Borax + hydroxide = metaborate it's not

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Jorge Omar, Oct 13, 2003.

  1. Jorge Omar

    Jorge Omar Guest

    I've done the following:

    - In 40cc of cold water, added almost 60g of hydroxide, until I was quite
    sure there was a saturated solution (water was cold - I mixed in a glass
    cup inside of a cold water bath). By now I had some 60cc of saturated NaOH
    - Let it decant and carefully poured 30cc of it in another cup, avoiding
    the crystals at the bottom.
    - Dilluted the 30cc with 120cc water to make a 22% solution (hydroxide at
    20C saturates at 109g/100cc).
    - Mixed 34cc of this 22% solution in 400cc water.
    - Added 36g borax to it (had to rise temp from 19.5C to 37C for borax to
    dissolve). Cooled it down.
    - Added water to 500cc. By now, there should be a 10% metaborate solution
    in the cup.
    - Mixed 10cc of this solution with 90cc water. By now, we should have a 1%
    solution. Solution temp was 20C.
    - Calibrated the ph meter at 7.01 and 10.01. Made a rough test with a
    saturated borax solution. pH was 9.47. Rio Tinto specifies saturated borax
    at 9.32, so my readings are higher than should be.

    Measured the 1% metaborate solution - 10.12. Rio Tinto specifies 11.

    So, metaborate equivalent it is not - or there is something very wrong over

    Any chemist over there to redo a similar test or point where I'm mistaken?


    Jorge Omar, Oct 13, 2003
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  2. [rest of complex, sad tale snipped]

    All I can say is that this makes me *really* glad I don't feel compelled to
    mix my own chemistry! That much I'll leave to the "experts". (Except for my
    sodium sulfite which I mix for my own HCA.)

    Call the American Teleservices Association at (317) 816-9336
    and let them know just how much you appreciate their "services".
    Telephone # courtesy of Dave Barry (yes, that Dave Barry).
    (Read all about it on Slashdot:
    David Nebenzahl, Oct 14, 2003
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  3. Ahh, it's not so bad, usually. Jorge may be obsessing a little, these

    I had an episode with E-6, while in San Francisco about 20 years ago.
    After two weeks, I came out of it and started shooting color negative
    in a point and shoot camera.

    Never looked back.

    Still mixed my own, though. It can be fun, easy and a lot cheaper.

    A lot of people use D-23 and produce excellent work. Me, I was sort
    of a 777 guy, and couldn't stop fiddling around.

    Get some teaspoons and some basic chemicals and plunge in.

    Stir well,

    Robert Vervoordt, MFA
    Robert Vervoordt, Oct 14, 2003
  4. Jorge Omar

    Jorge Omar Guest

    Nah. As Robert said, it may be fun.
    And allows one to get unavailable products - mainly developers,
    specifically Xtol.

    Fixers? I don't even weight the paper one. It goes by volume. I mix 2
    liters of it in about 3 minutes...10% the price of Polymax.

    The reason for such a long and detailed post is that I've posted earlier
    that I could not get it right, no matter what I did (everyone says it's
    simple), so I decided to post it in a very detailed form.
    I may be making a mistake somewhere and simply cannot see it.
    And, of course, this time I've been double careful, no shortcuts.

    (just a note - my late father was a ChE, and I had some lab practice when

    Jorge Omar, Oct 14, 2003
  5. Absolutely. With a lot of formulae, you don't have to be too precise
    at all. Coffee cups, spoons graduates, all can be used to measure out
    a volume equivalent of the weight.

    I used a certain size of 35mm film can for the Sulfite when I made a
    liter of working Rodinal. I was supposed to be using 50 grams, but
    the can gave me 44 grams; I tried it and the results were so close as
    to be undistinguisable. So I saved 6 grams worth of Sulfite every
    Ah=hah! So that's why you overdid it.

    In their early patent papers, Kodak described several methods of
    creating Metaborate. One was to grind solid cakes of the two
    constituents together and collect the dust. Real precision.

    I think they also described just putting the chemicals together into a
    solution, by weight, and stirring. Ready for use.

