Reducing Setup Time and Working Efficiently in a Temporary Darkroom

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by David A. Goldfarb, Jul 5, 2010.

  1. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,005
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    One of the issues that's come up recently in a thread about using a scanner for proofing is that the motivation to scan rather than to make a contact sheet that involves contact between paper and negative is often directly related to the threshold for setting up the dark/bathroom.

    I've had various makeshift darkrooms, and there is definitely a learning curve in making it work efficiently, and each temporary darkroom probably needs its own set of procedures to make it work efficiently, but I thought I'd start a new thread where those of us who use or have used a temporary darkroom can share what works.

    I've also found an excellent thread on temporary darkroom design and made it a sticky--

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum43/46964-bathroom-other-temporary-makeshift-darkrooms.html

    --so let's try to keep the design discussion mainly in that thread and use this thread mainly to talk about making it work.
     
  2. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    18,005
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    So to kick off this discussion, I guess I should say that we currently live in an apartment with two bathrooms, so I've commandeered the shower stall in one of them to use as the wet side, and the dry side is just outside the bathroom in a room we use as a study, so it's a semi-permanent darkroom. I can close the bathroom door during the day time to load and process film. I have black curtains to reduce the light level significantly in the study area, but it's not dark enough to print during the day, so I need to make another shade to improve that situation, but meanwhile I can print at night.

    Our previous two apartments had only one bathroom, so the darkroom had to be completely mobile.

    We were only in our last apartment for a year, so there wasn't much time to really get things going, but I did find a couple of ways of speeding things up--

    Monobath processing. It took a while to dial in the formula, and the monobath really has to be tailored to the film, but once you've done the testing, you really can get good results this way, and it doesn't take up much space. Here's the long thread where I was posting my tests and results--

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum37/18177-monobath-developers.html

    Another thing that I did was to keep a tank line for film processing in a large covered plastic storage bin. I could just slide it into a closet, pull it out and put the tanks in the bathtub for film processing without having to mix chemicals or even measure solutions every time.

    My previous dark/bathroom was in a place where we lived for four years--

    http://www.apug.org/forums/forum43/10966-darkroom-portraits-6.html#post93420

    --so with practice I found ways to speed things up, like pouring working solutions that were still good back into bottles for that purpose, so I would have them ready for the next day's session. I had the enlarger on a rolling typewriter table that could fit over the commode with my dodging tools and focus sheets in a folder that fit under the baseboard. We had a storage closet, where I set up shelves to hold the darkroom equipment and solutions. The enlarger rolled into the bedroom/study, where I'd also built a loft for the bed to maximize space.

    Albumen and other kinds of UV-based printing don't require total darkness, so even though these processes are labor intensive in some respects, they can make use of time when there isn't time to set up the full darkroom. Much of the time in albumen printing is taken up by exposure (my best negs take about a one hour exposure in indirect sunlight, 20 minutes in direct sunlight), so you can even do other things while printing.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 5, 2010
  3. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

    Messages:
    1,045
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2009
    Location:
    Ajman - UAE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I hope i can turn my bathroom into a darkroom one day.
     
  4. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,640
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2004
    Location:
    Chicago, Wes
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    When I used a bathroom as a temporary darkroom I found that getting out the enlarger and setting it up took the most time. I solved that problem by replacing the shower head with a pipe cap and I kept the enlarger setup in the shower. This was possible because this bathroom was just off the family room and had a shower in case of guests (I assume). Everything was kept in the shower area so that it could be set up quickly on the sink (set into a 5 foot long counter).

    The next time user was blocking out the light. It took several tries, but with the right choice of weatherstripping and making sure no one turned the light on in the adjoining hallway, this portion of the setup was eliminated.

    Neal Wydra
     
  5. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

    Messages:
    503
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2002
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    I use a bathroom that our children used when they lived here at our home. I set my enlarger (Omega B-22XL) on a card table (card table is easy to set-up & take down!) and have it so as it covers perhaps 1/2 of the toilet seat. The card table is big enough to have the enlarger, paper safe and a couple of other do-dads on it! I can place my developing trays on the seat of the toilet. The bathroom has an outlet at the end opposite of the enlarger. I plug in an extension cord and lay it on the counter top behind the sink, behind the toilet water tank, then I have the timer cord plugged into the extension cord. The timer has an outlet for the enlarger as well as a safe light. When I use the darkroom I take the safe light off of the card table and place on the lid for the water tank for the toilet. The sink cabinet top has enough space that I can have 4 8x10 trays on it. The fourth tray is for water where I transport the exposed prints to the kitchen to be washed. I use only one tray for fixer. I can fit three 11x14 trays on the sink cabinet top. I do enlarge 16x20 and I will enlist the help of T.V. trays for those jobs!

