What to buy for small darkroom....

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Robert Kennedy, Sep 27, 2003.

  1. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    Well, one would think that since I am attending one of the top fine arts programs for photography in the country, that I might possibly have access to the darkroom.

    Apparently this is not the case. Despite posted hours, the darkroom (which is huge) is pretty much inaccessible. Mostly because of 19 year-old darkroom monitors who simply would rather smoke dope than work.

    Anyway, before I get into a huge rant here, I have realized that I absolutely need to have reliable access to a darkroom. I know, I must be insane in thinking this, I mean why would anyone in a photography program need that. But I am crazy I guess....

    So, after cajoling the wife, I have managed to get the spare bathroom for a small darkroom. Apparently pointing out that over 7 attempts at using the darkroom, and having only managed to get 45 minutes of use, manages to get you someplace.

    Now, I need to do this as cheaply as possible. As usual. But since I shoot mostly MF, and more and more 4x5, I would like to get an enlarger that can handle at least MF, and ideally 4x5. So any hints there would be helpful.

    Also, I only have a standard tub/shower unit for the trays. I'd like to do 11x14 fiber, but I am not sure I can squeeze all the trays in. Any hints on setting this up would be great.
     
  2. ian_greant

    ian_greant Member

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    Robert,

    I've been pretty happy with my old Omega DII. It covers 35mm to 4x5. I watched them for a while on the auction site and they tend to go pretty cheaply. Tons of used accessories available as well.

    For reasons I can't remember right now I think the slightly newer D2 is the better unit.

    Speaking of small darkroom spaces. The darkroom I'm vacating was so small I had to use my enlarger sideways.. no lie. :smile:

    Best of luck setting up your space.

    Ian
     
  3. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  4. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    As for space saving, instead of trays has anyone tried the BTZS tubes (3" wide) for prints?
     
  5. bmac

    bmac Member

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    The Newer version of the D II is the D2v and it has a variable condensor set. That way, you dont need to buy a new set of condensors for every format you use.

    Try stacking your trays vertically. Get some sort of a rack that will allow you to put them one on top of the other. Put dev on top and work your way down in order to avoid contamination of other trays.
     
  6. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    Robert,


    Perhaps you could give some idea of the budget you would have to work with for the home darkroom. Then I think you would get some very specific ideas on equipment.

    I would recommend:

    Omega D2
    Get a cold light head
    A good 4 blade easel like asaunders up to 11x14"
    11x14" trays (get the cheap ones from B&H)
    Use a troublelight refletore with a safelight bulb bounced off the ceiling.
    Use some velcro strips that come with sticky stuff on one side and use a double thickness of black shower curtain for a blackout cloth for the door and window.

    A focusing loupe or grain magnifier such as magansight or maganscope.

    Go to a local lumber supply house such as Lowes and see if they have a scrap of counter top that will fit accross the tub tub. The formica surface is easy to clean.

    A couple of tupperware tubs you can set in the tub for washing prints.

    If the bathroom does not all ready have it, install some ground fault protection outlets where you plug in equipment.

    Almost everything like the D2 and easel can be bought on Ebay on the cheap, you just need to be patient. Also if you want to make life easy in regards to processing film, get a used JoboCPE2 off EBAY. These are the smaller units but do an excellent job. If you decide to go the JOBO route you can process up to 4x5 negs and 8x10 prints. Let me know and I can give you some specifics on tubes you need and advice for use.


    Hopefully Silverpixels5 will chime in, I think he uses a bathroom for a darkroom at the moment. He (among others) will have some good ideas.
     
  7. Robert

    Robert Member

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    I forget who has it but a wheeled kitchen stand [Microwave cart?] Anyways the enlarger goes on top and the trays underneath. When you need it wheel it out. Fill the trays. Plug it in. Cheapest is to find somebody selling everything off. It's already been mentioned but patiences is the key.
     
  8. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    Ian: You got one of those too? Mine works well with the Pacemaker :smile:

    Robert: My darkroom is so small, I have to go outside to turn around. Actually, the enlarger takes up only a small footprint and should not be a factor in your final decision. Trays are another issue. You could fashion a system of vertical shelves (maybe something available at K-mart/Home Depot) for cheap. I do not use tubes or Jobo motorized stuff so comment is non sequiture. Availability to a large sink is an important an issue as anything else. Since you are going to use a bathroom, maybe the tub can be used to advantage.
     