    Hey, put four teaspoons of the collected dust into a nearly full quart
    jar, add 2 35 mm film cans of Sulfite and something like 1 teaspoon of
    Metol and you have the secret formula of a custom darkroom I worked

    Or go hunt all over hell and gone to find it in a store at about 20 to
    40 times the price.

    Yeah, mixing your own is a waste of time and money.

    Robert Vervoordt, MFA
    Robert Vervoordt, Oct 14, 2003
  6. Jorge Omar

    Dan Quinn Guest

    30% of 109gr is 33gr. 34cc is 23% of 150cc. 23% of 33gr is 7.6gr
    Multiply 7.6gr by 5 for the correct amount of borax; 38gr.
    As our two calculations are close I suggest you start with a
    confirmation of the saturation level of your solution. Convert
    a portion of the solution to the anhydrous and weigh. Dan
    Dan Quinn, Oct 14, 2003
  7. Jorge Omar

    Dan Quinn Guest

    I'm a Homebrewer. It's actually quite straight forward. Only three
    chemicals are needed to process film. Metol, sodium sulfite, and sodium
    thiosulfate. To do prints add sodium carbonate and hydroquinone.
    From those five chemicals scores of brews may be compounded. Dan
    Dan Quinn, Oct 14, 2003
  8. Jorge Omar

    Jorge Omar Guest


    We are talking of a about 1 pH difference. That would change completelly
    a developer characteristic.
    Just for peace of mind, I mixed a 1% sodium carbonate solution. Expected
    pH was 11.4; I've measured 11.33 (and did not do a recalibration).
    So, at least within that range this meter is acceptable.

    My conclusion, until some chemists prove me wrong, borax+hydroxide, as
    recommended by many sources IS NOT metaborate, from a practical
    The mixing I've related in details was not the first one - was just one
    of many others, with similar results.

    Is it possible to make a borax based solution with pH equivalent to
    meataborate? As I said in another thread, yes, if you have a pH meter or
    a very fine pH paper/indicator to do a tritation.

    The reason for this thread is to avoid someone (as it happened to me) to
    mix it and simply not to undestand why a developer is such a bad one (too
    grainy with some recipes, too bland with others).


    (Dan Quinn) wrote in
    Jorge Omar, Oct 14, 2003
  9. Is it not possible to use carbonate, borax, and boric acid to get what is needed?
    Michael Scarpitti, Oct 14, 2003
  10. Jorge Omar

    Dan Quinn Guest

    RE: Jorge Omar <>

    The conditions for determining the percent in solution at saturation
    of NaOH are unknowen to me. As that level of concentration is the basis
    of ALL your following computation it is of utmost importance that
    it be accurate.
    All factors which might influence the solution's saturation
    of pure NaOH should be taken into account. Foremost I'd think would
    be that ample time be allowed for an equilibrium to be established.
    Is there some reason you don't just weigh out a certain amount
    of NaOH and go from there? Dan
    Dan Quinn, Oct 14, 2003
  11. Jorge Omar

    Jorge Omar Guest

    This was the first time I tried a saturated solution, by suggestion of a
    poster in this group.
    The other times I just weighted the NaOH.
    Results were alike - not the correct pH (depending on the 'recipe' it
    will be about 10 or over 12 if there is crystalization; I tried 5
    different ones).
    The sole reason I purchased a pH meter was to try to understand why the
    developer - Diafine equivalent - was so unreliable from one mix to the
    It was very cheap - $25 + postage, and as I've found out reliable enought
    for this application.


    (Dan Quinn) wrote in
    Jorge Omar, Oct 15, 2003
  12. Jorge Omar

    nicholas t Guest

    I concur - three chemicals (not counting water) needed to make both film
    *and* paper developer:

    Vitamin C
    Sodium Carbonate
    nicholas t, Oct 15, 2003
  13. Hey 2 bath is one of my favorite things.

    Now why did you have pH problems with Diafine, or an equivalent, since
    you only have a Carbonate contributing to the alkalinity? Of course
    if you are trying to make a Diafine like developer with Metaborate
    formed from the two components we were discussing, then I understand.
    Robert Vervoordt, MFA
    Robert Vervoordt, Oct 15, 2003
  14. Jorge Omar

    Jorge Omar Guest

    Nicholas - the preacher said ((-:

    But I (almost) agree wuth you.

    Borax and Sulfite forever!

    Jorge Omar, Oct 15, 2003
  15. Jorge Omar

    Jorge Omar Guest

    The formulas I have use one of 2 possible second baths:
    - 20g borax;
    - 20g metaborate.

    I do not know which is the right one, but most postings were metaborate.
    All this metaborate mess was to make a metaborate second bath.

    Jorge Omar, Oct 15, 2003
  16. OK, I got it. The formula for Diafine, or at least the alternative
    from Cra2wley, I believe, has Carbonate as the alkali. That's what
    makes it work, giving vigorous negatives and full film speed. In
    addition, there is Sulfite in the B bath. Too may people omit this
    and have unsatisfactory results.

    In postings of some years ago. I got into theis with a number of the
    others who are more regular here than I and aalso more knowledgeable
    in many areas. Even in that thread there was some refusal to merit
    the need for Sulfite and other salts in the B bath

    Well, why do you need it?

    Obviously it scavenges Oxygen, as it is supposed to do in a single
    bath developer. In addition, it raises the level of dissolved salts,
    so aas to cut the onset of swelling when moving between the baths,
    Solvent action may not be involved here as the times employed are
    usually much shorter.

    I knew one fellow who said to use Sulfate instead. He used one shot B
    baths with Epsom salts and Lye. I never got the formula, but it is
    probably easy to approximate.

    The low level of salts is one of the reasons for Rodinal's graininess.
    Using Sulfite to cut grain adds to the salt level and may be more
    important than solvent action. I never tried Rodinal with Sulfate,
    though it should be an easy and quick experiment to do.

    So, to get back to your Metaborate problem with Diafine, there is one
    solution; dont use it.

    Use the Carbonate as in the original alternative formula. (I know
    "original alternative" is a bit of a flakey construction.) USe the
    Sulfite called for and add some Sulfate, if you are inclined. I would
    suggest you look up some "tropical" developers to get a range of how
    much to use.

    Hope this all helps rather than hinders.

    Robert Vervoordt, MFA
    Robert Vervoordt, Oct 15, 2003
  17. Jorge Omar

    Jorge Omar Guest

    Never saw it with carbonate, but I've been thinking of something in this
    line - carbonate and borax. Activity would be fine tuned with more or
    less borax.

    Sulfite in two baths alkali solutions has another reason besides the ones
    you've stated - avoid staining due to hydroquinone oxydizing (and perhaps
    infectious dev, lith like).

    Jorge Omar, Oct 15, 2003
  18. There is more to it than pH. Initial pH of two developers may be the same,
    but local pH during development depends also on concentration which is a
    factor in capability of resisting change in pH.

    There is a table in CRC Handbook of Chemistry and Physics that gives amounts
    of a standard solution of NaOH to be added to 50 ml of a standard solution of
    borax to give pH values between 9.2 and --I forget how high-- when water is
    added to make 100 ml.

    The can of Red Devil lye that I get at the supermarket has 12 ounces, about
    340 grams. The whole can, mixed with 340 ml of water, makes a 50% by weight
    solution. Use cold water and mix slowly in a Pyrex pitcher. When it cools,
    note the volume and you can calculate how many grams of NaOH are in each ml.
    This solution is pretty stable. This approach will do away with measuring
    NaOH each time you want a few grams. The lye from the can is pretty pure.

    I can't see how the actual pH of the second bath should be so important in a
    2-bath developer. The idea of that technique was to avoid such problems. You
    should be able to leave the film in bath 2 quite a while longer than the
    minimum without much change. Of course, one reason I don't use 2-bath is just
    what you are talking about, and the fact that I compared 2-bath D-23 with
    1-bath for curve shape and found no difference.
    Patrick Gainer, Oct 15, 2003
  19. [....]
    It IS if you take the proper ratios (this is from a chemist). Do a
    Google search for Metaborate and author Michael Gudzinowizc (another
    chemist) and

    No, a stoichometrical calculation will do. Look for M. G.'s post.
    Eberhard Funke, Oct 15, 2003
  20. I missed the beginning of this thread, but it seems to be about
    metaborate. You can get a metaborate solution both from borax or
    boric acid with alkali, preferably sodium or potassium hydroxide.
    Eberhard Funke, Oct 15, 2003
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