Darkroom minimums

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by macandal, Dec 28, 2010.

  1. macandal

    macandal Member

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    I want to build my darkroom and would like to see what others have done. I live in San Francisco, CA. Looking at what others have done would help me in designing my own as I have a limited space to build it on.

    My parents would be willing to let me build one in their house (I live in an apartment). They have a huge room next to the garage and would be willing to let me build one using as little room as possible. So, I guess my question should be, what is the minimum space needed to build a darkroom? I would also like an enlarger, etc, to make my own prints. I shoot 35mm, MF, and LF (4x5). I'm not a big guy; I'm only 5'7". I mention this because I know that if I were a big guy I would need a lot more room to maneuver my body in that room.

    Thanks.
     
  2. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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  3. macandal

    macandal Member

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    guitstik, thanks, yes, I have checked that thread already. I started reading it, but, you know, it's looooooooooong. Someone here on APUG, must have a small darkroom that can give me an idea of what I need. Do you know anyone? Thanks.
     
  4. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    My darkroom is 7x14 ft with a dry and a wet side. I do Color and B&W, and I make and coat my own emulsions. You can do practically anything in a small space if you set your mind to it.

    PE
     
  5. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    My darkroom is approximately 7' x 7' with a 6 1/2' ceiling. One wall has a 6' sink, the opposite wall has my enlarger and my UV exposure unit. I do a wide range of work in it - I have done color printing and silver-gelatin enlargements in it, but now I mostly do large format contact prints. I do have some storage outside the darkroom because being such a small space I have to break down and re-configure depending on what I'm doing. If I'm processing film, the trays have to be removed and the Jobo put in the sink. When I'm not processing film, the Jobo goes out in the hall on the floor. It's a pretty efficient space, with my vertical slot processor (for silver gelatin/color prints) and print washer fitting on the floor under the UV exposure unit. Under the sink is where all the chemical storage bottles are kept. Lenses and negative carriers for the 4x5 enlarger are in a rack mounted on the wall.
     
  6. George Nova Scotia

    George Nova Scotia Subscriber

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  7. guitstik

    guitstik Member

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    Your darkroom size is only limited to the space you have available. It is what you do with it that counts. I'm not trying to be obtuse but those of us that have darkrooms have learned to deal with the space available. Right now, I move from one room to another depending on the needs of the family. It is a PITA because I have to move my enlarger from the bathroom to the laundry room from time to time if I want to print. I have plans in the works for doing a permanent set up but as of now I live with what I have available to me.
     
  8. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    For years I worked in a darkroom that was 4 1/2 x 6 feet plus a sink in the next room. It was functional - I could do 11x14 prints. Try for a bit bigger, with plumbing if possible.
     
  9. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Well, I'm just across the bay from San Francisco... Mine is 9' x 8' and was partitioned out of an existing building. Details at http://grahampatterson.home.comcast.net/~grahampatterson/grahamp/darkroom/darkroom.html It's a standard wet side/dry side arrangement. It is just big enough to run 11x14 prints in a dev, stop, fix, rinse sequence without using a tray stacker.

    This is my first permanent darkroom. I'd like a little more space, but compared to various temporary arrangements it is bliss.

    Graham
     
  10. Hikari

    Hikari Member

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    When living in an apartment, my darkroom also doubled as the kitchen (or bathroom). I have had permanent darkrooms in 8x8 rooms. My current darkroom is 12x12. I had two enlargers and a Jobo processor in the permanent darkrooms. Keep the dry and wet side separate--it just save a lot of headaches. And then it is just about organization. Think about the way you work and the things you need. Oddly enough, ceiling height can get you into more trouble than the width and lengths of a room--I have an Omega D5XL with the column mounted below the work surface.
     
  11. macandal

    macandal Member

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    Graham, I don't know if you're offering, but, I would love to take a look at your darkroom.
     
  12. steelydam

    steelydam Member

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    Footprint of mine in the garage is about 6' x 4' and it's 6' high. I can do 11x14 in it, probably bigger if I got creative. The only thing wet in there is chemicals in trays; I do my rinses & selenium toning in the kitchen sink. Works for me...
     
