leveling the enlarger

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Shelly, Nov 6, 2003.

  1. Shelly

    Shelly Member

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    I have one step left in order to get my darkroom up and running. I am told that I need to make sure the head is level. I do not have the money to go out and buy an expensive device that I have heard mentioned. Anyone got a method that 1) doesn't cost a fortune in equipment to accomplish, and 2)doesn't require and engineering degree to understand?

    Shelly
     
  2. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    When all else fails, you could do it by eye. As long as the projected image is in focus, corner to corner, you're good. Can't get cheaper, or simpler.
     
  3. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    Seems to me you could just measure the edge distances of the projected image? Top and bottom should be equal, as should the sides.
     
  4. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    cheapest way to level the thing Shelly is to buy mike some good english ale, and have him do it for you. Don't know if he has left for India yet, but he will be soon.
     
  5. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    I use a machinist's level to do the base board first, make sure it is as perfect as you can make it. Any level will work (a small yard sale "torpedo level" is very good), just make sure you use the same edge facing up each time. Shims can be paper strips, tape, plywood or (worst case scenario) bricks. Once this is done, the negative stage is what needs to be perfect also. This is sometimes a bit more difficult. Use adjustments carefully and again, keep the same side of the level up like you did the first time. I've seen people use a cigarette, ball bearing or cup of water to do the test for flat and level. Remember, you just want the base board parallel to the negative.

    First, make a print to see if one edge or side is out of focus. If it works well, leave it alone! Don't start adjusting anything until you know there is a problem. You may find that there is no reason to adjust it.
     
  6. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    Excellent information and procedure. I would add that the lens stage needs to be checked as well on some enlargers. I had an old D2 at one time that had the flange of the lens cone bent. It affected the alignment.
     
  7. Shelly

    Shelly Member

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    once again, thanks to all of you for your feedback. Sometimes I feel as though I am in a bubble here with this project, but thanks to all of you I get excellent suggestions and am able to move forward.
     
  8. Jorge Oliveira

    Jorge Oliveira Member

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    I really did not understand this question.
    The enlarger base DOES NOT needs to be level. It maybe slanted to whatever direction you prefer. horizontal, however, is more common. :smile:

    What you have to do is to align the HEAD so it's parallel to the BASE.

    Transcribing from another site:

    "Get 2 pieces of mirror, each about 4 by 8 inches. Leave one alone. On the other, take a razor & carefully scrape a small circle, about the diameter of a pencil, down to bare glass at one end of the mirror, about 2 inches in on the narrow end.

    When scraped & cleaned, take this mirror and insert it into the negative stage of the enarger, with the mirror surface facing down, and with the clear glass "hole" end protruding from one side or the other. Place the other mirror, facing up, on the enarger base.

    Now take your eye and peering through the small hole, orient the bottom mirror till you can clearly see the small scraped hole reflected back at you off of the mirror lying on the negative stage.

    ANY misalignment will show up as a long trail of reflected "holes" going off into infinity. This rig is way more accurate than any level & easier to use.

    For the lens stage, simply push the upper mirror up against the lens (it will not touch the glass) & repeat the experiment."


    Jorge O
     
  9. ian_greant

    ian_greant Member

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    hmmm the mirror method sounds interesting. First time I've heard of it.

    Here is one I've read about but haven't done yet (even though my enlarger is slightly out of alignment)

    1) expose a negative on a blank wall, grey card, what ever. and process it
    2) scratch a small "x" in each corner of the negative
    3) put it in the appropriate negative carrier and in the enlarger (duh)
    4) Check focus in each corner and adjust until all are equally in focus.

    I don't recall what the aperture recomendations were in the book/article but it seems to be you would want to use as wide an aperture as possible.

    comments?

    Ian
     
  10. Jorge Oliveira

    Jorge Oliveira Member

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    Ian

    That's interesting, also.
    I don't know which is better.

    And I'm too lazy to try the two in sequence...

    Jorge O
     
  11. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    At photo.net I posted a answer about using a laser scope to do this, which I have found to be very easy.

    http://www.photo.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=0056Bo

    The reason I like the laser over the projected negative is that you can adjust both the lens and the negative carrier to the baseboard separately. If both are out of alignment you will have a lot of difficulty adjsuting using a projected image - I know I did.
     
  12. Jorge Oliveira

    Jorge Oliveira Member

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    Re mirror vs scratches:

    Then the mirror method wins - you can do adjustments first in the neg carrier, then in the lensboard, one independent of the other.

