I’ve received quite a few emails from people contemplating starting out in collodion. Most people hit a brick wall when it comes to getting their hands on the chemistry (which is many cases is illigal to buy), so here’s a few pointers to get people started.
First of all. Buy a book. Sure, there’s lots of info online, but a lot of it is wrong, and it takes forever to figure out what’s solid.
I learned on a workshop from Quinn Jacobson, who’s book is still my go-to place for recipes and troubleshooting. Scully & Osterman are of cause a good place for info. And then there’s John Coffers manual. There's even a photocopied version of the handwritten text.
Also; if you want to skip some of the most frustrating experiments take a workshop. There’s a bunch to choose from, just not in Denmark…
WARNING: Some of this stuff is truly dangerous (especially ether, cadmium bromid and – if you really want to mess with this – potassium cyanide. Read the warnings and do your research, please. There’s ways to get around this if you know what you’re doing.
Some of this stuff is hard/impossible to get in Denmark and probably most of Scandinavia. The quick solution?
They carry everything you need pre-mixed. If you want to mix yourself they also sell some of the raw chemicals, but not ether and some other stuff. Also be aware that even though they’ll happily sell you stuff like cadmium bromide, it’s illegal to buy if you don’t have a poison permit in Denmark. Get one of those from Arbejdstilsynet. Not sure how this work in other contries.
There's also Photo 42 in Belgium. They also supply pre-mixed chemistry and other bits and pieces.
I ended up getting some better iron sulfate from a local art supply store (online).
Another option is to stay away form ether and cadmium bromide altogether. Look into John Coffers Poe Boy recipie.I’ve only done a few experiments and failed miserably, but some people have reported good results.
A few words about alcohol.
A lot of the recipes calls for grain alcohol (finsprit). Which is crazy expensive in Scandinavia. For most stuff, denatured alcohol (husholdningssprit) works fine, but for some applications (like mixing collodion), there’s too much water in it (7%). I ended up getting some 99-100% denatured alcohol from a chemistry store and will mix with demineralized water to get it down to 96%, which is what most grain alcohol is.
A few words about water
The Americans all talk about distilled water. Which is also really expensive around here. Demineralized works fine. This you can get in 1 or 5 liter bottles in any hardware store (Silvan in Denmark).
Besides a view camera setup, you need a dedicated plate holder. These can be bought made for wet plate, but you can also make on yourself.