Feedback on building a darkroom

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by zsas, Sep 23, 2011.

  1. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Folks -
    I am considering building out a darkroom in my already finished basement. My wife and kids kindly allowed me to annex about 1/3 of the basement to my hobby. I shoot 35 and MF and print up to 16X20. I have a 7’ 3” photo sink and a 3' deeper Kreonite fiberglass darkroom sink that I call my “slop sink”, a 16X20 washer. My space already has a small built in sink but that might just be re-purposed since I will have the aforementioned sinks already. The bold areas in red need to be constructed (drywall, door). The areas in gray are where you can walk.

    Flow goes from the SW corner to the NE corner and back to the SW corner to dry the prints. Film drying area will be in the NE corner.

    Any thoughts on layout? Any pitfalls you see here?

    Had my first contractor over to look it over today still don’t have a quote, I figure I will be saving for a while before this actually breaks ground (or I guess I should say carpet). It has been fun measuring it all out and drawing it up and just dreaming of a darkroom.

    Best,
    Andy

    [​IMG]
     
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  2. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Congratulations!

    I would suggest doing a drawing that is to scale. Hard to envision things as it is.
     
  3. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Looks quite workable.

    Are you sure that the "table" for the enlargers and paper cutter is deep enough? 25 inches of depth isn't a lot if you are printing 16x20, and it is really shallow if you should ever try 20x24.
     
  4. zsas

    zsas Member

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    2F/2F - Thanks, yeah jusk kinda 'hacked' it in Excel. Dont know CAD or anything like that. There a freeware or anything you recommend?
     
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  5. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Matt great point that west table prob does need to be a bit deeper, 3' could easily be done there is room. My max footprint of enlarger is 2' 1" but why not give it some more room if I ever want to do a larger print - 3' or so seems great!
     
  6. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    I wouldn't make the tables any wider than they need to be. Looks slightly cramped to me. I wouldn't make it any tighter. Instead of using a wider table, you can make the one you are planning now a drop leaf table like we do at the lab where I work. You can install mounts in the table itself to mount the column, instead of using the baseboard. We have it set up so you can enlarge onto the normal table, remove that table and enlarge onto a lower shelf, or remove both and enlarge onto the floor.

    I have even seen single-column enlargers mounted directly to the table at a 45 degree angle to the corner. Not sure that is the best way to go here, but it is something to think about. It takes up more space laterally, but it can give you a bit of extra depth. In this case, it would give you about 35 inches from the corner, instead of 25 inches from the wall. Maybe it wouldn't be a bad idea to just install the mounting hardware in the corner. Use the factory baseboard most of the time, square to the wall, but move the column over for times when you might want to make larger prints. This is all only if you have a single-column enlarger, however.

    You can also mount the enlarger on a raised platform if you have the headroom.

    Personally, I think the dropping leaf design is the most simple, elegant, and effective way to go. You may or may not want to combine it with a slightly raised enlarger. (We use both methods at the lab.)

    I don't know any computer programs for drawing. Pencil and paper is how I usually do it.

    Be sure to have a proper active ventilation system. Also make sure that you have a filter built into that to help with dust.

    And make sure you have a safe (dark, cool, dry, but not too dry) spot to store your papers and films outside of the darkroom. The darkroom itself is not the best place to keep your papers, films, prints, and such.

    Also, I think you need much more room to maneuver in front of the print drying cabinet. 11 inches won't be enough.

    Over all, I would sacrifice a little bit of table surface for a bit more maneuverability. Table space is overrated in darkrooms. You can build shelves, cabinets and drawers to help with storage. Sink space and moving about space are not overrated, however, especially with larger prints.

    A proper viewing hood is lacking in most darkrooms, and one's importance cannot be overstated. Try to set up a space that will most closely simulate the light in which the prints will be viewed. Overhead tungsten spots seem to be common in museums and galleries.

    P.S. Where on Earth are you going to put the Kreonite? :D
     
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  7. frobozz

    frobozz Subscriber

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    Sketchup (free from google) is a great tool for doing 3D layouts and then being able to see them from various angles to have a better idea if a layout is going to work.

