Frederick Allen

There must be very few people at this time of day who believe that the results obtained on unbacked plates are equal in quality to those when the plate has been properly backed with an efficient backing. I have heard a photographer say that he hated backed plates because they were so " messy," although he did not explain in what way the messiness manifested itself. If he meant that the backing was messy to apply, I can only say that \t is clear he did not set about its application in the proper way. If he meant that it washed off in the developer, and made that a little thick, I feel inclined to ask him -what did it matter? The soundest objection to backing is the extra cost of backed plates. Those who do not mind the comparatively small increase in price will be well advised if they buy their plates backed, because not only does this save the trouble of applying the backing, but it also insures the backiug being thoroughly dry, and prevents any risk of fogging the plate with actinic light, either while it is being backed or when it is being dried after backing. Besides, the backing applied by the maker is more likely to be efficient than when the plate is backed by the user; though if the method which I employ myself, and recommend, it adopted this should not be the case.

To make a backing frame is very simple. We first want a piece of flat board, a trifle larger than the plates in use; mine is a piece of deal 7x5 in., which is plenty big enough for half-plates. Even this is not a necessity, at a pinch a sheet of stout strawboard will answer every purpose. Two pieces of much thinner card are required, the same size as the thicker card or board, and having found the center of each, one of them should have a hole cut in it a shade larger than half-plate: say 6 17-32 in. by 4 24-32 in. and the other a hole 6 3-8 in. x 4 5 8 in. Both these holes, which leave a little more than a narrow frame of card, should be cut carefully central, so that when glued flat upon the board, the one with the larger hole on top of the other, they form a kind of rebate in which the plate rests without danger of moving, while except at the edges, its underneath side is not in contact with anything. When this has been done, and the glue is quite dry, a thumb-hole is cut at one side through both cards, extending a little way into the wooden base, so that when a plate is put into the frame it can easily be lifted out. The backing frame is then complete, though it will be all the better for a coat or two of good varnish. My own has had two coats of white enamel.

The use of such a frame is quite simple. The plate is laid in it sensitive side downwards, and the back is rubbed over with backing. I keep my backing in an old pyro bottle, and have a circular dabber made by tying up a ball of cotton wool in an old handkerchief folded in four. The dabber is kept in a pot with a lid such as shaving cream, etc., is sold in. This keeps it clean and ready for use. A few drops of backing are poured into the pot, the dabber well worked up with it, and then the back of the plate is rubbed over. The merest film is effective, and there is no need to give an even coating so long as there is enough everywhere. A piece of paper the size of the plate may be laid down on the backed surface, and the plate can then be put straight into the dark slide. It is a neater plan to stand it up in the dark to dry, but this is not always possible, and there is no serious objection to the other course.

The cost of backing in this manner is so trifling that it is quite unimportant to anyone able to afford to use a camera at all.

Lantern plates used for transparencies and for enlarged negatives are all much improved by backing - in fact, those who like to see clean, bright negatives, with edges free from fog, and with no suspicion of halation, will be wise if they make it a rule to back every plate they Use. - Photography.