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How long do they last?

Tyler Puckett , Aug 09, 2008; 01:55 a.m.

I just developed a roll of 35mm B&W (Arista brand....actually very good).

Anyway, I did something I've never done: I printed a few of the negatives with my enlarger. I bought a pouch of Dektol paper developer. I made a boo-boo and only made 1 liter...apparently you're supposed to mix it with 1 liter and then add another liter. So, about half of the prints I made came out all black. I ended up stopping down to f/11 and developing for 30 seconds. That seemed to work OK.

Here is my question for the much more experienced Photographers:

Would it be permissible to buy Dektol in powder form, mix it up to the recommended dilution, and store it in a black jug? Or, should I just mix up as much as I'll need for that session, and keep the rest powdered? If so, I'll probably move to a liquid developer. It seems that would be an easier way to go.

Also, my first question also applies to fixer: should I mix it up, store it in a jug, and use it as needed? I use the same fix for prints and film so I think I'd use it quicker. How much quicker, I can't say exactly.

Also, should I use a stop bath when printing? I just used water this time and it seemed to work OK, but I bow to the experts here. If the general consensus is "Use a stop bath." Then I'll add a bottle to my cart at Freestyle.

That appears to be all the questions I have for now. I actually think my prints came out OK for a first time. I really enjoyed it.


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Brooks Gelfand , Aug 09, 2008; 02:38 a.m.

Those are several good questions.

1) The Dektol. Mix it all to form a stock solution. I store a gallon of stock solution in a plastic milk jug in a dark cabinet. I mixed my last stock solution on 17 Jan 2008. So far it still works well even though the stock solution looks a bit brown. Mix one part of stock solution with two parts water to form a working solution. I discard the working solution at the end of each printing session.

2) Fix. I use Ilford Rapid fix. for film I dilute one part rapid fix with four parts of water. I store about 1 liter in a two liter plastic Coke bottle. For paper, I dilute 1 part rapid fix with nine parts water. I made 3 liters of this solution which I store in a one gallon plastic milk jug. I test the film fixer by seeing how fast it clears the leader from the roll of film I will develop, and the fix for twice that time. If it takes longer than 4 minutes to clear the film, I mix a fresh batch. I test the paper fixer with Edwal Hypo Check. If a precipitate forms when I put two drops in the working solution, I discard the fixer. I test before and after each developing session, and depending upon the number of prints, during the session. I keep the fixer from session to session.

3) I use Kodak Indicator Stop bath when printing. It neutralizes the basic developer and lengthens the life of the fixer. I keep the stop bath and use it until the indicator in it turns purple.

When I mix my chemicals, I use a Sharpie pen to write the chemical name and the date I mixed them on the milk jug or Coke bottle.

I also keep a spare, unopened bottle of fix and a spare packet of Dektol on hand. If find any of the stock solutions are bad, I can always mix fresh. Unopened Rapid Fix should keep for two years. Dektol in powdered for will keep for a very long time, just how long, I am not sure.

All much chemicals are keep in a dark cabinet (under the sink in the bathroom) in an air conditioned house. If you live in a warm climate and do not have air conditioning, your chemical will not last as long.

This is just the way I do it; it works for me. I am sure other have equally good protocols.

Tyler Puckett , Aug 09, 2008; 02:59 a.m.

That's where I went wrong...I mixed up "stock solution" and "working solution" with the Dektol.

I will try your processes. It makes more sense to make a stock solution and then make a working solution as you need it. Is there a testing chemical for developer? As you said, one exists for fixer.

So, let me get this straight with the fixer: you dilute the concentrate to the stock solution for storage, and as you need it, you further dilute it into a working solution, just like your developer? Or do you go straight from concentrate to working solution?

Thanks for your very complete answer. Up until earlier tonight, I had only developed film. It was easy enough to make a working solution as I needed it, out of the concentrate bottles. It's getting more complicated as I move to powders.

Is it too late to save the developer I made? I am going to go ahead and guess the answer and say "probably so" because I very foolishly poured the used developer back into the bottle.

I don't really have a dark place to keep my chemicals (especially not once I go to school...my dorm room will be a darkroom as well), so I guess I'll just have to buy black jugs somewhere. I guess stores like Wal-Mart or Lowe's would sell them?

So, just to sum up everything that was said: As soon as you open the package, mix up a stock solution. As you need it, take the stock solution and add the requisite amount of water to it.

ann clancy , Aug 09, 2008; 07:53 a.m.

you need to test for your exposure and development times. I am sure because of the issues with the developer your times of 30 sec. gave you something besides black.

you didn't indicated which paper your using but i am thinking it is an RC paper; these papers need 90 secs of development time.

Brooks Gelfand , Aug 09, 2008; 03:11 p.m.

