archival washers for RC prints : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Printing & Finishing : One Thread

I'm now getting back to the wet darkroom after years of shooting chromes. To what extent is an archival print washer (you know those expensive plexiglass ones)necessary for RC print washing? I eventually plan to print 16x20 or even 20x24 with my Zone 6 enlarger, but hate to invest $600-700 on a washer. Can the same be achieved for a single print washed in a tray after using hypo clearing agent? All of this applies to RC papers, I realize washing fiber based papers is another story. thanks mark smith

-- mark smith (, May 22, 2002


1) how long do you want your prints to last? 2) If you're going to the trouble of making 16x20 prints, why not use a real paper that you won't have to make excuses for afterward? 3) If you can afford a Zone VI enlarger why cheap out on the most important thing- the final product? end of rant. seriously, the modern printwashers are on the market because they do the best job. Endless testing by everyone has proved it. RC papers have the same wash requirements as real papers- they just wash quicker. That said, Versalab makes good washers at reasonable prices.

-- Mark Sampson (, May 22, 2002.

RC paper washes much like film since the paper base is coated with plastic, therefore the most important factor is fast wash-water exchange rate rather than soaking/diffusion time. The common "archival" print washer isn't very good for this because the exchange rate is slow and a long wash time is required for sufficient water exchange; with RC paper this can cause edge frilling and water penetration into the laminate.

I think the best type of washer for RC is the Paterson wash tray. It has a water inlet at one end, some dividers to prevent smaller prints from floating together, and a dam at the other end to maintain some water depth. This washer is designed for high flow/exchange. Unfortunately the largest size is 11x14; for larger sizes you'll have to make one copying the Paterson model.

-- John Hicks (, May 22, 2002.

Thanks Mark for response, your advice well taken. I notice that for a 20x24 print,the Versalab has an adaptor whereby the print is curled while washing....I wonder if this method would affect the emulsion on the print. Otherwise, I'll opt for a washer like Calumet or Zone VI that has separate compartmental washing. Thanks again for advice. mark smith

-- mark smith (, May 22, 2002.

John: Thanks for reply, I wasn't aware of this washing characteristic of RC papers that is similar to film. I notice that on B&H's site, they have a Yankee print tray 20x24 siphon washer with outlet holes for around $70. I may consider this option, realizing that it would be best to wash only single prints at a time using this method. thanks again mark smith

-- mark smith (, May 22, 2002.

Mark, from what I know, I would just use a tray washer and be sure to empty and refill it a few times. One key is to rinse the prints before you put them in the washer (even if you just hold it under running water from the faucet). If you want to be more thorough, use a wash aid before the final wash. If you do this, even a five minute final wash with a couple of water dumps should be sufficient.

-- Jim Rock (, May 22, 2002.

If you have the space, another way to wash RC prints is give it a shower, using a sheet of corrugated fiberglass propped up against the back of your sink. Saves a heck of a lot of water. However, it keeps you occupied for the few minutes it takes to do the showering.

I found some 1 inch fluted fiberglass (not the typical 3 inch flutes) and stand it up at about a 75 degree angle, flop the print against it, and spray the back side for 15 or 20 seconds, then flip it over and spray the front side for about 3 minutes. Jobs done.

Rather than use the typical fire hose (1/2 inch diameter tubing) everybody uses in their darkroom, I made a sprayer out of a 3 inch piece of 1/2 inch PVC pipe and cap with about 15 tiny (1/32 inch) holes drilled in it, and fitted a 1/4 inch hose barb to the unit. The 1/4 inch plastic tubing delivers just the rightf fan shaped flow from the sprayer at about 1 gallon per minute.

While the literature says that hypo clearing agent is not required for RC prints, I do give them a 1 minute swish before giving 'em the shower treatment. The Kodak hypo test confirms that this method is just as effective as an archival washer, and a heck of a lot more reliable than an unattended tray with a siphon, its eddy currents, and a gazillion gallons of water down the drain.

-- Reinhold Schable (, May 24, 2002.

Mark, RC paper is not manufactured for permanance, but convenience. 5 or 6 changes of fresh water in a 16x20 tray will wash them okay - about 5 minutes. Soaking RC paper for too long in a stand up washer is said to cause the layers to delaminate, but I've soaked it for about 30 minutes or more with no problems. I use it for proofs. Washing prints is often made out to be much more complicated than it is. Sometimes I think the water companies come up with some of that stuff - 1 gallon per minute! ... 1/2 gallon per minute? Insanity. Also - I don't want to do a commercial here, but we can make a 16x20 washer kit for much less than that.

-- Anthony Guidice (, June 06, 2002.

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