    This has worked out well. When our children visit with their families it takes me just a few minutes to put all the darkroom stuff into our bedroom closet.

    Our daughter & her family are on holiday visit but when they go back home (L.A.) I will photo & put up here & you can see if might be something for you to consider for your darkroom arrangement.
     
  6. grahamp

    grahamp Subscriber

    Messages:
    974
    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2004
    Location:
    San Francisc
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The biggest problem I had with a temporary setup (bathroom in my parents' house, bathroom/kitchen in my own house when I was single) was not the setup, it was the take-down. Invariably I was tired, it was late, and the urge to leave it or skip clean-up was strong.

    Quick wins: have a cart dedicated to transport (or storage if possible). I had an old cabinet with cupboards and drawers that I put on casters. My little Durst F30 35mm enlarger would fit in one of the cupboards, as did the power extension, measures, tray, paper, and tanks, etc. The cabinet lived in an adjacent room.

    Allocate storage space as close to the 'site' as possible to keep the time and effort of setup to a minimum.

    Put a grid in the bottom of a plastic tub, and use that to drain wet tanks and trays with a lid on to keep dust out. Just make sure to dry it out later.
     
  7. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

    Messages:
    7,517
    Joined:
    Feb 25, 2007
    Location:
    Midwest USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Best way to reduce setup time = a permanent darkroom :smile:
    Best way to reduce time it takes to make proof sheets = good loupe, clear negative pages and a light table :smile:

    If a permanent darkroom is just not practical, I have always liked the idea of a Nova Slot Processor that allows one to just store the chemicals in the processor. In fact I think it would be nice to have an 8x10 version of that in my permanent darkroom, so I can just fire off an RC print quickly if I need.
     
  8. stillsilver

    stillsilver Member

    Messages:
    261
    Joined:
    Jun 30, 2006
    Location:
    Oakdale, CA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Several moves and one wife ago I used the guest bath. The part that was the hardest was blacking-out the room. I solved that by making the room permanently dark. I blocked the window from the outside and painted it to match the house. I then used a liberal amount of weather stripping and pipe insulation (for the bottom of the door) to black the door area. Everything needed was on a rolling cart stored in a closet. Set up was less than 30 minutes including mixing chems. Tear-down was a little longer and usually done the next day.

    When I found myself single, and in an apartment with one bathroom, I was content with leaving as much stuff in the bathroom as possible.

    I’ve had two Drs in small (cramped) bathrooms in the past two housed that were rented. Now we own a house and in the next few months will start on a permanent DR.

    Mike
     
  9. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

    Messages:
    7,467
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2009
    Location:
    northern Pa.
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I'm temporarily in the utility room off the kitchen, along with a half-bath. My enlarger is in the utility room, and I develope in trays in there. I have a black-out cloth for over the door to totally darken no matter time of day, and I can load tanks or tray process sheet film. I usually process in tanks in the kitchen as well as wash prints there, more space than the half-bath. Having a wife and two teenage daughters sometimes causes a slight problem where the half-bath as its the only one on the main floor of the house, and they dont want to run upstairs all the time. I am on notice that my permanent DR must be finished soon(even though we are selling the house).
     
  10. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

    Messages:
    1,045
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2009
    Location:
    Ajman - UAE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I will see what i need for the darkroom, maybe i could use my bathroom as a darkroom for printing as i am using it to develop my roll films.
     
  11. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,766
    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2003
    Location:
    Jacksonville
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Set-up time can be greatly shortened by using chemicals that have a long working life. For print developers, for example, Ansco PF 130 which I store in amber glass bottle topping off end of session. For fixers, I've switched to TF-5 since it only takes 1 minute in 1 tray to fix prints. I built a cart on rollers whose drawers pull out in stair-step fashion. It handles up to 4 16X20 trays. Roll it next to utility sink in garage ( print washer in sink), and I can be set-up in less than 5 minutes.
     
