DIY archival print washer: source needed

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Flotsam, Jul 9, 2005.

  1. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I've been thinking of building a vertical washer. there seem to be a wide variety of suitably sized outer tubs available and plumbing fittings can be bought locally. The one thing that I can't find is a material suitable for the print dividers, a thin but relatively stiff plastic sheet. I'm sure that it must be available. Does anyone know of an internet source for something that would work for this?
    Thanks
     
  2. Will S

    Will S Member

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    I used plexiglass. They cut it for me at the hardware store to fit my fish tank.
     
  3. John Bartley

    John Bartley Member

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    Plexiglass would have been my first thought also. I've been thinking about this DIY print washer also and I thought of using a small aquarium tank with plexi dividers and poly tubing.
    Are you planning to force the water to flow thru' a certain path or just sort of in one end and out the other?

    cheers
     
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  4. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    The discussion this week on the pure-silver mailing list was about using plastic window screen. Why must it be stiff? Mount it at the bottom and the top and it should be fine. Just like a window screen.
     
  5. photobackpacker

    photobackpacker Advertiser Advertiser

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    Hi Neal:

    I have built two of these. The first was an Zone VI knock off for 11X14 and my current which will handle up to 20 X 24.

    Your choice of material for dividers will need to vary depending upon the size of your washer. I used the pebble surface 1/8 inch acrylic in the 11X14 and it worked well. In 20X24, this thickness is insufficiently stiff to maintain uniform spacing. While it works, it does not look as professional and I would definitely use thicker material if I were to rebuild the unit.

    I have been experimenting with plastic corrugate for dividers. It is 1/4 the weight, 1/4 the price and many times stiffer longitudinally. Its only draw backs are: (1) it is thicker than acrylic (.155" vs .116") and (2) Finishing the top edge requires some type of cap. I am concerned that a third problem might develop - that of mildew on the inside channels from trapped moisture. I think I would either seal the ends with caulk or perhaps cut the material on the bias to introduce a draining slant to the interior channels.

    If you have priced the acrylic, you are already sobered by sticker shock. While the 1/2 inch is horribly expensive, the square footage used by the dividers is the next highest raw material cost. Plastic corregate is inexpensive enough where you can experiment without breaking the bank. You might locate some of this and give it a try. I picked mine up at a surplus store. Here is one of many providers: http://www.coroplast.com/product.htm

    Good luck
     
  6. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    You might take a look at lenses(?)/covers for flourescent lights. 2X4 ft sections in a variety of textures. Available at big box home center stores lighting depts. The stuff tends to be brittle, so, it can chip easily when you're handling it. I think it may be styrene.
     
  7. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Lots of good ideas. I'd like to explore the window screen idea and I suppose that the channels in the corregated plastic could be sealed with silicone. I'd rather find a suitable plastic tank than a fish tank because it would be easier to drill for fittings

    I was knocking around on the net and ran across this place: http://www.usplastic.com I haven't looked closely enough to determine whether something can be put together reasonably economically but they sure seem to have everything needed. Look under "Tanks and Accessories" and "Sheet, rod, shapes"
     
  8. MurrayMinchin

    MurrayMinchin Membership Council Council

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  9. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    How big are you building? This is the sort of thing I plan on using when I get off my butt.

    http://www.homedepot.com/prel80/HDU...957&srccode=cii_9686437&cpncode=10-10238759-2

    Drill a hole on one side for an over flow drain. Rig up some dividers. Put some pipe in the bottom for the incoming water. That's it.

    Downside is it'll be a batch only washer. Upside it's cheap. Big. Comes with it's own legs. I'm tempted to pipe the over flow water so it lands on a holding tray. But one of those things will be more then big enough for me.
     
  10. eric

    eric Member

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    I was thinking of making one last year until I found a very cheap Paterson Major (11x14). I went to the office supply store and looked at plastic file boxes. There was types with already plastic dividers in them. I was going to drill holes for inlet/outlet hoses.
     
  11. Earl Dunbar

    Earl Dunbar Member

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  12. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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  13. photobackpacker

    photobackpacker Advertiser Advertiser

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    Neal:

    If you are at all handy and have access to a power saw, working with plexiglass is extremely simple and rewarding. If you can cut a staight line and mate the pieces, the methylene chloride spreads itself by capillary action and forms a bond within a matter of seconds. Get some small pieces of scrap plexi and experiment. You will be amazed and you can put together exactly what you want.
     
  14. argentic

    argentic Member

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    Could you give us a link to an image? I'm not sure that what you are talking about exists here in Europe.
     
  15. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Am I missing something here - I ask seriously - is there some intricate secret to the way the water must pass through the tank? Or is it just a box that keeps prints separate while the water fills it and comes out in a control and constant fashion?
    It seems like I could put one together out of things I could probably score for free if I looked hard enough... it may not look pretty, but garage sales have plenty of fish tanks (some of them plexi), and plastic sheet can be taken from the already metioned "glass" for flourescent light enclosures, etc. Actually - I think I will build one and tell you how that goes!

