Instructions for operating the aquatint box.                                                                     Back to Aquatint Boxes page

Scatter a heaping tablespoon of powdered rosin in the bottom of the box.

Set the tray on top of the box, rotated slightly so that the four corners of the tray sit on top of the walls of the box in stead of fitting down inside it. Place the plate to be aquatinted on the tray. Try to keep the plate centered on the tray so that it will be more balanced and the surface of the tray will extend beyond the edge of the plate.

Carefully lower the tray down into the bottom of the box until it is resting on top of the powdered rosin and the bottom of the box.

Fit the two box lids into place. (Make sure there is no lint, hairs or other debris that might fall on to the plate.) Place one hand on the two lids to hold them in place and with the other hand lift the tray with the plate on it upward briskly until it is almost touching the bottom of the lids. For a coarser aquatint start slowly lowering it back down almost immediately and for a finer aquatint wait 3 to 5 seconds and then lower it back down. (If there is consistently too little rosin on the plate, put some more powdered rosin in the box.) Try to avoid vibration when raising and lowering the tray, as this can cause the plate to move or the rosin on the plate to be disturbed. Use a slow steady movement with a relaxed grip.

Let the tray and the plate sit on the bottom of the box for 2 or 3 minutes while the dust settles on the plate and tray, then very slowly (so as not to stir up more dust) lift the tray back up until it is almost touching the underside of the lids. (This will suck the air in the upper chamber with its suspended dust down into the lower chamber.) Holding the tray up with one hand, with the other remove the two lids and set the tray on top of the box sides as described above.

Slide a palate knife or something similar under the edge of the plate to lift it from the tray and remove it. You can get a general idea of how much dust is on the plate by how visible the masked area is where the plate kept dust off of the tray, or by brushing the tray surface next to the plate with a fingertip. If the dust seems too scant, repeat the above steps. If there's too much dust, tip the plate vertically and tap a corner on the edge of the box to knock loose rosin back into the box and then blow the rest off of the plate with compressed air (outside, or next to an exhaust fan) and repeat the above steps. If you wipe the plate with anything, clean it thoroughly or you may end up with wipe marks in the aquatint. The best way to judge the amount of dust on the plate is by looking across the surface of the plate into the light.

Place the tray tipped inside the box with one end near the top of the box and the other end near the bottom and brush the remaining rosin off of the tray and into the box. This is the messiest part. Alternatively you can tip the tray so that the bottom is vertical and held over the box and tap it with something to make the excess rosin fall off of the tray and into the box. Carefully settle the tray back into the box and put the lids in place.

As you use the box to create aquatints you will use more and more of the fine particles of rosin and leave behind the coarser ones and debris, so periodically you will need to add rosin, re-grind what is left, or blow out the box with compressed air and put in fresh rosin.