For fixer I go directly from concentrate to working solution. That is for liquid concentrates. I believe Kodak powder fixer is mixed to a stock solution first. The working solution of either Kodak or Ilford fixer will keep after use and may be reused; the working solution of paper developer will not keep. Keep stock and working solutions in different containers (I know this is obvious, but it is easy to make a mistake and pour working solution into a stock solution container. Then you must discard everything).

Kodak states that one liter of working solution of Dektol will develop approximately 30 8x10 prints. I have about 2 1/2 liters (800ml of stock solution + 1600 ml of water) of working solution in my tray. That would give me about 75 prints. I have never come close to making 75 prints in a single darkroom session. Since the developer is discarded at the end of each session, the problem of exhausting has never arisen. I use to do my printing at a rental darkroom. We had approximately five people working each session of four hours. We never had a problem with the developer.

Dektol is cheap when compared to cost of paper, not to mention your time. I recommend you dump the Dektol you have mixed and start fresh. Mix the whole package per the instructions to make a stock solution.

I will respectfully disagree with Ann. Although you will get a decent image after 30 seconds of developing, I like to give developing at least 1 minute 30 seconds (1 1/2 minutes) to bring out the greys. A little more time, say 2 minutes does not hurt. Timing for prints is not critical as long as enough time is given. The same is true for fixing. I give it at least two minutes in rapid fix and usually 5 minutes.

Tyler Puckett , Aug 09, 2008; 05:52 p.m.

Thanks for your responses. I have another order at the ready at Freestyle. More film, 2 packages of Dektol, and another bottle of film developer. I may go ahead and buy some 1 liter bottles from them as well.

So, do you think I got completely black images from using stock solution to develop, or something else? I only exposed for three seconds on f/8 and developed for a minute and got an all black image. When I developed for two seconds at f/11 and developed for 30 seconds I got a good image, although the grays are a little "muddy."

Brooks Gelfand , Aug 10, 2008; 02:17 a.m.

Don't forget the Ilford Rapid Fix.

I would not bother with bottles. Empty one gallon milk jugs and 2 liter soft drink bottles are free and work well.

What size were you printing? 2 seconds is far to short an exposure. I usually expose for between 20 seconds to 40 seconds and adjust the f-stop for that time range ( I am making 8x10 prints). Too short an exposure will cost you mid-tones. You always want to develop for the full time - 90 seconds to 2 minutes to get the mid-tones. Here are some examples of my results http://photo.net/photodb/folder?folder_id=251993 with the exception of the color image which is digital. All these are scans of 8x10 prints.

Post a few results when mix you new chemicals. I look forward to seeing them.

Tyler Puckett , Aug 10, 2008; 02:46 a.m.

I have three images (at the top of my feed) already posted on my flickr page: flickr.com/photos/brofkand. Those were made with a 2 second exposure at f/11, 40 second develop. Again I was using stock solution so I'm sure things were horribly messed up. I probably should have exposed for the full time, but only developed for less time. OnceI get more dektol in, I'll print some more.

ann clancy , Aug 10, 2008; 09:20 a.m.

the problem with the black prints in such a short time could be a result of the dektol ratio not being correct.

when you get a new batch mixed it will be interesting to see if those times remain the same, which is much to short.

there is another thing to concern; the wattage of the enlarging bulb, is it the correct one for you enlarger?

Michael Best , Aug 11, 2008; 09:15 a.m.

Tyler, In my darkroom, the life of the chemistry is all important, as I may develop one roll this week, three rolls next week, and go for maybe three weeks with no photographic activity at all. Air in the bottles you store chemistry in affects the keeping characteristics significantly. I see you deal with freestyle. In their inventory are 2 size arista air evacuation bottles, 1 liter and 2 liter. Additionally, there are some one gallon sizes available. In various combinations, I use one gallon regular bottles for mixing purposes only, transferring to 1/2 gallon regular bottles and air evac bottles as the situation calls for. For simplicity's sake, I use a one gallon air evac bottle for fixer and also for stop bath. I use edwal hypo test and when it shows hypo deterioration, i replace both the hypo and the stop bath. I use Dektol for paper and D76 for film. The dektol I will store in both stock solution and working solution in whatever combination of regular or air evac bottles that gives me no air in the bottles in storage. D76 I mix to 1:1 as I use it, but when I get to the point I cannot evacuate the air from the stock solution bottle, I will mix it into working solution to facilitate air-free storage. The main point is that the air-free storage is the one key element in chemical storage. As all of this is stored in my darkroom, light is not a factor. Sound complicated, really isn't, and I have eliminated short term deterioration. On other elements of the question, I develop paper for 1 minute, but up to two won't hurt, may help develop deeper tones. Filtration of all chemistry on a use by use basis eliminates some problems.

Mike Best

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