Darkroom design mistakes - who has made them?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by semi-ambivalent, May 15, 2011.

  1. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    All,

    We've done some major renovations to our house and I'm going to be re-building my darkroom in a month or so. Originally, it was a dungeon in the basement, and as soon as it was dark enough to work in I stopped improving it. I produced some pretty good work in there but this time I'd like to do it as "right" as I can and with the money available so It's a real pleasure to be in there.

    I have the same 11' x 10' dungeon I had before only now there's a heating duct going through the doorway :blink:. I'm going to put in a sink but will have to do with a slop bucket. Running water is much more doable but will have to wait for the money to pay for it. I'm not looking for a mansion; just a nice place to stay in until about 3AM, like I had before.

    I know every darkroom is different. What I think I'm after is those "If I did this again I would..." and those "I thought this would work but..." and the "This was a hack but it turned out better than what I thought I wanted" kinds of revelations that (I think will) show up in a project like this.
     
  2. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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  3. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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  4. Todd Barlow

    Todd Barlow Subscriber

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    What I would do differently in my darkroom

    1) I wanted a drop table for enlarging so I built one and have never used it. Instead I use it for additional shelving.

    2) I would mount surface mount the electrical receptables and switches instead of behind the drywall - it allows for making adjustments based on the evolution of the equipment you bring in.

    Todd
     
  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Lessons I've learned from darkrooms I've worked in or put together:

    When you decide where you are going to put safelights and regular lights, make sure that you don't end up with a situation where your own shadow falls on the working area.

    When you design your area for trays, be sure to include space to empty the trays easily.

    Remember to include a dry area for a paper cutter and one or more paper safes/drawers.

    Lots of electrical outlets, spread over more than one circuit.

    Separate the safelight and regular light switches.

    A floor that will withstand spills and is easy to clean.
     
  6. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    A white light switch somewhere near your fix tray. Locate a dry area outside the darkroom for mounting etc.......and don't forget the circuit for the drymount press. Mount everything you can to the wall to get it out of the way. And lastly, get lots of paper safes so you can always work out of a paper safe instead of a box of paper!
     
  7. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    Do it the easy way - move a lot. I am quite settled (in the current house for the last 8 years) and have made only twaeks to how I originally laid things out. But this is the 9th darkroom facility that I have built/jury rigged. All of the past less permanent darkrooms have tought me the elements I wanted in this most refined one.
     
  8. Thomas Bertilsson

    Thomas Bertilsson Subscriber

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    I found that I really don't need that much to work well. The only thing I regret to date is that I haven't installed a proper electrical circuit dedicated to the darkroom.

    I need a really sturdy enlarger stand, so I built that. Good safe-lighting. Light proofing. A sink. Room for all trays. And lots of storage space.

    I think the rest is 'nice to have'. I really ought to post a portrait of my darkroom into the thread mentioned above. It's basically just a section of an open plan basement with the windows covered up, and a hinge on the door to keep the cats out. :smile:

    Good luck with your project!
     
  9. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    I am on at least my third darkroom configuration in the same space. I don't really consider my earlier designs to be mistakes. The earlier designs worked great for the work I was doing at the time. I made changes as my photography evolved.

    I recommend that you make your design flexible. I don't use built in cabinets. I have movable tables, shelves and storage units. Even my sinks could be moved with some minor re-plumbing. I recently bought a used 8x10 enlarger that is much larger than my old enlarger. To accommodate it, I only had to lower a shelf on the work unit and remove the top shelf on the unit.

    You might be able to build the perfect darkroom for your work today, but what will you be doing five or ten years from now?

    I remember reading about a guy who build a table for himself. He ended up making three. He said, "I built the first table for an enemy, the second for a friend and the third for my self."
     
  10. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Design it to suit your needs. I have just two generic suggestions to those you have already received. One: an exhaust fan and two: if you are building a sink "paint" it with marine polyester (coloring can be added in the mix). I used it on mine and it cleans up easily and has been very durable for the past 35 years.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  11. semi-ambivalent

    semi-ambivalent Subscriber

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    Thanks everyone!

    Thanks all for the ideas, especially for the surface mounted electrical. Since I intend to insulate I have open stud bays and just sort of assumed I would put electrical inside them. The surface mounting would be much more "adjustable".

    sa
     
  12. ROL

    ROL Member

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    A place for the trash can (the old canard being the most important tool) that is out of the way.

