Versalab Print Washer.. how good?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by brian steinberger, May 29, 2012.

  1. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

    Messages:
    2,563
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2007
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    I currently have an 11x14 print washer that Steve Summitek used to make. It's a great cascade style print washer. I love it. I want to move up to 16x20 and now a way of washing is the only thing holding me back. I could use a tray and try siphon but that is only a temporary solution. I'd like an archival washer. Just curious as to others experiences with the Versalab print washers. They come up for sale quite frequently and rather inexpensive. New a 16x20 washer is only $300. That's not bad at all. Thoughts?
     
  2. zsas

    zsas Member

    Messages:
    1,957
    Joined:
    May 12, 2011
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    I have not done any residual fixer tests of the Versalab vs any other brand, but I love my 16x20 Versalab. It does the job nicely. I can't think of any cons of it except for something that is easily solvable, but it doesn't have a lid to hold floating prints down (eg cotton art papers) like my 8x10 Darkroom Aides/Arkay washer does. So I have a few plastic cross-rods that I lay on the top when washing 'floaters'. Honestly, not a deal breaker or anything.

    It is large as you can imagine and amazingly heavy when full, I would estimate 150+ lbs, so consideration shd be made for its mass when full. I would never put it in my plywood DR sink for fear of cave in...
     
  3. tkamiya

    tkamiya Member

    Messages:
    4,241
    Joined:
    Oct 3, 2009
    Location:
    Central Flor
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I have a Versalab 11x14 washer.

    It works well. It's really durable. I keep mine in my garage and on a furniture dolly so I can roll it around. One time, with it full of water, it fell off the dolly and crashed onto a concrete floor corner first. It dented the corner a little but the material is so thick, basically no damage. It was only from 5 inches high but still....

    An only negative I experience with mine is water overflow. The outlet side of the rig is just an open end hose with two tiny holes. Often, water fails to flow into the tube. What happens then is that it escapes from a hole made on the lip of the outer casing. If the flow is too fast, then it will overflow from the edge entirely.

    So.... long story short, if your setup is such that if water overflows, it'd flood your darkroom, you may want to be careful. If it's going to sit in a sink, then it's fine.
     
  4. Keith Pitman

    Keith Pitman Subscriber

    Messages:
    219
    Joined:
    Mar 21, 2004
    Location:
    Pine Junctio
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    It's a very good washer. I bought one when I started making 16x20 prints. I still have it under my darkroom sink. I found a good used Zone VI that overcomes my main complaint about he Versalab: you cannot see thorough it. With smaller prints, I sometimes lost them in there and found them after they fell apart. Still would recommend it.
     
  5. Peter Schrager

    Peter Schrager Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,126
    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2004
    Location:
    fairfield co
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    buy an ecowash from freestyle or B+H and never look back...I have nothing good to say about the Versalab. Have owned a Zone VI for 20 plus years but the ecowash uses very little water...
    Best, Peter
     
  6. Chris Lange

    Chris Lange Member

    Messages:
    773
    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2009
    Location:
    NY
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I use a SaltHill cross current washer for my 11x14 prints, and narrowly missed out on getting a 16x20 model. It's hands down the best washer I've ever used, and is extraordinarily well made.

    If you can track down a SaltHill, leap on it. Versa washers are pretty good, but as others have sad, are opaque which can be a pain.
     
  7. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Member

    Messages:
    5,004
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2005
    Location:
    Monroe, WA, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    I own and have used a Versalab 16x20 for many years. Here's a few observations:

    On the Good Side,

    * Effective. Does the job well.
    * Inexpensive, relatively speaking.
    * Virtually indestructable.
    * Easy to clean.
    * Can be used with very low flow rates. (1)
    * The 16x20 has a dedicated insert available to wash 20x24 paper.
    * Easily DIY-convertable to also wash negatives up to 16x20 in stainless hangers. (2)
    * Comes with three heavy plastic paper hold-down bars.
    * Empties from the bottom through a clamped hose fitting. (3)
    * Still in production, so support is available.
    * The folks at Versalab are incredibly helpful, pleasant and easy to work with.

    On the Bad Side,

    * A full Versalab of any size is HEAVY. Plan accordingly. (4)
    * Print slots are not isolated. Must wash in batches.
    * Even moderate water pressure can cause overflow. (5)
    * Print racks must be assembled by user after delivery.
    * It's not easily portable. Big with lots of hoses. (6)
    * Made using opaque plastic, if that matters. It doesn't to me.

