Solving The Problem of Roll Paper Curl
If you own a photographic printer with roll paper capability you understand the convenience and cost savings that using rolls offers. But, as with most things in life, there's also a dark side. In the case of roll paper it's curl, the enemy of printers as much as dust is of digital cameras.
When roll paper is near the end of a roll, or when it has started to dry out from being out of the plastic protective bag which it came in from the factory, it starts to curl, and the closer you are to the end of the roll, and the drier the atmosphere over time, the tighter the curl will be. This makes using these prints highly problematic, especially in a fine art environment where the esthetics of the print itself as objet d'art are critical. Even trying to matte a heavily curled print can be a serious challenge, and can lead to prints pulling away from their backing board and touching the glass or acrylic pane in the frame. Not a pretty sight.
But there is a solution, a very simple and elegant one, though somewhat expensive. It's the D-Roller, designed by Don Dressler.
The D-Roller consists of a very heavy chromed metal tube around which is wound a large sheet of plastic material. What's special about this is that this material has no "memory". It will always lie perfectly flat when unrolled, no matter how tightly or long it's been rolled up. To take the curl out of a piece of paper you lay it face up on the open D-Roller with the curl running in the direction of the roll. One then rolls the sheet up starting from the heavy metal end. The paper is thus curled up in the roll, and in fact is rolled counter to its curl. This has the effect of bending the fibers of the paper against the direction of the curl's set.
With fine art matte papers it only takes a few seconds rolled up to remove every trace of curl. With RC or plastic papers it takes longer, as much as a minute or two. With such papers I have found it worthwhile to do a couple of short curl runs rather than one long one. That way one can judge the effect that timing is having.
Below is a brief video showing the D-Roller in action in my print studio. This brief clip is taken from a tour of my gallery and print studio that appears in Issue #16 of The Luminous Landscape Video Journal. This is available immediately for download, and later on DVD.
Click on the above frame to play the brief video
A 24" version of the D-Roller sells for US $249. This may seen an awful lot of money for such a simple device. Many people will be tempted to create their own with an old pipe and some thick mylar. But think about this – high quality fine art rag paper (I use Hanemuhle Photo Rag for my gallery prints), together with ink costs about $3 / sq ft. So a 24 X 36" print will cost about $20 in ink and paper to produce. It doesn't take too many wasted prints for the D-Roller to prove its worth.
I purchased my D-Roller from Shades of Paper, a very reliable online dealer from whom I've been sourcing some of the more exotic papers and supplies recently. Most local dealers haven't a clue when it comes to specialty products like this, and we can thank the Internet for making them so easily accessible when there is no local source.
For anyone making prints using roll paper the D-Roller gets a thumbs-up.