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Size matters - go with this, or ... ?

Posted by Dave Bull at 8:27 AM, August 2, 2010

This thread about paper sizing is continued from here, and started here.

After the non-committal results from yesterday's 'strip' test, I tried something a bit different today. After the half-dozen sheets from the sizing run were dried, I cut some pieces from each one and headed down to the workshop to make a real test - using some of my blocks to make actual prints, not simply test strips.

This was much more enlightening. We can dispense right away with the kind of comment I heard yesterday - about how good I am at this. This is very poorly sized paper!

It was apparent right away, as I started moistening the blank pieces before printing. Parts of each sheet took up the moisture far too rapidly, while others areas were more like what I am used to. Even after letting them sit under cover for a couple of hours to even out, they refused to do so. It seems as though there are areas that are almost 'unsized', and those places just suck up the water far too much.

I waited until it seemed to have reached a basic stability, then made a run of half-dozen copies of one of the little Gift Prints I have:

And here we have another surprise ... Even though the paper was clearly not 'good', the resulting prints came out just fine. And after they were dry it was impossible to find the areas that had been causing problems with moisture absorption.

So ... I guess I can see where this is going. I now know that I can produce prints on paper that I have sized myself, but I can also see very clearly that I really have to get the brush motion down much more smoothly. Given that I have no stock of other paper available, and with collectors waiting for the next one in the 'Mystique' series in a couple of weeks, I'm going to move forward and try a 'real' batch. I'll cut enough paper for the edition, and will include in the sizing stack a considerable number of 'practice' sheets of junk paper, which I will toss out later. Hopefully, after I get going on the batch, I can develop a basically smooth motion with the brush. We'll see ...

I'll start tomorrow morning, and will put the Webcam in the kitchen, to try and catch a bit of it ...

This thread about sizing continues here.


Following comment posted by: Annie B on August 2, 2010 11:19 PM

Does this mean that size doesn't matter?

Following comment posted by: Daniel Dew on August 2, 2010 11:22 PM

I was going to say "what is wrong with the print!", then I read further. They look very nice.

Following comment posted by: Dave on August 2, 2010 11:45 PM

Does this mean that size doesn't matter?

Har har ... :-)

Search me; what would I know about such things?

But actually, when I do think about this further, nearly all the problems I have been having with the sized paper from the pro in recent years have been related to too much size. The paper has been 'hard', has been wrinkled, and has generally been resistant to good pigment pickup.

I have been keeping that in mind during my own tests, and have been specifically trying to avoid the 'too much - too hard' sizing. So it could be that my problems with the paper this morning - water getting blotchy in some areas - are pretty much because I have been holding back too much. As for the prints coming out basically OK, that's perhaps an indication that having the sizing a bit on the weak side is not such a difficult problem as sizing on the strong side.

But that's OK ... it now gives me a better idea of which way to take this ...

Following comment posted by: Tom Kristensen on August 3, 2010 12:44 AM

Sounds like your size recipe is an order of magnitude weaker than the shiny stuff (New Hosho) I've struggled with. Why not try and see if you can make some really strong size and see just how far you can push it, before you get the hard paper? Something is not adding up here. Given the scarcity of brushes and labour, I wonder if some have been resorting to dipping or spraying their paper - anything is possible.

Following comment posted by: Dave on August 3, 2010 1:06 AM

shiny stuff

If it's shiny (or speckled with silvery flecks, etc.) then that's too much alum - there is no question about that diagnosis. And too much alum ... which is in there to stop the wet pigment from 'feathering' into areas it shouldn't go ... will stop the entry of pigment, period.

In the first tests that I did (the ones with 1/2 the 'recommended' alum), I was afraid that I might start to see such feathering, but didn't catch any trace of it ...

There is another major factor that I haven't covered here yet, and that is the effect of the season and the weather. It's very hot and damp right now; in fact it's so damp here that it's almost possible to print on a piece of hosho just picked up, without any special moistening. Just how this affects what I am doing with this sizing, I haven't a clue. The paper is definitely softer ...

Yoshida mentions "In summer thick sizing is necessary, but in winter thinner sizing is sufficient," and my guess is that he is trying to protect soft 'warm' paper from damage from the baren, but I don't really know ...

Following comment posted by: Andrew on August 3, 2010 3:10 AM

Did you try printing without any size as a control?

I know some waterleaf papers will still print reasonably well if you don't have too much moisture on the block? Perhaps with careful printing even unsized paper will print just fine.

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