Darkroom Counter Top Question

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by kjsphoto, Nov 5, 2004.

  1. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    I am ready to start building my cabinets. What do you use for the countertops?

    Any ideas and suggestions would be greatly appreciated. They have to be able to withstand water from the sink and look nice but still not cost a fortune.

    Thanks,

    Kev
     
  2. bmac

    bmac Member

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    Home Depot sells countertops made out of some plastic covered composite. I think they are fairly inexpensive. Me, I use plywood. :smile:
     
  3. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    I used plywood and varnished it with marine varnish. If it gets to look too scruffy I just rip it out and replace with another sheet of the same size.
     
  4. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    I've built three darkrooms. In the first, I made the counter from formica over plywood. In the second, I used particle board with several coats of polyurethane varnish. Actually I really liked this - it had the warmth of fine wood, but was far less expensive. In this design, the enlarger was mounted on a small wall shelf, and the counter area under the enlarger was rigged with a drop shelf arrangement to permit bigger enlargements. (I had a low ceiling, and couldn't raise the head on the enlarger all the way to the top of its column.)

    In the most recent, the enlarger station was in a corner, and I used the varnished particle board for the area under the enlarger. I got around the enlarger height problem by building a recessed area in the ceiling above the enlarger to permit the head to go as high as it could on the enlarger column. Then, I put inexpensive commercial kitchen cabinets (from Lowes) on either side of the enlarger station, and commercial "postformed" countertops (actually, formica over particle board) over thsoe cabinets. We have a discount building supply outlet that gets odds and ends of countertops - simply selected on in a color that I liked, schlepped it home, cut in into two pieces, and mounted one on each of the cabinets.
     
  5. Jeffrey A. Steinberg

    Jeffrey A. Steinberg Member

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    I bought darkroom cabinets and counter tops from Kreonite Lab Systems. They are basic cabinets that are covered with a Wilsonart laminate. They hold up well with spilt liquids, etc.
     
  6. foraker

    foraker Member

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    The stuff Home Depot sells is called Melamine
     
  7. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    Coincidentally, I just start the construction of mine, as well.

    Its located in a basement, so headroom is definitely an issue. I'm using a corner which will form an "L". The short leg will have my sink and the long end will be host to the "dry" area.

    Since it is an L, I'm seriously considering the pre cut formica counters that Home Depot sells. Quick, easy and relatively inexpensive. My other option is a 3/4" pice of plywood cut to the proper size. This will require cutting, fitting and finishing (two or three good coats of polyurethane). I think I just convinced myself of the formica...

    I would be interested in learning about spills on formica tops. Since the stop bath is acidic, I believe, does spilling on the laminate cause staining. I work in an environment which occasionally uses Potassium Dichromate and Sulfuric Acid...Now I know its not the same but that acid really chews up lacquered and painted surfaces when spilled; even when wiped up quickly.
     
  8. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    I would be more worried about silver/selenium/iodine stains than acid stains

    You are using sulpho-chromic solution at work, that thing is nasty!!!! Excellent to dilute any sort of organic (carbon-atoms) in metals, glass, nalgene, teflon, etc.

    acetic acid is not even close... but be aware of glacial acetic acid can cause pretty bad skin burns... once diluted is pretty much harmless.
    And you can always use CITRIC acid
     
  9. Loose Gravel

    Loose Gravel Member

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    Mine counters are melamine. It is just painted particle board and does not stand up well to moisture, but my counters are all dry, so it has not been a problem. Formica would be nice. Something smooth, no static, light color. Static can be fixed with staticide. Plywood with a sheet of mattboard over it would probably be fine.

    My enlarger baseboards are birch plywood that are varnished. These I recess to the same level as the countertops. If you can wall mount your enlargers and have one big seamless counter, this is best. Use plywood and paint it white.
     
  10. galyons

    galyons Member

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    Hi All,
    I will repress my male ego and admit that after weeks of refusal, I let my wife and daughter drag me to Ikea. I had planned on Lowes or Home Depot for cabinets and counter tops, Ikea! It's just not MANLY. Well, I left Ikea after placing orders for cabinets and their hardwood "butcher block" counter tops. Cost was less than just the cabinets from Lowes or Home Depot. The cabinets are, IMO, better quality than the Lowes/Home Depot cabinets. The counter tops are dead simple to install. Three costs of matte polyurethane and they are pretty and indestructible.

    The advantage of the Ikea counter tops is I can trash them pretty badly, strip, sand and recoat and they will continue to look like new. The tops come in kitchen countertop width and island top width, so my sink area countertops are nearly 36" deep - very handy. You WILL appreciate the more "Manly", (Gotta cover myself here, I still shudder at the whole Ikea thing!!) :wink:, real estate that the extra depth provides.

    Check out Ikea. But unlike me, you don't have to tell anyone!!

