Two years ago I started diving into archival printing with fiber based papers. I’m not quite sure what triggered my interest but I remembered being surprised that the subject wasn’t really treated at my school. When I asked about it my teacher luckily helped me out and showed me the “basics” in archival and fine-art printing. This way of working slowed down the process a lot and gave me more rest in practicing it. The slower it gets the more relaxed I become, so it seems. I’ll outline the steps which I follow when archival printing:
2) Stop bath (only water) *
3) Fix, 1 bath of Agefix, dilution 1+3, 1 minute *
4) Rinse / collect the prints in a bath of refreshed water
5) Hypo bath (Kodak Hypo Clearing Agent), 3 minutes
7) Toner (Kodak Selenium), dilution 1+9 / 1+39 *, 3-10 minutes
8 ) Rinse
9) Hypo bath, 3 minutes
10) Rinse, +/- 1/2 hour
2)* Change this bath frequently and use large volumes. The reason I don’t use an acetic stopping bath is that it causes the fibers of the paper to open up even more and let in the fixer which comes next. The fixer is the hardest to rinse out of your paper.
3)* Keep track of the number of prints processed or test the bath frequently. There are tests for undissolved silver in the paper. Run a test strip once in a while. The reason I use a less diluted bath is that you need less time to fix properly. The shorter the paper is in the bath the less fix will end up penetrating your paper base thus the risk of not being able to wash it out good enough.
7)* The less diluted the toner the more difference in color there will appear, ranging from purple to brownish. I believe 1+39 will still give you maximum archival protection while keeping the color as natural as possible. The beautiful part about toning is that it will give you nice deep rich blacks besides the obvious color shifting.
However, there are stories that the above about this dilution is not true, anymore. Apparently at one time Kodak Selenium Toner may have contained “small amounts of highly active sulfiding agents” which provided protection that selenium alone cannot provide unless toning is carried to completion. At some point in the 1980’s manufacturing changes eliminated these agents. Doug Nishimura indicates that complete protection with Kodak Selenium Toner requires a dilution of not more than 1+9, and a toning period of 3 to 5 minutes at 20º. You might find this depth of toning not to your taste.
Add a fixed but not developed test strip to your batches. This strip receives the same processing as prints in that batch and on it you perform the residual fixer test at the end of step 8.
The upshot is you should test your work flow after fixing for un-fixed silver and again at the end for residual fixer.