Need help/advice on new darkroom

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Xia_Ke, Jan 5, 2008.

  1. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    First off, let me just say I have NEVER done ANY darkroom work. I've only ever been in a darkroom once and it was about 12 years ago. I have done my fair share of homework and reading but, could use the help of those with first hand experience.

    The Room - Below you will find a diagram of my bathroom. All dimensions are in inches. The tub is actually a clawfoot tub and a little more rounded with a halo above for the shower curtain. The door is on the left wall by the toilet and there is a window on the opposite wall beside the tub. This window is on the backside of the building so not much light. I plan on doing prints at night to help alleviate the possibility of light leaks. There is one GFI outlet on the top wall between the toilet and sink. Ventilation is no problem as there is a good exhaust fan already. Obviously the darkroom will need to be broken down after use and I have space to store everything. This also means I would really like to take a K.I.S.S. approach so it's reasonably quick and easy to set-up and take down.

    The Budget - I will have about $500 to spend, maybe a little more. This also includes chemicals and paper to get me started. This pretty much rules out purchasing new.

    The Plan - I will need the ability to print 35mm, 6x4.5 and 6x6 negatives. I plan on mostly doing 8x10 but would like the ability to 11x14. The door and window of the bathroom will be covered to take care of the tiny bit unwanted light. I have sat in the room with them covered for 15 minutes and there are no light leaks. After looking through some of the bathroom/temporary darkrooms here, I'm thinking my best bet will be to get a rolling cart to put my enlarger on and also to store stuff in when not in use. I want to make a large tray/table to fit over half the top of the tub for my trays to prevent spillage. The tub is pretty deep and I figure I can have the table/trays on one half of the tub and in the other end near the faucet have a print washer.

    My Concerns - This is an apartment and I rent so I'm worried about staining. Another big concern is I have 2 indoor cats so I have no idea what I'm going to do about drying. I can keep the door closed so they can't get in but, I want to glossy FB prints and with the long drying time, I'm worried about dust/hair. Would I be better off getting a heated print dryer?

    If you're still with me after all that, I'm sorry...LOL I'm just the type that measures 10 times to cut once. I know with my budget and space it won't be any high end darkroom, I just need the basics. I am open to any suggestions you may have on layout and also on equipment. With my budget I will be going with mostly used equipment. Anything I should keep an eye out for or be cautious of, particularly with an enlarger? I'll have my funds to start shopping in another 2 or 3 weeks and trying to work out the last kinks.

    Thanks in advance for any help,
    Aaron
     

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  2. cosmonaut

    cosmonaut Member

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    At what point could you have lights on? Then you could move to a bigger room. Maybe the kitchen to wash and dry. What kind of enlarger are you looking for?
     
  3. Ole

    Ole Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    I used to assemble and disassemble my Opemus 6 (35mm to 6x6) enlarger every time, since I used the kitchen as a darkroom where I lived before. It takes me about 5 minutes to get it into or out of its box.

    For drying (especially with cats around - I have three), put some strong clips on a wire coathanger, and suspend that from the shower curtain ring. Put two prints back-to-back on the clips and allow to hang until dry.
     
  4. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Well, I do have a double sided stainless steel sink just outside the bathroom door. Can I keep the prints in a holding tank til I've finished a small batch them move them to a washer in the other room? I'm thinking my drying will have to be done in the bathroom as it's the only place I can close the cats out of. That is unless I got a print drier which I could set-up in the kitchen. As for an enlarger, I have no idea which :confused:

    Thanks Ole :smile: I don't think I'll have to worry about full disassembly. I should hopefully just be able to roll the whole cart, with enlarger intact, into the storage closet. Hanging over the tub was one of my thoughts for drying. This is how I dry my negatives right now. Seems a lot of people use screens and that was another thought but, then dust/cat hair would be an issue with the emulsion facing up.


    Anyone have any recommendations on enlargers I should keep an eye out for in the secondary market?
     
  5. cosmonaut

    cosmonaut Member

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    Maybe a holding tank for the cats, just while developing is in progress......
     
  6. Dan Dozer

    Dan Dozer Subscriber

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    I used to do all my printing in half of what you have - a half bath with only a sink counter and toilet. I put a fold down card table over the toilet for the trays, put a board over the sink and the enlarger on that. It was really tight but worked fine. All this with an old 5 x 7 Bessler enlarger. I had to set everything up and tear it down every time I did any printing and it always seemed like I spent more time on that than I did on printing. I was barely able to get the enlarger through the bathroom door (turned sideways). I didn't use the sink during the printing process. This was really a one person darkroom - I could reach everything from where I sat on my stool. Good thing because there wasn't any more room to do anything anyway.

