how many prints could a printshop make, if a printshop made dyes

Some notes
in a box: 25 sheets (back in origin time, film came 10 sheets to a box. like now, again. We are back to the fifties.)
1 sheet was for standard tests. QC thingys
3 sheets per print
means 8 prints per box — but we don’t have an answer to our riddle.

Prints On Paper

as supplied, Kodak provided mordanted paper to make  10×12, 11×14, 20×24, 40 inch rolls.
the size frequently used by agencys was 11×14
the 10×12 was what I had students use. For my work, I used the 11×14 and 40 inch roll paper.

Cutting Roll Paper
I cut the roll paper into sheet sizes for prints. The problem with this was the cut edges meant dust. At that time the paper dust seemed the big problem, now, knowing better about the mordant, I wouldn’t do it. I’m lucky, good ventilation and meticulous work mode means I’ve had no side effects from the dust. At the time, I was just reducing the amount of dust introduced into the workroom, and chemistry (paper conditioner).
When I cut the paper I’d use a fresh, new razor blade, each time. Before cutting, I put a covering sheet of tissue over the cutting area. This tissue sheet was about 2 inches wide. It came in rolls of several hundred inches. This tissue sheet was held down using flat stainless rulers — two of them spaced about and inch apart. One, the left one, was what I cut along. Simpler to do than to describe. All of the tissue was scrapped with each cut. This meant a lot of waste, but it made for very clean print process… and that was my intent.

An Answer?

So, how many prints did those beloved custom shops make… making a guess based upon what I’ve gleaned from a couple of conversations — between the demise of Kodak Matrix in 1994 and 2007 the Net Name printer went through most of his paper, with  about a third of his film still stored. Five years later (’12) He had 5 boxes of film to sell. He had used it once the year prior (’11). That guess — one or two images a month! Not much of a living, even at high setup, first print and such fees. No wonder digital is where he went.

How Many
back of napkin

napkin: bought around 30 boxes — used 25 of them — makes it about 16 prints a year. Sounds like a hobby not a career. Good thing the magazines paid for words of wisdom

Production Printing- Dye Transfer

What would a production printer produce? Assuming that you work at a place with consisten daily output for clients that were demaninding, both in terms of quality, but also in terms of commitment to quantity– agencies would order 2 or three prints– not much. Not much as compared to architects or industry or …
I regularly made 20 or 25 prints for an order. So how could we do that, day in and out for multiple clients? We had print rooms setup so that we had 2 roller positions. Automatic tray rockers, and heated transfer blocks.
A general flow: Starting dry.. paper and matrix-set are dry. They have to be placed into holding/ conditioning baths. After about 6 minutes you can begin the process of dying and rolling. This is all about rhythm and directed attention — and practice. At the end of 20 minutes you have a print. Plus 5 mins and your second print is lifted, while your third has one roll down… and so it goes..
This results in a system that produces 6 prints an hour. Since we have to replenish dyes, along with other maintenance chores the real production is about 5 prints per room each hour. This productivity requires near ideal mat-sets, which is why so much attention is given their perfection. Attention including means of testing their match without resorting to production rolling. These separation of functions meant the production area had 3 separate functional spaces. Negatives; matrices; prints
Now, maybe, you understand that odd “5” print staircase .. 5 prints, 15 prints, 25 prints, as price points.