Ambrotype, 2012. Self Portrait
The process is labor-intensive and requires keen attention. First, I cut a tintype out of black aluminum, then pour salted collodion onto it. The plate is then immersed into silver nitrate. While it is still wet, it is exposed in the camera with my Voigtländer-Petzval 1846 lens. After exposure, each tintype is immediately returned to the darkroom for development and fix. The last step is to varnish the plate with sandarac lavender oil that is applied by hand and warmed over an alcohol lamp.
Due to the process, each tintype is inherently unique and possesses small imperfections which make each plate one of a kind. Tintypes can potentially last up to 150 years--plan to pass the plates down to future generations!
This is a simplified straightforward description of making a tintype but by no means should the process be taken lightly. If the chemistry is not handled appropriately, it can be hazardous, poisonous, extremely flammable, and can be explosive.