    What sort of door are you going to have? It's tricky to make a standard single door light-tight. A classic solution (if you have the square footage) is to simply make a hallway with staggered walls (like a very short maze) painted with matte black. You can turn the couple of corners but the light can't. Those cool Eseco Speedmaster revolving doors are available for darn near free if you can catch someone needing to get rid of one locally.

    Duncan
     
  8. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    Just a very simple but useful suggestion not of the layout: cut three pieces of 3/4in. plywood that can be removable covers for your long sink and paint with marine polyester. When the sink is not being used as a sink it will give you an additional working counter-top. An exhaust system is also advisable.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  9. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    hi andy
    it looks nice ... !
    what is overhead,
    do you have a drop ceiling or bare beams ?

    if you don't have a drop ceiling, i would consider something like that
    because dust and debris will be a PITA otherwise.

    will you be building your film and print drying racks or buying things to repurpose,
    and do you have storage area for your "stuff"?

    i built a drying rack with screens out of 1/4" plywood angle irons and strapping
    ... i used lath and a staple gun ( and screen ) to make my screens. the top is wood + countertop
    and adds to flat space ...

    if you don't have anything yet, you might look into a storage closet
    ( like a home depot plastic shelved pantry )
    they cost around 100$ put together in 15mins and you can exclude the shelves, drill holes and string wire across the top.
    they make a great a drying cabinet for film ( tall enough for rolls ). it is closed and keeps dust &c out ...

    don't forget to save an area for paper, reels, tanks, trays &c too ...

    have fun !
    john
     
  10. Monito

    Monito Member

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    Use Sketchup and draw to scale. You can't get a sense of proportion and usability unless it is to scale. You can layout the benches and the enlarger shape and shelving and cabinets and view it all from any angle, which will quickly tell you how usable it will be. You can check door swings and reach and lots of aspects. Time invested designing saves a lot of time and headaches later.

    Sketchup is worth the investment of time learning and once you get it, it is very fast for what it does. I designed aspects of my darkroom with it and designed a printer stand and a sturdy workbench that I built. My next project is to design a 6x9 view camera!
     
  11. Allen Friday

    Allen Friday Member

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    It looks like you have done a good job of maximizing the usable space. Before building, you might lay it out with paper forms on the floor. My wife does this whenever she decides we need to move the furniture. It's a lot easier to move or change sheets of paper than cabinets or couches.
     
  12. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I did my own work, so using a 'standard' tabletop size made cabinet construction very easy. In this case, you can see how a typical 4x5" enlarger will overhand the countertop. Some may find this unsuitable, but in 11 years, it works OK for me. http://www.apug.org/forums/viewpost.php?p=993577
     
  13. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    Good idea. A roll of butcher paper should do.
     
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  15. zsas

    zsas Member

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    All I greatly appreciate all the suggestions!! You are all so kind!

    2F/2F - Great idea re drop leaf, well see if contractor can do something. Yep ventilation is in the the bid. My main bid is walls, move light switch into darkroom, door, plumb sinks, venting. The rest I might do (tables, dry spaces (film and paper). It all depends on what the cost for the 4 main things I want (elec, exhaust, plumb, walls/door). Thanks for the heads up about the clearance re the 11” infont of drying rack, will think about that more! Viewing hood, humm will have to investigate, thanks for a thought re that!

    Re the the Kreonite, it is in the orig drawing, I refer to it as a “slop sink”. My main sink is your typical wood 7 foot not-too-deep photo sink. My Kreonite, is deep, maybe 9 inches deep and 3 feet wide. It is where I plan to clean my trays, etc, that will contain splashing, etc.

    This is the Kreyonite I got:
    http://www.ebay.com/itm/180713928056


    Frobozz - Thanks for the heads-up re Sketchup, will have to investigate. Re one of those revolving doors, I would love one, actually one listed the other day in Arlington Heights or maybe it was Palatine, anyway, it was only $100! Should have got it but oh well missed it. Anyway, you all will not like the sound of this, but my darkroom needs to have a regular door because on the north east side of the darkroom is the only door to get into the furnace/waterheater room. So a darkroom door needs to be typical size so I can get to it.

