Darkroom Construction Tips

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by sgrowell, Mar 26, 2003.

  1. sgrowell

    sgrowell Member

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    Hi All,

    A thread in the Introduce Yourself forum started to address the topic of darkroom construction so I thought I would repost my question here just in case others might be interested.

    I will be constructing a darkroom soon and while I have a couple of good "How to Build a Darkroom" books, I'd like to hear, from those who have darkrooms, what you wished you had or things you're glad you did, etc.

    Thanks,
    Steve
     
  2. Ed Sukach

    Ed Sukach Member

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    </span><table border='0' align='center' width='95%' cellpadding='3' cellspacing='1'><tr><td>QUOTE (sgrowell @ Mar 26 2003, 10:28 AM)</td></tr><tr><td id='QUOTE'>I will be constructing a darkroom soon and while I have a couple of good "How to Build a Darkroom" books, I'd like to hear, from those who have darkrooms, what you wished you had or things you're glad you did, etc.
    </td></tr></table><span class='postcolor'>
    My best advice: Figure out exactly how many electrical outlets you need. Double it -- and add few more.

    Chances are ... even then ... it won't be enough.
     
  3. bmac

    bmac Member

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    I'll second the suggestion for lots of power. Also think about storage for trays, paper, drums, stereo, etc.
     
  4. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I imagine that your darkroom books will cover the basics fairly well, at least those that I have encountered seem to do a good job. Beyond the basics, if one were to take the time to determine the type of processes and format sizes, it would be very beneficial.

    In my case, I began with the thought that I would develop and print (by enlargement) 4X5 negatives. I constructed my darkroom with that in mind. My enlarger is mounted on a large worktable. To the right of that I have counter space for tray processing of prints. To the right of that is my film processing area with a temp controlled water bath for tray processing of film. I have separate print drying racks (built undercounter) and I have the drymounting press installed above the print drying racks. My mat cutting area is to the right of that area. The counter is laid out in a U shaped configuration along three walls.

    The reason that I mentioned the caveat at the beginning is this, after the initial construction, I began using the 8X10 format and this brought along film developing by inspection and contact printing on Azo which required a green safelight and exposure light which does double duty. These did not exist in the original layout. I was able to power these from my enlarging timer (thank goodness). I have just recently moved into 12X20 format and this brings along another set of different procedures. I will need to move the exposure lamp for contact printing (to accomodate the larger negative), and I will need to make possible arrangements for a vacuum printing frame. Counter space begins to shrink and I wish that I had a room twice as large (presently 11 X 13) and with my framing and matting area separate.

    My recommendations would be to think this through. Consider where your hopes, dreams, and ambitions may lead you. Time spent in planning will be recovered many times over in reexecution. Good luck.
     
  5. bmac

    bmac Member

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    Also, seriously think about counter height. I built mine about two inches too short, so I am stooping over while enlarging and processing. It sucks. Going to eventually build a new counter to put on top of the short one... one of these days...
     
  6. docholliday

    docholliday Member

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    Not just power...be sure to plan a couple of APC BackUPS Pro/SmartUPS 500VA or higher units to each outlet. Especially the auto-processors and enlarger. You can have all the power outlets in the world, but when some drunk hits the power pole down the street, the outlets don't do a bit of good! (Yes, this has happened to me many times...running C-41, running E-6, waiting for a Ciba to go through the processor, during a long dodging/burning session, etc).

    I've got 4 SmartUPS 1200 tied to all my darkroom, with a dedicated Pentium II 266 to control the units, log any power events, and send me a text-message to my cell phone if I'm not at home.

    Not only that, but between the stabilized power from the SmartUPS and the voltage stabilizer on my Dichro enlarger, I never get any color shifts!
     
  7. edbuffaloe

    edbuffaloe Member

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    I recently completed building a new black and white darkroom, intended for silver printing and alternative processes. I got an 8 foot sink instead of a 6 foot as in my old darkroom. I wish it could have been 10 feet, but there wasn't room. Still, it is nice to have so much more room for trays and beakers.

    Another significant change was that I made it a sit-down darkroom. I found that I just can't stand for 8 hours at a stretch like I used to. In my new darkroom I can sit and think, relax, and plan new strategies for making images, whereas (thinking back on it) I was never really comfortable in my old darkroom.

    Since I mix most of my own chemistry, I devoted a whole corner to chemical storage and a mixing area. Another corner was devoted to a print drying cabinet, with a filter and fan, and a UV exposure unit built onto the top of it. I painted the interior of the exposure unit bright white to reflect the UV around, and lightproofed the drying cabinet below so I can dry coated paper in it safely. I use the top of the UV unit for my densitometer. My countertop area is 4x8 feet. I could still use some more horizontal work area, but it is luxurious compared to my old space.

