DIY TF-2 Fixer For PMK Pyro Negatives

July 12, 2022  •  Leave a Comment

This article is for my fellow photographers and collectors that want to know the technical details behind our pure analog creative process for making our handmade wild horse platinum prints.

Over the last few weeks, Tim Jr. and I have tested Ilford FP4 in PMK Pyro developer to make some new Wild Horse Platinum Fine Art prints. 

In my last article, I shared our workflow for developing with PMK

If you want to know more about our heirloom-quality handmade Wild Horse Fine Art, then you will want to check out my Platinum Collectors Guide.

In this article, I share how to mix TF-2 Fixer For PMK Pyro Negatives.

Before I share the specifics of how to mix and use TF-2 in the section below, it would be wise to share a little about PMK and why we use it for making our handmade heirloom Platinum & Palladium Wild Horse Fine Art prints. 

You should know the formula for TF-2 that I share with you in this article is our backup plan for when we run out of TF-4, which is the rapid pre-mixed formula available from B&H. TF-4 is the rapid ammonia-based version that allows a quick and simple fixing of only 5 minutes with PMK-developed negatives. 

TF-4 is an archival rapid alkaline fixer that can be used for paper and film, but I mostly use it for my PMK-developed negatives. It is super fast if you want to use it for your prints (RC papers fixed in 30 seconds and fiber prints in 60 seconds). As I mentioned in other articles, TF-4 is a non-hardening fixer that makes for a great choice when toning your fiber prints and eliminates the need for a stop and hypo clearing baths which is a huge time saver. 

The critical difference between the commercial TF-4 formula and the DIY TF-2 is fixing time.  If you are patient and don't mind much longer fixing times, you will be well served by TF-2 when fixing your PMK-developed negatives and even your prints if desired. 

To be sure you are using the proper fixing time, sacrifice a small sheet of your film that was not exposed and fix it in open light.  However long it takes for your film to clear, use twice that time as proper your fixing time. 

Watch the latest episode of Tim Layton's Darkroom Diary Now - www.timlaytonfineart.com/youtubeWatch the latest episode of Tim Layton's Darkroom Diary Now - www.timlaytonfineart.com/youtube

We use PMK because we can get the density and contrast needed for making our platinum prints with ease and no fuss.  It is that simple.  Between the delicate highlight values made possible via PMK and the extended tonal range of platinum and palladium, the two work together to form an incredible toolbox for fine art photographers that want to make expressive fine art prints.

PMK is as magical to me as using Amidol with AZO (silver chloride) for large and ultra large format contact prints.  PMK and Amidol are an excellent workflow for large and ultra large format contact printers. 

PMK developer is legendary, thanks to brilliant guys like Gordon Hutchings, who share their research and passion with us.  PMK stands for Pyro-Metol-Kodalk.  If you want to go deep with PMK, then Gordon's book "The Book of Pyro" is filled with many golden nuggets.  Even though the book was published in 1992, the information still stands.  The book is much harder to find now, so if you can find a copy, buy it and keep it in a safe place.

We love using a pure analog workflow because of analog mediums (e.g., film, plates, etc.), unique characteristics, and the ability to handle and render light in a way that meets my creative vision and intentions.

PMK is a fine grain pyrogallol developer with which extremely sharp negatives with beautiful and delicate highlight details that will bring a tear to your eye. Tim Layton's Free Fine Art NewsletterTim Layton's Free Fine Art Newsletter

In two previous articles, I shared my development time for FP4 in PMK pyro developer, so if you need to review our development time or our step-by-step workflow, I have linked them for you.  

TF-2 is an alkaline fixer, which you should use with a pyro developer like PMK. 

If you use your normal acidic fixer, you won't be pleased because you will strip off the stain of the Pyro developer that you worked so hard to get.

Also, TF-2 is an excellent choice for classic films like Tri-X, Pan F, HP5, and FP4, even if you are not using a PMK developer.

The process for making TF-2 Fixer is straightforward, and as I mentioned before, we use this formula when we run out of TF-4.

TF-2 ALKALINE FIXER FORMULA

Distilled water at 40C 750ml
Sodium thiosulfate (pentahydrate) 250g
Sodium sulfite 15g
Sodium Metaborate* 10 g
Top off to make 1.0 Liter

*Sodium Metaborate can be challenging to find, depending on where you live.  There is an easy solution.  You can substitute Sodium Metaborate by mixing 7g of Borax + 1.5g of Sodium Hydroxide, which is caustic soda. 

The process for mixing the fixer is straightforward.

I use a magnetic stirrer, but that is not a hard requirement. 

Start by adding the 250g of sodium thiosulfate to 750ml of distilled water and stir until fully dissolved.

Now, add the 15g of sodium sulfite and the 10g of sodium metaborate and stir well until everything is fully dissolved.

Add the additional 250ml of distilled water to make 1 liter, and the fixer is ready to use.

I would not use this for newer film emulsions like Delta 100 or T-Max, but I highly recommend using it with FP4 and HP5 in PMK.

I have found the shelf life of the stock solution to be about 6 to 8 weeks once mixed, but I mix it on demand and use it for my current development session only.  Technically you can fix about 20 sheets of 8x10 film or the equivalent when using roll film for your development session; however, I use it as a one-shot solution for maximum performance and controllability.

Tim Layton Wild Horse Fine Art JournalTim Layton Wild Horse Fine Art Journal

MY FOUR PILLARS THAT DRIVE EVERYTHING I DO

Ice Princess 30x40 Silver Gelatin Fine Art Wild Horse Print by Tim LaytonIce Princess 30x40 Silver Gelatin Fine Art Wild Horse Print by Tim Layton My handmade Wild Horse Platinum & Palladium Fine Art is based on four guiding principles: Truth, Justice, Difference, and Identity.  

These core principles run like a ribbon through my artwork from beginning to end.

TRUTH: I see truth as a primary objective when I create a new body of work.  Truth is the one thing that stands the test of time; without it, we have nothing or no purpose. I seek the truth about wild horses in America and tell their story through my handmade artwork. 

JUSTICE: There are many injustices in the world.  I am drawn like a moth to a flame to tell the stories of wild horses because they have no voice and are under relentless attacks in the 21st century.  Wild horses in America are in the fight of their life, and without help, they will quickly become something future generations only read about in history books.

DIFFERENCE: I sincerely want to help make a difference for wild horses and fight for their right to live wild and free.  I have been forever changed because of wild horses. I am on a mission to raise awareness about their current issues and challenges, so people can come together and find lasting and reasonable solutions to the current crisis.

IDENTITY: When I got my first camera in 1975, everything changed because I realized that I had a voice that was much bigger than myself, and I could inspire and motivate people to make a difference in the world. I have always been drawn to the awe of nature and wildlife, and when I started following wild horses regularly in 2015, my eyes were opened, and I realized I was where I needed to be, and they needed my help. My path forward is clear and filled with purpose and joy.

Ultra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim LaytonUltra Large Format Photography Newsletter by Tim Layton


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