CHAPTER I.

Polishing the Daguerreotype Plate--Buffing the Plate--Coating the Plate--Exposure of the Plate in the Camera--Position--Developing the Daguerreotype--Exposure to Mercury--Removing the Coating--Gilding or fixing the Image--Coloring Daguerreotype.

Polishing the Daguerreotype Plate.--I shall endeavor to present to the reader the process I have found productive of good and satisfactory results, presenting the same in a clear and concise manner, so that any one, by following the various manipulations given, will be enabled to succeed. If there is any one part of the process in Daguerreotype in which operators fail more than all others, it is in not properly preparing the plate. It has truly been said that it would take a volume to describe all the methods that have been suggested for polishing the plate.

I shall confine myself to the following description, which has been successfully practised, also most generally adopted by our operators, and I believe equal, if not superior to any other method, yet at the same time it is not of so much importance what particular method is employed, so that it be thoroughly and skillfully carried out.

There is a general tendency with beginners to slight this operation; hence the necessity of adopting a system which precludes the possibility of doing so. During many years' study and practice in the art, I have tried numerous methods and substances for the better accomplishment of the end in view, and have finally settled upon the following, as being (so far as experience allows me to Judge) the modus operandi, best suited to all circumstances; under no condition would I approve of a method less rigorous or precise.

The operator being provided with a bottle of finely prepared rotten stone, cover the mouth of the bottle with a piece of thick paper, this perforated with a pin so that the rotten stone can be dusted on the plate. Fasten the plate on the holder, take the rotten stone (Becker's can always be depended upon), and dust on lightly until the surface is freely covered; now drop on the plate's surface a few drops of an alcoholic solution.*

* This solution is composed of equal parts of alcohol and water, for the summer, and in winter three parts alcohol to one of water; a few drops of potassa solution may be added, and is known to have a decided effect upon the plate.

Take a patch of Canton flannel; in order to prevent the moisture from the hand it should have a thick, firm texture: with this rub the plate in circles across, then back covering one-half of the former row of circles in each crossing until you have gone over the plate and back to the point of beginning, occupying at least half a minute in the operation, for a small plate, and so in proportion for the other sizes.

Care should be observed to keep the patch wet with the alcoholic solution forming a paste on the surface of the plate; the motion of the hand should be brisk and free, not hurried, and the pressure about equal to that of a pound weight. When the cotton is disposed to adhere to the plate, and slip from under the finger, spread the fore and middle fingers a little apart, then pressing down, bring them together in such a manner as to form a fold in the cloth between them, by which means you will hold it perfectly secure.

Avoid wetting the fingers, and should they perspire, wipe them often, as the moisture penetrating the cotton and coming in contact with the plate, would cause streaks it would be difficult to remove. I will here remark that many operators use much more cotton flannel than there is need of. I have found in my experience that a single patch, about one and half inch square, will be better for cleaning a number of plates than a new piece for every plate. This is the case for the wet, and for the dryrubbing two or three pieces will be found to answer. Thus with four or five cloths a dozen plates may be prepared.

Some operators use prepared cotton, and think it more convenient than the flannel. This may be had prepared free from seeds and in a very perfect state, if wished.

In going over the plate, great care should be observed, in touching its surface as equally as possible. The greatest care should be taken neither to touch the plate with the fingers, nor that part of the cotton flannel which is to come in contact with its surface; take a clean piece of flannel by one corner, snap it smartly to free it from dust and loose fibres, lay it face-side upward, dust on a little fine rotten stone; with this, polish around, or across, or in circles, lightly and briskly, passing gradually over the whole surface of the plate, as was done before with the wet. The plate should now exhibit a bright, clear, uniform surface, with a strong metallic lustre, perfectly free from any appearance of film; if not, the last polished should be continued until the effect is obtained, and when once obtained, the plate is ready for buffing.

Buffing the Plate.--There are a variety of ways and means employed in this part of the operation. Some choose wheels, and others prefer the ordinary hand-buff. I have been unable to detect any peculiar advantage in the use of the wheel except in the facility of the operation; no doubt, however, but there is a saving of time, particularly in the preparation of the larger plates. For general use, we have not seen a wheel better adapted for this purpose than the one patented by Messrs. Lewis.

It is generally well to use a hand-buff before placing the plate on the wheel; this is in order to prevent, as far as possible, the dust or other substance that may be on the surface of the plate from coming in contact with the cover of the wheel. I will here follow out the use of the hand-buffs (two are necessary) as they are mostly used.