June 13, 1997
Hello fellow daguerreotypists,
Friday the 13th. Sheer twaddle. Is there a daguerreotypist among us who would even notice? We thrive on bad luck--our rigour dag jour. Not to get too smarmy about it, but thie state of affairs cultivates a resourcefulness and a keen eye for opportunities and the ability to differentiate bad luck from: really bad luck. The wheat and the chaff sort of thing. Nevertheless, to our credit, we have generated a great database of quirks, anomalies, foibles, and feebles, not the least of which are tallys in the book of irreparable results. Yes, every silver lining has a cloud.
A burning question: To burn or not to burn? Theoretically, a surface of pure silver is needed for best results in daguerreotyping. A newly silvered plate should be pure; a used plate may or may not be. The old image is seemingly buffed off rather easily with no visible trace. However, it is
likely that old image is imbedded in the silver and may show up as a ghost image or other disturbance in the next picture. This is particularly true if having used thicker iodine layers. Scouring with an abrasive such as rottenstone is better than buffing. Iāve resorted to Comet Cleanser or Bon-Ami to make the job easier on a gilded plate but the resultant scratches are a bear on the re-polish. Not all the old sources mention burning but several do and Bisbee offers the sequence I prefer: first scour, then burn. If the image isnāt totally gone, all or portions of it will be seen as a whitish film on the plate after a minute or two of heating (If you burn first then scour, you wonāt see the film and have to hope for that rarely seen commodity: good luck). Buffing and re-heating gets rid of the residue although the sequence may have to be repeated several times. I heat the plate to about 300 degrees F. between each buffing step. I also heat a new plate to the same temperature while polishing because it prevents rouge scum from forming on the plate (thanks to Robert Shlaer for that hint).
A way to insure a pure silver surface is to galvanize--electroplate silver onto silver. Robert Shlaer does this as did the majority of the early successful daguerreotypists. More on this another
time. Another movie deal is in the works. "Beloved" is being filmed in Philadelphia and they want a daguerreotype made for authenticity in the movie. The hope was the entire cast along with stars, starlets, and moguls would be flown to my studio. As itās turning out, Iām doing a contact print
of a bit player...probably wonāt get an Oscar either. Jerry Spagnoli is doing a dag in a promo for the Oakland Museum. Ken says his first workshop came off quite well.
Well it is Summer, and among other considerations, you may just want to say "the heck with it" and go fishing. If so, I offer this piece from an 1851 issue of The Daguerreian Journal:
DAGUERREOTYPE FISH HOOKS. New use for old Daguerreotype Plates. Mr Stevenson, of Canandaigua, this State, has invented a curious contrivance for lake fishing, which experience has taught us to be one of the finest ever in use. Mr. S. takes a piece of daguerreotype plate, cuts and beats it into the shape of the bowl of a spoon. This with the silvered side out, and a hook of the proper size soldered in the bowl. It is found that this Daguerreotype hook will, when attached to a line, and in trolling, be kept continually wheeling in the water, and thus decoy the most wise and prudent inhabitants of the lake, whose age and prudence has added in no small degree to their weight.