Cheap Print Washer

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Randy K, May 19, 2013.

  1. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    I've been wrestling with buying or making a print washer for some time, now that I'm printing more fiber based prints. I decided to make a 11x14 print washer out of what I could find in the local hardware stores. It ended up costing about $70 and works quite nicely. I used a 10gal fish tank, nylon threaded rod and hardware, and plastic corrugated sheets, (like plastic cardboard). The set up is quite sturdy. I set something on top, like a Pyrex plate, to hold the prints down. I stick my flexible shower head down on one side and let it spill out the top. See attached pic.
     

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  2. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    Mine is even cheaper, as I drilled a series of holes in the bottom of a 10” X 8” tray and a larger hole in the side, through which I put a hose. Thus there are rapid changes of water in a confined space.
     
  3. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I must say, wow. Just wow. It looks great!

    I'm using a Kodak Tank and Tray Siphon and added a check-valve at the water wall to ease my conscience. It works for my small volume. But it uses more water than I would like.
     
  4. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    I was using the tray method for a while but I found that if I had a few or more prints I'd have to hover and keep them separated. I just wanted to start it and walk away an hour or so.
     
  5. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    '...shower head...' - That is your bathroom with the leather couch?!!! :cool:

    Very similar to the Versalab in approach for keeping prints separate.
     
  6. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    I use a five gallon bucket.

    Drill some holes near the bottom. Stick the hose from your faucet into the bucket. Curve the prints into a letter "C" shape and stand them vertically. If the prints float to the top, put the lid on the bucket. Drill a hole in the lid for the hose to fit in.

    You can put three or four 11x14 prints in the bucket or about a half dozen 8x10.
    If you want separators to keep the prints apart, you can make them out of plastic but I haven't found that to be necessary.

    If you have a clean bucket in your garage, it won't cost you anything. If you don't have a bucket or one that's clean enough, buy them from Home Depot for just a few dollars.
     
  7. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    Ya and my living room has a tub in it!
     
  8. David Allen

    David Allen Member

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    Whichever route you take to washing your fibre prints, it is necessary to understand that a fast exchange of water is not necessarily the answer. I used to use (for a few prints) a tray with a hole for incoming water and some holes in the bottom. When I tested for residual hypo, I discovered that after two hours the prints were still not washed to archival standards.

    Thankfully, Martin at Silverprint in London did the most in-depth study of the washing process that anyone has made. It is really a revelation and the washer that he subsequently designed works fantastically well. I bought the 16" x 12" version and my prints test clean after 1.5 hours (even when the water is cold).

    You can read his two part article here:

    http://www.film-and-darkroom-user.org.uk/forum/showthread.php?t=296

    http://www.film-and-darkroom-user.org.uk/forum/showthread.php?t=344

    Whilst designing you own washing system on a small budget is attractive, I think the article demonstrates that this can be a false economy - especially if you live somewhere that has water meters.

    Best,

    David
    www.dsallen.de
     
  9. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Sweet.

    I'd probably add a siphon hose to drain water from the bottom from time to time just to make sure you're really getting a complete exchange of water and that there is no pooling in corners, at the bottom, etc.

    I have "archival" washers, but find myself draining them, at least partially, in the middle of every wash cycle.

    Best,

    Doremus


    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  10. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Nicely done.

    Neal Wyhdra
     
  11. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    David and Doremus, thanks for the tips!
     
  12. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    Great article David. I see that I was a bit naive in it's design and can think of several ways to improve it. I think I'll make a PVC pipe bar across the bottom to inject streams into each print cell. this could be removed and swapped to the other side periodically during wash to achieve some sort of reverse flow. Using corrugated plastic cardboard might not of been the best idea. The inside cells of the board can trap retaining contaminants and would be very hard to clean along with the surface of the cells being smooth. It would be better to replace them with some textured surface plastic or acrylic sheets. Back to the drawing board..
     
