At Lumiere we hand mix all of our chemicals from scratch, from the silver nitrate that sensitizes the plate to the developer that reveals the image. We find this gives a more consistent and refined image than using pre-mixed chemicals, and ensures the highest quality of every batch.
Take our varnish for example: we use gum sandarac, harvested from trees in the Moroccan mountains. In its raw form, it contains all sorts of debris; twigs, rocks, pine needles, buttons and matches. We break it down with 180 proof grain alcohol, and filter it multiple times to remove all the junk. Its a long and lonesome job, but a few swigs of the grain alcohol keeps us going. Once the sandarac is filtered and clear, we add in a little lavender oil, which explains why our tintypes always smell delightful!
The varnish is then ready, and we coat each plate with it by hand. This provides a durable finish that ensures each tintype will be passed down for generations to come.