Need help with darkroom re: ventilation

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by luvmydogs, Jan 17, 2005.

  1. luvmydogs

    luvmydogs Member

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    Hi all,

    I'm finally going to get my feet wet and try to develop my first print. I pretty much have everything I need to get going, but before I do so, I have a question regarding ventilation.

    My makeshift darkroom is not big; I'd say it's the size of a small bathroom. However, it has no water source unfortunately, though the bathroom is not far away. It is basically my husband's workroom, and he was kind enough to share it with me (he doesn't realize that I plan to slowly take over!). The room is located in the basement, and is basically surrounded by four walls and no windows. The room is located at the center of the house, so it would be impossible to have ventilation that draws the fumes to the outdoors without some major holes being drilled (husband does NOT want to do that). So my question is, what are my ventilation options? I am quite concerned about fumes. Using the bathroom as a temp darkroom would be difficult as my enlarger is quite heavy and I would not want to cart it around. (Beseler 23CIII XL)

    Thanks!!
     
  2. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Macy,

    You might want to look at http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=10809, a similar thread. I mentioned some very quiet exhaust and intake fans and their source.
    Ventilation is v-e-r-y important. As you may know many of the famous photographers left us with cancer attributed to the fumes they breathed while in their version of a darkroom. Chemicals have improved but their labels all stress the importance of proper ventilation.

    The exhaust fan mentioned mounts between the rafters of our basement. The exhaust air runs in ducts through the rafters to the outside. A dryer vent cap keeps the bugs out.

    Fresh air can come into the room from the basement through a good quality furnace filter and a right angle light trap eliminating dust and dog hair from your work. We have a shedding Labrador.

    I would suggest when discussing the cost of holes in the wall and fans that you put in the comparative cost perspectives of divorce, burial (his or yours), long term care, etc.

    Good luck,
    John Powers
     
  3. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    1st option is to use low-odour chemicals. Citric acid based stop baths are completely odorless and there are low-odour fixers on the market too. If you use a daylight tank for film, once the film is loaded in the dark, you can move to a room with a window you can open (but if you use low odour chemicals for B&W, you only really need ventilation for colour chemicals as they do tend to pong a bit..).

    You can further reduce odour by not using trays for processing paper: either a Jobo type drum for colour paper or one of the vertical slot processors from Nova for B&W will reduce developer and colour chemical smells.

    It may be possible to run the kind of flexible tube used to extract damp air from washing machine/driers to the nearest window; depends how far it is to the nearest window. Is there no existing ventilation in the basement? If there is, that can probably be adapted to take a fan with some plywood...

    Good luck! Bob.
     
  4. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Macy,

    Where does the bathroom fan exhaust to? You may be able to "piggy back" on that. You may also just vent to the basement in general. I find the only chemistry that bothers me is RA-4 color developer. The b&w stuff (Dektol/Indicator Stop/Rapid Fixer/Hypo Clearing Agent) does not bother me.

    Neal Wydra
     
  5. Loose Gravel

    Loose Gravel Member

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    Mix all powders outside of your little space. You don't want to breath the powders or the dust they leave. I don't find my liquid chemistry (B&W) very stinky. Just use water for stop bath --it's worked for me for 30 years. Leave the door open as much as possible.
     
  6. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    Aside from the need to ventilate to dilute the chemical fumes, you need fresh air to function. This is a doubly important consideration in a darkroom to which natural ventilation is restricted even further by attempts to make it light-tight. I use Jobo drums for all my processing because of skin allergies, they also have the benefit of reducing the amount of chemical let loose into the air, as well as reducing the amount required for processing. Importantly in this context they allow you to open the darkroom door whilst you are processing.
     
  7. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    I think a lot of what you want to do depends on a balance between what you're willing to put up with, and how creative you can be in finding solutions. My first darkroom was in what might generously be called a half bath - a toilet, a small sink, and enough room for the door to swing in and clear the toilet. It couldn't have been much more than 5'x5' or so in size.

    I bought a (inexpensive) pre-fab waist-high cabinet and put casters on the bottom so I could move it into the "darkroom" when I wanted to work. A couple of L-brackets on the side of the cabinet allowed a piece of plywood to rest between them and the top of the toilet. That was my developing tray table - just enough room for three 11x14 trays.

    Using RC paper, I could do five or six prints before the fixer and stop-bath fumes (and heat build-up during the summer) became objectionable. At that point, I'd take the prints in the holding tray (perched on the sink) to the kitchen for washing, and turn on a small fan located on the floor outside the room. The small fan would clear the fumes long before I had finished washing the batch of prints, and I was ready to go at it again. Not overly convenient, but it worked.