  13. TheFlyingCamera

    TheFlyingCamera Membership Council Council

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    That's what the vertical slot processors are good for... Even though my darkroom is only 7x7 feet, with a 6 foot sink, I can do 16x20 prints in it with no problems. I don't know the current availability of Nova slot processors in this country, but I'd look into one if you have a small darkroom. I got mine when I only had a (small) bathroom to work in and it let me make some big prints in a very cramped space that otherwise would have been unfit for even 8x10s.
     
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  15. Dave Ludwig

    Dave Ludwig Member

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    Try and make it as big as your parents will allow. When it comes to darkrooms bigger is always better. Mine is 18'x12', 4x5 and 8x10 enlargers, 34"x8' sink, plus 12' of countertop. Wish I had another 50sq/ft. My first darkroom did not have a sink, just countertop for trays, basement had a utility sink I used for film and print washing. Size was about 8'x8' and did 11x14's wih 4x5 enlarger. I have also used walk-in closets when in an apartment, but ventilation was a big issue and very cramped and roommates didn't appreciate the smells.
     
  16. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    You could get by with very little, it all depends on your needs.

    My wetside is just a tiny kitchen table with a $25 utility sink. This takes up about half the table, and the remaining half can hold 4 8x10" trays just barely. Similary, my dry side is another kitchen table and my enlarger takes up half. I have no problems doing what I need to do at the moment. Just think about what you'll be doing and see if there's enough room to do that. Simple.

    A tall wire bookshelf should accomodate all the odd's and ends you need.
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    One thing to think about - even if you have a big darkroom, it is really handy to have a nice, largish work area for work that you do in the light. It is also easy to make a work area like that multi-purpose, so other, non-photographer people in the household can use it.

    A decent size work table, a good sink or two and counters and cabinets out in good light can be used and enjoyed by the whole family!

    Think chemistry mixing, toning, trimming prints, matting, framing, negative sorting etc., while the rest of the family can think of things that they might like to do in a good, well lighted work area.
     
  18. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I'll add here that my advise is to get started with a temporary and limited setup first. Then, figure out for one's self that what scope of darkroom is best suited for his/her needs and how far he wants to go. One can easily get started in an average size bathroom and a closet. By the time one starts feeling the limitations of such setup, he will know what is required for the type of work he does in his darkroom.

    I don't know if OT is talking about actually building a complete darkroom or have a space to setup one in more less a shared multi-purpose environment with his folks. But seems he is in a very fortunate situation. Here's what I do and works for me reasonably well.

    In my spare bedroom, I have 3 folding tables each being 30 x 72 arranged in C configuration.

    One has two enlargers
    The other has misc items such as tools, extra lenses, a microscope, etc
    The third has a large plastic tub with 4 trays in it and outside it, a deeper tray

    The plastic tub I mention above was originally marketed for storing "stuff" under bed. It's a large and shallow rectangular tub. 4 trays are 8x10 sized. The last tray is deeper for wash water.

    Film is loaded in this room and taken to a bathroom for processing
    Print is made in this room and it gets placed in the deeper tub - which I take it to bathroom for a final wash
    This room is about 12x12, I think. It's a small spare bedroom.

    The only thing I wish I had is a plumbing in this room but I'm not willing to modify my house just yet this way. It's a bit inconvenient for this reason but it works well enough for me to enjoy the process.

    Before having this semi-permanent setup, I did everything in master bathroom - dragging my enlarger in every time.
     
  19. perkeleellinen

    perkeleellinen Member

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    I have a very small space: 34" x 65" with a sloping roof. I print colour and B&W. Planning is key with tiny spaces. My darkroom is so small that I cannot move when I'm in there, I sit down and everything is within reach. One really useful thing is the Nova slot processor, I have two, and without them I would not be able to print as I simply don't have the space to lay out trays.
     
  20. Neil Poulsen

    Neil Poulsen Member

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    What's the largest space that you think you might be able to have?

