Paper Revival: Weston Diploma Parchment Plat/Pal

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 MILS
Color: Warm White
pH: 6.5 Average
Surface: Velvety Smooth
Edge: Plain
Fiber: 100% RAG
Sizing: 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.

P.S. John’s contact information is:

jzokowski AT comcast DOT net
John Zokowski
Butler-Dearden Paper
413-247-9073

5 Comments

  1. Aaron Muderick
    Posted Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    I received this paper just the other day and have been testing it. It does need the Citric Acid or it turns blue/green fairly quickly.

    Though I am still experimenting, this paper looks very nice. It does lighten in the wash which is good. I’ve been coating the smooth side.

    The exposure does seem faster than what I had calibrated using Lana Aquarelle 90# Hot Press. I only have 3 18″ blacklight tubes so my exposure for the Butler Dearden paper is around 30 minutes.

    I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

  2. Ken
    Posted Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Order extra paper – you have lots of labels to get done. Enjoy your Red Stripe.

  3. Aaron Muderick
    Posted Friday, March 20, 2009 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    I have continued my work and thought I would send you a Friday afternoon update. I received my sample of the new Weston Diploma Parchment and it works fabulously. It requires the citric acid added to the sensitizer but really improves the exposure sensitivity compared with other papers (not sure why that is, but it is true…about 1/3rd the time needed). No surfactant was needed at all. It soaks up the sensitizer very well. Using my laser printer transparencies I am able to get a perfect 100 step chart to develop using a 16 minute exposure (45 watts of UV blacklight). The smooth side of the paper prints with very nice resolution. My Dmin matches the uncoated paper and my Dmax matches the deepest hues I’ve been able to coax out the process. I see two downsides with this paper:

    1) It isn’t very white in color. Since I’m planning to tone many of my pics, I am expecting some base stain. I need the paper as white as possible at the beginning to cover this problem.
    2) It isn’t very thick and I’m finding problems with tearing and abrasion during the washing process. It is only 177gsm.

    So, I still seek Ruscombe Mill Buxton paper. It seems everyone is waiting for the next production run. If you hear anything, let me know.

    I’ve been doing some research into the properties of tannins and how they interact with iron salts. There are a lot of variables and they all affect the color and quality of results:

    – the source/exact composition of the tannins
    – concentration of the toning solution
    – timing of when in the process it is permitted to oxidize
    – whether it has contact with alkaline solution
    – how it is washed
    – the extent of bleaching/mixing with the Prussian Blue

    I believe the problems of staining, bleeding, and lack of a ‘good’ black can be solved. I have already produced some interesting results that didn’t happen during my initial experiments of slopping around with tannic acid and sodium carbonate bleach. Do you know of anyone who has investigated this more thoroughly? If so, I’d love to start where they left off and not re-invent the wheel.

    • bpawlowski
      Posted Saturday, July 25, 2009 at 10:02 pm | Permalink

      I received my Buxton paper from Ruscombe Mills. It is interesting, printed a small edition of prints with it last week.

  4. Posted Tuesday, April 21, 2009 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    Not that I’m totally impressed, but this is a lot more than I expected when I stumpled upon a link on Delicious telling that the info is quite decent. Thanks.


3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. […] paper of choice for New Cyanotype is Weston Diploma. John Zokowski, paper merchant extraordinaire, resurrected the paper for fine art photography use. […]

  3. […] Marcy is of course, on checking, the platinum printer that worked with John Zokowski to resurrect Weston Diploma paper for alternative processes. I remembered the remark by John Zokowski of trudging up three flights of […]

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