Cheap laser alignment tool!

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by mattk, Feb 11, 2009.

  1. mattk

    mattk Subscriber

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    I know this has been covered several times on this or other forums but...
    I was all set to go about making or buying a tool to align my enlarger (I have never done this and couldn't seem to ever make it come out right with a negative with pronounced grain in the holder). About a year ago I purchased a laser level at Lowe's--on special for about $49.00--to put in a paver patio in my back yard. The unit has a spinning head to project a horizontal line as well as a vertical beam. I simply leveled the device as you would if it was on its tripod and used the vertical laser to shoot a beam up at a mirror on the neg stage as well as the lens holder and centered the dot. Worked like a charm! Not to mention the unit has about a billion other uses around the house! Before you spend any money on a dedicated laser alignment tool-check out a laser level at you local hardware store.
     
  2. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

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    laser

    Mattk; do you do the lens stage and carrier separate or at the same time. also the mirror must reflect the beam back ,does the beam fall back on it self or what does it do to determine alignment. I'd be interested in trying that, sounds cheap also.mike
     
  3. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    mattk,
    I'm reading the description but I'm not quite grasping the what it is your are doing and how you are doing it. Possibly because I'm not entirely sure what one does when aligning an enlarger.
     
  4. Uhner

    Uhner Member

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    I’ve been thinking along the same lines but never gotten around to buy a laser level. But I think I will now.

    Many thanks.
     
  5. tleirtro

    tleirtro Subscriber

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    Which laser level is this?
     
  6. eli griggs

    eli griggs Member

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    How about a few pics of your set-up? I have one of these from Sears and it's a great tool but I'm still not 100% clear on how you're using yours. How exactly are you getting the enlarger parallel with the baseboard?
     
  7. csb999

    csb999 Member

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    great idea

    This is a good idea. I have a laser level, but it only projects laser chalk lines, it doesn't have beam that projects a single point. I wasn't aware that these things were available. This would seem to be a great and cheap alternative to the the products that are marketed specifically for enlarger alignment. (don't want to mention specific products)

    I'm wondering if this one might work:
    http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=productDetail&productId=247679-70-BDL220S&lpage=none

    I noticed that some of the products that might seem to work say that they are "self-leveling". Obviously, unless the baseboard was perfectly level, this would only complicate the matter.

    Thanks mattk for mentioning this.

    In response to others' questions about using this sort of device:
    The idea is to project the beam from the baseboard up to a reflective surface (mirror or glass) where the negative would be. The beam is reflected back, and if the two surfaces (negative plane and baseboard plane) are not parallel, then the reflected dot will not be in the same position as its source. The adjustments can then proceed. If my understanding of this process is not fully correct, or there is more subtlety than I understand, I hope the masses will chime in.
     
  8. mattk

    mattk Subscriber

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    All,

    The model of the level is Johnson Hot Shot 40-0917. I take the level off the tripod and place it on a already confirmed (via a standard 4' bubble level) level baseboard. The level has adjustments to level and plumb on its own. The enlarger is a Beseler 45MXT. I first removed the lens holder and shot the beam at a mirror placed in negative holder. The beam is reflected down and the neg stage is adjusted until the beam reflects back on itself. Once that is done I repeat the process with the mirror in place of the lens holder--ta da! Done. Took all of 5 minutes.
    Here is a link to the level-any model that has a vertical beam adjustable for plumb would work.
    http://www.johnsonlevel.com/ap/product.php?id=40-0917
     
  9. mattk

    mattk Subscriber

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  10. csb999

    csb999 Member

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    thanks!

    Thanks again Matt!

    I am really pleased that I will be able to perform enlarger alignment this way, and have another nice tool to boot! $80 is still substantially cheaper than the laser tools sold as enlarger aligners. Yay!
     
  11. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Great suggestion. Thanks. I'm going to get one. I can't see buying a tool, especially an expensive one, that is limited to one use unless it were truly necessary for some reason.

    This type of level would be just the thing to have when hanging a show, also. I like to align prints precisely, but the kind of alignment may change from show to show. For one example, if I wanted to align the tops of all the frames, I would set the tripod at that level, and then, rotating it, I'd know where to place prints all around the room. Of course, where to put the hanger is another story!
     
  12. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Years ago I found a trigger mounted laser site for air pistols. It has a flat base so it can stand up. It also has set screws so you can aim the thing. Works great and cost less than $20. Just keep spinning it and adjust it until the reflected spot doesn't move. Then when it is perpendicular to the mirror the return spot will hit the exit pupil of the laser.
     
  13. tleirtro

    tleirtro Subscriber

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    Come to think of it, any el cheapo laser pointer will do the job. Just have to mount it vertically and get it aligned first...
     
  14. mattk

    mattk Subscriber

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    Yes any el cheapo lase pointer will work. I prefer one that was designed to project a beam as a level/plumb reference, had about 790 billion different uses (oooppppps sorry thats that bailout) and was quick--takes less than 30 seconds to arrive a plumb/level. I too was going to go the el cheapo route until my numb brain remembered the laser level I have in its case under the stairs.
     
  15. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    Get a Peak 10X grain focuser with long mirror option and you can check grain right into the corners. A level to make the neg stage parallel to the base and then level out the lens stage.

    Check grain left/right and front/rear with the Peak and if not sharply defined, change focus up and down to detirmine where shims or adjustments need to be made.

    If you get sharp grain with lesn wide open, that is all that is necessary unless you are projecting a trapezoid which means the neg stage is not parrallel to the base.

    Now you get a focus magnifier to use on every print. This is all I have ever used and I can adjust to get sharp grain corner to corner.
     
  16. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    When I first got a Peak 10X Grain Focuser, that’s when I realised that my Enlarger was not correctly aligned.

    The trouble is, the Peak doesn't tell you where the misalignment comes from.

    So I ended up buying a Parallel Laser Alignment Tool from Fred Newmans store

    I found both my Enlarger Head and Lens Platform to be very slightly out in several planes.

    To get the alignment close in one position of the head wasn't too bad, to get it close over the entire range of travel of the column and repeatedly so, was a much longer job.

    Any Laser will do but getting it exactly perpendicular to your base board will require some skill

    Martin
     
  17. RidingWaves

    RidingWaves Member

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    And another point, with the admittedly expensive enlarger laser alignment tool, its way way faster to just pop it on the baseboard/easel and take a reading. You tend to use it more often and consistently when its very easy to do. I start every printing session with it, and most of the time I don't need to do anything but my darkrooms tight and sometimes I bonk the head on my head. Its very quick, and even tho it was expensive at the time after 10 or so years I'm very glad I have it and would get it again if it broke. I know, I did the same thing, did different techniques, laser pointers, bubble levels until I finally just did it and got it. As a test, when I got it, after I really figured out how to work it, I aligned everything the old way I'd been doing it, then did the laser, and while I was sorta kinda close it wasn't right on. After I did the laser, I checked with my old way and the adjustments made were within that methods zone of tolerances, it didn't show I did anything to it, but the laser is just so much more precise. Also works great for copy work.
     
  18. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    That is why I said use a level to get the lens stage parallel to the base as the first step. Admittedlya lazer might be better, however the errors introduced by a negative carrier differences and different heights of the head pulling the column forward differing amounts exceed any additional accuracy gained by lazering the neg stage to perfection. Check it out, every carrier is different. Every head height is different.

    As long as you are projecting a rectangle instead of a trapezoid, you are sufficiently good.