What makes a good dark cloth?

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous Equipment' started by BetterSense, Jan 8, 2011.

  1. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    I'm going to have my wife make a me a dark-cloth for use with my 4x5 cameras...monorail and to a lesser extent, speed graphic. I have never had a proper dark cloth before so I thought maybe you could give me some pointers on what makes a good one, that way I don't have to make a prototype before I get it right. I'm thinking white on the outside, black on the inside, with velcro tabs for wrapping around the camera's back standard, and maybe some pockets or weights sewn in the corners? What do you think? Does anyone have any patterns?
     
  2. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

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    My wife made me one 28 years ago,I've used it ever since then.BUT it's way to heavy for my 5x7 ,she used two layers of corduroy material,one black and one white.Try finding a lighter light proof material

    Mike.
     
  3. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    My mom and I used some black fabric (we just kept holding fabric up to the light at Joann's) and some silver stuff that's for ironing boards. The silver is usually the side people see. It doesn't get too hot under it, but my hair gets messed up.
     
  4. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    I made my own: I went to the fabric store and found a decent black fabric that when I held up to the outside window, was nearly light tight. I bought 2-yards, folded it over to make a square and sewed it together. Then I sewed a white piece of fabric to one side. The result is not only a dark cloth that is light tight for looking through the ground glass but something I can now use for exposure measurement (true black (II) and true white (IX)) as well as a reflector for more or less light. It measures 1-yard by 1-yard, keeps me cool when the sun is out and can easily be rolled up in the backpack.
     
  5. BetterSense

    BetterSense Member

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    What do you do to keep it attached to the camera? On my few outdoor excursions, I have used an oversized tshirt with the neck stretched over the back of the camera. I found it necessary to do that as opposed to just draping it over the camera, because when I just draped it over the camera a lot of the world was still visible on the sides and below the camera. I'm thinking that I need a design that really allows me to wrap it around the camera for maximum benefit.
     
  6. Worker 11811

    Worker 11811 Member

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    Duvetyne.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duvetyne

    It is also called "Blackout Cloth", "Black Cloth" or "Commando Cloth."

    It is a lightweight, black, cotton, twill cloth that has been sueded on one side. If you can find the heavyweight version it is opaque. If you can only get the lightweight fabric, you can double it up.

    We use it in the theater where I work to make black covers for scenery and things. I use it at home in a double layer to black out windows in the darkroom.

    I also use it for black backgrounds when photographing objects. It is black-black and it just "eats" light. :wink:

    You can probably find it at any photo supply or stage supply vendor. Freestyle sells it for $9.00 per yard.

    http://www.freestylephoto.biz/26011...th-Flame-Retardant-Darkroom-Black-Out-Cloth-1
     
  7. mike c

    mike c Subscriber

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    That would be the stuff to use, just sow a light white layer of cloth on top.
     
  8. Kevin Kehler

    Kevin Kehler Member

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    The cloth is actually large enough to wrap all around my camera and held under with one hand. In situations where I need it to be more steady, I use black electricians tape which is always in my bag, and tape it to the tripod/camera. Some people use velcro to hold the cloth on but I don't like the look of black tabs on my wood camera.
     
  9. 23mjm

    23mjm Member

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    I recently made my own--I had the BTZS darkcloth and didn't like it. I went to Jo Anne's fabric and got 1 1/2 yards of heavy duck cotton in natural and black rip-stop nylon. Just sewed them together, works well, BUT the black nylon I chose for the inside is really too slippery, it doesn't stay on place. I am thinking seriously about just getting black duck cotton and sewing it over the black nylon. I use Velcro strips sewn down one one side to hold it together around the camera. Oh yea the size is 4 ft X 4 ft and it seems about right for me.
     
  10. Vaughn

    Vaughn Subscriber

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    Weights are nice until the wind really picks up, then one has weights swinging around -- danger to GG and oneself.

    Might make it big so that if and when you go to 5x7/8x10 you can still use it.

    I carry a couple of clothes pins to attach it to the camera -- nothing too well attached, if I accidently yank on the darkcloth, I rather it come off than topple or move the camera.

    Might use water resistant or waterproof outer layer for over the camera while waiting for the rain to stop -- or for use as emergency rain jacket (for over your head and camera pack while hiking back to the car.)
     
  11. Mainecoonmaniac

    Mainecoonmaniac Subscriber

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    I like my dark cloth that is one side black and the other side white. The white will reflect light under the hot sun to keep you cooler during those long focusing tasks. It can be reflector in a pinch.
     
