This section is from the American Hand Book of the Daguerreotype, by Samuel D. Humphrey. Published S. D. Humphrey, 37 Lispenard Street 1858.
To make Plates for the Daguerreotype--Determining the Time of Exposure in the Camera--Instantaneous Process for Producing Daguerreotype-- Galvanizing the Daguerreotype Plate--Silvering Solution-- Daguerreotype without Mercury--Management of Chemicals-- Hints and Cautions--Electrotyping--Crayon Daguerreotypes-- Illuminated Daguerreotypes--Natural Colors in Heliography-- Multiplying Daguerreotypes on one Plate--Deposit in Gilding-- Practical Hints on the Daguerreotype.
TO MAKE PLATES FOR THE DAGUERREOTYPE.
I do not give the method employed by our regular plate manufacturers; this is not important, as the operator could not possibly profit by it from the fact of the great expense of manufacturing. The following will be found practical:
Procure a well planished copper plate of the required size, and well polish it, first with pumice stone and water, then with snake stone, jewelers' rouge. Plates can be purchased in a high state of preparation from the engravers. Having prepared the copper-plate, well rub it with salt and water, and then with the silvering powder. No kind answers better than that used by clock-makers to silver their dial-plates. It is composed of one part of well washed chloride of silver, five parts of cream of tartar, and four parts of table salt. This powder must be kept in a dark vessel, and in a dry place. For a plate six inches by five, as much of this composition as can be taken up on a shilling is sufficient. It is to be laid in the centre of the copper, and the figures being wetted, to be quickly rubbed over every part of the plate, adding occasionally a little damp salt. The copper being covered with the silvering is to be speedily well washed in water, in which a little soda is dissolved, and as soon as the surface is of a fine silvery whiteness, it is to be dried with a very clean warm cloth. In this state the plates may be kept for use. The first process is to expose the plate to the heat of a spirit flame, until the silvered surface becomes of a well-defined golden-yellow color; then, when the plate is cold, take a piece of cotton, dipped in very dilute nitric acid, and rub lightly over it until the white hue is restored, and dry it with very soft clean cloths. A weak solution of the hydriodate of potash, in which a small portion of iodine is dissolved, is now passed over the plate with a wide camel's hair brush. The silver is thus converted, over its surface, into an ioduret of silver; and in this state it is exposed to light, which blackens it. When dry, it is to be again polished, either with dilute acid or a solution of carbonate of soda, and afterwards with dry cotton, and the smallest possible portion of prepared chalk: by this means a surface of the highest polish is produced. The rationale of this process is, in the first place, the heat applied dries off any adhering acid, and effects more perfect union between the copper and silver, so as to enable it to bear the subsequent processes. The first yellow surface appears to be an oxide of silver with, possibly, a minute quantity of copper in combination, which being removed leaves a surface chemically pure.
Another Method.--The best and simplest mode with which we are acquainted is to divide an earthenware vessel with a diaphragm: one side should be filled with a very dilute solution of sulphuric acid, and the other with either a solution of ferroprussiate of potash, or muriate of soda, saturated with chloride of silver. The copper plate, varnished on one side, is united, by means of a copper wire, with a plate of zinc. The zinc plate being immersed in the acid, and the copper in the salt, a weak electric current is generated, which precipitates the silver in a very uniform manner over the entire surface.
Another Method.--A piece of brass or of polished copper, brass is preferred, is perfectly planished and its surface made perfectly clean. A solution of nitrate of silver, so weak that the silver is precipitated slowly, and a brownish color, on the brass, is laid uniform]v over it, "at least three times," with a camel's hair pencil. After each application of the nitrate, the plate should be rubbed gently in one direction, with moistened bitartrate of potassa, applied with buff. This coat of silver receives a fine polish from peroxide of iron and buff. Proofs are said to have been taken on it, comparable with those obtained on French plates.
M. SOLIEL'S PROCESS FOR DETERMINING THE TIME OF EXPOSURE IN THE CAMERA.
M. Soliel has proposed the use of the chloride of silver to determine the time required to produce a good impression on the iodated plate in the camera. His method is to fix at the bottom of a tube, blackened within, a piece of card, on which chloride of silver, mixed with gum or dextrine, is spread. The tube thus disposed is turned from the side of the object of which we wish to take the image, and the time that the chloride of silver takes to become of a greyish slate color will be the time required for the light of the camera to produce a good effect on the iodated silver.