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46. Dry Sensitives


This section is from the American Hand Book of the Daguerreotype, by Samuel D. Humphrey. Published S. D. Humphrey, 37 Lispenard Street 1858.

46. Dry Sensitives

Hydrate of Lime.--The operation by which water is combined with lime is called slaking. Take a piece of quick lime, common lime used in mortar, and immerse it in warm water for about fifteen seconds; then place it in an iron or tin vessel. It will soon begin to swell, evolving a great deal of heat and emitting steam, and soon falls into a fine powder, hydrate of lime. This should be well stirred and allowed to cool, and then bottled in order to prevent it from giving off the hydrate and recovering the carbonic acid from the atmosphere. The last is detrimental to its use with bromine, and is one cause of the complaint that "it will not take bromine." The hydrate of lime should, not be dried over a heat, as has been supposed by many, for in that case the hydrogen is expelled and it returns to a carbonate. It is advisable to cool it in a damp place like a ground cellar. Much of the lime in our market will not, except it be quite damp, combine with the bromine. This is owing to impurities. Nothing is equal to oyster-shell lime, which I use altogether.

Bromide of Lime.--In preparing large quantities of this, we adopt the following method: Fill a four-quart bottle about two-thirds full of hydrate of lime; pour into this about one or two ounces of bromine; then shake well, add more of the bromine, shake well and let it stand for a few hours, adding sufficient bromine to give it a fine red color. It is better when kept in the large bottles, as it forms a more perfect combination: in other words it improves by age.

Use.--Coat over the iodine to a rose red and then over this mixture to a purple or slate; recoat over the first about one fourth as long as first coating.

Gurneys American Compound.--Of this compound there are two combinations, one for use, when the temperature of the atmosphere is above 65 or 70 deg., and the other at a lower temperature. The first is called No. 1, the second No. 2.

No. 1 is prepared by placing hydrate of lime in a bottle, say to three quarts of the hydrate of lime, add one ounce of pulverized burnt alum, and as much chloride of lime as can be put on a quarter of a dollar, and from l5 to 30 grains of dry pulverized iodine, or enough to change the color of the hydrate of lime, to the slightest possible tinge of yellow. There had better be less than carry the color to a deeper shade. The object of using the iodine is to form a compound with bromine that is not so volatile as the bromine itself. No matter how little iodine is combined with the bromine, the vapors possess their relative proportion; hence, only enough iodine to prevent "flaring," or as it is often termed a "scum-coating," is used. The iodine should be thoroughly combined with the lime, which will take about one or two days. Should add bromine the same as in bromide of lime, until the compound assumes a light red color.

No. 2 is prepared in the same manner as No. 1, except the addition of the iodine, which is omitted.

Use.--No. 1. Coat over the iodine to a bright yellow color, then over the compound, No. 1, to red color, recoat over iodine, about one sixth as long, as the time occupied in first coating.

No. 2. Coat over iodine same as above, except recoat over the iodine about one fourth to one half as long as first coating.

Dry Quick, No. 1.--Bromide of Lime and Starch.--The following compound forms an excellent accelerator, and is used by many. It is claimed for this preparation, that it will hold the bromine longer than others where starch is not employed. As regards this claim we do not think it can be substantiated. Our experience in practice has led us to the conclusion that there is no great difference as respects durability, but there is some little difference as regards the tone of the impressions produced by its use.

To one quart of hydrate of lime add one quart of finely pulverized starch. To this mixture add bromine, until it assumes a deep yellow or pink color.

Starch may be added to any of the dry mixtures.

Use.--Coat over the iodine to a deep yellow, then over this quick to a red color, recoat about one sixth of the time of first coating.

I will here again remark, that the exact color of the coating is not essentially provided a proper proportion is preserved.

I have never seen it stated, though it be a fact worthy of note, that a proportionate time for coating over the iodine and accelerator, will not answer. For example: if a plate exposed to the vapor of iodine be perfectly coated in sixteen seconds, and then exposed to an accelerator, (not having iodine in its combination) receives its coating in four seconds, it will be found that a proper proportionate coating cannot be preserved by adopting, a proportion of time, but on the contrary, the time will diminish; for exposure over the accelerator, as in the above example, if it be desired to coat the plate with twice as much iodine as in the above example, the time would be, over iodine thirty-two seconds, and over the accelerator (to possess a proper proportion) from six to seven seconds. Hence it is that many inexperienced operators, when wishing to vary their usual manner of coating, fail in producing a favorable result. They coat calculating a proportion of time when they should not.

Dry Quick, No. 2.--Bromide of Lime and Magnesia.--To one quart of hydrate of lime add one quart of magnesia, and mix them well together; add bromine same as in preparing bromide of lime; coat the same as over dry quick No. 1. This combination produces very uniform results, and is worked with much success by beginners.

Chloro-Bromide of Lime.--To the bromide of lime add chloride of bromine until the mixture becomes a pale yellow color, resembling sulphur. It should be shook well, and enough of the chloride of bromine added to bring the compound to a deep blood red color.

Use.--Coat over the iodine to a pink color, and then over the above to a red, or just changing the color. It should be remembered that accelerators containing chlorine do not admit of a great change of color of coating on the plate.

Iodide of Starch.--This mixture can be employed for coating over in warm weather, and prevent the flashing resulting at high temperatures. It may be used the same as the iodide alone.

To six ounces of finely pulverized starch, add one fourth ounce of dry iodine.

Use.--Same as the dry iodine alone.

The same combination may be made with lime, magnesia and other substances.

