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Old 10th of December 2008 (Wed)   #1
BLS
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Default How to Flatten Curly Prints?

I did a Forum search on this topic and found nothing, so I decided to post this question.

How can I flatten old B&W prints that have curly edges?

Here's the situation:
In the 50's my Dad did his own darkroom work and made lots of B&W prints.
Some of those prints are now curled.
We want to organize the prints and mount them in albums.
To do that, they need to be flat.

How can we flatten them?

Can we make them wet again and then dry them under weights like big books?
(P.S. We can't find Dad's print dryer.)
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Old 10th of December 2008 (Wed)   #2
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Default Re: How to Flatten Curly Prints?

Rewetting the prints will be OK, it won't do any harm at all. But putting them wet in contact with anything like a pile of books will mean you end up with the photos emulsion firmly glued to whatever it touched.

You do need a print dryer to get them flat again, although pressing them under weights BONE DRY might improve them a little.
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Old 10th of December 2008 (Wed)   #3
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Default Re: How to Flatten Curly Prints?

The way I used to dry prints in my economy sized darkroom was to hang them from a clothesline with several clothespins also along the bottom edge to act as weights and then under books once dry.
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Old 10th of December 2008 (Wed)   #4
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Default Re: How to Flatten Curly Prints?

If the prints are glossy, then it is possible to squeegy them face down onto a sheet of absolutely spotlessly clean glass. It's how those of us who could not afford posh driers with their metal sheets made glossy prints in the old days.

But I am deadly serious about the importance of the glass being completely degreased and spotless, don't go near it with window cleaning fluid or anything other than clean water and detergent, or the print will stick to it and be ruined. Put just one drop of detergent in the final print soak water.

After "squeegy-ing", cover the photo with a damp cloth pad. This serves two purposes, it prevents the edges drying quicker than the rest and stops the print curling as it drys. Wait a day or maybe two, you don't want the drying to be too quick, so avoid the temptation to put it in the airing cupboard!

The glossy and hopefully flat print will be sitting there, ready to be admired by all.
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Old 10th of December 2008 (Wed)   #5
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Default Re: How to Flatten Curly Prints?

Back in the day they made a print flattening solution that seemed to work OK. Not sure if it is still available. And the soap Lowner mentioned is the same as photoflow more or less. Wetting them would be a last resort for me. The bone dry method he suggested would be my first try. It takes some patience, some prints will flatten overnight and some may take a lot longer. Especially if they have curled to a tube. Wetting a glossy print can be a bit dicey, unless they're dried on a good drier they may have a spotty gloss to them.
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Old 10th of December 2008 (Wed)   #6
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Default Re: How to Flatten Curly Prints?

The "spotty" gloss I remember well! Too much detergent makes bubbles, with air in! trapped between the glass and the print was one way of getting them. Another reason was not properly cleaning the glass!

Oh, the joys of chemical darkrooms, its making me come over all nostalgic (not)! And they complain these days when they cannot batch process 2 million images in 5 minutes.
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Old 10th of December 2008 (Wed)   #7
René Damkot
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Default Re: How to Flatten Curly Prints?

I used to dry baryt prints by taping them on a window (emulsion *away* from the glass!) with aquarel tape. They shrink a bit while drying, and thus come completely flat... You obviously need a border around the photo however.
Other options: A press. (or whatever it's called)

I think I might still have a plane of glass somewhere with a (piece of a) photo firmly attached to it, so I second the point Lowner is making in post #4 about the glass being "completely degreased and spotless" if you face the print to the glass. I wouldn't try it on an important image personally...
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Old 11th of December 2008 (Thu)   #8
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Default Re: How to Flatten Curly Prints?

Thanks so much for your help.
At last I feel I some plans for coping with the curled prints.
This might be possible after all!

Fortunately, only a few of them are glossy.
Thanks, again.
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