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Physical restoration of peeling emulsion

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  • Physical restoration of peeling emulsion

    I'm in the process of restoring some 1890-1900 half-plate glass negatives.

    They were found in the back of a kiln, and in a truly appalling state. The best I can hope for is to recover portions, and normal retouching processes don't apply - for instance I have black areas where the emulsion is missing and, in general, I'm not going to attempt to fill these in.

    However, one plate has much of the emulsion peeled away from the glass, dried out and curled up - and is in multiple pieces.

    With great care and under heft magnification, I've been able to clean the underlying glass, moisten the emulsion, straighten it out and re-adhere the emulsion to the glass, joining up the multiple sections so that there is not much in the way of a visible join.

    My problem is that this dries out very quickly, and the emulsion comes away and curls up again. If I could complete the plate in 10 minutes, I could just about manage to get it scanned in time. But the work is probably going to take 4-5 hours.

    I've tried occasional misting, but that gets water where I don't want it and softens the emulsion too much. I've even tried working in a very high humidity environment, but that also causes problems.

    What I really need is something (ideally a water additive) that will allow the emulsion to re-adhere to the glass.

    I wondered if anyone had any thoughts - I did wonder about gelatin, but that goes a bit lumpy at working temperatures.

  • #2
    Re: Physical restoration of peeling emulsion

    How about doing a small section, scanning it, do another section, scan that and on and on. Then join all the sections together in PS. A lot of work but maybe????

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    • #3
      Re: Physical restoration of peeling emulsion

      Thanks for the thought.

      I did think about that, but I'm not sure it would work so well. However, given it's a suggestion from someone else I might give it a go (although, because of the distortions in the emulsion, it's a lot easier to manipulate the geometry on the plate than it would be in PS).

      I also thought about actually physically removing the loose parts and wetting them onto a clean piece of glass and scanning these. I had, however, hoped to try and keep everything on the original plate if I could.

      Thanks again ... unless someone comes up with an "adhesive" solution, I'll probably have to go down that route.

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      • #4
        Re: Physical restoration of peeling emulsion

        You have probably done all of this but it may be of interest to some others... Mystery Glass Negatives from Land's End

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        • #5
          Re: Physical restoration of peeling emulsion

          Very interesting - thanks for that. They seem to have had to handle the delamination of the emulsion at the edges by gentle wetting, flattening and then "securing" the emulsion (but they don't explain hwo), and then used another glass sheet to hold it all in place.

          Unfortunately mine are much more complex and I don't think I'd be able to get the work done in time to get a glass sheet in place.

          However, your pointer did give me one idea - it referred to putting the emulsion under gentle pressure with weights. As I type I have a small and insignificant section under a gentle weight to see if that will help it adhere and flatten. But I'm now concerned that the emulsion will adhere to the weight when I remove it.

          But it's worth a go - thanks.

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