    Oh, and don't worry. We won't tell your husband about your take-over plans. :wink:
     
  8. luvmydogs

    luvmydogs Member

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    First off, I wish to thank you all for responding.

    I should have been more clear as to what I am intending to do in this darkroom. I am only intending to do B&W printing, and not colour. Also, I will not be developing my negatives in this room; I do that in my laundry room, which has ventilation. I also do not see myself developing more than one print at a time, or two at the most. I do plan on using water as my stop bath.

    After putting the print in the fixer for a minute, I understand that I can then turn on the lights (as per this book I'm reading), and therefore can open the door and get fresh air. Bearing all this in mind, do you guys think that I still need to get an exhaust? I will check into whether I can piggy-back the bathroom exhaust.

    Sorry for being so longwinded. I just am anxious to get going on printing!

    Thanks again.

    Edited tp add:

    John, I just read the other thread where you posted stuff about Panasonic fans. I'll check that out. I'm thinking maybe I should target another room if possible to use as my darkroom. <sigh>
     
  9. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    A previous poster alleged that several famous photographers have died of diseases attributated to the absence of ventillation in their darkrooms. I'm not sure that I fully agree with that statment, but I do have a personal experience that counts.

    My first darkroom was tiny and didn't have effective ventillation. Actually, it had ventillation but it was so noisy that I couldn't think so I never used it. Later I built a larger darkroom. Initially it also didn't have ventillation, but I later added an exhaust fan. I found that I didn't tire nearly as rapidly with ventillation as I did without.

    It sounds like you won't spend hours in your darkroom with the door closed - the space constraints and lack of water mean that you will have to move in and out of the darkroom. That suggests that you may not need ventillation in your darkroom since you won't be in there for hours at a time.

    But in general, ventillation is a good thing to have in a darkroom, and isn't hard to provide. First, you want positive pressurization - that is, you want a fan that blows air into the darkroom through an air filter, and where air then flows out on its own. That direction of flow minimizes the concerns for the ventillation bringing a lot of dust into the darkroom.

    Second you want something that is quiet - computer muffin fans make great darkroom ventillators because they are totally silent. Given the size of your space, one fan should be adequate.

    You want the ventillation to be light tight. I mounted my fan and air filter between a couple of floor joists outside the darkroom, and then ducted the air from the fan into the darkroom using a vinyl bathroom exhaust fan duct from Home Depot. I used the louver that was intended to be mounted outside the house to cover the air inlet inside the darkroom. And because I was able to duct this air several feet, I was able to incorporate a right turn in the duct that elminiates any light entry through tne ventillation system.
     
  10. luvmydogs

    luvmydogs Member

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    Ok, I just spoke with my husband.

    What about this - he said that he can build a ventilation system so that the air from the darkroom will flow to the basement are (just outside the door to the darkroom), and then just keep the windows open in the basement. Is that a viable solution for my purposes?
     
  11. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    With the setup you describe, Macy, the only issue is really the fixer (acid stop bath is far more acrid). If you plan to do one print at a time, leaving the door open between prints, I doubt that you'd notice much build-up of fixer fumes. Dispersing that into the larger space of the basement, and getting fresh air by opening the basement windows, is certainly an option, but perhaps a cold one. I think I'd try it as-is first, and see what you experience.

    Please note, however, that I'm not a doctor or a public health official, nor do I play either on TV or the Internet. Nothing contained in any of my comments should be construed as giving medical or public health advice. :wink:
     
  12. Konical

    Konical Subscriber

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    Good Evening, Macy,

    Methinks you worry too much. Common chemicals for B & W printing aren't really that smelly, although the acetic acid in most stop baths is easily detectable. Venting to the general basement area will probably be more than sufficient although it shouldn't be much work to run a flexible vent pipe to a basement window. It probably wouldn't be very hard to rig it so that you could feed it through the window when necessary and then remove it and close the window at other times.

    Floating some plastic sheeting (the stuff from the dry cleaner's) on the liquids in your trays also cuts down on odors and prolongs the life of the chemicals.

    The above assumes that your darkroom use is occasional and not for extended periods of time. If you're there all day, you'll probably want to get more serious about ventilation.

    Konical
     
  13. ChuckP

    ChuckP Subscriber

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    If you vent to the basement you might want to put some fans in or near the open windows to help the air flow. Just your normal house fans.
     