Concentrated Solution of Iodine for First Coating.--It may appear strange to some of our old operators that an aqueous solution of iodine can be used for coating the plate and forming the iodide of silver. It has long been a cry among most operators that it is impossible to succeed when the iodine box contains dampness. Now this is a great mistake, and we will here state that in all cases where dampness appears upon a properly prepared Daguerreotype plate, it is the result of a different temperature of the metal from the air which surrounds it. Mr. Senter, of Auburn, was the first of our operators who used a solution of iodine for coating the plate, and we several years since saw his results, which would rival the production of any other operator. A concentrated solution of iodine is prepared by putting into a common bottle two thimblesful of hyposulphite of soda and a rather larger quantity of iodine, so that there may be more than sufficient. Add to it about 40 ounces of common water (heated to 60 or 70 degrees), by little and little, moving, the bottle to warm it, for fear of breaking. After shaking it a short time, the water is rapidly and strongly colored. The solution should be poured into a bottle with a ground stopper, and when cool used for iodizing.

A solution of sufficient strength can be made by moistening or just covering the iodine with water.

Chloride of Iodine as an Accelerator.--This is probably one of the best accelerators that can be used for coating the plate for taking views; it works too slow, however, to meet the wants of the operating room, yet its use was formerly, for a long time, adhered to by some of our best professors. In producing views with this, we are successful in obtaining well-developed impressions, with a depth of tone and richness of appearance not to be met with in the productions of any other substances. I give its use as furnished me by an old and experienced operator, and published in Humphrey's Journal, vol. i. p. 180:

"As the process of using chloride of iodine may be of interest to some of our subscribers, I take pleasure in giving the following manipulation. To one ounce of chloride of iodine add two ounces of water; place this mixture in a coating-box, the same as quick stuff; coat the plate with dry iodine to a light yellow, or lemon color; then bring the coating to a deep pink over the chloride. The plate must be recoated over the dry iodine."

This combination has been very successfully used in one of our most extensive establishments in this city, and the superiority of the pictures produced by it was considered as an equivalent for the additional time required to bring out the impressions.

Chlorine as an Accelerator.--I shall here refer to but a single experiment in which I employed chlorine gas for coating the plate. I was provided with a retort, the neck of which was fitted to the jar of my coating-box, through a hole drilled for its reception. This was fitted perfectly tight in my coating-box. I placed some pure undiluted bromine water and the agents necessary for producing chlorine gas (in small quantity) in the retort. The result was that my first experiment produced an impression completely solarized in all its parts by an exposure of four seconds of time, which would have required an exposure of twenty seconds to produce a perfectly developed impression by the usual process.

Another trial immediately produced one of the finest toned impressions I ever saw, perfectly developed in one second of time.

My next two or three experiments proved total failures. I was unable to produce even a sign of an impression. By accident my retort was broken, and not being in a locality convenient to obtain another, my experiments were necessarily suspended.

My attention was not called to this subject again for several years, when I noticed an account of some similar experiments by F. A. P. Barnard and Dr. W. H. Harrington, the latter of whom is now of the firm of Dobyns & Harrington, of New Orleans.

From reading this article, I found my own difficulties explained. Too much of the chlorine gas was present in my coating jar. I would like to see some of our enterprising operators investigate this combination.

It is a singular fact, that the vapors of bromine and chlorine combining upon the iodide of silver, produce a more sensitive coating than when the two are combined in solution, as in chloride of bromine solution. Those having Humphrey's Journal at hand, can refer to vol. i. p. 142.

To use Bromine Water or other Accelerators in Hot Weather.-- An excellent plan for using bromine water is as follows:

Fill a two-ounce bottle quarter full of it, and then fill the bottle with fine sand, which serves to preserve a low temperature; then place the bottle in a porous cup, same as used in the battery; fill this also with sand, and close the end with plaster of Paris. Place this in a coating-box, and it will be found to act with great uniformity and be quite permanent.

Bromide of Lime, another accelerator, can be used in the same manner, except it is, only necessary, when a solid sensitive is used, to mix it with the sand without placing it in a bottle. This method is employed with great success by a few, who have regarded it as a secret worth keeping.

A Combination, requiring the Use of only One Coating-box.-- It is often wondered by beginners, why some solution requiring only one coating cannot be employed. This can be done, but the results are not so satisfactory as when two or more are employed. Such an accelerator may be produced by adding alcoholic solution of iodine to a solution of chlorate of potash, until the latter will take up no more of the former, and to each ounce, by measure of this solution, ten drops of a saturated solution of bromide in water are added. The solution of chlorate of potash is made by diluting, one part of a saturated solution of the salt with ten parts of water. The use of the chlorate is simply as a solvent of iodine.

Fats as Accelerators.--The use of fats, oils, or greasy substances, has been one of the most emphatic prohibitions about the Daguerreotype plate. Yet it has been proved that its presence in a small quantity upon the silver surface has the effect of reducing the time of exposure in the camera from two-thirds to three-fourths. An application may be made as follows: Pour sweet oil, or rub beef or mutton fat, on a common buff, which is free from all polishing powders. With this, buff a well-cleaned plate, and it will leave a scum, which should be mostly removed by using another buff, which should be clean. Coat the plate in the usual manner, and the result will be a great reduction in the time of exposure in the camera. The impression produced upon a plate so prepared presents, when coming from the vapor of mercury, a grey, scummy appearance, which, on the application of heat in gilding, does not improve; hence its use is not generally adopted.

We have instituted some investigations upon this subject, and in the present volume, we shall not refer to it further. Those wishing to learn more fully the effect of light upon organic substances will find Robert Hunt's "Researches on Light" an invaluable work.


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