  12. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

    Messages:
    1,045
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2009
    Location:
    Ajman - UAE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I think i will start with trays because they are the least expensive items, then later one by one i will add more items [enlarger, safe light, papers, chemicals,...etc], so what size of trays i should go with? I will print something at the size of 20x?? as maximum. How can i carry and handle the paper so my fingers will not be printed on it?
    What type of papers ad which chemicals i will ask later.
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,196
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Tareq:

    As someone who is just starting out, I would suggest that you start with smaller trays. They require less chemistry, and they are easier to set-up, take down, clean and store.

    A great majority of my prints will fit into 8x10 trays, so that is what I suggest you start with.

    You can always buy larger trays as well, but if you are like me, they will stay in the cupboard more often than not.

    The largest size that is practical for me is 16" x 20", and I have a full set of those trays, but I don't use them often.

    In the last couple of years I've had more of an inclination to print 11" x 14", so I put together a set of those trays, and use them a fair amount.

    If you have the space, and you intend to use trays for washing your prints, it might be a good idea to go one size bigger than your usual print size for the print washing tray(s).
     
  14. Sponsored Ad
  15. wclark5179

    wclark5179 Member

    Messages:
    503
    Joined:
    Dec 31, 2002
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Agree with Matt. He has good ideas. I use 8x10 trays for the majority of my darkroom work. Usually the larger prints I make one maybe two each session. The larger the trays the less frequently I use them.
     
  16. kraker

    kraker Member

    Messages:
    1,258
    Joined:
    Oct 5, 2005
    Location:
    The Netherlands
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Let's go one step back. TareqPhoto, when you said 20, were you thinking cm or inches?

    8"x10" is 20x25cm is a nice size to start with indeed.
     
  17. Nige

    Nige Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,133
    Joined:
    Sep 8, 2002
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I used to have to share the bathroom with the wife (probably was a good thing she wanted to keep herself tidy). I used to store enlarger in a cupboard and it took about 15mins to setup but I couldn't print during daylight as the bathroom had a skylight which was hard to stop the light coming through. Since this was pre-scanner, I used to like to print a contact sheet of developed film sooner than the next 'full' printing session. I decided I could do a proof sheet without the enlarger to save some time, just setup the trays and used the room light as the light source. I think I ended up changing the globe in the light fitting for a lower wattage one so I could get longer times and could manage a fairly accurate time by counting to myself. Using a desk lamp might be easier.
     
  18. Craig Swensson

    Craig Swensson Member

    Messages:
    388
    Joined:
    Sep 18, 2009
    Location:
    Oceania
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Organization and systems, plus using the available space to its maximum.
    Utilizing all the available space i have everything [ except lens/ paper] at hand and start to go takes less than 10 minutes, including chemicals at temp.
    The wall area behind a door [when opened] is where i store all the flat stuff, easels x3, baseboard, contact glass and lightbox. The area above the door is shelved for tanks,trays,jugs, cloths and the safelight is positioned above. The enlarger goes on top of the washing machine [ frontloader] it sits on a 20kg bespoke base that has a slim undershelf for paper. The trays go on another bespoke shelve from one wall to the sink.This shelf also has a much deeper undershelf for neg folders,contact prints, clean cloth,dodgers etc.
    Magnetic digital timer clock sticks to another old spicerack shelf, this one stores graduals, air duster[crap] and thermometers, vynyl gloves[crap]
    All chemicals and storage containers go on top shelf of laundry cupboard and the enlarger body goes in its own box on top of this.
    Any room in any house/apartment has areas of wall space that are usually, ` waste surface', that is these are areas that through the neccesity of design are not used. Above doors, behind doors that open to a wall [there is still enough room for flat items once the door is open] and all that space on the walls 300mm down from the ceiling.
    Even though i am quite new at this , realising the importance of systems and utilizing the space i had to its maximum has enabled me to set up a `temp' darkroom space that works well.
    regards
    Craig
     
  19. Wade D

    Wade D Member

    Messages:
    901
    Joined:
    Feb 15, 2006
    Location:
    Jamul, CA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I live in a double wide mobile home with 2 bathrooms. The kids are all grown up and moved out so I have the spare bathroom as a semi permanent darkroom. It is 6x8 feet. Good thing it is a spare bathroom because the Beseler 45M is wider than the door so impossible to move without taking it apart. Tray space is at a premium so I use stacked trays for up to 11x14. For larger prints, which are rare, I use wallpaper trays and the see-saw method for processing. Film and prints are washed in the tub under the custom made enlarger stand. No room to hang prints or film for drying in there so I hang them in the shower stall in the other bathroom.
     