  13. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    The Versalab uses the same general divider approach as your design. Water input is via a tube across the top at one end with holes lined up with each partition. Drainage is at the other end using a siphon with a break (a small hole in the top of the tube at the water surface - when the hole submerges the siphon runs, as it drains the siphon stops). There's a lot of argument about fixer diffusion in wash tanks. If you rinse the print before putting it in the washer, and wash in batches it shouldn't be a problem. You can always run a wash test.
     
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  15. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    I'll keep working on it until I've spent well more than it takes to go out and buy a commercial model. That's how it usually works with me :-/
     
  16. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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  17. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    Those links work for me.

    Ok, made the first improvement today. I bought a few dollars worth of PVC pipe and made a T spray jet nosle to insert down one side of the tank so that each print chamber will get a directed stream of water. You can switch it to the other side half way through the wash for reverse flow. This mod only cols $15 with the tub hose and faucet coupling cone included. See pics
     

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  18. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Have you tried putting a few drops of dye onto a print and using it to check the flow patterns?

    I read that Ctein article with great interest because here in AU, water is at a premium. I use the 4-changes-of-water method (with HCA obviously; a friend of mine has FB prints from 30 years ago washed with this method and they're fine) and have had good results so far, but the manual dumping and occasional agitation is annoying me. Not to mention my "washer" is the sink.

    Has anyone considered making a powered washer with a small aquarium pump to recirculate the water and either change the water a few times or trickle-fill it at an extremely low rate? I reckon I could make a 3-sheet 16x20 washer that held maybe 15L of water, for a total wash of well under 100L. Given that fixer doesn't actually sink and that there's no way to extract the higher-concentration liquid, occasional dump+fill cycles will give better diffusion (lower average thiosulfate content in the wash-water) than trickle-flow at these rates. And of course one can use a geometric sequence of wash-times to account for reducing levels of thiosulfate in the print.
     
  19. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    I have not checked the flow pattern yet but would be interesting to do so. For water conservation, you might consider the method that they mentioned in the article where you use a higher concentration fixer for a shorter time. It was interesting how little the print absorbed when fixed for 1 minute.
     
  20. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    My last mod. I added a cheap pump on the opposite side of the inlet jets that pumps water from the bottom into a spray jet bar that runs across the top of the chambers and points back towards the input side, setting up a circular water flow in each print chamber. Water spills out the top on the inlet side.
     
  21. dances_w_clouds

    dances_w_clouds Subscriber

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    Thanks for the tips on building a print washer. I am looking for a larger washer as I am doing 16x20 prints and I am just using a large tray on a slant into the floor drain. It cleans OK but it gets quite messy after a few prints. And I do know of a pet store in my neighborhood that just closed and several large aquariums collecting garbage in the back. They were designed for display so they are long but not very wide + or - 12". Ideal for this. Dennis
     
  22. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    Go for it Dennis. I wouldn't use the corrugated plastic cardboard like I did however. The cells in between surfaces trap air that makes the thing try to float up. You have to shake it once submerged to dislodge the air. Still, you need to hold it down in some way. Ideally a smooth textured acrylic would be best, something like this http://www.tapplastics.com/product/plastics/cut_to_size_plastic/acrylic_sheets_textured_lucerne/549 . It's not the cheapest materials but the article that was mentioned in this thread in an earlier post indicated that washing efficiency was increased by using chambers with textured sides. Good luck and have fun!
     
  23. Randy K

    Randy K Member

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    The name of this thread needs to be changed to "Not so cheap print washer"
     
  24. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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  25. spijker

    spijker Subscriber

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    Randy, I think that you made a great washer. Could you post a few more pictures of the final product and list what pump you used? Thanks!
     
  26. edcculus

    edcculus Member

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    You can pick up a submersible pump from Harbor Freight for really cheap. I use one as a recirculating pump in my wort chiller for homebrewing. You could stick the pump at the bottom of the tank with a bit of extra hose, or even a spray bar causing the water to recirculate in the tank. Added with the shower head at the bottom of the tank set to very low causing a very slow spill over, I'd think you would have a very decent home made washer.