Darkroom Digest: Starting the Design Process For My Dry Plate Drying Box

September 27, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Now that my new darkroom is completed, I am starting back on my mission to make silver gelatin emulsion from raw materials, and create silver gelatin dry plates to use in the field with my large format view cameras.  

For readers that may not know, I primarily use 4x5, 8x10, and 11x14 view cameras with a variety of reducing backs.

I love the ability to create my emulsions because I can control the spectral sensitivity ranging from color blind (beginning of modern photography), orthochromatic (not sensitive to reds - 1870's the to early 1900's), and the modern day panchromatic (accurate representation color tones across the full spectrum of the gray scale).  

For the rest of this year, I will primary be making pure platinum prints from the new dry plates for my St. Francois Mountain Project.  In my spare time, I will be making some silver chloride contact prints from the new dry plates as well as some silver gelatin fiber prints.  The silver gelatin prints are then a gateway to a variety of prints that I love to work with (e.g., Lith, Bromoil, split-grade, etc.).

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To be able to take advantage of the full range of darkroom type prints that I want to create, I have to be able to make high-quality dry plates.  One part of that process is the final stage of drying the plates in the proper environment that is also light tight.  

I was on a road trip yesterday with my son.  I used that time to design my Dry Plate drying box, along with a field box to take the plates with me on my adventures.  The drawing is a mess because of the bumps in the road, but I understand how I want to create the box now.  

Referring to the far left in my drawing, I will be installing a low-speed oscillating fan to push air through the drying box.  Next, you will notice three pillars that are effectively light baffles to ensure light does not reach the plates.  In the center, my plates ranging in size from 4x5 to 8x10 will be placed on a rack that is tilted.  Then, behind the rack are more light baffles and a vent to allow the air to pass through the box.  The lid will have two sets of railing on it.  The inner set will match the dimensions of the box where the light baffles end and the outer edge will seal the box.  I borrowed some logic from my large format sheet film boxes to help control the light.  I suspect I will be using some black felt in a couple of places in addition to painting the interior flat black.  

I will take some photos along the way and show you the finished product in a future article.  

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