe w/ holes drilled every 3/4" or so. My prints wash with filtered tap water in 30 minutes or less.


-- Bill Smithe (, July 28, 2000.

Sorry, I forgot one thing, my Rubber Maid Archival Washer cost me about $65 to build. Can you imagine!

-- Bill Smithe (, July 28, 2000.

Bill, My hero! Ingenuity! I love it! I have long felt that we were needlessly being separated from our hard earned dollars by those with the perfect solution (at a price). Anything with the word "photographic" attached suddenly doubles or triples in price! I have watched this for 30 years with amazement. I applaud your ingenuity in finding your own solution at a reasonable price and hope that others will follow your example!


-- fred (, July 28, 2000.

To get back to the Arkay thing; I believe that sort of washer works just fine _provided wash timing starts when the last print is put in_ plus of course sufficient time is given.

The main objections to the big rotary washers are that they're huge and use more water than the smaller fishtank-style washers.

I've never seen any direct comparison between the two types regarding wash efficiency etc.

-- John Hicks (, July 29, 2000.

OK, let's think about this. If you use a rotary processor of course you have to time the wash cycle from the point that you put the last print in. Not entirely because you just polluted the water, but because you can not tell which prints you insrted in what order! As long as the concentration of ions in the wash water is less than that contained within the print diffusion will take place.

BTW, another print washer that works well is the old fashoned bath tub. I believe everyone has one......I hope ;-)

-- Bill Smithe (, July 29, 2000.

As to the above point, wouldn't this be true for archival washers? Due to contaminants introduced into the washing bath, and thereby to the other prints, wouldn't I still want to time the wash cycle from the last print inserted? I recall reading about one archival washer that washes the prints serially, versus in parallel. (Water is channeled serially over one print, then the next, etc.) But, that's the exception.

-- neil poulsen (, July 29, 2000.

Yes Neil, that is also true for archival washers. The exception you read about - - probably one of my posts - - is Summtek's Cascade washer. I use their 11x14 version, which enables full diffusion washing of subsequent prints without contaminating those previously inserted upstream. All this on 250ml/min. (approximately 4 gallons per hour) of water.

-- Sal Santamaura (, July 29, 2000.

Should have been Summitek, not Summtek. Also, my only association with that company is as a customer.

-- Sal Santamaura (, July 29, 2000.

Back to physics, another one I've wondered about is the tendency for fixer to fall to the bottom. Even my Arkay has an outlet at the bottom as well as the top. What is known about this phenomenon?

-- neil (, July 30, 2000.

Everything recent I've read from credible sources says that fixer goes into solution in the water, and is uniformly distributed top-to-bottom.

-- Sal Santamaura (, July 30, 2000.

Neil: I have both types. The water where I live has a pumping station between us and the water tower, which puts a lot of air into the water. With the stand-up or toaster washer, the prints very quickly become covered with zillions of tiny bubbles. I was constantly banging the print holder on the bottom of the tank, and still felt that the prints were not recieving a full wash. I would see very tiny bubbles on the prints when I took them out, and also the water looked cloudy, especially in winter. I went to the Arkay rotary and no more problems. If you spin the prints too fast, you can fray the corners of the print, but a medium spin causes very few problems. I normally trim my prints before mounting anyway. I still use both washers, but the majority of my prints are now done in the Arkay. I have had no problem with bent prints in the rotary processor. As for keeping up with the last print into the washer, just clip a corner on the print. The greatest thing about the Arkay is it doesn't care one bit what size prints you put in it. You can mix 5x7, 8x10, and 11x14 and they all wash just fine. Incidentally, I have prints that I made 35 years ago and washed in an Arkay. They have not faded one bit. They may not qualify for archieval, but they are gonna out-live me. Good shooting,


-- Doug Paramore (, July 30, 2000.

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