Some printers insist on the necessity of contact frames with or without vacuum pumps to ensure contact; I do fine with a board, some thick polyester interfacing from a fabric shop, and a piece of 1/4 inch plate glass.
Cheap hake brushes from an art supply store work fine, although they have the disadvantage of losing hairs into the emulsion. When I used a hake for coating, I just pick the hairs out with a quick flick of the corner of the brush, before the gum sets up. Now I use a 2" varnish brush for coating and one of ten 4" hakes for smoothing. I've tried other brushes, some quite expensive, with less satisfactory results. The varnish brush has the advantage of being able to lay down a fairly thick or extremely thin coating as I choose.
When you get to the point where you are making a number of prints in a session, you will need to have several smoothing brushes, as they can't be used effectively after they pick up enough emulsion to be damp on the ends of the bristles; the dampness will mar the coating.
Best is a small bowl or glass that’s rounded on the bottom (inside, not outside; you do want it to sit solidly on the table) and has a large enough mouth to accommodate your coating brush. For years I used a semispherical shot glass I got for 25 cents at a thrift store. I loved that thing and was heartbroken when a raccoon got into my workshop and knocked it off the sink onto the concrete floor. After that for a while I used heavy porcelain tea cups like you see at Chinese restaurants, that I also picked up at a thrift store. For the last five or six years, I've been using shallow Chinese porcelain saucers from Daniel Smith that work all right, except the emulsion tends to dry around the edges before I've finished a printing session, which wouldn't happen with the deeper vessels.
I use 35mm film canisters; they hold about 25 ml gum with room at the top for sloshing while mixing, or 30 ml with not enough room at the top for sloshing while mixing.
For a while I used four concrete-mixing trays from a building supply place; now I have four plumbed sinks.
Copyright Katharine Thayer; all rights reserved.