    Mine's 6'x8', and I can do up to 16x20 pretty easily. I tend to print smaller, though.

    The sink is the smaller version of The Sink. They're pretty convenient and have a good back splash. Dimensions given are internal, so it could handle two 16x20 trays. I used standard shelf ware next to the enlarger, so they go all the way up and down the wall. There are also shelves above the cabinet on the lower left.

    If it helps, I've attached a floor plan. Another interesting configuration is to swap the door and the film drying cabinet.
     

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  21. michaelbsc

    michaelbsc Member

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    Water is the most important consideration. Managing water, especially if you don't have plumbing in the space, is more important than the size of the space.

    Poorly managed water will kill your work.

    Of course, if you have plumbing then start looking at size and arrangement.

    MB
     
  22. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

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    Probably fair comment about water. I don't have a plumbed space, so my sink drains into a 5 gallon bucket. The trick is to never bring in more than 5 gallons of clean water :cool: I separate fixer / selenium toner for cleaning or hazardous waste disposal, but the rest goes to waste. Fortunately it only has to be carried about 20'. Washing gets done in the main house. It is not too tedious to transport a tray of wet prints for washing or back for drying (my drying racks are over my darkroom sink). I go back and forth about the water issue. I suppose if it was enough of a problem I would fix it. But it is a lot less trouble than packing up so the rest of the family can use the bathroom.


    macandal: I sent you a PM about a visit if you wish to follow up on it.
     
  23. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    I don’t have running water in my darkroom, so stack prints in a holding tray until I have sufficient to make trip to the bathroom, where I have an archival washer.

    Not having running water in the darkroom is less of a problem than you might imagine.

    However, a word of advice.

    Only carry wet prints around the house.
    A standard print tray is an ideal way of moving them.
    Never carry trays of water/chemicals – sooner or later, it will get away from you and a complete sense of humour failure will be the inevitable consequence.

    Martin
     
  24. sepiareverb

    sepiareverb Subscriber

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    When I first moved to VT I worked in a walk-in closet that was above a laundry room. Ran pipes & drains up to it. It was tiny, but functioned quite well for those first few years- until I could build my current space. It was L shaped, went around a chimney. From the door, the sink was on the left, about 6' x 15" just big enough for 11x14 trays. past the chimney on right I had the enlarger in the foot of the L.

    I'll agree water makes everything simpler. My first darkroom in '82 was a black plastic wall in a bedroom with an adjoining bathroom (the only bathroom in the apartment I shared with two others). Not always easy.
     
  25. macandal

    macandal Member

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    After about two years since I originally posted, I'm reviving this thread. Maybe in 5 years I'll get it done. So, I know that people have built darkrooms in impossibly small and difficult places, which tells me that the moral of this story is where there's a will there's a way. So, one of the options (read: spaces) I have for my darkroom is a long hallway-type of space, about 40 squared feet of space. The measurements are 3'5"x12'. Let's make this more difficult. Let's say I am going to work in 35mm, maybe MF, and definitely 4x5 and 8x10. But why stop there? Let's also say I want to make prints in color and B&W, and I want to go as large as 20x24. Nice little challenge, no? I know there'll be compromises, but I want to hear what you guys have to say. I was trying to work it out in my head and I got a headache. Is this possible or not? I was thinking of putting the enlarger at the end of this hallway. Thanks.
     
  26. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Pretty much anything is possible, if you're determined.
    My darkroom is about 6x8 feet in a partially converted bathroom, so we're similar in sq feet. I have a 4x5 enlarger, and do everything from 35mm up to 8x10. Though it's a pretty small space, overall I like the compactness, and it keeps me rigorous about keeping everything in its place. I don't print anything larger than 11x14 on a routine basis, though I could do 16x20's in theory.

    Will the space be plumbed? I think the bigest problem you have is accomodating trays and or a sink in the width. Is the hall dead space now, or does it provide access to other rooms that must stay clear?
    Tray processing 20x24 will be pretty difficult in a space that narrow, but it's probably workable in drums. Another possibility to save space would be a Nova slot processor.