    Might want to take a look a A Darkroom Portrait, for an intensive study of one darkroom.
     
  13. silveror0

    silveror0 Member

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    Two things come to mind about the basement darkroom I set up from scratch.

    First, I made the mistake of building dry-side storage shelves with "kick bases" that do not allow cleaning/mopping under them. I have no floor drain to collect spilled fluids (WILL occur at some time). Since one of my minor water connections started leaking - fortunately I was home to stop it - I've made the necessary changes to that joint, but I was also fortunate in having covered the entire concrete floor with the type of thick rubber anti-fatigue mat interlinking sections that have a bunch of one-inch holes in them, so these holes held most of the leaked water. I now keep a bucket and mop handy.

    Second, I wish I had not placed all the plumbing lines inside the walls, which would mean tearing the walls apart to locate/repair any leaks.
     
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  15. Ronald Moravec

    Ronald Moravec Member

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    My first couple were crammed into available, unalterable spaces. They were small, but efficient.

    The next was 8x10 feet, drop table, dry side and wet side. It was really perfect for its size.

    15x9 became available next to the entry to the 8x10. I expanded and attached that area. The enlarger was moved to the new space and I acquired more. There is space for dry mounting and framing.

    Caution. Make the walk from enlarger to developer tray as short as possible for the most frequently used enlarger.

    Build counters heavy, 2x4 legs and cross/diagonal bracing. 3/4" plywood tops with solid wood edges and beveled.

    Build all counters/sinks tall enough so you are not hunched over. Kitchen counter tops are for short women, 5 feet 2. My counters bring the enlarger bases to 38". Perfect for me. My short friends have trouble.

    Enlarger bases are usually too small. Either sink below counter height and make a cutout or add framing to extend edges.
     
  16. dpurdy

    dpurdy Subscriber

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    When you get to plumbing your sink, the mistake I made in my first darkroom was to put the faucet/fixture unit in the sink. That takes a lot of space. This darkroom I installed the faucet and knobs up high on the wall outside the sink so I have more sink. I have to reach up pretty high to turn the water on and look up at the thermometer but it beats having all that and the hose connections in the way.
    Dennis
     
  17. rmolson

    rmolson Member

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    When I finally built a darkroom in the basement I conserved space and only made the space between the wet and dry side 30 inches. I didn't take into consideration my getting wider over the years It is still a good darkroom but a bit snug!
     
  18. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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  19. Discoman

    Discoman Member

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    1: use a well built area, not a shed poorly built by the previous owners of the house
    2: make sure the door is flat before designing a light trap
    3: make sure the door can close AND latch once light seal is in place
    4: adjust the cutouts for the drain so that i don't have a hole 11" tall that needs a can of spray foam to seal up
    5: pretty much everything else.
     
  20. GeorgesGiralt

    GeorgesGiralt Member

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    Hello !
    My darkroom is *also* in a basement. The sewer pipe is beyond a large concrete wall and about one meter and a half above the darkroom ceiling.
    So i should have needed the bucket system for sewer ... But when you have a big bucket, one can put into it an electric pump, the king used for drain flooded basement. And put PVC pressure pipe to go to the sewer. Mine can push the water 10 m high and 50 m long. More than enough to reach the sewer pipe. Last but not least, you can use small diameter PVC pipe which make routing and piercing concrete walls easy. Mine use 25 mm diameter tubing.
    The pump looks like this one : http://www.manutan.fr/pompes-vide-cave-pompes-vide-cave_MDL1772-9.html the blue round pad is the automatic switch (when the water level make this float, the pump turns on). Make sure you have a pump designed for acidic water or rince the bucket twice with clean water in order to prevent rusting and seizure.
     
  21. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    :laugh:
     
  22. thefizz

    thefizz Member

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    Buy or build the biggest sink you can fit in your darkroom. You'll be so glad you did.
     
  23. ROL

    ROL Member

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    The axiom I live by – my process sink is almost 20 feet long, not to mention the wash sink.
     
  24. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I didn't realize there was so much testosterone in darkroom work!

    By the way. I pimped my Jobo. It now has a 2-hp motor on it. I get my film developed in seconds! After processing, switch it into turbo-mode and it dries the film at 4,000 rpm.
     
  25. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    Concerning the electrical wiring, consider having one switch that will turn on and off EVERYTHING plugged into every outlet. I have this and I really like it.
     
  26. lxdude

    lxdude Member

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    Ralph- you da man!
    :laugh::laugh::laugh: