Just bought some darkroom equipment - advice needed on darkroom itself

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by mr rusty, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    We are thinking about designing an office in my garage and I have the opportunity (significant other has agreed) that I can divide off an area about 6' x 4' as a darkroom. Today, in anticipation :smile: I came across some equipment and bought it :- Vivitar V1 colour/bw enlarger, paterson tanks, various trays, timer, 50mm & 80mm componon lenses, old but good ilford safelight with various glass filters, bits n pieces, and some multigrade paper and some chemicals that the guy said would probably be OK (including some acetic acid ) so the pressure is on now to build a darkroom!

    I'm a total novice at developing (but I'm experienced using film and as a longish member here I understand the basic theory of darkroom.)

    So, bearing in mind the very small space I have available, any golden nuggets of advice for fitting out - sinks etc?

    I understand the acetic acid is a stop, is it worth keeping this or are proprietary stops better. I'm not sure the old chemicals are a good place to start- When I'm ready, I'll start afresh, and come here for some chemical recommendations.

    First things first - plan the darkroom!
     
  2. Monito

    Monito Member

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    The acetic acid should be used at about 2%, rather dilute, less than half the strength of vinegar. Stronger than that and you will start to get pinholes in the film and paper from overly vigorous neutralization of the developer.

    It is probably the most usable of all the chemicals you got. Rather stable. It probably does not have an indicator. Is it strongly yellowish/orangish, still yellow when diluted? If so, then it is probably indicator stop bath. If it is yellow and you neutralize a little dilute bit of it (carefully) with a little dilute base or developer, it should turn purple if it is indicator.
     
  3. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Definitely check out the darkroom portrait sticky threads.
     
  4. ROL

    ROL Member

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    There are many, many threads to be searched on the subject on APUG :whistling:. You might also be interested in this: A Darkroom Portrait.
     
  5. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    Thanks guys so far. I have read the darkroom portrait thread, I am just trying to find out what lessons those people who have very small darkrooms have learned!
     
  6. holmburgers

    holmburgers Member

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    I got one of those cheap utility sinks from just about any hardware store (though you're in the UK I guess) and I get the water by splitting my washer & dryer hookups. I'm in a rental, so I can't do much that's very permament and this setup works very nicely for me.

    I've used some really old acetic acid and indeed it keeps indefinitely. Be advised to pour it outside though, and don't spill it on yourself. It's incredibly concentrated & smelly.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    You may get even more use out of the Bathroom/temporary darkroom thread: http://www.apug.org/forums/forum43/46964-bathroom-other-temporary-makeshift-darkrooms.html

    Here is Kodak's take on the matter: http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/ak3/ak3.pdf

    With the space you have available, you may wish to consider a darkroom without running water - especially if you can access something like a laundry or other largish sink nearby.

    If you can include things like pull-out drawers/shelves you can really add to the efficiency.

    A purpose built paper-safe drawer is also great - there are plans available at various locations, including Ralph Lambrecht's site (near the bottom of the page): http://www.darkroomagic.com/DarkroomMagic/Darkroom.html

    Keep in mind that one of the nicest things about having a dedicated darkroom is that it gives you a place to keep everything that you use regularly right at hand. Don't forget to incorporate things like a place where cleaned but wet equipment can dry before the next use.

    Have fun!
     
  8. jeffreyg

    jeffreyg Subscriber

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    That sound like too small a space for both a wet and dry area. It is not necessary (but desirable) to have running water in your darkroom. You might consider the washing part outside of the darkroom. If you build your own sink you can design it to have a couple of removable panels to cover it when not in use to hold trays. Tray stackers will let you have as many as six trays in just over the space of two.

    http://www.jeffreyglasser.com/
     
  9. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    Do you think this is a good idea, rather than installing just a kitchen style sink with drainer?. I can arrange to have a central outward opening door on a long side with a sink to the left and enlarger to the right with a 350-400mm deep worktop along the back wall plus shelves over. Outside the darkroom will be a general office with lots more storage so I am not too bothered about that. As I have no experience I want to get the sink right. is it really worth making one as I have read elsewhere?
     
  10. Monito

    Monito Member

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    By "a sink", for darkrooms, we mean a long (wide) waterproof surface to contain spills. It doesn't have to have a drain or a drain that is always open. For example, you can drain at the end of the clean up to a bottle or bucket for disposal in a regular sink or toilet. (Don't dispose heavy metals or active developer down municipal drains or sewers).

    Some people have deep sinks and some have shallow.

    If you have children, put a locking cabinet in the darkroom for chemicals.

    You can use the office for the dry room: print spotting, trimming, matting, mounting, signing, certifying, etc. If the office can be made light-tight, then it can also be used for film loading, developer reel loading, and paper preparation.
     
  11. mjs

    mjs Member

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    I understand your concerns; my darkroom is about the size of yours; 5 1/2' by six'. I use a washroom utility sink as my sink, with a narrow table next to it to hold trays. If you can possibly make or buy a darkroom sink, that would be a much better solution. The utility sink works but limits the size of tray, print washer, etc. you can use more than a long sink would do. If you're going to split your washer water feeds, spend the extra money for good stainless steel fittings and hoses. You won't regret that expense!

    Any incremental increase in size will be useful to you, even inches. With my darkroom I can print 11x14 easily but 16x20 is a real struggle; the parts just don't fit well. Another six inches in width would have made a tremendous difference.