    Jeffreyg - Great idea re sink lid, will have to look into! Yes exhaust is in the bid (see my reply above to 2F re my main specs (basically walls/door, elec, plumb, vent).

    John - Overhead is thankfully finished drywall painted with some dimmable caned lights. Drying racks, I will prob build. I think the bid is will be a lot and I am going to prob build some and really only contract for the elec, walls, plumbing and vent. Storage closet? Well I am actually thinking of removing that wall sink in the northeast corner of the basement and making that my film drying closet. Not sure. I don’t run much film, maybe a roll or two a month so film drying is not a major requirement here but wd be nice. Love your Home Depot idea, will have to look into. Re saving an area for storage, yes I anticipate building a ton of storage under the tables, might use cabinets with a top like a kitchen (see ic-racer's layout). Trays will go under the sinks.

    Monito – Thanks for the heads up re scketchup, will have to investigate sounds fun.

    Allen - Great idea re laying out the layout with paper! I have a huge roll of craft paper I am gonna mock up. Stay tuned!

    Silveror0 - I agree with you completely re it being too early for getting bids. But I gotta plead my case. I am getting new siding/gutters/roof/windows as we speak so my contractor and I got to talking about all that stuff in my garage that I have been collecting for my eventual darkroom. I showed him Apug's darkroom gallery to show him what a darkroom looks like, then I walked him through what I believe I mainly want (walls/door, elec, plumb, exhaust) and asked for a bid on that. Then a bid on building tables. Then a bid on building out all (cabinets, shelving, drying racks). So while he is around my house I got to thinking it might be best to have him ponder the costs, etc while he is here. I told him that I might not build till April or whenever I can pay for it because all the housework here is already doing is enough as it is!

    You say: "Plumbing - behind the walls vs. accessibility for repairs, supply/drains" Why would I want behind the walls? If I sell the house I can tear out, re-mud, paint, re-carpet and be done. I cant see a reason to plumb behind the wall? Anyone disagree? My family wont really be in the room so they wont object to unsightly pipes.

    Floor yeah was thinking those floor grids in restaurants? Thoughts?
    How to best block light leaks around doors/windows – Yes I am with you, in the NW corner is a window that will either be blacked out or used for the venting/intake, I asked contractor to bid it both ways (use the window or vent elsewhere).

    Ic-racer – table top cabinet is something I am considering. Heck every few days on Craigslist someone will post some cabinetry for free, might just grab some? Your darkroom is a palace!
     
  16. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    The viewing area need not be in the darkroom, but it sure makes things more convenient if it is.

    Also, consider going with white walls. It will make the visibility much better than brick or dark walls.

    And in the same vein, John has a great idea about the ceiling.

    I was just joking about the Kreonite. I didn't realize that you actually have one! :D
     
  17. Henry Alive

    Henry Alive Subscriber

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    Your project looks gorges! I just want to recommend two things:
    1. - Be sure that you have a well design ventilation system.
    2. - Do not forget to include a refrigerator, not only for film, but for beers.
    Congratulations and good luck.
    Henry.
     
  18. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    In VCP's gallery darkroom, we have enlargers mounted directly on the table, this works very nicely, and really opens up the space around the enlarger vs an enlarger on its inch+ thick baseboard. No worries about the easel tipping off the baseboard, and lots of freedom for positioning timers and all the other paraphernalia. That said, my enlarger is on it's baseboard on a standard home-center laminate countertop, but mounting it directly will likely be one of my first changes when I do my "nuke the darkroom and rebuild it" project.

    I would consider adding more electrical outlets than you think you need, so that if you add timers, processors, clocks or other power using stuff you won't need to run extension cords, etc.

    Concrete wicks water, and produces dust, if it's bare concrete now, you'll want to add some sort of flooring, and depending on what you choose, maybe an additional anti-fatigue mat. I don't know that the grid flooring would be my first choice, unless you have a floor drain (which commercial kitchens usually have). Otherwise cleaning up spills through and around the grid may be very difficult. If you have a floor drain, then all you need is a hose.
    Without a drain, my preference would be a flat moisture proof/resistant surface like sheet vinyl.

    I would leave the plumbing open for the reasons you've stated, plus it's way easier if you need to make future changes or repairs.
     
  19. Monito

    Monito Member

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    Build in spaces for a 5.1 stereo system.
     
  20. Monito

    Monito Member

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  21. Mark Fisher

    Mark Fisher Subscriber

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    Give some thought to storage of paper, chemicals, reels, trays, etc. I just have pegboard above my sink and have my dry side supported by cabinets. I used a Panasonic built in bathroom fan (ususally mounts in an attic to ventilate a bathroom), a baffled vent to the outside and a filtrete furnace filter mounted on the outlet of the fan. It controls dust well, but I wish I had a bit more through flow. Something to think about. I'd also consider swapping your slop sink unless the slop sink is part of your line of trays. When you consider the height of your enlarger table, also look at the ceiling height and decide if your enlarger can reach full height. Lastly, I'd definitely mount the enlarger on your table directly and adding a drop table. That can make your bench height reasonable and still get the enlargement size you need when you want it. I'd be happy to show you my darkroom and all the good ideas and mistakes that went with it. I'm in Highland Park.
     
  22. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Alright folks, I did a dry run, set up everything. Before anyone comments, this is a dry run, I have never printed here on carpet and never will, carpet will go. I think after all the wonderful comments re realism, I just set her all up and I LOVE it. The 2 hockey sticks will be the walls and the single hockey stick a door.

    Note that "print drying rack" is really just two pieces of furniture I stacked for illustration but the size is roughly what I am thinking. I threw some drying racks on it so you get the idea. 2F/2F, thanks for the 11" comment, I now am thinking maybe 1.5 feet or something. The roll of wrapping paper is wall that will extend from the beam to the already there wall by my "pseudo drying rack".

    Also the Kodak box and dryer/paper cutter on it represents how far I am thinking the table should extend. That table the enlargers are on is 2' 5". I cant see going bigger, but pondering drop leaf like 2F/2F thought of. Note that table you see is a $30 Ikea table that I will never use, it is for illustration.

    Still trying to digest all this, but I am now starting to think that I dont want a table butting up to the main sink (NW corner) like my orig drawing showed. I never would have realized this without doing a dry run, thanks so much all for your comments encouraging realism!

    So now you have a better sense, any comments? You are all so kind!

    Chairs that hold up the main sink and print washer are illustration only.

    Shot from basement stairs:
    [​IMG]

    Shot from basement stairs:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Shot from inside furnace room:
    [​IMG]

    Shot towards stairs and furnace room door:
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  23. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Oh and before anyone thinks of it - the house came with the pink walls (prior owners had a bunch of girls). Pink will go, prob white liek 2F/2F thougt, unless anyone has any other paint thoughts?
     
  24. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Need to ponder some of the recent above comments after the dry run...will reply later...but thanks all for your comments and especially Mark for the invitation, think that might be in order. I have no 'analog friends' in IL.
     
  25. Monito

    Monito Member

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    Nothing like mocking up with real stuff! Looks like you can make it work. Remember, the items will be back from the wall a bit if you have open plumbing. For purpose built darkrooms, drop tables are nice, as said, so you can have the enlarger up higher like 32 inches or even 36 inches rather than the 26 inches which is common table height. If you mount it too high you can always build a low 3 inch box to stand on if you need to. I built a workbench high, the height of which I found by the best combination for close work leaned over only very slightly plus my natural bend of arms while planing. I'm very glad I did.

    Re paint: I'd suggest light bright spectrally neutral gray all over, but 4 feet and 2 feet of matte black in the enlarger corner. Reduces splash of light while burning and dodging.
     
  26. zsas

    zsas Member

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    Forgot to mention have these two beauties:
    [​IMG]