Alkaline Fix

Pictorial Planet

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Why do I need alkaline fixers?


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I think it's pretty well known now that alkaline fixers are preferred if you are using Pyrogallol or Pyrocatechin film developers.

What might not be so well known is that they are also useful for Chloro-bromide warm tone papers and lith printing where it helps maintain optimum warmth and improves on the delicate highlights. However, alkaline fixers can be used with any film, developer, or paper especially if easier archival results are wanted.

So why do I mention archival results? Why does an alkaline fixer make them easier? Well, alkaline fixers wash out of film and paper more readily and are safer when you want to guarantee that you've removed all the fix from your film or print.

These fixers are also to be recommended if you expect to tone your print.

Another advantage of alkaline fix is that it has little or no bleaching properties and is safer to use for longer fixing times on films and paper. Basically, we should all be using these fixers for everything!

Alkaline fixer for film or paper (TF-2 by Bill Troop)

Water 40c       700ml
Sod. thiosulphate (Crys)     250g
Sod. thiosulphate  (Anhyd)   165g (Note: There is a typo in my book 5th edition. This is the correct amount of anhydrous.)
Sodium sulphite                   15g
Sodium metaborate         10g
Water to make                   1000ml

• Working strength solution
• Not recommended for flat grain films Kodak T-Max and Ilford Delta
• Good for staining/tanning film developers
• Only keeps for one month
• Fixing times:
Film    1-2 minutes (two times the clearing time)
Paper   2 minutes (see Fixing Tips)
• Capacity 10-20 films or 40 10x8 inch papers (or equivalent)

This Alkaline Fixer washes out of the film and paper readily and is useful for maintaining the stain when using staining/tanning developers. If keeping quality is not required, the Sodium Sulfite can be left out but the fix will only last a day.

With the advent of "I haven't enough hours in my day" folk have become addicted to rapid fixers. These use Ammonium thiosulphate as their fixing agent. I have included one below. Note, this is the preferred fixer for modern T-Grain films such as T-Max and Delta.

Rapid Alkaline fixer for film or paper (TF-3 by Bill Troop)

Ammonium thiosulphate (58-60%)  800ml
Sodium sulphite (anhydrous)           60g
Sodium metaborate                        5g
Distilled water to make                  1000ml

• Dilute 1+4 for both film and paper
• Keeps for 3 months as stock
• Good for staining/tanning film developers
• Fixing times:

Film    Two times the clearing time up to 5 minutes
Paper   2 minutes (see Fixing Tips)

• Capacity 10-20 films or 40 10x8 inch papers (or equivalent)

Final word:
Buy older film types (Fp4+, HP5+, PanF+, TriX) and fix with a slow sodium thiosulphate fixer like TF2 above. Your new and slower Zen photographic life will be fulfilling.

For your convenience I supply developers and alkali fix here.

Below is my video on water stop baths and correct fixing technique.