    Thanks,

    Jorge O
     
  13. glbeas

    glbeas Member

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    I use the mirror method too, very fast and easy to use. One thing I found when I made the hole in the mirror is the aluminizing wouldn't scrape completely clear. I tried putting some acetic acid on it to etch it off but to no avail. Then I tried mixing a little sodium sulfite into the acid, creating some sulfurous acid I think. Cleaned up perfectly clear. A drop of battery acid or hydrochloric (mix salt and acetic) should do as well. Wash well and keep the stuff off your body.
     
  14. Robert

    Robert Member

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    It's simple. If the base is level and then the head is level the two should be parallel. No?
     
  15. Jorge Oliveira

    Jorge Oliveira Member

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    Yes and no.
    If the base is absolutelly level, and the head is absolutelly level, then you are right.
    But if one is slightly slanted to one side (beyond the meter accuracy) and the other one is slightly to the other side, you have two times the error and don't know about it.

    Using mirrors or a laser, you are adjusting one relative to the other - there will not be addictive errors.

    Besides, as Gebhardt pointed, there's lens plane adjustment to put one more variable in the process.

    Now, how significant are these errors? I don't know.

    Jorge O
     
  16. lee

    lee Member

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    With the mirror system, you really should use front surface mirrors so the glass doesn't get in the way. I put 2 sets of 4 tape arrows around the hole. This will aid you in seeing the misalignment. Also, when doing the negative stage I would remove the lens and bounce light off the mirror on the base board. What you are looking for is the effect you might see while sitting in a old time barber shop chair with a mirror in front of you and one behind you. If the stage is out of alignment, then those arrows will start out in the center and then veer off in the direction of the misalignment. If you are ok then the arrows will go straight out untill you cannot see them anymore. It is a lot easier to do than explain, really.

    lee\c
     
  17. Robert

    Robert Member

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    The lens plane is just putting the level across the lens. That's the nice thing about the level it's quick and easy. I doubt it's 100% accurate but it will easily point out any gross errors. Use a short enough level. Not one that's been kicked around.
     
  18. Dave Mueller

    Dave Mueller Member

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    I use the mirror method also. A mechanical level isn't accurate enough, especially for large enlargements from 35mm. The evidence is the enlargers at the local school, where they use levels instead of an optical method (lasers or the two mirrors). First surface mirrors aren't required, most modern glass has the two faces close enough to parallel to not matter, and I find it easy to ignore the extra reflection. I used a piece of heavy copper wire hammered to a point to scratch the silvering off, but any method would work. As others have said, level isn't required, but having the 3 planes parallel to each other is. Using two mirrors to get an endless reflection is close enough for our purposes, and a lot cheaper than the lasers. With the mirror facing down, I put a right angle prism over the hole. This lets me look straight ahead instead of climbing on the table to look down. A normal mirror is placed on the baseboard.
     
  19. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    ..
     
  20. NER

    NER Member

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    Try the zig-align (much like the mirror method mentioned earlier in this thread, except that you don't have to do as much prep work). I have used it on my enlargers with good results. The inventor/seller was not the easiest person to deal with: he demanded to know what I intended to do with it before he would sell it to me. It was not designed for use with enlargers (so I lied to obtain one), but works perfectly for that purpose. I don't recall what I paid, but it was not very expensive as I remember. Here's a URL: http://www.thefstop.com/forums/LFForum/posts/1375.html
    You can find others via Google.

    NER
    http://normanrileyphotography.com
     
  21. inthedark

    inthedark Member

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    I have huge horizontal cameras here, but what the manufacturer of my camera suggests when micron tramming isn't an option(special $$$$$ equipment which guarantees that corner to corner the negative back is exactly parallel to the copy board) use a premanufatured grid like the translucent mini-cutting pads at craft stores. Now not only can you take clean measurements, generally at an enlargement so the errors are exagerated, I use a 1/100 inch ruler to be sure all lines are equal, also check the diagonals, and finally you can calibrate % of enlargement or reduction.
     
  22. inthedark

    inthedark Member

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    Sorry, after re-reading, I see I forgot to say, cut the cutting mat and treat like a negative for these purposes.
     
  23. AllanD

    AllanD Member

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    This weekend, I've had a go at aligning my enlargers. This is what I found...

    Using the mirror method is made much easier if you have a prism to look through. I've just pulled apart an old pair of conventional binoculars and used one of the prisms. With this addition, the mirror method of enlargment is very easy to perform.

    I'm lucky enough to have a machine setters level, which is what I have used in the past. These are very expensive calibrated levels that are very sensitive. When I compared the alignment using the two methods, they came out very close. However, the level method is a pain, as finding a surface to use as a reference is difficult.

    As of now, I'm using the mirror method.
     
  24. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Member

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    I use this method, although I just pick a "junk" neg to scratch, and check the focus with my grain magnifier.