    (1) Mine is hooked up to a Hass Intellifaucet K250 that can run at flow rates as low as 0.25 GPM, which matches Versalab's rating for these washers. I also have an inline flowmeter plumbed, so I know the claimed flow rate works correctly.

    (2) I purchased two lengths of brass rod and bent them to suspend underwater and across the unit from side-to-side. I threaded eleven white nylon spacers onto each rod before bending them. This provides automatic spacing between up to ten hangers, which can then be suspended fully-submerged. I currently wash 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 negatives in my 16x20 unit. Total DIY cost was under $10.00. Total DIY time was under 30 minutes.

    (3) I replaced my hose and pinch clamp with a small valve, but it wasn't absolutely necessary. The original equipment hose and clamp worked just fine.

    (4) I seem to remember one of the Versalab folks telling me that the 16x20 weighed in the neighborhood of 220 pounds fully loaded. Mine is therefore supported by a custom-built stand made using 2x4 and 4x4 lumber.

    (5) There was originally a single overflow hole and drain hose in one corner of the unit. I chose to drill and equip three more in each of the other corners. This also added three more hoses, but absolutely prevents overtopping even at my maximum water flow rate.

    (6) My intention was always to make my unit a pemanent installation. To that end I constructed a purpose-built, epoxy-coated wooden overflow sink for my unit. Dimensions were slightly wider than any potential overflowing and falling water. This allowed the washer to live outside of my limited six-foot long sink, and still be drained in-place. It also guaranteed a last line of defense against flooding so I could allow overnight print washing/soaking with full peace of mind.

    Hope this helps.

    Ken
     
  8. RalphLambrecht

    RalphLambrecht Subscriber

    Messages:
    8,304
    Joined:
    Sep 19, 2003
    Location:
    Florida
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    nother thumbs up for the ecowash!
     
  9. MaximusM3

    MaximusM3 Member

    Messages:
    756
    Joined:
    Jul 11, 2010
    Location:
    NY
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Been using a Versalab 11x14 for two years and have zero complaints. Does the job well.
     
  10. zsas

    zsas Member

    Messages:
    1,957
    Joined:
    May 12, 2011
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Update re its weight, I just weighed it dry: tub, hoses, print rack system (26 lbs) and measured the inside (12 inches wide, 23 L, 18 h), which yields 4968 cubic inches. I believe that yields 179 lbs water, so full wd be abt 205 lbs (26 dry + 179 water weight)....
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 30, 2012
  11. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Member

    Messages:
    5,004
    Joined:
    Mar 18, 2005
    Location:
    Monroe, WA, USA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Nicely done...

    So does that include the print basket, which is not a lightweight either?

    Ken
     
  12. zsas

    zsas Member

    Messages:
    1,957
    Joined:
    May 12, 2011
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm RF
    Yes, tub, hoses and print rack system were 26 lbs dry, amended my prior post for clarity....
     
  13. John Kasaian

    John Kasaian Member

    Messages:
    1,030
    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2002
    I use a Versalab. It works swell and won't break the bank.
     
  14. PeterB

    PeterB Subscriber

    Messages:
    643
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2005
    Location:
    Sydney, Aust
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Brian, Hyglo will still take orders for Steve's Cascade washer (Steve of course is not involved any more with the ordering process). I had a 16x22" washer made there in November 2011 !! IS there any reason you wouldn't get the same type again ?

    The only catch is that the prices listed on Steve's website are really outdated and owing to the cost of plexiglass going up over the past 3 years, they now cost about 70% more than the listed price :pouty:
     
  15. brian steinberger

    brian steinberger Member

    Messages:
    2,563
    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2007
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    Shooter:
    Med. Format RF
    Peter, this is very interesting! You mind disclosing how much you paid for the 16x22" washer? That is the size I would like.

    Brian

     
  16. PeterB

    PeterB Subscriber

    Messages:
    643
    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2005
    Location:
    Sydney, Aust
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Hi Brian, no probs, $820 plus $100 packaging = US$920. Shipping was additional at my expense. Getting that beast to Australia was no cheap exercise!
     
  17. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    17,194
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format