The optimal height for work surfaces

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Ghostman, Jul 3, 2014.

  1. Ghostman

    Ghostman Subscriber

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    Hi everyone,

    I have searched the forum for this topic but am not finding information specific to this.

    I will have a workbench for my darkroom built and would like to find out from all of you what you think the optimal height for work surfaces should be. In my last apartment I was forced to use a lower surface, which after a day's printing resulted in back-ache. I am reasonably tall (6"2 or 188cm). I have a Durst Laborator 1200 and the ceiling in the darkroom is high enough to accommodate a higher surface. I tend to do a lot of dodging/burning so spend longer times standing in front of the enlarger.

    Any feedback on what you guys think is a comfortable and ergonomic height for work surfaces would be appreciated.

    Many thanks.
     
  2. David Brown

    David Brown Subscriber

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    It has to be what is comfortable for you. I am average height (5'10") and so normal counter height in the USA - 36" - is fine for me. You may want them a bit higher.

    One thing I will mention. A common mistake in building darkrooms is the height of the sink. If your printing trays sit inside a sink, then the bottom of the sink needs to be at "counter" height. Most are too low and one has to bend over to develop prints.
     
  3. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    I've used enlargers at several levels from the floor to chest high. The former was necessary with a 5x7 Elwood under a low ceiling, and uncomfortable. Chest high worked well with 35mm enlargers for fast high volume production of medium size prints. For large prints and large tall enlargers, a lower mount may be better. Where much dodging and burning is required, sitting at an enlarger mounted at desk or table height works well. I've also used wall mounted enlargers with the easel surface adjustable in height for large and small prints. Good darkroom workbenches are a big investment, and simulating darkroom work at improvised benches might help in determining one's optimum height. David is right about sinks.
     
  4. DannL.

    DannL. Member

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    Regardless of the working-surface height, I use a tall bar stool that I acquired from the estate of another photographer. From that sitting position I can access the enlarger easel and trays with ease. The surface height for the enlarger easel, which sets on a wheeled cart, is 31.5". The tray table is 30".
     
  5. Bill Burk

    Bill Burk Subscriber

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    I built my sink at the "perfect" height... The edge of the shallow sink is just a little below the height where my forearms would be 90-degree angle to my body... So I have to drop my arms a little. Main advantage is that any splashes on my arms would run down into the sink instead of finding their way to my elbow.
     
  6. AgX

    AgX Member

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    One also could consider to DIY adjustable feet for all elements. By this one not only could adjust the whole darkroom interior as such but also per element. If possible consider with ther effluent tubing of the sink, to give height for a telescopic or flexible connection.
     
  7. Edward_S

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    What height are your kitchen work surfaces (if you have them)? Try putting a print on one of the kitchen surfaces and then bend over and look at it close up, as though using a grain magnifier at the enlarger. Is that comfortable? Would you be able to adjust the enlarger height in that position without painful contortions? What about doing the washing up - is your kitchen sink comfortable to use? You might be able to get a reasonable idea what height to make your darkroom surfaces by doing some simple comparisons such as these.
     
  8. Ghostman

    Ghostman Subscriber

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    Thank you! Having spent the 90's in basement kitchens as a chef slaving over surfaces, stoves and sinks I don't know why I didn't think of that. Spock-Brain Failure.
     
  9. Mark_S

    Mark_S Member

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    Personally, I like to worksurfaces to be at ~36". Many bathroom counters are much lower, for reasons that I do not understand. For my sink, like to be able to rest my forearms on the lip of the sink and agitate the tray with my fingers which puts my sink a bit higher than standard. My last darkroom was in a basement, which did not have as much headroom as I would like, so the enlarger sat on a low bench with the baseboard of the enlarger at about 30" height. I made a box which was about 6" tall, and most of the time put my easel on the box, so it was at 36" height, and when I needed to print larger, I would take away the box and have an extra 6" of height to work with.
     
  10. Edward_S

    Edward_S Subscriber

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    That's why you didn't think of it... you now have a complete aversion to kitchens and work surfaces :D
     
  11. scheimfluger_77

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    i'm 6-0 on a good day, in the morning, and I like a 40" counter height.
     
  12. goros

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    For me, the best height is that of my belly button. But I have to admit the my printer is on a surface at my knees height.
     
  13. Ian Grant

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    I'm surprised I didn't chip in earlier as I was fitting the benches and surfaces in my new darkroom as the thread started :D

    I opted for 32" (81cm approx0 because that's a comfortable working height even with enlarger base-boards and dishes/dish-warmers adding a little extra height. As others will be using the darkroom I opted not to go higher. An additional factor is allowing sufficient height between bench and ceiling for the enlargers to reach the tops of their columns.

     
  14. polyglot

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    About 10cm below your elbows. For most people, that's about 900mm, or 1000mm if you're tall.
     
  15. Bob Carnie

    Bob Carnie Subscriber

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    I am building right now my new sinks and enlarger platforms, I have lowered them all as I am in a constant state of shrinking in size.

    In the past I have accommodated all my assistants who were much taller than me, now I say to hell with them, I am going to make the tray level to the height I want.

    I will post the sink design soon as I have pics, t he base is adjustable , quite unique as its changable and the plywood and 4x4 sink structure sits on to. So you can raise and lower the working surface , even for large sinks which in my case are 50 inches by 12 ft, I am making three of them .

    Over years of printing the height of your working surface can indeed take its toll on your body.

    Great thread Question.
     
  16. Bruce Osgood

    Bruce Osgood Membership Council Council

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    I have read that the knuckles of a closed fist should drag across the surface.
     
  17. Ian Grant

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    In my case that would be a couple of centimeters lower than I chose, but I think it's about right.

    Ian
     
  18. scheimfluger_77

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    Now that's a sink!!! I like it!
     
  19. scheimfluger_77

    scheimfluger_77 Subscriber

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    Well between you and goros my 40" is pretty close. In my bare feet my navel is about 41" off the floor. On the same floor, in the same bare feet, my elbow is about 44" off the floor. Subtract 10cm (about 4") and there you have it. You two must be right. :laugh:
     
  20. oldtimermetoo

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    This is how I decided on the height of the bottom of my sink. By the time I put in a rack, trays, etc., there is no need to work bent over or standing on a stool. The work side of the sink is 20.3 cm high and is a comfortable place to rest my elbows while working. I think this is a very important part of designing or buying a sink.....Regards!
     
  21. ac12

    ac12 Member

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    When I built my darkroom under my parents home many years ago.
    I stood on the floor, bent my elbow, then told my father "this high." And we built the counter that high, perfect for me.
    My taller nephew will find it a little short, but he will also find the head clearance a little short, as we made the floor to my height + about 3 inches. Each inch of height was 1 inch more of hard dirt to dig out.
     
  22. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

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    I 'd estimate a height of 900mm for a person of your height.It' all spelled out in a book,called'measurement of man or you can ask a kitchen designer.They have design guidelines for this.