How to Make Your Own Fixer & Stop Bath for Darkroom Black and White Archival Printmaking

April 02, 2015

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If you want to properly process archival darkroom silver gelatin prints via the classic method as taught by Ansel Adams then you need a non-hardening fixer as your second fixer.  If you are interested in learning how to process your darkroom prints for archival permanence then read my article on how to do that.  You have to be careful here because you might accidentally think you are using the right fixer when part of the description says that it is non-hardening.  Unfortunately it is more common than not to get a non-hardening fixer that is also a rapid fixer and this is not what you want.  I also included information on how to source and mix your own stop bath too.

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There is a caveat here that if you want to follow the Ilford method then you would use a rapid fixer.  I have no desire to take any risks when processing my archival prints so I stick with the classic method.

You have two choices when selecting a non-hardening fixer.  You could buy a non-hardening fixer but it is a little more difficult than you might guess.  Thankfully Freestyle Photo Supplies carries Arista Universal Liquid Fixer that is non-hardening and it does not fall into the rapid fix category.  If you want to do that at least it is an option for now and a very good option for many.  If you want to make your own non-hardening fixer then you have come to the right place.

Making Your Own Non-Hardening Fixer

It is very easy to make your own non-hardening fixer.  In “The Print” Ansel mentions that some photographers think that it improves image color.  Because there isn’t any hardener in the fixer it should reduce your washing time.  You should keep this hypo at or below 70F when using it in your print archival process.

To make 1 liter of non-hardening fixer mix the following:

  • Water at 125F/52C – 800ml
  • Sodium Thiosulfate (hypo) – 240g
  • Sodium Sulfite – 30g

To make 1 gallon of non-hardening fixer mix the following:

  • Water at 125F/52C – 80 oz.
  • Sodium Thiosulfate (hypo) – 32 oz.
  • Sodium Sulfite – 4 oz.

There are probably a variety of sources to get Sodium Thiosulfate and Sodium Sulfite so you may want to use your own sources.  I ordered my latest batch from Photographer’s Formulary.

While you are making your own non-hardening fixer you can easily make your own stop bath. All you need is some glacial acetic acid that is also available from a variety of sources to include Photographer’s Formulary.

To make 1 liter of stop bath mix the following:

  • Water at room temperature – 750ml
  • Acetic Acid (28% solution) – 48ml

To make 1 gallon of stop bath mix the following:

  • Water at room temperature – 100 oz.
  • Acetic Acid (28% solution) – 6 oz.

You should buy Glacial Acetic Acid rated at 99% and dilute to 28%.  Mix 3 parts of glacial acetic acid to 8 parts water.  Glacial acetic acid is dangerous to your skin and to your respiratory system so do not breath any of the fumes and always wear protective gloves and clothing when handling.  It may be easier to just buy the commercial stop bath, but even then you need to be careful.

All of these formulas and many more are included in the appendix of “The Print” by Ansel Adams.  All of these chemicals are dangerous so keep that in mind before ordering and be sure to read all of the information when you receive your chemicals.  Definitely never leave any of these chemicals where a child of any age could get to them.

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