Last week, I recounted the story of Type 41 film, and the close call it briefly caused at Polaroid. Today, we visit the humble little product that saved the day: print coater. (Click photos to enlarge.)


It came in a little tube packed with each box of film: glass in a cardboard sleeve in the early days, plastic later on (both versions are shown here).





In the tube, the swab was swimming in a viscous fluid (here, mostly dried up) that smelled fierce. You popped the cap, took it out…





…and then rubbed it, squeegee-style, over your photo. The liquid dried hard and (relatively) smooth, though you had to worry about sand or dust sticking to it while it was still wet.





Early on, the coater also came with a bit of treated flannel. You were supposed to use it to buff the dried, coated photos to a shine. (“Adds lustrous plastic finish.”) I don’t know exactly when the little polishing rag disappeared, but it was gone by the early sixties.




Print coater itself was on its way out by 1970. Around then, Polaroid introduced coaterless black-and-white film in a couple of formats, to much relief—coating prints was clumsy and messy. But certain older films in the professional and industrial product lines were never reformulated. Type 42 and 47 rollfilm stayed in production, with print coater, until 1992, and a few others lingered even longer, into the twenty-first century. When I am out shooting packfilm, folks with white hair still ask me whether I have to fix the prints I’ve just made, and they all make the same squeegee gesture over the picture as they describe it.

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3 Responses to Instant Artifact: Print Coater

  1. Muhammad says:

    What is the chemical composition of Polaroid Print Coater? Is there a protocol to make it?

  2. admin says:

    I know that one component was acetic acid, which also provided the smell. I’ve heard that if you take an old coater swab and add some acetic acid (or possibly darkroom stop bath) you can reconstitute it.

    Here’s a thread where a few folks tried to figure it all out:

    and here is a PDF download link for the data sheet:

  3. gordon morton says:

    I still have a few prints from my dad’s Speedliner. They are in great condition…because of tge coating?

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