    When the prints were done and ready to be washed, I just put them in a bucket of water on the floor for later. After my printing was done, I took the print bucket to another bathroom for the washing (in the bathtub) and hung them up on a wire in the shower. I think your idea of a cart for the enlarger is the best way to go. I really struggled moving my enlarger back and forth from the garage to the bathroom. I also think that Ole's suggestion on the drying of the prints is also a good one.

    I'm sure your bathtub isn't flat on the top edges. It would be good if you could put a piece of plywood on top of part of it for a work space.

    Note that I had two indoor cats and they never gave a second look at what I was doing, so they weren't a problem.

    You might also see if Jim Fitsgerald sees this thread. He does a lot of "bathtub developing" and may have some more ideas for you.
     
  7. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    My darkroom is a semi-converted bathroom, similar in size to yours. I do 35 up to 4x5 and I'm recently down to one enlarger, I print up to 11x14.
    For print drying, I bought a DIY window screen kit and made a screen that rests on the top of the bathtub enclosure You could possibly do something similar with your shower halo. During our heating season, even FB prints will dry rapidly.
    For film, I have a small towel rack that I mounted on the ceiling, and from it I hang film clips. Even 35mm rolls are high enough that the cat is no problem.
    For the enlarger, I'd buy or build a support that could go over the toilet, you could put wheels on it if it needs to be temporary. Something like a Durst, which can be broken down easily, would be a good choice for the enlarger too.
    I've not had problems with staining, even in the fiberglass tub, though most of the chemical draining happens at the sink. However, the drain on my sink is plastic with a "stainless" metal trim ring on it, and the metal is corroding. You may need to factor in replacing the drain at moving time. I'm not sure about the availability of heavy duty stainless drains that fit consumer bathroom sinks. I'm not renting, so I have no one but me and my wife to answer to, however.
    If the room doesn't need to stay functional as a bathroom, you have a little more flexibility. I built counters over the toilet and tub for the enlarger, and trays/slot processor. Although the counters don't involve permanent changes, everything is screwed in place, so neither fixture is usable for the intended purposes.
    If pictures would help, let me know.
     
  8. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thanks for the replies guys :D

    Dan, you're correct. The top edges of the tub are not flat, they are rounded. I was thinking on the table for the top of the tub I could put some L-brackets to hang over the edge between the tub and the wall. This would prevent slipping. I'll do some searching for Jim's posts, see if I can dig up some info on his set-up.

    bdial, unfortunately this is a 1 bathroom apartment, so it would need to be broken down after use. Thanks for the suggestion on a table to go over the toilet. That would save a lot of space. To avoid corroding sink drains, would draining through a funnel work? I'd really like to avoid as much damage as possible. Taking a look at my walls, it might be possible to put in a small shelf or 2 but, I'd think I'd rather just get a couple rubbermaid storage tubs for storing everything when not in use.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but, I'm going to need both a 50mm and a 75/80mm lenses to do 35mm and MF? Thanks again for the help :D
     
  9. pesphoto

    pesphoto Member

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  10. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Re: the lenses, yes, most likely you'll need both. A 50 might have enough coverage for 6x6, making small prints from 6x6 would be a problem though. Lenses are probably the least of your worries, however.

    Draining through a funnel would work. If your plumbing is the old-fashioned chrome plated brass it may not be a problem, mine is the new-fangled cheap stuff.

    Rounded tub edges or not, some plywood would work over the tub as a work surface. You can add some wooden cleats under the plywood, spaced at the tub's inner dimension to keep it from sliding around. If the tub is long enough you could leave the plywood short of the drain area and place a holding tray or washer in the tub.
    Such a setup for me, would be far too low, though. In this case, I'd place the enlarger, and it's support (if needed) at just over seat height over the toilet seat, then use everything from a sitting position using a rolling mechanic's stool, or a small office task chair.
    If you don't want to add shelves, packing the stuff into some storage tubs would be fine, it would just mean a little more set up time, maybe.

    1/2 inch ply on the tub would be stiff enough to support 3 or 4 trays (barely perhaps) but would be light enough to move easily. If you aren't dealing with legs to make it standing height then it would store easily too. Another consideration for a light but stiff work surface would be a hollow core door, they are quite cheap, and weigh perhaps a pound or two, especially the Luan faced ones. You are kind of stuck with the length and width though, as radical resizing is difficult, though not impossible.
     
