Postponing Final Rinse using Glycerin

Glycerin, widely known for usage in pharmaceutics and cosmetic applications such as cough syrups, tooth paste, soap and other skin care products, can also be used in wet plate collodion photography.

When working out in the field KCN is the recommended fixer as it requires a lot less washing time than the safer, more friendly alternative, hypo (sodium thio-sulphate). Apparently I’m very sensitive to the smell of KCN so slowly want to push it out of my workflow. I just don’t feel comfortable using it when I can smell it this badly. But working with hypo on location is not really an option unless you have running water. So……

I remembered a discussion on Facebook where the use of glycerin and or honey was mentioned to keep the plate wet until you arrive home and give the plates their final proper rinse. I just couldn’t remember how it was diluted, ratio, if glycerin or honey was the only compound needed etc. Luckily Facebook is still around and I started a discussion on the topic. That surely cleared things up and here’s what I will be doing (first in the shape of a test, later on the real deal):

* Fix the plates in hypo 20% dilution
* Give it a quick rinse to get the excess fixer off
* Flow the plate with a mixture of glycerin and water, ratio 1:1 (read flow the plate as with collodion, not submerge)
* Stash it in a tray which on its turn is stacked into a black light-tight box
* When I get back home, rinse the shit out of them!

Sounds like THE thing to do! Now, all I need is to find some proper trays, a couple for 10×10″ plates, and a couple for the 4×5″ plates. And of course a black box. The purpose of the glycerin here is that it will adhere to the plate without having to submerge it in a fluid. Saves in weight to drag along and when you would hold the plates in an angle there’s no chance they will (partially) dry out. Not having to lug around 25 litres of water when working on location sounds like a dream, without all that water a weird wet dream, so just a dream 😉

I will first be testing this to make sure the hypo will not affect the plates in any way while waiting to be rinsed. I hope to post results soon and the stuff I used to keep the plates stored in. I’m very happy to have figured this out a little and would like to thank France Scully Osterman, Craig Tuffin, Frank Lopez, Denis Roussel and Andreas Reh for their input!


  1. Indra, why not submerge and what do you do if you have more than one plate to bring home and do not wish to scratch them ? Spacers ?

    1. Hello Georges,
      Submerging the plates would increase weight and volume. If just flowing the plate will be sufficient I’ll gladly take it 😉

      The 4×5″ plates I want to keep in those plastic boxes you use to keep your meat that go on your sandwich. They are compactly stackable and, with the use of dividers, I can transport 2 plates in one box.

      I had to think a bit harder about the larger plates. I think I will be making a black box of around 30 x 30 x 30 cm with a hinged door on the side. I will be making flat drawers in it with a rubber plaid that keeps the plates from sliding on its drawer and which will at the same time protect the wood from the glycerin solution.

      More to follow soon 😉

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