Blackout material for darkroom

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by osprey48, Mar 1, 2012.

  1. osprey48

    osprey48 Member

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    I've been looking for a way to set up my darkroom during daylight hours, so I can print during the long rainy days we get up here, (Highlands) but the specialised vinyl stuff is too expensive. It has to be easily put up and taken off, as I don't want to be in the dark except when printing, as its my one-room bedsit which I convert. Night time is no problem, as I'm in the middle of nowhere, but keeping the daylight out is pretty much impossible on a temporary basis. I've got one large single window about a metre square, so that should make it a bit easier than several smaller ones.Anyone got any tips? What do you guys use? I've seen some cheap roller blinds from Argos for £13 which I could cut to size and tack or tape to the window frame, but I doubt if that would be 100% effective.
    Thank you for your help.
     
  2. rm2065

    rm2065 Member

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    I used a darkroom that had a thick length of black felt over the door. If you're really concerned about light leaks, I'd get the blinds, as they are probably vinyl or plastic of some sort if they're the ones I'm thinking of, and then pin a length of black felt bigger than the window over that.
     
  3. mgb74

    mgb74 Subscriber

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    One possibility is using thin (approx 5-6mm) plywood. 3 sheets, each long enough to fit snugly in the window frame top to bottom. Each just slightly less than 1/2 the width of the window. The third sheet covers up the gap between the other 2.

    The reason for 3, instead of one full size sheet, is that it's easier to put up and take down. Plus easier to store. You might want to paint the sheets flat black to minimize any reflections between the top and bottom sheets.

    For this to work you need a reasonably snug fit at sides, top, and bottom. Fabric, wrapped around the outside edges on the plywood, can help.
     
  4. Mark Crabtree

    Mark Crabtree Member

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    Black mulching plastic.

    The thick stuff blocks out all light for me. I made two walls for a darkroom once by just tacking up mulching plastic and weighting the bottom end down with 2x4's.
     
  5. kb3lms

    kb3lms Subscriber

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    Carefully cut heavy cardboard from a big box works well and is real cheap. You can trim the edges with felt, or possibly good old duct tape, if necessary for a better light seal.
     
  6. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I use what is typically called "Contractors' cleaning bag". It's an oversized and thick black garbage bag. When they are layered two bags (thus 4 sheets), they are light tight. Then I use combination of painters' tape and duct tape to seal the leak around the edges. It has worked for me very well for few years.
     
  7. ooze

    ooze Member

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    John Lewis in London used to have special darkroom blackout material. That's what I got when I was there. I cut it to size, put velcro all around the cloth and the window frame and simply stuck it up for printing sessions. However, light is quite obstinate, it still goes through in between the velcro. A heavy curtain on top dealt with that.

    You live in a wonderful part of the world. I was fascinated with Glen Coe. We hiked over the saddle point between Buachaille Etive Mòr and Buachaille Etive Beag.

    Cheers
     
  8. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Use black duvetyne. (AKA: "commando cloth.")

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duvetyne

    Duvetyne can be bought in swatches 54", 60" or 78" wide and any length up to a full bolt, 100 yds. long.
    You can get it at any theatrical supply house such as BMI Supply: http://www.bmisupply.com/index.htm

    Buy the 16 oz. fire retardant kind. It's a bit more expensive but it's heavier and more opaque so you won't have to use it in double layers.

    I blacked out the window in my basement darkroom by taking a 1/2" thick piece of blue Insul-Board (construction grade polystyrene insulating board) and wrapping it with dyvetyne.

    Cut the board a little bit smaller than the window frame. Wrap the fabric around the board but leave some extra fabric hanging loose all around the edges. Push the board into the window then use a putty knife or a stick to stuff the excess cloth into the gap between the window frame and the board. Leave enough fabric hanging off the board so that you can get a good packing all the way around.

    My darkroom window is completely blacked out. When the lights are dim, you would never even know that there is a window there.

    The neat thing about this is that you can take it out of the window when you don't need it and stash it in the closet or behind the sofa. It's very light, easy to carry and it only takes about 3 minutes to install or remove.

    If you don't want to use duvetyne you can use any kind of heavy cloth. Even an old wool blanket. The difference is that duve is made for blocking light. If you get good quality, heavyweight stuff you won't have to use two layers. If you use a blanket, be sure to check to see that the cloth is opaque before you commit.

    I use duvetyne everywhere. I use it to black out windows. I made a darkcloth out of it. I keep a 3-foot piece of it in my camera case for when I need to unload a camera in bright light. (Just drape it over your lap while you work.) I stapled a strip of it over the hinge side of my darkroom door to keep the light from leaking in around the frame. It also makes great backdrops for photographing subjects where you want a dead black background.
     