  11. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Aaron,

    For years I lived with a similar setup. The number one recommendation I can give is to try and leave the enlarger set up on a sturdy cart that can be rolled into the bathroom. After I got set up so that I did not have to dig the enlarger out and assemble things I found I was printing much more often than before. Maybe the cart can be kept in a closet to keep everyone happy.

    Good luck and enjoy your new darkroom.

    Neal Wydra
     
  12. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thanks again guys :D

    pesphoto, I have been watching craiglist and the classifieds here in addition to ebay, local classifieds, etc. Unfortunately I don't have funds yet as I've seen some very good deals. There was someone in the next town over from me that had an awesome set-up for $250 a few weeks ago on Craigslist. I haven't contacted any of them though. I want to wait until I have cash in hand first. I already know what my profit sharing will be from work, so I know what I will definitely have for funds, just takes a couple weeks before they process them.

    bdial, thank you for all of your input. I had planned on using 1/2" plywood for a "table" over the tub. I know it would be borderline for fully supporting a few full trays by itself but, I planned on putting a 2" or so high wall or edging around it and sealing with caulking just to contain any possible leaks. No worries on the height part. It's perfect kneeling height which I can comfortably do prolonged periods.

    Neal, I read through most of the Darkroom Portrait thread and it changed my mind from disassembling everything. Just outside our front door, we have a storage shed/closet that I will be using for storing everything but chemicals. I should hopefully just be able to wheel everything in and out easily.

    All this input is very much appreciated! I love this place :D
     
  13. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Xia_ke,
    I use a projector stand recovered from one of the local schools. Rugged, stable & heavy duty.
    To do both 35 & 6X6(7) keep an eye out for either a beseler or omega 67 enlarger. That will allow you to do both formats & the enlargers are pretty compact. The beseler 23C would allow you to do up to 6X9 but is pretty awkward/bulky even if it's on a wheeled cart. You will need two lenses though, one for each format. If you use a 50mm with 6X6 it will vignette and an 80mm with 35 will not allow you to make larger prints.
    1/2" ply is plenty strong for what you're doing, especially if you put a couple of cleats on the bottom. Just 1X2's would do, or even cutoffs from the ply itself. Think in terms of 1/2" x 3". Even with four 11 X14 trays filled to the top you're looking at 15-20 lbs.
    I think if you put the cleats along the inner edge of the tub you would be fine. It would add stiffness and keep the ply from slipping away from the tub. If you take a look at a cooler or ice chest you will see how this works.
    You probably don't need a backsplash but just an edge to keep spills from going behind the tub. half round or quarter round would do it. If you wanted you could put a series of holes in the platform so if youdo have a spill you could just wipe it towards the holes & not have to wipe it all the way to one edge or the other.
    A waterproof finish will be needed. Polyurethane is easy to apply & available even at K mart.
     
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  15. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thanks John :D A poly lining is what I was thinking too. I can't imagine I will be spilling huge amunts of anything but, a littlle bit of waterproofing will be needed. I was also planning on a hole in the middle just for ease of cleaning up anything that might happen to spill. I hadn't looked at the Omega 67's yet but, will do so. Not sure if I'll be able to come across a projector stand but, those Craftsman carts some are using look nice.

    Thanks Again,
    Aaron
     
  16. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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  17. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Xia_ke,
    Forgot about the dryer part of the question.
    Electric dryers can be a blessing or a curse. If you're working with RC papers you don't need them. Working with fiber base papers they can speed up drying time. But---If you buy used, you may have to clean or replace the canvas aprons that hold the print next to the heated surface to prevent contaminating your prints.
    Drying prints on screens is simpler but you're looking at overnight to dry fiber print & an hour or two for RC. You can get screen frames & mesh at the hardware store inexpensively, use fiberglass screen material.
     
  18. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thanks Matt :smile: I hadn't even thought about microwave stands. Thanks for the idea.

    Thanks John :smile: I was thinking about the drier mainly because I want to do glossy prints and with 2 cats, was worried about the dust with screen drying. I read somewhere though on here about another trick of letting prints dry partially, then putting them in the oven for 2 minutes on a low temp (don't remember what exactly). This is another option that I'm thinking could work quite well.
     
  19. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Aaron -

    My first darkroom was actually smaller that the space you are working with, so I can attest to the fact that it is possible.

    You need to plan on four trays (developer, stop, fixer, and holding rinse) - do the initial processing in one step, and the post processing (second fix if you choose, toner, wash) in a second step. If you are making 11x14 prints, your trays are probably going to be about 13" wide - and four trays will occupy 52". So your 64" tub space should be quite adequate. You could even make 16x20 prints but would have to cobble some kind of two-tiered rack to hold your trays. It used to be possible to buy commercial stacking racks, but I suspect those are only faint memories at this point.

