Advice needed... Basement darkroom

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by J Rollinger, Mar 9, 2011.

  1. J Rollinger

    J Rollinger Member

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    About 4 months ago i started a project to build myself a little darkroom in my basement and now i need advice on a few things. Its small... I only had 6.5 x 11.5 area that i could use and to top it off.. I only had 6'1" total height. After only being able to spend 1 hour at a time because of work it took me 4 months to get this far. I built 2 platforms.. One to hold a LPL 6x7 enlarger and another to hold my Beseler 4x5. Due to the ceiling height i had to build recessed areas in the ceiling so the chassis and heads could rise high enough for me to print. I hope i didn't build myself into an unusable area!

    I'm going to use a 6' leedal stainless sink for which i installed a shower control valve and a spigot for my print washer. I installed 4 can lights 2 for reagular lights and 2 for safe light bulbs. I positioned the 2 safelight cans so each one will light up an enlarger and the sink. Was the safelight cans a bad idea or should i have used wall mount safelights?

    Questions!
    Paint... Does color matter? Does finish matter? Will a gloss paint have any affect while printing?

    Flooring.... Its an 82 year old concrete floor with a lot of hills and valleys! I wanted to install asphalt tile but the floor is way to bad even if i try to level it. Would sheet vinyl be my best option or should i just clean and paint it?

    Film drying.... I have an apx 2" area between the sink and wall and was wondering if i can build something to hang and dry film from. Any ideas?

    Shelves... I want to install a 6' shelf above the sink to dry developing tanks ect.... so it would have to be a wired type of shelf and it must be rust proof. Any ideas of where i can get such a shelf?

    On the right side of the sink i have apx 2" area on the wall that i want to hang developing reels from to dry. Are there stainless hooks i can use?

    Here are some photos of my little darkroom. I know its very small but I'm a hobbyist.

    Thank you !!!

    Jim Rollinger
     

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  2. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Wired shelves are widely available from home improvement places such as Home Depot and Lowes. Both will cut it for you from a loooooooooong stock pieces.
     
  3. J Rollinger

    J Rollinger Member

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    Thanks tkamiya... I seen those wired shelves at Home Depot but they appear to be closet shelves that would not withstand water on a daily basis.
     
  4. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    My darkroom is in the basement, and I'm on my second basement darkroom. The first was simply the concrete floor, but the more recent darkroom we installed a "tile" rubber flooring material that had a tongue and groove arrangement. It's flexible enough that it might work with your less than flat floor. Standing on concrete for hours is hard on feet... learned that in my old darkroom before! Here's a picture of the flooring being installed:

    http://www.apug.org/gallery1/showimage.php?i=49278&catid=member&imageuser=2670

    Also, I have a few shelving units above the sink that are the wire closet stuff... more for storing beakers and such, but haven't had any issue with water damaging them.
     
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Jim:

    I've used those shelves for years over the bathtub in a temporary darkroom. They've discoloured slightly, but are otherwise apparently fine.

    And they are both inexpensive and easy to handle.

    As for paint, there are two issues:

    1) reflections of stray light from your enlarger; and
    2) comfort of the darkroom operator :smile:.

    Darker, matte finish paints near the enlarger and lighter, semi-gloss paint elsewhere is a good compromise.
     
  6. vpwphoto

    vpwphoto Subscriber

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    Flat white so safelight reflects all around. I paint a flat grey near the enlarger so stray light from the head doesn't bounce too far.
     
  7. resummerfield

    resummerfield Subscriber

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    I would level the floor, otherwise you'll have a problem whenever you try to set or move anything. It's pretty easy.... buy a bag or two of leveling compound from the tile section of the home center, and trowel that around the "valleys". You might not get it perfect, but it will be much better than it is now.

    Then I would paint the floor, and invest in some "anti-fatigue" mats, from the home center. You can easily pick these up and clean any spills, and they will really help standing for hours on a concrete floor.
     
  8. J Rollinger

    J Rollinger Member

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    Suzanne... The flooring you are using would be perfect in my situation but i want to be able to mop the floor.
     
  9. J Rollinger

    J Rollinger Member

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    I will go with a flat white and try to find some type of matt paper or something to put on the walls around the enlarger instead of painting two different colors on the walls.
     
