Using Fumed Alumina To Fix Paper Issues in Van Dyke Brown


An Easy & Cost Effective Way To Fix Paper Issues!

Stormy Seas, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Stormy Seas, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, 720nm Infrared

Testing Fumed Alumina…

Van Dyke Brown emulsion is basically on the acidic side of things chemically and as a result of this I have been forced to wash most of my papers with a acid bath. This caused a increase in my process by 2 days. So I am testing Fumed Alumina which is acidic unlike Fumed Silica which is neutral. I decided to go with the Alumina test first and will do a followup post down the line with the Fumed Silica.

Bent Tree, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Bent Tree, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, IR400 120 Film

Initial results were quite pleasing with both Revere Platinum and Lana Aquarelle papers. I got a MAJOR increase in Dmax with both the Lana and Revere papers, but upon completion of my final wash the Revere was VERY EASY to damage with finger smudges until it dried. The Revere had a tendency for the Alumina to easily rub off the Alumina while wet whereas the Lana was strongly attached.

Anderson Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Anderson Mill, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

The Alumina did fix ALL of the spotting issues that I had when using the Revere Platinum paper but the fact that it will rub off when wet causes some concern but it is easily overcome with careful handling.

Magnolia, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Magnolia, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

The Process:

  1. Dry roll on the Fumed Alumina in 2 directions and rap the paper edge on the table to remove the excess.  Make sure that you use a good mask to filter out this dust as it might irritate your lungs.  DO NOT OVER COAT or you will get streaks when you coat the emulsion.  The rolling step only takes about 30 seconds! You will need to put about 1 TSP of the Alumina into a small paint tray then pre load a small (3″) HARD foam roller with it.
  2. Coat as normal after you roll on the Alumina. You will need about 12 extra drops of VDB emulsion due to it absorbing more. My basic quantity of VDB emulsion for a 8×12 sheet of paper coated with Alumina is 48 Drops of emulsion and 2 drops of Tween 20 at 25% (you will need to dilute the Tween from 50%) solution.  For this post I brushed on the emulsion.  In the past I would normally use a glass rod for coating but the Alumina creates a very rough surface and I was afraid of damaging the paper.
  3. Dry and Expose. Here you will find that the addition of the Alumina will DECREASE your exposure about 1.5 stops!
  4. 1st water bath with distilled water and a pinch of citric acid, 2 min.  This bath will remove any extra ferric ammonium citrate which will cause a yellow paper stain. This bath will darken the print.  Do not worry as the FIX will balance contrasts and bring out the highlights!
  5. Fresh water bath to remove citric acid. 2 min. If you are Gold Toning, this step is VERY important as any Citric Acid will destroy the toner bath!  
  6.  Gold toning bath 2 to 5 min to taste.  The toning process requires CONSTANT AGITATION! After 2 or 3 prints toned add 5ml/print of Gold Chloride to bring the bath back up to strength. This  toning bath will further darken the print.  Do not worry as the FIX will balance contrasts and bring out the highlights!
  7. Fix for 2 min with Sodium Thiosulfate for 2 min. 30g/L. I do not believe that any further time will help the process.
  8. Final moving fresh water bath for 30 min.
  9. Air dry,  I spread out old towels on a table top and place the print on it for about 10 min to absorb most of the water thru the back of the print.  I will then hang the prints to dry by a corner.  
  10. Use a  heat press to flatten your prints at 170deg for 20 seconds. The heat press step is to make the paper flat again.
  11. Hand rub in SOFT custom wax coating for protection then heat to force the wax to be absorbed into the paper fiber with a hair drier (more about this in a future post).
Dinghy, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

Dinghy, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

All in all this was a VERY easy fix to the acid washing step  and only added about 30 seconds to roll on the Alumina. The Fumed Alumina can be purchased at Bostick & Sullivan for $15/500g which will do about 100 sheets of 8×12 paper.

2 Dinghys, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned

2 Dinghys, Van Dyke Brown, Lana Paper, Fumed Alumina Brush Coated, Gold Toned, Leica M Monochrom

The increase in Dmax with the Fumed Alumina is amazing and the resulting images are stunning.

Please let me know what you think of this post and with suggestions for future posts!

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