After I almost used up my first package of printing paper, I thought it might be helpful to take some notes of the first experiences I could made. And it is also a good occasion to gratefully acknowledge the generous help of Urs Bernhard who first introduced me to alternative printing techniques about a year ago.

1) Printing frame.
My first contact printing frame I ordered from Fotospeed. The price is not cheap but reasonable, yet the quality is... a little bit rough. It works somehow, but since the clamps which fix the plate to the glass are only at the edges, there is not so much pressure in the centre of the frame where negative and paper are placed. The contact frame which I use now I obtained from argentum camera in Hungary (http://www.argentumcamera.com). It was a lot more expensive but is much better built and puts the pressure at the right place...


2) Digital negative.
Since all alternative printing techniques work by contact printing, the size of the print equals the size of the negative. Since I am not taking large format photos, the best way to obtain negatives of suitable size was the digital way: transforming a digitalized photo into a negative and print it on a kind of overhead projecting transparency (I use Mitsubishi Pictorico OHP on the Epson 3800 printer). The alternative printing techniques I tried so far (argyrotype and kallitype) require very dense negatives. Most helpful in learning how to adjust them was the book by Ron Reeder, Digital Negatives (2010). The curves that have to be applied in photoshop are rather harsh, therefore it is very important not to create any rupture in the tonal transitions.
According to my experience so far, argyrotype and kallitype can use the same negatives.

3) Paper.
The next hurdle was the choice of paper. For argyrotype, I used Fabriano Artistico paper without problems. But it seems to contain a buffering substance which reacts with the Kallitype sensitizer. It might be possible to clear the Fabriano paper in citric acid, but my attempt in doing this resulted in damaging the paper structure (maybe a bathed them too long). Anyway, I switched to Bergger COT 320, which works very well.

4) Water.
Germany is full of mineral water sources which might be good for the body (or not), for purposes of alternative printing the hard water here is unusable except for the final washing. Therefore, I use demineralized water for mixing the chemicals and some steps of washing the print.

5) Exposure.
For exposure, I use sunlight. I like the idea that natural light not only made the photos but also the prints ;-) During this summer, we had many days of fine weather, so I could somehow get used to the proper exposure times (which is quite convenient in avoiding too many failed prints...). It is about 4 min in full sunlight. Since I use a contact printing frame whose back is split in the middle it is possible to open it without loosening the negative and paper, and to check the exposure. The exposure is all right if the shadows are very well visible (in a sort of grey), the darkest parts starting to turn brown.
If I ever should switch to exposure by an artificial UV-lamp (a faceburner should be sufficient, it is said...) I will report about it...

6) Development.
Using the kallitype set provided by Wolfgang Moersch, I now take the following standard procedure:
- development in sodium citrate, about 4 min.
- clearing bath in 3% citrid acid solution. I use two bathes, each 3-4 min.
- washing in demineralized water, 1-2 min.
- fixing in Moersch ATS alkaline fixer 1+20, 1' - 1'30".
The tone of the print is mostly determined as brown in the development itself, according to my experience. The clearing bath makes it a little bit brighter and a little bit more orange. Fixing hardly changes the tone.

7) Toning.
As can be seen from my uploads, I discovered the pleasures of toning. Apart from palladium toning which should be done before fixing (and which turns the colour into a nice neutral-to-brownish grey), toning is done after fixing. I use again toners from Moersch and follow the instructions given there. It seems that kallitypes which are to be toned should be exposed rather longer.
In the case of sulphur toning, I use a bleaching bath mixed 1+60, for 20"-40". Then I wash with demineralized water and put the print for 30"-1' into the toning bath.
In the case of iron toning, I put the print for about 2 min into the toning bath. It seems very important to do the final washing also in demineralized water. Our tap water at least soon affects the iron toning.

(...to be continued...)