U of S | Mailing List Archive | alt-photo-process-l | RE: Now it is up! (Hand collotype in process)

RE: Now it is up! (Hand collotype in process)

  • To: alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca
  • Subject: RE: Now it is up! (Hand collotype in process)
  • From: geoff chaplin <geoff@geoffgallery.net>
  • Date: Wed, 01 Jul 2009 20:28:40 +0900
  • Comments: "alt-photo-process mailing list"
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  • In-reply-to: <745DFBDF-D705-4C16-A0B2-7492BF43272D@projectbasho.org>
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I had the pleasure of visiting Benrido in Kyoto yesterday and having a guided tour of the factory - I thought I'd share my impressions with the list.

I went with the naïve idea that this was going to be a three man company trying to preserve an old process and producing good quality but not outstanding prints. I couldn't have been more wrong. It’s a 40+ person company doing collotype printing only, and the employees are experienced craftspeople and artists in their own right. Their clients are mainly museums wanting highest quality copies of original artwork for archival and commercial purposes - museums in Japan and also the British Museum and others abroad.

I saw many examples of their prints, both black and white, and colour. My father used to be a commercial artist working for a print company so I have seen high quality prints before - but these were absolutely outstanding as you would expect from their client list.

The process is well illustrated in the YouTube video but I'll describe what I saw which will add a few bits of information not apparent from the video. In addition the Benrido website shows a sequence of stills of the process.

1. A single or 4-colour separation negatives are taken of the original artwork. The camera I saw will take up to 22 x 28 negs - somewhere else there must be a larger one because they can print to about 60cm x 1.2m. The camera is typically used in the studio but they do move it - in a 2-ton truck - if necessary.

2. The negs are worked on if required to restore missing details on decaying artwork.

3. The glass plates [a wide range of sizes] are about 6mm thick roughened on one side (the side that takes the gelatin). On the Benrido website slides you can see Mr Muscle is basically naked apart from his apron during the coating process - this is to avoid dust from clothing getting on the plates. The 'dotting' of the coated plate you see in the video is to remove any bubbles not to measure thickness as I thought. Incidentally they use a mixture of Potassium and Ammonium dichromate. The plates then go into a drying cabinet.

4. The printing frames include a very large vacuum frame not seen in the video. Exposures are typically about 2-3 minutes. In addition to the exposure through the negative, plates which are to be used for long print runs get an extra hardening under ultra-violet tubes being exposed through the smooth side of the glass (i.e. the opposite way round to the exposure with the neg in place). Washing takes over an hour.

5. In the case of colour printing the four separation negatives are used to make as many plates as they think they will need - in some cases 10 or more - and these are used with different pigments (from a basic palette of over 40 colours ...) to produce the correct colours in the final print. 

6. For those of you who haven't seen a printing machine before they are enormous - maybe 3 tons for the smallest. Ink goes on flat steel plates either side of the glass plate - one takes a thick version and the other a thin version of the colour. The paper is fed into the roller one sheet at a time and gets pressed between the roller and the glass plate. The roller itself is a steel core with a mat - about 2mm thick - wrapped round it with a thin sheet of plastic material over the top. The height of the glass can be adjusted for different thicknesses of paper (typically they use 'washi' - Japanese paper) so that it is just gripped between the glass and a test steel bar.

Geoff Chaplin
 ジェフ チャップリン
Skype: geoffchaplin1611
UK mobile (英国の携帯電話): +44(0) 7770 787069
Japan mobile (日本の携帯電話): +81(0) 90 6440 7037
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-----Original Message-----
From: Tsuyoshi Ito [mailto:tito@projectbasho.org] 
Sent: 18 June 2009 23:43
To: alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca
Subject: Now it is up! (Hand collotype in process)

Hi everyone,

Here you go. It is about 10 minute long. Especially, take a look at  
how they coat plates.

As you can see in the clip, everything is analog at this studio. Enjoy!



On Jun 18, 2009, at 12:20 AM, Don Bryant wrote:

> Tsuyoshi,
> I think YouTube would be a great place to put it and also help garner
> recognition for Project Basho.
> Don
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tsuyoshi Ito [mailto:tito@projectbasho.org]
> Sent: Wednesday, June 17, 2009 10:38 PM
> To: alt-photo-process-l@usask.ca
> Subject: Re: Hand collotype in process
> Hi,
> I am not sure if this is appropriate question or not.
> Does anyone know where would be a great website to share the video
> file of collotype process on internet? The clip is about 360MB. Is
> YouTube the best way to go?
> Warmly,
> tsuyoshi
> On Jun 17, 2009, at 9:14 PM, Jack Brubaker wrote:
>> On Wed, Jun 17, 2009 at 8:28 PM, <phritz-phantom@web.de> wrote:
>>> and how do you people coat emulsions on glass plates? freehand with
>>> a comb (rather thin coating) or with some kind of frame.
>> Look at the link Tom posted:  http://www.phototypie.net
>> Even with failed high school French from half a century ago I figured
>> out a lot by going through the long set of photos and discription on
>> the site. My question, is why do they use glass? A less fragile sub
>> would seem a lot less trouble. Is there something about glass that
>> creates a better bond or do they flash it from the back to help bond
>> it? It seems that a metal plate could be grained the same way just as
>> zinc plates are for lithography.
>> Jack