    Am I overlooking some important factor here?
     
  16. photobackpacker

    photobackpacker Advertiser Advertiser

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    No. They are rather simple devices. They do, however, hold significant amounts of water and if you have a catastrophic failure - you are usually talking about a significant amount of water flowing in places you would prefer dry...

    Ideally, when you design one of these, you would like to set up a flow to the water that will cause it to circulate across the surface of the prints and then be drained. Fred Picker reasoned that Hypo was heavier than water so the best design would be to introduce water at the top/sides and remove it from the bottom with a baffle system. Later tests disproved this "heavier than water" theory and equally effective designs popped up.

    Simply introducing water at the top and letting it spill over the top will work but will require longer run times than a system that creates a circulation. You will want a grid at the bottom that will keep the edges of your paper off the bottom so water can flow past that edge. These are all small considerations that improve the washing efficiency and reduce wash times and water usage.
     
  17. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Thanks for the advice - I can certainly see the importance of making it stand up to the water volume... that would be a lot of mopping :smile:

    I was just thinking if there is any means of agitation or circulation that would improve the cleaning action of watever water does pass through - I was inspired by the sprinkler heads that are powered by the pressure of the water that flows through them - perhaps window screen dividers rigged to move an inch or so back and forth, letting the water through the mesh... I wonder if it would be worth the effort?
    I was thinking of a flat plastic "grid" of perforations that would sit on the bottom with a hose attached - to ensure that clean water is introduced evenly across all the prints.

    Just brain storming to see if there is not some simple but effective improvement that could be inplemented to save water (it is a lot of water) and ensure a nice clean print...
     
  18. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I have moved my washing operation completely into the shower. It saves me a little mopping and a lot of anxiety. Now the outlet can get blocked with the corner of a print causing it to overflow completely without consequence :smile: Peace of mind.

    That unit that Earl Dunbar posted a link to above is pretty hard to pass up. It is hard to imagine that I could get the materials and build the thing for much less than that. Also, I have become interested in that soak and dump method of washing. It seems to be the most effective, water efficient way to achieve a full wash.
    The only change that I would make is that I would try to find a plastic tank rather than a fish tank so that I can drill it and install a stopcock drain at the bottom rather than using the siphon to empty it.
    This would also make it somewhat easier to move. After all, My rule is that I take a shower _each and every_ Saturday night whether I need it or not :D
     
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  19. gnashings

    gnashings Inactive

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    Good point about the shower - I have been washing prints in a large tray in a bathtub using a shower head - I jut rested the hand-held shower head in the corner of a full tray, set it on pulsating massage and let the water run! The water actually create a vortex which spun the prints around and kept them from sticking to each other. So far, so good - but I think I will lose less hair over washing when I have a tatally "set it and forget" system.... I have had the shower head twist itself out of the tray and give the whole "dark room" a shower - not good!
     
  20. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    The archival washer I have is a no name brand that I bought from someone in the distant past, but it not quite as simple as just a box with dividers. It is built on a box with holes for the tank to fill from the bottom so each print is washed separately. I have always assumed that by filling each slot from the bottom the hypo is forced up and out the top, and the slots are made in such a way that the water does not flow into another slot. When I use it I check for residual hypo and my test come out clean. If you are building a washer how do you make sure the hypo is not collecting in the corners?

    I use my archival washer the on patio (one advantage of living in the desert). Mine is made of plexiglass and is very heavy, moving it from the outside storage room to the patio is a chore. But I keep a rotary washer in the shower of bathroom that is now my darkroom, I wash RC, fiber based working prints and film in it. I have several film washer but if I am developing both prints and film the rotary washer works just as well for film. The door is just wide enofe for a 4X5 hanger. I use the archival washer if I plan on print all day long and I move the prints from the rotary washer to the archival to the drying rack or print dryer.

    Another option is a set up that Eugene Smith used. 3 trays on a ladder, each tray has a siphon feeding from the top tray to the bottom, so clean water filled the top tray then exited feeding the middle tray which then feeds the bottom tray. Prints start in the bottom tray and work their way to the top. 20 mints in each tray should be an archival wash.
     
  21. photobackpacker

    photobackpacker Advertiser Advertiser

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    When the controversy raged about whether Hypo is heavier than water - (thus requiring bottom draining baffles) or whether it floated up - (your way of thinking) some test were done. The conclusion was that as it leached from the paper and the emulsion, it went into solution with the wash water. The most dominant factor was the flow of the wash water. Yes, technically it is heavier than water but not enough to overcome the influence of water flow.

    Neal referred to the fill and dump method. This was shown to be the most effective. In this system, the washer is filled, allowed to stand for a short time and then purged. There were some isolated reports of print damage with this method but I have no firsthand experience with these systems

    The most important factors were:

    Space and separation between prints (since prints are often added as they are developed.)

    Good flow across the surfaces of the prints

    Time in the water to ensure the water had a chance to leach the chemicals out of the paper and the emulsion.

    To test your water flow, try food coloring (Obviously NOT while washing actual prints!!) You will see if there is any pooling in the corners.