So as you can probably guess I tried my hand at something different here. Since we had nice biggish 6x9 negs I spent a couple of days getting my first taste of contact printing. First off I headed over to Baxters the glazing company, just at the start of the Bushmills Road (Yup...that Bushmills, if you know your whiskies). The very nice man there cut me a piece of 6mm glass and gave it to me. Yes, you heard correctly - he told me to take it with me, no charge. Not often that happens, but nice when it does.
So I took me wee bit of glass home and tried it out, using the enlarger as a light source. But as usual I was trying to be too clever, for a first go at it. Spent ages cutting out templates I did, in an attempt to have white borders - not really necessary. Anyway, I put the negative on top of the paper, set the template on top and then the glass. The resulting prints didn't look good. After a few prints that were fit only for the shiny round filing cabinet in the corner I gave up for the evening. Reading around it a bit I think the negs weren't being held flat enough against the paper. Most contact printing frames, from what I can see, have some sort of spring-loaded mechanism to apply a bit of pressure to the whole sandwich.
Sleep must have helped as this morning I hit on an idea. I remembered that I had an old Paterson Proof Printer. This allows you to contact print a whole 36-exp 35mm film on to one 10x8 print. Not that I was really ever into contact printing my 35mm films but it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. I fished it out and took a look at it. In case you've never seen one of these things it's basically a sheet of thicker-than-normal glass (with some black guides on it to help position the strips of negs), secured by hinges onto a moulded plastic base, on top of which lies a sheet of foam. The frame can be opened to allow positioning of the negs/paper on top of the foam base and then the glass closed down on top. A plastic lock clips the glass down tightly on the neg-paper sandwich.
From what I can see Paterson also did (maybe still do?) a 8x10 Contact Printer which you can buy for about £50 and I think Fotospeed still sell a larger one for slightly more money. The Paterson 8x10 one looks just the same as the one I have, minus the 35mm guidelines. As I ran my fingers over the glass I realised that the guidelines were slightly raised from the glass and on closer inspection I thought that it might be possible to peel them off, by inserting a fingernail under one corner. They came off pretty easily, in one go - more or less...they're just stuck on the glass. The edge of the glass nearest the hinge, however, disappears under some plastic trim so rather than try to dismantle the whole thing and risk breaking it I just cut the guidelines off as close to the plastic trim as I could. It means that I can't do a full 8x10 contact print, so when/if that time comes I'll have to dismantle the thing properly. But it'll be fine for 4x5 and smaller - if ever I make a negative decent enough to contact print, that is.
Anyway, back in the darkroom using the enlarger as a light source and things were starting to look up, hence these contact prints of old negs from The Uncle's collection.
Probably I could have tried to burn in a little of the negs above there around the face/head but it's a very small area so I left it alone. I had to do a few test strips first of course to get the contrast and time sorted but that was OK.
Not bad for a first attempt. I was a bit worried about positioning the negs on the paper, but it looks like the old eyes did a reasonable enough job under the safelight.