Monthly Archives: January 2015

Research! Research I say!

I am reviving my attempt to use Borax as the alkali in Caffenol-C. I won’t try to use it by itself, however. I learned that Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH or Lye – as it is commonly known) can be easily obtained. I got a two-pound bottle of it at Lowe’s for $15.


Adding NaOH to Borax produces Sodium Metaborate – otherwise known in the photographic world as “Kodalk.” This was Kodak’s balanced alkali solution, which is no longer available (from Kodak, it can be purchased from several sources online). Its pH is about 10.5 and should work nicely for my purposes (I think). I’m hoping to take advantage of Borax’s reputed ability to provide a bit finer grain compared to Washing Soda. And if that works, I want to go further and add in Sulfite to see if I can get the grain finer still.

I have also decided to get a bit more organized in my experiments and have put together an actual lab book. Much better than the random bits of paper I have been using so far. I’m including all the useful data (tables, graphs, formulae, etc.) I have run across on the Internet. It’s nice just to have it all in one place.


Adding this to my improved test film strategy, I’m really hoping to come up with a working recipe for Caffenol-BS. I’ll sort out the alkali first, then start adding in sulfite.

More fun to come!


To Sulfite or Not To Sulfite…

So the holidays are now over and I’m able to think about something other than family and work – and here I am!

I had been partially through a head-to-head test of Caffenol CL with and without Sulfite added. To start with I tried 50g/L. I’ll try 100g/L next time around.

I shot an entire roll of film of the same image – more or less. It is a close up view of a vase of roses. It was fairly dim lighting and I was shooting with my 50mm f1.4 wide open – assuming that the areas of bokeh would probably be the best places to see the graininess of the negatives.

This has worked out famously. I just need to pull a few inches of that roll of film back out of the canister (in darkness of course) and load it into a tank and develop per my protocol. I will definitely do this again in the future, but I realize that I made two small errors. First – I left the camera in Auto mode, which on the Nikon FE is aperture priority, as a result there are tiny but perceptible differences in exposure between each frame. Second – I hand held the camera – so there are slight differences in the plane of focus between frames as well.

Next time I’ll tripod mount the camera, set a manual exposure and snap away. In that fashion I should get an entire roll of nearly identical exposures to develop under varying conditions.

Ok, on with the current test results.

These are crops looking at the glass vase the roses are sitting in. Again, the point here is to evaluate the graininess – and nothing else, so please do not critique the artistic value of the following images… Apart from cropping I made no adjustments whatsoever.

This is developed in Caffenol CL for 60min at 20ºCCL 60

This is CL with Sulfite 50g/L for 60min at 20ºCCL Sulfite 60

The preceeding negative was visibly thinner than the non-sulfite version, so I ran another test developing for 90min in CL with Sulfite at 20ºCCL Sulfite 90

And completely for reference purposes, this is standard Caffenol CH for 12min at 20ºCCH 12min

As you can see, any differences are subtle – I can’t really declare any of them a clear victor, but in my opinion the 60min CL with Sulfite looks the best overall. It’s difficult to say whether this is simply because this was the most successful picture – meaning the plane of focus and exposure turned out the nicest – or because the developer conferred some advantage.

I think I have used up the test roll I shot, so another is in order – manual exposure, on a tripod – and I’ll run these again and try adding Sulfite 100g/L.