Entries in Mercury Pot (7)


Mercury Pot

So here we are, at the heart of the operation. Although you can fail miserably before this step, this piece of equipment is critical to calculate both time and temperature. I'll post on safety in a different entry, let's just say that you do not use this unless it's in a well-designed, vented, tested, fume hood.

After the plate is polished, fumed and exposed, it comes to this unit. Here. the plate is fumed again but this time with heated mercury - Hg. There are many methods, times and temperatures, but the general rule is 100 C (212 F) for 2 minutes. The mercury is heated with an alcohol lamp - this is quicker and the "cool down" is quicker, too. I have nothing against electrical heaters for mercury - if that's what you like, go for it.

With René's design, I can inspect the plate through the "safe windows". Again, you can do this by time and temperature only, and a lot of people do, I prefer the visual, if I can get it.


All material © 2010 Studio Q - Quinn Jacobson Photography and René Smets.

 Designed and built by Rene Smets.









Trays & Pans

You might ask why are you posting on trays and pans? Good question! I'm doing this because of the unique construction (addtion, really) that Rene's trays come with.

The little "lift" in the tray really helps the Daguerreotypist from damaging the plate when trying to lift it out of the tray. Fingernails and fingers damage the (tender) surface easily!

 I highly recommend this design if you do it. The plastic strips in the bottom of the tray act as ribs to keep the plate from "sticking".

Everything you need for trays in Daguerreotypy. Whole Plate and Half Plate dummies sit inside the trays.


Fuming or Sensitizing Boxes

This part of the Daguerreotype equipment is very important (but then again, what part isn't?). This is where the plate is sensitized, or becomes like film - sensitive to light. The final surface is an amalgum of silver and mercury. The first fuming is over Iodine Crystals. The plate is fumed until you have a rose color (checked under reflected white light and fumed again for a few seconds to mitigate that exposure) and then it's off to the Bromine for fuming. No Bromine fume, no "speed" or ISO.

These are very special fuming boxes. They are designed with NO metal in them and to seal extrememly well when fuming and in storage.


Iodine and Bromine Fuming Boxes

Detail of the Iodine Box - designed and built by Rene Smets.

In the "fuming" position.

In the "resting" position.Open top anc slide on the Iodine Box. These are the Corian boxes that store the Iodine and Bromine. These are "sealed" for storage.

Detail of the "sealed" storage box with handle!

I needed three sets of inserts; Iodine, Bromine and Mercury - Whole Plate and Half Plate size. This is why I decided to go with the "Lift System" versus the "Vise System". You can see the "gaps" and issues with the "Vise System".


Gilding & Drying Stand

People always want to know waht the most difficult part of making Daguerreotypes is - the answer is gilding.  There seems to be some correlation to the varnishing step in Wet Collodion and Gilding in Daguerreotypy. It's a strange and difficult thing to explain in writing. These are all visual processes, every step, you watch and adjust. It's visual and intuative.

Rene designed a "traditional" Gilding Stand for me with the built in feature of being a Drying Stand, too. See the photos/illustrations. Rene thought that this was a better option than using BBQ tongs. I'm also making larger plates - Whole Plates won't fit in BBQ tongs.

Gilding Stand/Drying Stand - this will accommodate both Whole Plate and Half Plate sizes. The drying stand post is removed and the left gilding post is moved into its place and the rack supports Half Plate. In this configuration, it supports Whole Plate. A "Whole Plate" sitting on the Gilding Stand with catch pan for when the meniscus breaks.

Here you see an illustration of me "working the stand". I wish I would have put my pony tail a little higher on my head, but this was in Belgium, and that's the custom there.

The Drying Stand holding a Whole Plate piece of glass.


Electroplating Box

Making Silver Plates for Daguerreotypy:

There a couple of ways to go about covering the copper plate with silver. The first way is to send the polished and preped copper plates to a plater. There are several good ones in the United States. Search the FAQ database for those. The second way, the way that keeps you independent is cladding or electroplating the copper plates. I've chosed electroplating.

I haven't found a lot of good information on this topic online. You can search the FAQ database for specifics, but the general idea is that you use an anode (pure silver plate) and cathode (copper plate) in a solution of silver and cyanide. An electrical current is sent through the plates and the silver is transferred and "plated" onto the copper - electroplating.

This is my electroplating tank and plate hangers:

Whole Plate Electroplating Tank designed and constructed by Rene Smets.

Plans for the plate hangers - holds Whole Plate and Half Plate.

Cathode Hanger - Holds Whole Plate and Half Plate.