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The Cascade Photographic
Print & Sheet Film Washer

Instruction Manual           Frequently Asked Questions

Before I describe the features of the Cascade washer a few comments about washers and washing in general. Firstly, there is no such thing as an "archival" washer. Archival washing is a procedure that is only made easier by a washing machine. Archival processing requires that you fix properly, use washing aids, and then wash properly, which may include the use of a washing machine. Bruce Barnbaum, a master photographer and printer (see his book The Art of Photography) does not even advocate the use of a washing machine, preferring to use trays. The Cascade washer design is, in fact, based on sequential tray washing.

Secondly, there is a lot of hype regarding "archival" washers. One hype regards the virtue of rapid dumping of the washer to remove residual surface fixer from the newly inserted print. I recommend a simple pre-rinse (using the Cascade's effluent water running into tray) rather than wasting many gallons/litres of water from the washer tank each time prints are inserted. The photographer and prospective washer purchaser should read as widely as possible about the washing process and formulate a washing procedure that meets his/her needs. In this brochure, I will reference articles that compare washers and discuss the washing process. By using them you will be able to make an informed decision regarding your washing procedures and select the equipment that is best for you. Now about the Cascade . . .

The Cascade washes fiber based prints uniformly as fast as other washers but with water flow as low as 1/4 litre (that's 1 cup) per minute, washing a load of 11 by 14 prints with as little as 4 gallons of water (the exact volume and washing times depend on local conditions and processing technique.)

The design, awarded U.S. Patent 4,269,209, uses print compartments connected bottom to top, top to bottom, so that the water that is used to wash the first print is reused to wash dirtier prints down stream. This saves a lot of water and energy used to heat the water to wash temperature. The compartments have minimum volume which allows rapid water exchange even at low flow rates. Finally, since water flows through the washer in only one direction, freshly fixed prints can be added down stream without contaminating partly washed prints up stream.

As a result of this unique design, the Cascade washes with minimum water consumption: the CW1116 @ 250 ml/min, the CW1622 @750 ml/min and the CW2024 @ 1 litre per minute (250 ml = 1 cup, 1 litre = 1 quart). Many people do not believe that the Cascade can wash well with such low flow rates. Kodak and other washing experts recommend that water in each pint compartment be changed 12 times per hour (once each 5 minutes). With all other washers the print compartment is the whole tank even if the washers have print separators. With the Cascade the print compartments are true compartments connected serially. Water flows through the washer from one side to the other, from one compartment to the next. Water from cleaner prints is reused to wash dirtier prints down stream. This reuse of water provides the high water efficiency.

The Cascade washer superficially resembles some of the other washers on the market, but has uniue advantages. If you have ever hasseled with other "archival" washers you'l appreciate these convenient features: small prints are not difficult to remove as the partitions flex allowing room for your hand or the partitions can be removed; there are two drain plugs to let the water out after use (a bottom drain and valve are standard on the CW2024); all parts of the washer are accessible for cleaning.

The Cascade is hand made of thick acrylic plastic, with carefully made joints and flame polished edges. Each Cascade is inspected and shipped complete with 8 feet of hose, a garden hose type faucet adapter and a booklet on fixing and archival washing. The washer is warranted for 5 years to do what we claim, without defects in material or workmanship (return unabused for a full refund or exchange). The Cascade has been used extensively in workshops, schools and classes with no reported failures.

An early, independent test of several print washers, including the Cascade, has been done by David Vestal in his book The Art of Black and White Enlarging (Harper and Row, 1984). The Cascade, the Oriental (made by Gravity Works), the Kostiner and the Salthill washers have more recently been reviewed by Steve Anchell in the April 1991 issue of Camera and Darkroom Photography (after testing Steve bought the Cascade for his own use). Complete copies of this article are available for $1.00 (copy cost and postage). An excellent article on washing and washers, "Mysteries of the Vortex" by Martin Reed, appears in the July/August 1996 issue of Photo Techniques. As you read his article note the features that enhance washing and compare them to the features of the Cascade.

The following additional information may help you understand the washing process: You can think of the print paper as a sponge, filled with fixer. Since you cannot squeeze the paper, the only way for the fixer to exit the paper is by diffusion. Diffusion can be increased, practically, by increasing the temperture which increases the diffusion constant. Therefore, for faster washing use as high a temperature of water as recommended by the paper manufacturer. High water flow and lots of turbulence can't speed up diffusion.

Other factors that help the washing process are alkaline agents in the wash water; that is the way hypo clearing agents work. Fixer (sodium thiosulfate) can ionize and bond to charges on the paper fibers and gelatin emulsion. By adding hypo clearing agents, sodium bicarbonate or Kodalk, to the wash water, wash times can be reduced considerably. These substances are generally harmless to the print and can substitute for and displace the fixer. Hard alkaline water will generally give faster wash times than pure soft or acidic water. Hardening fixers require longer wash times. YOU need to determine wash procedures and times for your area and processing methods; there is no a priori wash time that will assure fixer free prints wthout testing!

For those of you interested in more information about washing prints and films there is a two volume set of books by Grant Haist called Modern Photographic Processing, published by JohnWiley and Sons, 1979. David Vestal's excellent book has already been mentioned. David describes washing and washers in good detail. There is much malarkey and misinformation associated with print washing. Some of the myths include high water flow, lots and lots of bubbles, and washers that drain "heavy fixer" from the bottom (fixer from the paper is actually dissolved in the wash water). Both Vestal's and Anchell's tests destroy these myths. Most washers on the market work well if properly used, the Cascade works as well as any (better than some!) but with the lowest water and energy consumption.

Summitek is a small, quality oriented, one person business. I have been making and selling the Cascade washer since 1980 and have yet to have one returned because of customer dissatisfaction. If you purchase a washer and are not completely satisfied with its performance, your money,including shipping will be refunded (Shipping cost refund does not apply to orders outside North America). Washers are guaranteed for 5 years against manufacturing flaws.

Summitek regularly manufactures the Cascade in three sizes, 11x16, 16x22 and 20x24 selling for $450, $550 and $650 respectively. Shipping is extra. The 11x16 washer holds 16, 11x14 prints or 32, 8x10 prints side by side. The 16x20 washer is big enough to hold 10, 16x20 prints or 20, 11x14 prints side by side. The 20 x24 washer has the same capacity as the 16x20 but will also hold 10 of the larger prints.
    Washer Dimensions     Water Vol(L)   Dry 
Wt. # 
 Water  Ship Wt#   Price 
   Width  Length  Height          
 CW11x16  11"  18"  13"  35  19  44  45  $450
 CW16x22  10"  24"  19"  46  33  72  56  $550 
 CW20x24  10"  26"  24"  63  40  88  73  $650 

I usually stock all sizes of the washers. Personal checks are acceptable (with a delay for clearing) and I also take Visa and Mastercard. Twenty-four hour answering machines are available for messages and orders (they are secure). If you want more information or to chat please leave a message and a time that it is best to return your call.

Thanks for your interest and please call if you have questions. I do engineering consulting for a living and it may take a day or two to return your call, but I will.

Stephen Peterson

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