Restoring old single weight silver gel prints : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

I have a collection of several hundred old single weight prints by one photographer and his father, that range from the 1920's to the 1960's (and many that are older, but that's another project). Many of these single weight (Velox) prints are curled and need relaxing/flattening. Does anyone know a good source of info about rewashing (soaking) these prints and the subsequent flattening necessary to preserve them in an archival format? I am quite familiar with archival processing and storage of newer mayterials, but these prints are a different matter. The silver has migrated to the surface, leaving a beautiful silvery sheen, that I have to preserve. I am hesitant to flatten them in my dry mount press, like new double weight papers, but they will certainly need flattening after a gentle soaking, and I've never used a blotter book. Would that be the way? The silvering may be very fragile, and not up to pressure when even slightly damp. Any good ideas? Thanks... t

-- tom meyer (, January 01, 2001


T. You can soak them in distilled water to relax them, treat them with a mild (1:20) solution of rapid selenium toner with a hardener, and hang until the emulsion is dry, then put them under some weight with release paper on the emulsion. This will protect the silver patina. Try to have about 60% humidity in the environment when you are drying the prints. I use old Azo paper which is single weight and it takes the weight without any trouble. The selenium will not harm the silver sheen and will actually help protect it. If you want to try the selenium just do a small corner of one of the less perfect images and you'll see it won't hurt it. Or if you can find Sisten go ahead and use that. A call to the Wilhelm Research Center or a good gallery or museum will give you more info. Good luck. Lumberjack

-- james (, January 01, 2001.

Thanks James. I've soaked and air dried 3, and the damn things curl up like baloney on a tooth pick (har har). They are much more pliable (they'd spent 20 years in an attic in Florida, and were crispy like potato chips) and are now being lightly pressed (like slices of eggplant ready to be sautee'd)At least the menu's improving.

I hadn't thought of selenium, thanks.

I am hesitant to hang them, since I'm eventually going to mount them in an alblum with photo corners. Well maybe I could place the clips carefully in the corners. They seem mostly to be contact prints from 120, 620 and various earlier roll film formats (I also have many of the negs, in really sad shape), so I'll need some really tiny clips. Some of these prints are quite beautiful, and of incredible scenes. Also, I'd like them to dry sorta flat, since they are also subjects in an anticipated long still life study (begun on New Year's Eve). The photographs are all of this one family, and the prints lend themselves to narrative construction, quite readily.

I'll send an email to Wilhelm, and Light Impressions as well... they may have a good book. Thanks again... t

-- tom meyer (, January 02, 2001.

The trick is to dry them as slowly as you can and still keep the humidity up around 60% so the paper stays supple. That way the emulsion dries slowly allowing the final drying to proceed under some type of weight with release paper to keep the emulsion intact and free from sticking to anything. It may take a day or two to fully dry and then you can press flat with a dry mount press on low heat. The reason for the curl is differential drying of the emulsion vs the paper. Paper that dries slowly will keep whatever shape it is made to take. James

-- james (, January 02, 2001.

I'll have to run a humidifier to get 60% these days, it's dry as toast in the studio. I'll try boiling open pots of water (!). Every time I touch the lightbox or enlarger, the static makes the damn things flash. I have to keep the paper away until I've discharged. Thanks James, I'll let you know of my success, or failures... t

-- tom meyer (, January 03, 2001.

Tom - I would modify what Mr. Mickelson suggested and make life easier on myself.

Soak the prints until they have relaxed. Treat them with the PermaWash archival wash - 3 minutes wash, 3 minutes in PermaWash, 3 minutes wash.

Tone if you want with selenium as suggested. Rewash 1 minute, PermaWash 1 minute, wash 1 minute.

Now comes the easy part. Soak in Edwal Super-Flat. This solution does not contain glycerine or etheylene glycol (usual print flattening agents that retain water in the emulsion for slower drying). Dry in a blotter book, or put face down on a screen drying rack with a single thickness of a clean bath or kitchen towel over the back side of the print to provide weight on the print.

Your prints should come out totally flat.

As far as I can tell, Super-Flat does not change archival stability of prints. I have some prints that are 20 or so years old that were treated and they still look the same as the day they were processed.

-- steve (, January 04, 2001.

Tom, Thought I would throw my 2 cents worth in on this as well. All the suggestions you have recieved will do the job in one way or another. At our lab, we do this type of work for various archives and the process is to first check the prints for fixer content, then soak the prints face to face in distilled water for 30 mins. Then into a bath of perma wash, etc. for 4 mins while rotating the prints continuously. Wash and then selenium 1:20, rewash and then treat with AGFA's SISTAN for 1 Min. Dry on fiber glass screen that are stacked no more than 1" in between each over night (this helps hold in the moisture and allows the prints to dry a bit flatter). Then put into a dry mount at low heat (using release paper) and check every 60 secs. for flattness. I will say that we NEVER use a print flattening solution. These have been tested to be non-archival as they break down the fibers in the paper. You also mentioned the negatives. You can use the same process (sans dry mount press of course) to archive these.

-- jim megargee (, January 08, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