  20. rst

    rst Member

    Messages:
    1,109
    Joined:
    Jul 30, 2004
    Location:
    Germany
    Shooter:
    Pinhole
    I did not like to setup a temporary darkroom. Setup takes just too much time. For years my darkroom was an old and small wardrobe standing in a little room without windows. There I had everything setup (you anyway need a space to store all you darkroom stuff, so why not make that space your darkroom.) I used one tray development a lot. After the fixer was back in the bottle I walked over to the bathroom for washing the print. That worked great and the time overhead for setup and cleanup reduced to cleaning that one tray. So sometimes I even used it to do just one single contact sheet.

    But honestly ... over time I could manage to use the whole little room and that wardrobe went out and this summer I am going to setup a darkroom in the basement. :smile:

    Cheers
    Ruediger
     
  21. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

    Messages:
    1,045
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2009
    Location:
    Ajman - UAE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I was meaning 20inches, not cm
    I know i should start with smaller, but i did take a workshop about darkroom and the printing was my point of taking it, we practiced on 8x10 papers, but for the last days we have been asked to print at larger size [not sure if 12x18 or 16x20] for an exhibition, so i printed about 3 larger sizes prints for that exhib, so i am planning to play with something larger than 8x10 anyway myself, and i feel if i can gat trays that are about 20in or larger then i can print any size from 8x10 up to larger so i don't need to be many trays again due to getting different print sizes, the bigger will handle the smaller, but small i will be limited to its size until i can afford bigger trays sizes, i am already started of printing and i know the concept of it, so if i will do it at home myself i think i don't want to do 8x10 all the time and i am sure i will do that 8x10 in less than week and then i want bigger, and i can't wait weeks to order another trays and waiting and bigger papers, i go with larger directly is safer for me than going with smaller then larger.
     
  22. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

    Messages:
    1,045
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2009
    Location:
    Ajman - UAE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I may end up with 16x20, but who knows, i checked and it seems larger than 16x20 trays are not much available and it is not so cheap[but doesn't matter].
     
  23. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,196
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Tareq:

    Don't forget that 16 x 20 trays require almost four times as much chemistry as 8 x 10 trays. Even if you do buy 16 x 20 trays, there will be many times you will appreciate having the 8 x 10 trays as well.
     
  24. TareqPhoto

    TareqPhoto Member

    Messages:
    1,045
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2009
    Location:
    Ajman - UAE
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I know i need more chemicals for bigger trays, doesn't matter, in all cases as long i will print something larger, i think i will go with 16x20, 8x10 is so small as prints for me, even with digital printing i don't go with 8x10, i print minimum A3, and few times i print at 8x10 or smaller, it will be the same if i will print in darkroom, i always love larger sizes than small, and i think i may get smaller trays for 8x10, in all cases i know myself that i always go with many options than one, when i printed some of my negs during the workshop on 8x10 i was not so much impressed about it, but when i printed larger then i got impressed, so for me 8x10 will be just test prints but not actual serious prints, but if you telling me that because it is too much to go larger than 8x10 then i can understand your points.
     
  25. ac12

    ac12 Member

    Messages:
    373
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2010
    Location:
    SF Bay Area,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hard to find but I've used a rocking print tray (Honeywell or Heath/Mitchell).
    Only ONE tray to deal with, so less setup and cleanup work.
    But you do have to have containers/cups to pour from/to.
     
  26. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

    Messages:
    4,241
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2009
    Location:
    Central Flor
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have a dedicated room for printing but still is temporary setup because there is no plumbing and it's just a spare bedroom. Film processing is done in a master bathroom.

    I save on my setup time by having chemistry already mixed and bottled. For example, my developers (Dektol and D76) are bottled in 8 oz containers, so it's per "serving". Stop bath is already mixed and I actually re-use it, not because of money factor but for convenience. As to clean up, bottle up stop and fix, then take everything outside and hose them clean and prop them up to dry. It's actually pretty quick.

    Tareq, have you ever tried to lift 16x20 tray with 1 gallon of chemical in it? It's pain. My suggestion is to go ahead and get a set of 8x10 and 11x14 trays. They aren't that expensive and much easier to handle.