  12. bowzart

    bowzart Member

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    Don't let her make it.

    I have two dark cloths made by former spouses. I think it's possibly a curse on the marriage. Fortunately, my - right now, and final - spouse does not sew. Not because she can't, but she (wisely) won't. I have my own old tiny portable Singer from the 1930's, and I've made cool things, including a leather hat that makes me look just like Daffy Duck. I look like Daffy Duck anyway, but the hat fills the bill - or adds the bill, take it your way.

    But I don't really need a dark cloth because when L.K. Andrews - the technical guy behind Minor White's original ZS manual - was taking care of his last business, he gave me his. It's black satin on one side (inside), white on the other. That part is right. Andy had his wife make it, and she was really good - not just on the sewing machine, either. She could make anything, and grow anything to make anything out of. Go Thelma! It's great having and using a dark cloth with some history.

    But Andy had one thing really wrong, so don't do this. He had Thelma sew a loop on one end that is supposed to go around the photographer's neck and attach by Velcro. Geez! No Go! Bad idea! It may have been Andy's own idea, or was it Thelma's?

    What did I miss by coming too late? His home built calibrated inverse-square beam densitometer (he said he "sent it to the junk man) and his SEI meter! Bummer! I do have a whole lot of Potassium Chrome Alum, though, and some very brown Edwal Gradol. Hmmm.

    My 8x10 Kodak Master View (so called by some the "Metal Deardorff") has clips on the front standard. That's a great idea. So those of you who attach Velcro to the camera mated with the opposite kind of Velcro on the cloth - you have got it just right.

    I have three dark cloths, but that one is for some reason is my favorite (maybe because I like deserts and it's got the white side). Sometimes, I forget it. Then I use a sweater, or a jacket, or a copy of the National Enquirer. Not easy, that. It hurts my eyes trying to read over my head in the dark.

    Take a baseball hat (or a Daffy Duck hat) just in case you forget your dark cloth.

    L
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2011
  13. Ross Chambers

    Ross Chambers Member

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    "Bowzart's" post is one of the funniest I've had the pleasure to read on this forum. Let's have more craziness (from time to time)

    I like my Blackjacket dark cloth; it's light and made my particular home made and ridiculously heavy (well it was the seamstress across the road who made it, no wife to lose at the time) first attempt redundant.

    Regards - Ross
     
  14. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    IMO the best dark cloth is a lightweight jacket. You always know right where it is (on you), and that means one less thing to remember, store, locate, etc. The collar also catches on the camera better than most dark cloths, and the weight of the sleeves helps to keep it there.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2011
  15. Kevin Caulfield

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    I have a three word suggestion - "triple pass fabric". It is completely and utterly lightproof. It is also white or off-white, so it will reflect the sun away from you to keep you cool. It also means you don't need to sew something white to something black. You can buy it from your local haberdasher.
     
  16. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

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    I made a large tube from aluminized nylon taffeta (silver outside & black inside) available from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics. I seamed one edge to hold a drawstring that snugs up against the rear of the camera. It is very lightweight, waterproof, and I can squash the thing to fit into a coat pocket if I want. It's the best darkcloth I've ever used. I made it large enough that I am in it up to my waist when when inside looking at the ground glass. It doesn't slip or have gaps where the light can sneak in around the camera. Way better than smaller heavier cloth darkcloths IMO.

    Here's a pic of it on my 11x14 Burke & James:

    [​IMG]
     
  17. mikebarger

    mikebarger Subscriber

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    Looks like it is pulling both standards to the left... :wink:
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i just use black felt from the fabric place
    it was cheap as dirt, and it works fime.
    ive been using it for 15-20 years
     
  19. Ian David

    Ian David Subscriber

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    The trick is to have the velcro on two corners of the darkcloth, not on the camera itself. Then you can wrap it around the rear standard and fasten the cloth to itself.

    Ian
     
  20. Rob Vinnedge

    Rob Vinnedge Member

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    Bowzart is right! Don't let your spouses make your dark cloths. My first wife made my first dark cloth and I lost everything shortly after that - my marriage, my belongings, my self-esteem, and my house. But there is the Law of Compensation at work here, because, ironically, Bowzart got my house in exchange for one of his losses. I advanced, also. I became happily married and sadly divorced twice later. Compensation has its ups and downs. When down, expect up. When up, expect down. When at the age of 63, figure it all evens out.