  14. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Monophoto: Let me add Parkinson’s disease to cancer. I suggest reading “Portrait of Myself” by Margaret Bourke White. In chapter 30 she goes through the agonies of Parkinson’s disease and alludes to others in her field with that and/or cancer. I believe Edward Weston’s death was attributed to breathing the chemicals as well as putting his hands in them. I think a little worry at this time might avoid a lot of pain later.

    Macy: When air is pulled out of a box by a fan, new air has to come it to take it’s place. Ask where this air will come from? You don’t want the source to be close to where the exhaust is. Re-circulating the same air doesn’t solve the problem. You do want to filter dust and dog hair out of the incoming air or your negatives will.

    I believe Ilford & Kodak suggest replacing the air in your darkroom at least six times a minute. Kodak offers a small paperback book on building a darkroom. My copy is on loan now so I can’t give you a page reference. The book is often available on eBay.

    It was 5 degrees above zero F in Cleveland this AM. I am guessing Toronto was cooler. Are you only going to use the darkroom in the summer? Are you sure you want all that cold air in the basement when you are trying to heat the house?

    Unless your room is the size of a computer, a computer fan may not be powerful enough to cycle the air six times a minute. The Panasonic fans I referenced earlier are so quiet you only hear air moving in the ducts. Compare that to any bathroom fan. I use two 120 cfm exhaust fans and a 70 cfm through a large filtered hole for input. I agree with the pressurized statement, but was not able to achieve that in the room I had. Since I could not pressurize I settled for air movement.

    Safe breathing,

    John Powers
     
  15. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    I think that should read six times an hour.
     
  16. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Thanks Dave.
    The correction is accurate.

    John Powers
     
  17. luvmydogs

    luvmydogs Member

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    Boy, there seems to be two distinct camps here: the "don't worry too much and leave as is" for my purposes camp and the "if you don't ventilate you could get cancer" camp. I will admit that I tend to be a bit of a worry-wart, especially because I have a 3-month old in the house too.

    For my first print, I think I'm just going to leave things as is only because I am dying to get into that darkroom. But for the longer term, I guess I'll have to look into a better venting system.

    John, I checked into the Panasonic fans; I think my husband and I will have to do a little research into the structure of that room to see if that can be implemented. The only way that air flow can be vented outside is through the ceiling (which would apparently be a ton of work); that room is surrounded by four walls that take us out to the basement.

    Anyway, I wish to thank everyone for their help!
     
  18. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    So, someone suggests that some other unnamed people may have possibly been made ill in some undspecified way by some unquantified exposure to assorted unrecorded chemicals. Well, that convinces me...

    Weston died aged 72 after developing Parkinson's in his early 60's - this is not exactly the most uncommon way to go - nor is cancer. As for others, Adams: aged 86, Brandt: aged 79, Atget: 70, Evans: 72, Lange: 70, Steiglitz: 81, Cunningham: 93(!)... the list goes on - such a shame all these people died so young... If someone dies of cancer aged 75 you can hardly say "Aha! I told you those chemicals were going to kill you one day". Seems that the statistics suggest taking up photography as a career is a great life extender (unless your name is Robert Capa of course, in which case, look where you step)...

    However, it is obviously true that you need to reduce your exposure, especially skin contact with liquids and inhalation of fine powders in the air to as low as practical. Many poisons are cumulative. These dangers were not always understood in the past and the chemicals they used to mix up by hand from powders (mercury based intensifiers, selenium toners etc) are either not available today or are bought ready mixed or at the very least, the dangers are understood. Don't obsess on it: don't treat Pyro like sherbet and don't drink the KRST if you get thirsty - in fact, use gloves whenever your hands need to contact chemicals (no, not wool...) and a suitable mask if mixing powders. Worrying about your health causes stress, and stress kills...

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  19. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    A sensible summary Bob, brings the topic nicely into perspective.
     
  20. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Thank you Bob. Thought I mentioned Margaret Bourke White and Edward Weston. Thought I mentioned that Margaret made those statements about others while she was suffering Parkinson’s. I didn’t believe that we had room or that it was necessary to give further details, simply important to be sure Macy was aware of the potential hazards you further defined.

    As to stress, nice of you to express concern. My age is not much younger than the men you mention. I’ve been retired now a couple of years. The last 20 years were in the commission software business. Compared to that this is not stress for me, besides I have the fans.

    John
     
  21. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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