    When planning your darkroom, try to use every nook and cranny for storage; you are going to be challenged to find a place to put all the stuff you will accumulate over time. Beakers and graduates, stirring rods and thermometers, trays, tanks, reels, enlarging easels, timers -- the list just keeps growing! You'll need a towel rod next to the sink so you can wipe your hands, you need to be able to get underneath and behind stuff in order to clean thoroughly, and you need to find a way to ventilate the space -- not because the chemicals are particularly hazardous (although some can be,) but to keep mold and fungus from growing. Don't underestimate the need for this! I use a bathroom exhaust fan and it works well at pulling air through and out; a nice 'S' curve keeps the light out and a hole in the wall with an anti-allergy furnace filter taped over it lets air in but keeps the light out. Even so, with shelves and cabinets everywhere I can possibly fit them, my 8x10 and 11x14 print washers are still stored in the basement utility room outside the darkroom: there just isn't room inside, unless they're actually washing prints in the utility sink.

    Good luck and have fun! A small darkroom can work out very well if you think about how you're going to use it while you're planning it.

    Mike
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2011
  12. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    My darkroom is a partly converted bathroom, and only slightly bigger (I think) than the space you've allocated. I have a 4x5 enlarger, and work with everything from 35mm films up to 8x10.
    My sink is a single-bowl stainless kitchen sink placed where the original bathroom sink and cabinet had been. My counters are built over the toilet and bathtub which are still in place.

    For most print processing I use a Nova quad slot processor. They are pricey, but very, very handy for a small space darkroom, if you can fit one in your budget, I highly recommend them, it might help reduce the costs in other areas.
    The Nova is on a counter and I work around it with trays on the counter if I do stuff that requires different processes than the Nova is set up for, lith, for example.
    If you use a large sink, ideally you will want one that can fit 3 or 4 trays that are large enough for the biggest print you'd like to make. In the space you've allocated it might be difficult to go any larger than 11x14 inches. The alternative is a large counter space with a small sink somewhere, but spills become more of a problem when you work with trays on a counter. If you build your sink, you can make it exactly the size you need, which would be my recommendation.
    The main thing I've found with working in a small darkroom is that you must stay organized, allocate a place for everything, and make sure it stays there, except when you're actively using it.

    As much as I'd like the comparative luxury of the large darkrooms you see in the DR pictures thread, I've found I like working in a small space, it's very efficient. The only limitation I'd like to change is the ability to make 16x20 or larger prints. However, realistically it isn't very much of a compromise, and I have a darkroom available to me where I can make large prints if I need/want to.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 22, 2011
  13. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    Thanks everybody

    There are some really useful pointers in the various posts that are food for thought. My biggest problem is that I am taking the advice of people here and creating a darkroom now I have the opportunity, but I have virtually zero experience, so the whole project is a learning curve - should be fun :smile:

    I am now thinking I will make a shallow sink across one end that will be 4' x 22" - I have the capability. This would prob be from marine grade ply, lined with waterproof concrete board (hardiboard) and painted with something. Marine epoxy? swimming pool paint? With a 4' x 18" wide bench at the other end there will be a little room in the middle. Cupboards under and shelves over, and I will be able to use the office for any non-dark activity + extra storage.

    This isn't going to happen overnight as its part of a bigger project that involves getting my work office out of our spare bedroom, but I'll keep you posted as it progresses.

    Cheers!
     
  14. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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    Its progressing!

    The space is currently bare stud walls and all the first fix electrics are in. Its going to have a shallow home-made sink approx 4' wide by 18"" front to back. Underneath will be storage for chems. The other side will have a bench top about the same width but a little deeper 20-22" again with cupboards underneath. The enlarger will live on top here. On the "long" wall between the wet end and the dry end I will have room for a shallow worksurface about 16" deep and about 3' wide, prob with more cupboards under and shelf over. ventilation will be by 5" extract fan.

    Q. Bearing in mind I am just starting out on this, and have nil experience, what do people think about printwashers? I see a few on Ebay, some are glorified trays and some are vertical and much more expensive. How essential are they? surely for small volume experimental, which is where I will be to begin with, washing prints in a standard tray with a little running water is OK? Not too bothered about a bit of water consumption - we have a fair bit up here in NW UK (it rains a lot) and we're not on a meter. Do folks think I should try and get one as an "essential" purchase now, or just wait and see how I get on.

    I doubt that I will be "live" before Christmas as there is quite a lot to do on this little project, but looking forward to my first experiments in the arts of the darkroom! My wife isn't overly impressed as she thinks I have compromised too much office space and says dark rooms smell bad. (she used to develop wet x-rays at the dentist)
     
  15. Smudger

    Smudger Member

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    Rusty Dude,
    it is very certainly possible. For some years I had a commercial B&W darkroom in the space of a standard toilet cubicle.
    Print washing : given your expected print output -don't worry about print washers.
    You may wish to G**gle David Vestal's archival print wash method. In brief : 6 or more soaks/dumps can result in a fully washed,'clean' print.
    Since this can be done in any other space, you don't have to clutter your image-making darkroom with unneeded hardware.
    Best wishes in your endeavor - every new darkroom is Good News here.
     
  16. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    If you're going to mostly work with RC papers, washing is pretty easy, and the fill and dump method or something like a Kodak siphon will work fine. Both will work with fiber papers too, with a bit more labor on your part.
    The vertical washers are nice, but, as pointed out by Smudger, by no means are they essential.

    Since you are in their homeland, you might find a Paterson at a good price, otherwise, the "keep it simple" approach works well.