So, I've recently made some beautifully detailed, smoothly toned cyanotypes using my store of discontinued Crane's Weston Diploma Parchment and Mike Ware's new cyanotype process. I purchased 250 sheets of 11 inch by 14 inch, and 100 sheets of 28 inch by 34 inch in June 2007 from Bostick and Sullivan. The paper is extremely smooth, a warm slightly cream color (that lightens during washing), and it is exceedingly difficult to determine a smoother side for coating. The paper is subject to chemical fogging with the new cyanotype process, though this is easily controlled with one drop of 40% citric acid solution to 1ml of sensitizer. By 2008, Crane and Co., the sole supplier of currency paper to the U.S. Treasury, ceased production of this paper.
As I was looking around for information on my remaining store of Weston Diploma Parchment, I found a posting on the f295.org site stating the paper had been relaunched by the Butler-Dearden Paper Service Inc. The story here is very interesting to the alternative process community in that it seems Weston Diploma Parchment was relaunched specifically for alternative process printing.
Last Monday, I contacted John M. Zokowski by e-mail at Butler-Dearden inquiring about the availability of the paper and pricing. He replied promptly and offered to send out a sample, which I received by Thursday when I was preparing to leave for Jamaica. I stole an hour before my red-eye flight to take the paper for a spin with the new cyanotype process.
John had sent me five or six sheets of 11 inch by 14 inch paper in a sturdy shipping envelope. John's detailed description of the paper includes the following specifications:
Weight: 177GSM/47#Thickness: 10 MILSColor: Warm WhitepH: 6.5 AverageSurface: Velvety SmoothEdge: PlainFiber: 100% RAGSizing: Rosin-Alum
The paper looks like the former Weston Diploma Parchment. As I pulled out a sheet, I immediately noticed a difference. There is (to my Bergger COT 320 trained fingertips) a front smooth surface and a rougher back surface, not as pronounced as COT 320, but there nonetheless. If anything, the smooth surface is even smoother than the original from Crane's. It felt the same weight as its predecessor.
I did not have time to do a full PDN calibration, as I wasn't yet finished packing, so I decided to process it like its predecessor. I quickly rod coated a sheet with 2ml of new cyanotype sensitizer with 2 drops of 40% citric acid solution. It coated smoothly and quickly, and on pass five of the rod began buckling as the original was wont to do. I let it dry for about 20 minutes and completed drying it to bone dry with a hair dryer set to low heat. No blue spotting, or green turn to the emulsion - so far so good. I grabbed a digital negative I had made from the calibration of the original paper, and a 31 step tablet, and exposed the lot in my vacuum frame for 2m 20s.
The paper looked well exposed before I placed it face down in a water bath with a splash of very dilute hydrochloric acid. I moved it after a minute to a plain water bath and since I was in a hurry I let it sit only a couple minutes before gently spraying it with a hose to complete clearing.
The rebirthed paper felt similar in wet strength to the original - which is to say it gets fragile quickly. This is no problem with cyanotype processing as the wash is pretty quick. I inspected the 31 step tablet exposure and decided that this new paper was slower than the original paper, but only slightly. I think a calibration would put its standard print time somewhere short of 3m 30s. When I get back from vacation I want to try a calibration without the added citric acid - this version may not be subject to the chemical fogging of the original.
I am just about to send my order in to John Zokowski for 200 sheets (or... more?) of the 28 x 34 sheets, and to thank John for his work on reviving this paper. I'm just a bit distracted by the Jamaican Hummingbirds flitting amongst the feeders.