  10. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    if you can find a place that is bigger than 2"
    you can get a large, plastic utility cabinet from one
    of your local large hardware stores.
    don't put the shelves in, and drill holes + string
    wire or braided wire ( or string ). you can use that ( i do )
    to dry your film. it has doors and closes to keep the dust out
    AND if you have room outside your darkroom you can stash it there.
    i dry some of my sheet film in there 35mm and 120 film i tied a string between 2 members of a drop ceiling
    and hang the film from there. drop ceilings are great for keeping dust out ...
    rubber floor mats are great for cement floors... either "play room" mats
    or the ones for food service. you can remove them both for floor cleaning.
    have fun building your space,
    ( it took me 2 years to build mine ... )
     
  11. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I installed the closet type shelves in my darkroom. They have been up several years with no rusting issues. I can set graduates on them upside down to dry, and they don't cast shadows from the ceiling lights.

    I also installed the anti fatigue mats similar to Ann's, though mine were 3 x 3 foot sections that are perforated with holes. Once a year I take them outside and hose them off really well, and while they are drying in the sun I mop the concrete floor.
     
  12. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    My darkroom is in the basement. The only real trouble I have had is from dust and from mold that grows in the damp environment.

    The dust I keep down by wet mopping the floors and vacuuming the cobwebs and things on a frequent basis. I dry mop then wet mop every time I finish a session. Dust has not been a problem since I started this routine.

    The mold was tricky but I figured it out. First I washed the walls and the floors with hot water and detergent. Then I followed with hot water and Clorox Bleach. I finished off by washing the floors and walls down with a saturated solution of hot water and borax. (Don't rinse off the borax. Mold will not grow in the presence of borax.)

    I also got a dehumidifier to keep the moisture level down. It's been a year, now, and I haven't had a problem with the mold coming back yet.
     
  13. Mats_A

    Mats_A Member

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    Nice darkroom. A few pointers I learned in my ongoing quest to build my man-grotto.

    - As said the floor should be level and also not of bare concrete. It will kill your feet standing on.

    - The floor must be moppable. Dust and I are having an eternal battle in my darkroom. So far I am behind 2-1 but still fighting.

    - I painted a black square with matt colour on the wall behind the enlarger. The rest of the walls are matt white. Now, after using it for a month I have found that I need to either add some matt black to the walls beside the enlarger and the ceiling above. Or I might just get some black cloth and make drapes.

    - Electrical outlets. You Can Not Have Too Many. My relative who is an electrician and wired up my darkroom laughed at me and asked what I would do with all my outlets. Now almost half of them are already occupied. Enlarger, radio, exhaust fan, safe light, hair dryer, flasher, white light, one more safe light, one more white light, fridge, light table...... And I still don't have a micro wave for drying prints. Nor a Jobo processor. Nor a ....You will need more than you think.

    - Safe light. I bought a red 4' fluorescent light with a sleeve and end plugs. The light itself can be replaced with a normal tube. As the safe lights are wired in to my timer I'm looking to get an other light also with a bulb. The tubes don't like being switched on/off as happens now when I'm doing a test strip or taking a measurement.

    - White light. I have a fluorescent light as main light in the ceiling and a normal 75W lamp sitting on the wall. The incandescent light is better for judging highlights.

    - Work space. Same as electrical outlet. Get all you can. Both dry and wet. I thought my wet area was big enough at approx 2,8 m but I could easily use more.

    -Water. I have hot and cold water and a normal faucet with a mixer. It works but the temperature is not stable. Especially when running low volume of water, washing film, it tends to get colder and colder. Also if I need a bigger amount, +2L, of 20C water it tends to shift while the water is running. My biggest problem now is washing FB prints. Prints up to 8x10 I can wash in my sink but for bigger ones I must use trays. It's a PITA because they take up a lot of space and are messy. If I have several bigger prints going I must leave them in a water bath until I'm finished and cleared the bench of other trays. But even then it is difficult to get a flow going without it spilling out over the bench and on to the floor. I'm looking for a Kodak siphon (hint, hint everybody) as a short term solution and when finances allow a Nova print washer.

    - Print drying. At the moment I am fully classical and using washing line + pins. I will build myself a drying shelf out of some mosquito net over a frame. I plan to hang it from the ceiling over the wet side. Out of the way and the prints can dry lying down.

    - Cupboards. Install them. I have a mix of old and new. A friend was renovating his kitchen and I got the old cupboards for free. I then bought some additional ones from IKEA. It is really nice to have a lot of space to store stuff away. Chemicals, tools, manuals......

    - Shelves. The more the better.

    - Radio. Must have.

    - Fridge. I got an old fridge from a friend and have it in the darkroom. No beer inside but all my film and paper. Wife really happy when she reclaimed two shelfs from the freezer in the kitchen.