    I have shelves and cabinets on both walls. The lowest shelf above the sink is a wire shelf, so I can use it to drain wet beakers, funnels, etc.

    I have two enlargers--a Beseler 4x5 and a 6x7. I left enough space for an 8x10 enlarger, which I am in process of building, that I will have to roll out and project onto one wall.

    I have 20 duplex plugs in the darkroom on two circuits, and if I had known in advance where I was going to have to place some of my equipment I would have installed a couple more at a different height. But so far 20 has been sufficient, though I have had to add a multiple outlet on the floor to accommodate a timer and light.

    I built in two work lights that can be moved about for detailed work on bromoils or print spotting. I have a dedicated green safelight above the sink for examining negatives, and a reflector with 25 watt bulb for inspecting prints in the fix. I bought a bunch of safelights on e-Bay and have them all over the room--oh, I forgot to mention four additional duplex plugs on the ceiling on a separate circuit, wired to a wall switch, for the safelights.
     
  8. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  9. sgrowell

    sgrowell Member

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    Thanks to everyone. Just the kind of info I was looking for. The power requirement is definetly something I need to look into. My primary activity will be development by inspection and Platinum/Palladium printing, so I think I'll try to incorporate an emulsion conditioning chamber like Ed mentioned. I'm sill a rookie in the Platinum/Palladium world so I'm still a little unsure of how important humidity control will be. I'm using one of the Edwards Engineering UV lights, so I'll probably dedicate a circuit for that if I can. Counter height is another real concern. The fashion industry keeps trying to tell me I'm short so I guess I better drop my counter tops down a little. [​IMG]

    Steve
     
  10. sgrowell

    sgrowell Member

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    Aggie,

    Just read your post. I'll definetly be incorporating some of the features you mentioned with regard to the darkroom at Yosemite. Not sure I'll have that much space, but I won't be too cramped either. There exists a window in the space and I'm going to try and incorporate it as a fast way to evacuate fumes. In addition I'll have a vent fan for when the window is light tight. I've seen some industrial rubber flooring that has raised circurlar pads (size of half dollar), I'm going to try and get some of that if I can afford it.

    Thanks,
    Steve
     
  11. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  12. lee

    lee Member

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    I get to paint my darkroom tomorrow. I spent today finishing the dry wall mudding (texture). I tried to make it look like adobe walls. Then we will need to put the base board molding on. It is gonna be cedar fencing material as that is the cheapest thing I can buy that will work. This will help keep the dust from the outside from coming in. (I hope) I have an aircleaner that I hope can keep up. We may hang the darkroom door this weekend also. We may tile the front room (finishing area and office). The floors are gonna be tile (that is what is there now) and mopped to a farethewell then waxed and waxed and then those nice rubber matts on the exposed areas will be used around the sinks and the enlarger areas.

    We missed the April 1, dead line by a great deal.

    lee\c
     
  13. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    Just remember those nice rubber mats are dust magnets, which may or may not be good. If you clean them outside the darkroom regularly then they will suck up the dust from your feet as you move about. If not they become an unrelenting source of tiny little spots on your pictures.
    I forget, are you creating a positive pressure ventilation system in the darkroom? Works better than anything to keep exterior dust out.
     
  14. lee

    lee Member

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    you cannot remember because I have never mentioned it. [​IMG] Thanks for reminding me. I will have to talk to my darkroom partners about it.


    lee\c
     
  15. lee

    lee Member

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    We plan on removing the rubber mats on a cleaning day and hauling them all down to the car wash and giving them a good cleaning.



    lee\c
     
  16. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    Keep an eye on them. As they age they may start shedding rubber dust and other stuff. We had them at work and no amount of sweeping would get the dirt off them (this is in a bindery) and even if they looked clean if you had to get on your hands and knees on them to work under the folder you got a thick layer of dirt on your clothes. I preferred the bare floor.
    I have seen a variety that had a hard layer laminated to the top side that stayed considerably cleaner. Ever run into those before?
     
  17. lee

    lee Member

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    Thanks for the concern. I have never seen the hard rubber ones. The front room (my office and finishing room) will be ceramic tiles.

    Anything will be better than what is there now. It has old floor tiles that if you look at them hard, they come up. With dirt. I may remove all the tiles(lots of labor here) and seal the concrete and stain the floor then wax to a fairthewell. We are still a little bit aways from that.


    lee\c
     
  18. Phil Handforth

    Phil Handforth Member

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    I currently use anti-fatigue soft compound matting. The 'stipples' that form the natural texture of the surface allow the sole to deposit dust within the 'channels'. The soft nature of the compound itself allows the dust to positively adhere to the mat itself. One can then jet clean outside the darkroom, cleaning the dirt outside rather than simply moving the dirt 'within' the rom. Like anything, it works to a point and is very comfortable under foot too!