  9. andrew.roos

    andrew.roos Member

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    I placed black self-adhesive draught-excluding tape on the wall around the outside of the window. In my case there was a window sill, so I had to screw a baton of 10mm x 44mm cross section wood onto the windowsill so that it was flush with the wall to allow me to place the draught excluding tape all around the window, all flush to one surface. I hold a piece of 10mm thick plywood against the draught excluding tape with 6 bolts that protrude from the wall through holes in the ply. Importantly, the holes should be outside the draught excluding tape, so that light from the window can't seep through the holes. I use 6 nuts to compress the plywood against the draught excluding tape - it compresses down from about 10mm (uncompressed) to about 5 mm when compressed. This works very well and the ply can easily be removed (you could secure it with butterfly nuts so you don't need a spanner to remove it).
     
  10. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

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    A very effective, efficient and not-too-expensive option is triple pass fabric. It is usually light in colour, but it is totally light proof.
     
  11. alex66

    alex66 Member

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    I have used recently thick black bin bags, they are the type for garden refuse and are very thick. I stick it up with insulating tape (plastic window frames) as I have rather a lot of the tape so its what I use. It does the job but I would not use it for film. It is though a temporary set up otherwise I would go and make a wooden panel to fit in the widow recess.
     
  12. Tempest09

    Tempest09 Member

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    Well, I happen to work in a bathroom with no windows to worry about. However, what I did for my door may be effective for your situation. I ended up using a spring tension shower rod to hang a blackout drape over the door. I think I paid about $20 total, $10 for each item. Then for a few more dollars, I got an inch diameter dowel that I cut to size and slipped into the bottom loop of the drape. It's cut so that the drap overlaps the entire door, but the part with the dowel can be wedged snugly into the frame. This keeps the drape nice and taut over the door, and ensures that the overlap doesn't go anywhere. It also pins the bottom to the floor to prevent a leak from under the door. I then picked up a roll of velcro and lined the frame where the door presses against it with the soft side of the velcro. It's easy enough to roll the drape up and secure it above the door when not in use.

    You could just as easily run a lap of velcro around your window. Line an equal lap on a black out drape, and "stick" the drape to the wall over the window when you need to. Attaching a couple of dowels to wedge the drape into the window frame would help to create another corner for light to have to bend around.

    Note: Those shower rods can be made much much shorter with a pipe cutter and a hack saw. Just cut equal lengths from the outside end of the inner rod, and the inside end of the outer rod. Then saw off any extra spring that protrudes when the rod is collapsed. A bit of gaffer tape is good for covering the edges to keep them from chewing holes in the drape...or a file if you've the patience.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 2, 2012
  13. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    The thing to remember is that light can't go round corners, except by reflection. how about a big sheet of MDF painted black on the outside and larger than your window. it could simply be held in place by battens and rotating wooden pegs screwed into the wall.
     
  14. osprey48

    osprey48 Member

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    Thank you all so much for the tips. I was thinking that maybe a combination of board and cloth/tape would do it, but now I know it works, I can give it a go. I'm sure I can find all this stuff at the DIY store, even though I don't know what most of it is! Thanks again for the info.
     
  15. ParkerSmithPhoto

    ParkerSmithPhoto Subscriber

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    Cut black foam core to block out 95% of the light. You'll still have some light leaking around the edges, but you can hang black drapes to finish the job.
     
  16. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Once you have it built and sealed as tight as you think is needed, get a caulking gun full of black roofing tar or other black sealant. Put a comfortable chair and a glass of ice tea or other preferred beverage in your darkroom. On a bright sunny day go in, having left all the lights on outside the room plus the sun on any outer surfaces. Sit in the chair. Sip on the tea. While away 5-10 minutes to allow your eyes to adjust fully to the dark. The older you are the longer it will take. Then carefully look around. Move around in the dark to spot holes that you might not see in the chair. Everywhere there is a bright spot you need to caulk.

    I found this a wonderful way to cool off near the end of the building process. It may take more than one visit to accomplish what is needed. It will be well worth it every time you have undeveloped film out in the darkroom.

    John Powers
     
  17. ajmiller

    ajmiller Subscriber

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  18. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Yeah, I did that except with a roll of black gaffer's tape. I probably spent a half hour taping over pin holes in the paneling and covering outlets and junk. Now there are dozens of little pieces of gaff tape on the walls.

    If you put a board in the window, just take a stick or a putty knife to pack foam insulation or strips of cloth in between the board and the window frame until you've filled in all the gaps.
     
  19. jvo

    jvo Subscriber

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    here in florida, (hurricane territory), we have springy metal clips that hold plywood in a window. i use them for my darkroom. i have one window covered by a piece of exterior grade plywood and 4 clips hold it in place on the outside. voila, no light and the bright florida sun is shining on that window ALL day! no tape, foam caulking - light proof. they are easily removable but wouldn't recommend if it's something that you put up and remove frequently.

    i had my stepson paint a mural on it, and looks great - works great - all happy.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2012