    Did I mention IKEA? It's a drag walking through it but they have a lot of nice little sundries that you can use in a dark room. Hooks, lights, shelves, sieves, funnels, containers..... A day at IKEA is almost bearable when you can play the "Can I use this in the dark room" game while wandering around waiting to get to the meat balls.

    Hope you can make some sense out my ramblings and good luck with your project.

    r

    Mats

    PS. I forgot to mention ventilation. If you are going to do toning inside the dark room you must have ventilation. I have a small exhaust fan over the wet side and an intake over the dry side. The intake has a filter and a light trap that I built myself out of plywood. It works.

    PPS. One more thing. Once you get it done. Wait till noon on a sunny day. Take a chair and sit down in your new playground with all lights off. Sit for 5 minutes to let your eyes adjust. It was a real shocker for me to find out how much light was coming through the cracks at the door.
     
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  15. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    Check at a flooring supply, there is a rubber floor product(dont remember name)that looks like wood planking, yet is impervious to chems and is mopable. It is used in beauty salons to cushion the feet of stylists and wont discolor when solutions are spilled on it. I had some leftover boxes of it from installing a beauty shop years ago, put it on our master bath floor. My wife loved the stuff.
     
  16. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    I have a very, very similar size and limitations.....and I am up in Highland Park. If you are interested, I'd be happy to show you what I did and what I should have done
     
  17. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Just a couple of suggestions in addition to all the others: a bar stool - a chance to sit while a print is being processed and to cover the door cracks - a couple of "L" hooks above the door and a blackout fabric stapled to decent diameter dowel sticks at both ends, hook over the "L" hooks and the bottom stick weights it down, when not in use roll it up like a scroll. Windows can be treated similarly.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  18. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    You can use a self leveling compound (used under tile) to give you a flat surface. Then use a resilient tile over that. Even self stick tiles might work OK. I think you would still want some sort of mat with "give" for comfort.

    Over my concrete floor, I used a very heavy duty rubber mat (approx 4x6) intended for livestock in trailers, etc. Very durable, impervious to all kinds of stuff, and inexpensive. Seems to have just barely enough "give" over concrete. You might have to import one from Wisconsin though. :smile:
     
  19. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I second that proposal. A black curtain left and right of the enlarger is an additional option.
     

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  20. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    There should be a law against fluorescent lighting in darkrooms. There are nothing but unnecessary trouble. The only reason to have them is when non-darkroom work has to be done, such as cleaning.

    - safe light. Get a few small safelights with 15W bulbs and place them where you need them most (not in the middle of the ceiling, but above work surfaces etc). Count on your white walls to distribute the light evenly. Hock them all up to one switch, so, you can turn them off and on together.

    - evaluation light. As Mat indicates, also no use for fluorescent lighting. They are too bright, tricking you into believing that highlights and contrast is OK. A print-evaluation light should be dimmer then actual print viewing conditions. If a print looks OK in dim lighting, it will look great in proper lighting!
     
  21. George Nova Scotia

    George Nova Scotia Subscriber

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    Glad to see I'm not the only one using "horse" mats:smile:. I have several in my workshop. Made of recycled tires and sold at the local farm store. They do have a strong rubber smell at first but that seems to go away in a month or so.
     
  22. photoncatcher

    photoncatcher Member

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    My humble DR is in my basement, and has been for the last 50 years. The one thing I've learned is never, ever leave any optics there. Lens fungus, and mold, just love a damp place. The walls are plain old block (unpainted), and the floor is bare concrete. I did put some loose patio blocks down on the floor to keep my feet out of the water that leaks in during the spring thaw, or when ever we get a heavy rain. Hey, it ain't pretty, but it gets the job done.
     
  23. cowanw

    cowanw Member

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    Nobody takes my advice here but you might consider a red room, which will be just as bright as a white room when the safelight is on and will reflect only safe light if your safe light is actually not safe.
     
  24. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    Bill

    I consider all advise. What type of red paint do you suggest? Since paper is most sensitive to blue light, yellow paint might do a pretty good job too! Your proposal is logical, but considering creature comforts, wouldn't it be better to fix the safelights and have a nice bright darkroom instead?
     
  25. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Bill:

    This would be great when you are working in the dark.

    But when cleaning up in the light, wouldn't it feel like a bordello?

    Not that I've personal experience with bordellos:wink:
     
  26. ROL

    ROL Member

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    Semi-flat white, cleanable. Probably not.

    Clean & paint floor.

    ?
    Cheap home store enameled wire shelves (minor rust only visible at vertical supports):
    [​IMG]

    Plastic clothespin hooks (home store)? Plastic won't rust, not all SS is rustproof.

    More about a darkroom.