    I would strongly suggest using ordinary fiberglass window screening in inexpensive wooden frames (made from clear pine - purchase 1x2 lumber, rip it down to 1x1; use metal brackets to reinforce the corners. Apply a couple coats of polyurethane, and then stable screening over the frames.). Dry your FB prints face down; dry RC prints face up. You probably won't have any problem with cat hair on prints; negatives are another matter and you might want to fabricate some kind of enclosure for film drying. FB airdried on screens actually looks much richer than heat dried.

    Others have mentioned microwave carts and Craftsman shop carts. I started out with my enlarger on an old typewriter table.

    If you can find one, a Durst F60 would be an excellent starting enlarger - with the right condenser, it will do both 35mm and 6x6 roll film, and it was both elegant and rugged. And its small enough to work well in a small darkroom.
     
  20. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thanks Louie :smile: This may not be the thread to ask but, stupid newbie question, so is the holding rinse just a tray for keeping your developed prints before moving on to washing or a second fix? One question about your screen set-up, I want to do glossy prints. Would placing the prints face down cause imprinting in the emulsion? Thanks again for your help.

    Aaron
     
  21. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Do you mean microwave cats? :surprised:

    Steve
     
  22. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Yes - a holding tray is simply a tray of water that the prints go into after they have been fixed. The idea is to keep them wet so that it is easy to later move to whatever post-processing sequence you want to follow. I generally use the Ilford fast fix process (one fix, "film strength" ammonium thiosulfate, for about a minute), so my post process consists of rinse, hypoclear, selenium toning, hypoclear, and wash. But others use the two bath fix process, and the second bath would be part of their post-processing sequence.

    When you say "glossy", do you mean industrial-strength mirror finish, or do you mean that soft, rich texture of glossy paper that has been air dried? There is a big difference! To get a high gloss on FB paper you must ferrotype your prints. Ferrotyping is a PITA - you have to have the plates, you have to keep them immaculately clean and must wax them before each use, and you have to allow for the possibility that the ferrotyping process will damage a print. Also, there is the logistics issue that your throughput is constrained by the number of plates you own and whether you use a heat dryer to speed the process. Frankly, if you want high gloss today, the easier way to get there is to use RC paper.

    But if you want the air-dried loo, then screens are an easy and effective way to go. Squeegee the prints (I lay the each print face-down on a large sheet of glass, squeegee, and then filp it over to squeegee the front), and then gently lay them out on the screens to dry. I find that they will be dry enough to stack in about 12 hours, and its possible to speed that up a bit by using a small fan to blow air over the screens.

    I have never had a problem with screen impressions on conventional silver prints. I have seen screen impressions on some Pt/Pd prints, especially those made on more fragile papers like Weston Diploma Parchment, so I dry those face up.
     
  23. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thanks for clarifying Louie :smile: That's what I figured but, wanted to be sure. For the glossy, I'm not sure I have seen the difference between the two. I just know that I like a nice shiny finish. Matte, lustre, and pearls are nice, just not the direction I want to go. I really wish I could see results printed on various papers to help decide. I noticed Kentmere had a sampler available at Freestyle that I might pick up. Who knows, we'll see. SO many options and still a little more time to ponder my direction :smile:

    Aaron
     
  24. John Koehrer

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    Xia_ke
    If you have ever seen an old drugstore print with the high gloss finish, that is a ferrotype finish. A glossy finish on fiber paper is much more subdued.
    Re:Monophoto's comment about ferrotyping being a PITA. He's NOT kidding.
    I think the screen frame kits is a lot easier than builing/finishing though.
    You buy the frame to size, they assemble with "l" brackets like some picture frames, & install screening. It's a bit more expensive, but you don't need to finish them, they're thinner and you don't need to be ripping the lumber to size.
     
  25. Xia_Ke

    Xia_Ke Subscriber

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    Thanks John :smile: Can't say that I have seen an old drugstore print :sad: If ferrotyping is that much of a PITA, we'll save that for later... much later. For screen frame kits, are you referring to regular home type screens? So something I would order from the local hardware store or is this something a photography store might do?
     
  26. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    You can buy screen frames from Home Depot for $X. Or you can order special photographic screen frames from a speciality supplier like Calumet. They will cost you something like $5X.

    It's ALWAYS less expensive to be creative with readily available commodity items than it is to buy specialty items for photography (or boats, or just about any other adult hobby).:smile: