Simple Timer Alternatives

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by yeknom02, Jul 19, 2011.

  1. yeknom02

    yeknom02 Member

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    Hi all,

    First of all, let me say that I am not looking for an enlarger timer. I have a Patterson 2000 digital timer that works wonders. No, instead I am looking for a timer that I can use while doing my tray processing. I recently visited a darkroom that had a Gralab 300 (standard issue in student darkrooms, of course), which made things so simple! Anyway, I currently use a smartphone app for timing my develop/stop/fix processes. The problems are that it can be cumbersome to set, and more importantly, the light is not truly "safe." You can easily see some blue light in the room. And, of course, it drains my phone's battery.

    I would try getting a Gralab 300, but it's bulky for my purposes, and expensive. All I'm looking for is a timer that I can (a) see in the dark, (b) set quickly and easily, and (c) not take too much of my very limited space. Things like a buzzer would be neat, but unnecessary. I'm thinking that since I'm not trying to control the flow of electricity with it, there's got to be something cheap out there I can use for simple timing. Does anyone have any recommendations?
     
  2. Gerald C Koch

    Gerald C Koch Member

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    I use a simple wall clock with a second hand. The dial is large and white so that it is easily seen with the safelight. It is positioned over the trays at eye level.
     
  3. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

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    I use kitchen timers with large LCD display. The LCD is not back lit in any way but I can clearly see the reading once my eyes get accustomed to my dim safe light. I had these for two years and I like them. I put each in a small ziplock bag to protect it from water. My first one died because of water damage.

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0000W4MYI
     
  4. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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  5. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    +1

    The battery operated clocks are the most flexible.

    One warning though - avoid the clocks with a red second hand, especially if you have red safelights.
     
  6. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    I have a handfull of digital timers purchased from Dollar Tree for (you guessed it) a dollar each. I set each one for a specific task, start it and wait for the beep to signal the end of that operation. I dont need to see them in the dark, I know where each is by feel to start and stop.
     
  7. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    One further point - if you are looking at the digital timers, make sure you get one that permits a one button re-set to the previously set time.
     
  8. SkipA

    SkipA Member

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    I use a Gralab 450 for my enlarger timing, and I have two Gralab 300's mounted strategically, hung on the wall. One is within arms reach of my developing tray, the other next to my Jobo CPP-2.

    Before I got the Gralabs, I used a variety of inexpensive mechanical or digital kitchen timers of the sort that others have mentioned. I found that the mechanical ones that you set by turning a dial are easiest to set quickly, but most of them can only be set to one minute intervals. The digital ones require you to push a button repeatedly to set the time.

    There are some digital ones that count up just by hitting a single button. Those are very convenient because you don't have to set a time, just start the count up and keep an eye on it.

    I have a hard time seeing most of the digital ones with LCD in the dark. Some have higher contrast LCD screens. If positioned so your safelight reflects on them, they are easy enough to read.

    Wall mounting a timer makes it easier to use. I have dropped a couple of the small handheld kitchen style timers in the dev or fix tray while setting them. Some of them survived that, others did not.
     
  9. SkipA

    SkipA Member

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    Also, you may be able to find old Kodak darkroom timers on ebay. They are generally very inexpensive.
     
  10. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    I now use 2 wall mounted graylabs, but I still have a working LED wrist watch with a timer funcition from the 70s, when I lived overseas I used this watch to time all my paper development, not water proof so I just set it on shelf that I could see it. I have not used in years, wonder if I still find a battery? A kitchen timer will also work if it has glow in the dark hands or a good audio such as a bell or buzzer.
     
  11. paul ron

    paul ron Member

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  12. Richard Jepsen

    Richard Jepsen Member

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  13. tessar

    tessar Subscriber

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    Old-fart analogue method: I used to use a cassette tape, record my voice counting off the desired intervals, and play it back in the darkroom. If you happen to have these stone-age devices, it's cheap and it works. No leaking light to worry about.
     
  14. Wade D

    Wade D Member

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    I use an ancient Time-O-Lite minute timer. It is surprisingly accurate for a mechanical device and can be used for dev, fix and wash. Counts from 1-60 minutes and buzzes at the end of the cycle. $5 at a garage sale.
     
  15. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    Timing a few ways.

    For b&w film development, an old Gralab 300. I use the 'drift by' temperature method for some developers, like PMK Pyro and Harveys 777 that I find work best at higher then room temperatures, say around 24C.

    If the darkroom and all gear are sitting at 18 or so (nice cool basement darkroom) I will set the timer at 10 minutes. Then I will pour the warmed (microwaved) developer into a 'cold' tank at 26C or so, and measure the temp after the first 15 seconds of agitaion. Then I adjust the timer to suit the temperture. I have a Kodak darkroom development dial calculator, from a mid 80's dataguide kit that is calibrated in 'Development Numbers'. So I know from experimental calibration, for example that 777 at higher than 22C, when the Glycin in it becomes active for FP4+ has a DN of 43.5 for contrasty subjects, and 45.5 for flatter subjects. Each development number gives a range of times versus temperatures. So figuring the time for a temp is quick with this dial calculator. A minute before the developer was scheduled to end, I check temperture again. If it is more than 1 or 2 C cooler, the Gralab is easy to adjust while it is running to add on the required time to suit the averaged temperture between start measurement and near end measurement.

    For tray development of paper the gralab is also used.

    For C-41 and E-6 film processing, when you are more a part of the machine when it comes to development, I have an old Vivitar Process Time Commander that I have rebuilt the power supply on to bring it back from the dead (All mid 70's to late 80's Vivitar timers share a power supply design defect. A Zener diode burns up with time, and then the voltage is out of range and they stop working. I have fixed about 4 of them with a mod to install a sinlge chip voltage regulator, and onsold them on the *Bay.)


    The process time commander has 3 programs of 6 steps each that can have each step programmed to any time between 99 minutes and 1 second. Programs can advance from one step to the next automatically. They can also require a manual intervention to tell you to advance. In this mode the timer display stops counting down the time at the end of the step, and then starts counting up while sounding a warning tone, so you can figure out how late you are in moving the process along.

    An audible tone can chirp a user defined period before the end of the step to allow you time to drain chems out before the next ones go in at the start of the next step. The programs can be linked together, which is handy for e-6, where, with rinses between bleach and fix, you are easily over 6 steps.

    I will be sad when the Vivitar terminally dies. I do know what I will be programming the next device to act like though.
     
  16. Steve Law

    Steve Law Member

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    Vivitar Process Time Commander

    This is a reply to Mike Wilder. I just bought a Vivitar Process Time Commander from the early 80's and I would really like to know what the Zener Diode fix is. I haven't checked inside the power supply to see if I can see what might be up. Will be doing that shortly, but wanted to contact you sooner than later to get any information that you might have for me.
     
  17. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member

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    Tray processing film in total darkness or prints under safelights? It's not clear what you want...

    At any rate, in my main darkroom, I use a Zone VI compensating developing timer. I has red LEDs that can be dimmed for film processing. I keep in on a shelf out of the sight-line of the trays. It has a footswitch to stop/start the timing and beeps every 30 seconds. Works great for both film and paper processing. They come up used from time to time and I would highly recommend one. Small and foolproof to use, even if you don't use the temperature probe function.

    In my Vienna darkroom, where I just process film in trays, I use a combination of metronome and kitchen timer in total darkness. The kitchen timer is set to the developing time and located close to the developing tray. Before turning out the lights and unloading film, I start the metronome ticking at 60bps (once per second). I unload, pre-soak and then, just before immersing the film in the developer, start the timer. I use the metronome to count seconds for agitation. The kitchen timer goes off 15 seconds before full developing time is up. I then gather the film, drain and move it to the stop after counting the 15 seconds with the metronome. Stop is easy: count with the metronome. Fix the same: I count two minutes with the metronome then turn on the lights. The rest of the fixing time I time with the clock on the wall.

    For paper under safelight, any clock with a sweep second hand and easily visible will do just fine. My smart phone stays in a light-proof pocket on my apron in the darkroom and is just for incoming calls, which I can ignore if I'm "in the dark" at the time the phone rings.

    Best,

    Doremus
     
  18. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    Rather than a metronome, I've used a battery powered digital clock that ticks once a second, or count every fourth tick of an ancient wind-up clock. Kitchen timers are fine for tray developing film. Start the timer just before removing the film from the pre-wash, and remove from the developer when the timer signals. Once the film is in the fix, a dimly lit clock is O.k. for the rest of the processing.
     
  19. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    I use this mechanical timer. Most of the clockwork in it is plastic, so it won't rust.
    mHD4jn-ntEwgt3H0Z2dleXw.jpg
     
  20. cliveh

    cliveh Subscriber

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    I think one of the best types of timer (particularly if students are using them) would be a sand clock. I know the time is fixed, but you have no mechanical parts and no electrics.
     
  21. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    This is an ancient thread of course, but the process timer shown in ic-racers post #19 is known in Europe as the Durst ColTim. It is 100% mechanical and will ding a bell at any interval set (in units of half a minute). You then tap the button to continue until the next ding, and so on until a maximum total of sixty minutes. This makes it ideal for tray-processing (or for an inversion-tank etc.) as all you have to do is press the button at the start of each sub-process.

    I have a disk for black-and-white paper set up as 2 1/2 minutes - ding - tap button - half a minute - ding - tap button - one minute - ding. Then just wind it back like an old clockwork kitchen-timer for the next piece of paper. So simple and so useful. The rotors are easily changeable, so you can have more than one with different processes set up and swap over in a moment.
     
  22. mr rusty

    mr rusty Subscriber

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  23. Dr. no

    Dr. no Subscriber

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    DigitalTruth on iPad. You can change the color output and intensity, and it has audible alerts for agitation, also. You can add custom settings for your favorite films, or use the billion presets...
     
  24. Rafal Lukawiecki

    Rafal Lukawiecki Subscriber

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    For paper developer and toning I use RH Designs ProcessMaster II which compensates for temperature deviations. I also use it, with its display covered, for the entire film processing sequence.

    Paper stop: I listen to the beats of the metronome, which is permanently on while printing.

    Fix: I sometimes listen, sometimes I use a Junghans Darkroom mechanical timer, glows in the dark, which I also use for other timing needs. Apparently, those are retro. I also use one of the Junghans regular timers for anything away from the darkroom, like mounting.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 4, 2015
  25. GRHazelton

    GRHazelton Subscriber

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    Check "junque" shops. I found an old but perfectly functioning Gralab, the big boy with glowing numbers, in such a place for $30, looks a little rough but works perfectly. Good for film developing, too. I've seen no evidence that the glowing numbers affect film in any way.

    Gralabs are big, but they can be hung on the wall....