Fixing for archival results : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

There is a great deal of difference in the fixing proceedures recommended by Ansel Adams in his book The Print compared to the Ilford process. What is Ilford's latest recommendation for fixing and are there any reports that indicate this method is faulty?


-- ricardo (, May 16, 2001


When in doubt follow the manufacturer's instructions. Ilford puts instructions in every package of paper they sell. The instructions are in multiple languages. Reading the instructions in the package is an excellent starting point. They have designed their emulsions and chemistry to work together in a certain way. If you follow their instructions the prints produced will fade long after you do!

Your observation on the differences between the Ilford instructions and AA's guidelines is well taken. I cannot comment on the differences because I do not know which Ilford paper you are trying to use. I guarantee that their will be huge processing differences betweeen an RC paper and a double weight fiber based paper. Their might even be a difference among the various editions of The Print.

When in doubt, fix and wash longer than the manufacturer's recommendation.

-- Joe Lipka (, May 17, 2001.

I retreived and read several of the published papers on Ilfords Rapid Fixing and Wash procedures before deciding to switch (I'm a Chemical Engineer). I'm been using the procedure with great confidence for about 3 years.

-- Gene Crumpler (, May 17, 2001.

In The Darkroom Cookbook and other sources, there are questions raised about the Ilford quick fix system. It appears that some papers do NOT fix properly in such a short time. Many of us do not use just one brand of paper. We use many and vary between single, double & 'museum' or 'art' weight papers. We use slow contact printing paper and faster exhibition type fibre papers. Since I am not capable of fully testing the results of the quick fix system & don't want to take all the time needed to test it fully with each paper I try, I don't use it. By going back to the older two bath system & changing chemistry often I have gotten rid of the real need to accurately time for 60 seconds in the higher strength fixer. I don't have to worry about a bit too long or maybe pulling the print out a bit short while draining off the fixer. (it takes a bit for a 20x24 to drain)

As a result of this I have gone back to the older two bath fixing system in my darkroom. It takes away the anxiety even if it takes a bit longer.

Some of the more technically minded darkroom types say the film strength fix does not work well after as few as two 8x10 prints have gone through a litre of the chemistry, while the two bath system will fix many more prints before losing its optimum fixing time. It has something to do with the buildup in the fix of contaminants. Seems the two bath system allows more prints to come out 'clean' than the more concentrated one bath does.

If anyone has the technical explanation I would welcome it here, pro or con... as long as it is accurate. I don't like passing on wrong information, but if I have done so... even if it is due to ignorance... please set me straight. I will welcome the knowledge as it can only help.

-- Dan Smith (, May 17, 2001.

welcome back Dan....

-- mark lindsey (, May 18, 2001.

What is 'film strength' fixer? That implies that there is a 'paper strength' fixer. What is that?

-- Richard C. Trochlil (, May 19, 2001.

For Ilford Rapid fix, film strength is 3:1 dilution. Paper strength for the 60 second fix is also 3:1. Ilford also recommends 7:1 dilution (for economy), but then the recommended fix time is 120 seconds and wash times are extended.

The point made above about using this with a variety of papers is excellent. I only use Ilford MG VI FB. I spent a lot of time in the 70's and 80's experimenting with films and papers. I finally decided that I needed to spend what little time I had on shooting, and printing. So I picked Ilford papers based on testing reported in Peterson's back in the 80's and have had no reason to use anything else. Same for Diafine. I throw out about 1/2 dozen film developers when I moved to my new darkroom. I need to KISS (keep it simple stupid).I use to know a professional photographer who told me he only used 100 speed film for every thing. That way he never had an exposure problem with different films.

-- Gene Crumpler, NC, USA (, May 24, 2001.

One more point: the "two-bath" fixing method and the Ilford fixing method are not necessarily incompatible. My current procedure (for final prints) is two 30-second fixes in "film strength" rapid fixer. (Work prints get only an initial 30-second fix, which was apparently Ilford's original recommendation.) If I'm not toning immediately, I'll wash after the first fix then do the second fix later before toning in selenium. The short fixes do require a bit more attention than letting the prints sit in the fix, but not too much, and in my opinion is well worth the time and water saving from the shorter required wash. Also, I'm not particularly concerned about slight variations of a few seconds in fixing time.

-- Chris Patti (, May 24, 2001.

"Also, I'm not particularly concerned about slight variations of a few seconds in fixing time. "

Chris, it seems to me that with such a short and concentrated fix method, that any variations in time should be of paramount concern to you. A few seconds is a much larger percentage of overfixing for a 30 second total as opposed to a few seconds of overfixing within a 3 minute total fix. How long of a wash do you do?

-- mark lindsey (, May 26, 2001.

Mark, sorry about the delayed reply. When I say "I'm not too concerned" about minor inconsistencies in time, I mean inconsistencies of a few seconds. I doubt that even a 20% variation matters much, especially when I'm using a two-bath fix. It doesn't mean that I don't have to pay attention, but I allow myself to be a bit sloppy without worry. I wash in running water (usually a tray w/ a kodak tray siphon) for 5 min, hypoclear for 5 and wash again for 10 or 15. The research I've seen shows that after 5 min in the second wash, there is really no measurable hypo left (and that residual hypo levels are less after a second 5min wash using the Ilford method than a wash of virtually any length using the traditional method), but I wash longer probably just for psychological reasons.

-- Chris Patti (, June 04, 2001.

Forgot to mention: I've also seen research that suggests that the short wash times work for fixing up to about 1.5 minutes, so a few second of "over fixing" shouldn't matter.

-- Chris Patti (, June 04, 2001.

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