    Cheers,
    Geary
     
  11. photomc

    photomc Member

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    Since mine was a simple setup, but time was not I went with the HomeDepot cabinets and counter top. Top was a pre-made 6 foot fit perfect over the three base cabinets and really was easy to install. They take a beating, but no problems. The 4x5 enlarger on the other hand sits on a rolling table made with a couple of heavy (read Heavy) grinder stands from Harbor Frieght on two pieces of MDF painted with a white primer to water-proof. It has worked for me, but given time and skills could be done better.
     
  12. joeyk49

    joeyk49 Member

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    titrisol: The Potassium Dichromate is used in an old analizer and the guys that use it always seem to be all thumbs. Hopefully we'll soon be ditching it for a more modern piece of equipment.

    gaylons: I'm liking the Ikea thing. Although my first allegiance has to be with the Orange Fortress...I own stock. But, my Beseler's base is about 28 or 29". That could be a problem on a regular countertop...
     
  13. wfwhitaker

    wfwhitaker Member

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    Having seen Geary's counters myself, I can attest to their beauty and practicality. And they are oh-so-manly!

    If you can stand the no-drip lip of the post-(pre?)-formed laminate tops, those really seem to be economical and robust. Myself, I simply used 3/4" Melamine-clad particle board the first time. Just rebuilt the dry side using 3/4" MDF glued and screwed to 3/4" maple veneer plywood. Edged it with maple and gave it three coats of polyurethane. Very pleasant to work with on the dry side, but wouldn't want to expose it to regular acid baths.

    In closing, I must confess to adding a few details from Ikea myself. Their stainless shelves and rods are just the thing for the fashion-conscious pragmatist on a budget.

    -Will
     
  14. Jim Moore

    Jim Moore Member

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    Hey Kev,

    I too used the 3/4" Melamine particle board from Home Depot.

    They sell it in 4x8 sheets and I had them cut it to size when I bought it.

    Jim
     
  15. kjsphoto

    kjsphoto Subscriber

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    Would cabient grade plywood work? I could also put a finish of some type on it.

    I also wanted to use the same material for the front room as well ( finishing area ).
     
  16. Sportera

    Sportera Member

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    My darkroom counter top is an old wooden ships hatch that consists of three boards joined by two iron belts. It weighs a ton and measures 3 feet x 10. My father gave me the hatch years ago and when I made my darkroom I decided to make a table out of it. I contstructed the table out of 2x4's to be slightly above my waist so that I wouldn't have to bend over too much. We hung a fabric curtain around the table and use the area underneath to store chemicals.

    Sam
    www.samuelportera.com
     
  17. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Still the best layout for a kitchen (or a darkroom for that matter) is the "U" shape. One long leg for enlarging (dry), center of the "U" for contact printing, proofs, other long leg on the wet side with the door at the top or opening of the "U". This is still the most efficient use of space in a work area, if room permits and you can start from scratch with the design.

    Melamine is ok for the dry side, but a laminated area for the sink side works well with formica, as it resists moisture and spills much better than melamine. A large stainless steel sink is nice, but it will break the budget. Gordon Hutchings has set up his new darkroom with a deep sink he made out of wood, then had it sprayed with the rubberized liner material they use for truck beds. I still like this one the best. Resists moisture, colors available (18% grayscale?), any shape is easy to build, always fits and can be made to take any size tray and drain like a regular sink. Best of both worlds, but a bit of experience in woodwork is helpful.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 6, 2004
  18. BBarlow690

    BBarlow690 Member

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    I had Maple flooring strips left over from redoing my house. I glued them up into a counter top, sanded, finished with 3 coats of Watco, and made an end cap with a rounded corner. It works well on the dry side. I don't have or, with my design, need a surface on the wet side.

    Cheap, because it was leftovers that I was happy to use. Nice, and it sits on cabinets I made from birch plywood with cherry faceframes and cherry drawer fronts. Custom sized drawers and cabinet heights, since I'm 6'6" tall. I love my darkroom.
     
  19. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    kjsphoto
    Slightly off topic, but I find the most useful counter top in my darkroom is a large lightbox 3ft sq that I use to set up the negatives into the glass carriers, next to this is all the negative cleaning and glass cleaning supplys. This light box is central to my enlargers and I don't know how I ever worked without this counter top. If you have room I definately suggest trying one.
     
  20. Max Power

    Max Power Member

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    My work table was surprisingly simple, and was built to certain restrictions; namely that it had to be 21in wide max.
    I built the structure out of 2x4s and 1x4s...It is unbelievably solid (manly men doing manly things :wink:)

    For the countertop, I went to a building supply which specialises in second and third grade material. For $12CAD, I got an 8 x 3 black formica countertop (it had been improperly sized for the original customer). I cut this down to 6' x 21'' with my table saw. The whole work table cost about $40CAD

    IMHO this is about as inexpensive as you can get.

    Kent
     
  21. Lee Shively

    Lee Shively Member

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    The cheapest piece of crappy plywood I can find. It's dark in there. Who cares what it looks like.