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Enlarging Homemade


Last week the last piece needed for my Omega D2 enlarger restoration came in a big brown truck (no apologies, I love ebay).  I've had the column and bulb unit in my closet for over 20 years, ever since it came with my 4x5 Speed Graphic.  But, my first working enlarger was one with a cold light head, followed by a Zone VI VC enlarger.  I tried the Zone VI with handmade paper a couple of years ago, but it didn't work, so I started on the Omega project -- finally come together.

Enlarging on homemade paper can definitely be done.

I used a handmade 2-1/4 x 3-1/4 inch negative ('TLF #1' on Melenex, exposed in a Baby Speed Graphic).

Two prints from the same batch of emulsion, processed in the same tray of developer, only several minutes apart. 

The prints were scanned side-by-side at the same time.  They are standard recipe 'I' with photo grade sodium chloride, coated on Fabriano Artistico Extra White, HP watercolor paper.

The enlarger is assembled with just the bulb and the condenser lenses.  I didn't use a UV filter or heat-absorbing glass.  Handmade paper (at least this recipe) is basically sensitive to only UV light. 

The print on the left was contact-printed under a GE 'halogen 75' flood bulb, 5 ft away from the printing frame.  Exposure was one second.

The print on the right was enlarged under the Omega with a standard enlarger bulb (at least 20 years old!) 14 inches from the lens and about twice that distance from the light.  The exposure was 1 minute at f/11.  The print size is 3.5 x 5.25 inches.  Exposure time will go up significantly with increased enlargement, but I think it will still stay acceptable to anyone determined to avoid enlarged inkjet negatives for contact printing.

The only 'trick' necessary with handmade printing paper is getting the paper flat.  That's not a problem in a glass contact printing frame, but I couldn't figure out what to do for enlarging.  Even if I had the money to buy a vacuum easel, I don't have the space.  The answer is wonderfully simple.  I wet the paper and gently squeegee'ed it down to a sheet of glass under the enlarger.  I focused and registered the negative ahead of time, just like with standard enlarging practice, but in addition I placed pieces of tape along two edges to guide my wet paper placement.  The print looked a little soft when it was wet, but it dried perfectly.  Print image quality is greatly influenced by the quality of the light used.  The enlarged print is much lower in contrast, but given allowance for being an enlargement, it is relatively as sharp as the contact print.  Next week, I'm going to make up a half dozen different developers and see if I can lift the contrast a bit that way. 

Below: Close-up crops of the negative, the contact print, and the enlargement. 

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