  9. Robert Kennedy

    Robert Kennedy Member

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    Aggie - My only concern with complaining too much is that the guy who heads the monitors is also one of the people who do the portfolio reviews for the MFA. From my prior experience in academia, I know that there are some "interesting" personality types out there. I am a bit reticent to piss anyone off. Especially since I have not-so-fond memories of a comm teacher last time who argued with on the particulars of a term paper. Which was odd because her arguement was based in the fact that her SISTER had a different experience than the person I interviewed.

    It ended up nailing my GPA in that class.

    One thing I need to do is look at where I am sticking the enlarger. The main counter area has a huge mirror behind it (so that has to get blocked off) and has 45 degree angle at one end. So I may have to build out from that.

    One other, kind of wacky, but possibly do-able, idea is this.....

    Get one of those plastic sheds they sell at Home Depot, seal it up, and shove it in the back yard.

    Then I'd install a sink and everything else.

    For water, I would run two hoses through the wall. One in, one out. The in hose would go to the faucet outside and hook into the sink.

    The OUT hose will be trickier. But I thought I could do this....

    Build a sump under the sink. Maybe 20 gallons. Install an automated sump pump. Waste water is then pumped out and along a hose into the nearest sanitary sewer drain (most likely the sink in my kitchen) as needed. I have seen this done once before. And it worked.

    Any comments? It might give me more space, and the wife would be much happier....

    Except when the bill came....
     
  10. bmac

    bmac Member

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    The home depot rubber shed will work, you'll just need to spend some time lightproofing it.
     
  11. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    Wait a minute, wait a minute...if I remember correctly not a few months ago you had a fiancee and now you are married? when did this happen? I think you are the first APUG member who gets married, that I know, at least. I think in honor of this, Sean should make you a ball and chain icon....:smile: Congrats Bud, I wish the two fo you many beautiful images and not all of them in a negative....

    Ok as to the bathroom idea....with a little bit of plywood and some ingenuity you can make a very comfortable darkroom. You will need a medium to small enlarger, the Saunders LPL Aggie mentions is a great enlarger but it is huge, I would go with the smaller cousin, the Saunders LPL 6700, I had one and I loved it.

    Build yourself with plywood a stand where you can put the trays one of top of the other, instead of having them side by side. On top of the sink put a pice of plywood and place your enlarger there.

    If I recall correctly you live in AZ. I spent some time in Scottsdale and I recall in summer even the asphalt softens with the heat, the shed idea, unless you want to loose weight I think it is not so hot....

    Good luck....let us know how it came out...
     
  12. ian_greant

    ian_greant Member

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    Ian's cheap safe light:

    Red 25 watt party light bulb from local grocery store: couple bucks
    Cardboard and tape to wrap around it to make make it nice and dim
    bulb to plug adapter from home depot so I could plug it directly into my timer: .99

    I wouldn't call it ideal but it sure worked good while I was waiting for a safelight I bought online to show up (got lost, had to file a claim, blah, blah, blah)

    Another cheap tip... I use 3.5 liter round tupper ware containers for developing. Holds 6 - 4x5 film hangers with the greatest of ease and when I'm done I just slip the tops on again.. Only a couple bucks each at Zellers :smile:


    Cheers,
    Ian
     
  13. ann

    ann Subscriber

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    Check with Porter's. they have ladder trays that will really help you out with regard to space. you will work vertical instead of the more traditional manner but it works. We use them in our gang lab so more people can print at one time. You have a great deal of help with other items.
     
  14. bmac

    bmac Member

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    You might also want to think about a Nova setup. The footprint is way smaller and you can keep your chems longer.
     
  15. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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  16. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I don't know, Jorge.
    Maybe Sean should wait and see how Robert's bride holds up to a part-time bathroom filled with darkroom junk. If she hasn't packed her bags and fled after a month or two, forget the ball and chain, an angel icon would be more appropriate.

    Robert,
    I'd almost always take my own personal darkroom in my home, no matter how small and, um... "equipmentally challenged" it is over booking time in a big institutional one especially under the circumstances that you describe. You can always work out a routine to compensate for your space/equipment considerations and in the end the only thing that really matters is what lies within the borders of the finished prints that you present. You certainly have every right to be pissed though. You have paid to be entitled your fair use of the school's facilities.
     
  17. Elox

    Elox Member

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    Robert,

    I am in the process of setting up a darkroom in a similar space. The solution I have decided on, and I'm working on right now, is to make a two level area above the tub. Mine will be 2x4 frames that sit on the tub and support 1" plywood surfaces.

    On top I'm placing a large plastic tray to use for my sink. It is actually designed to hold 55 gallon drums and contain spills. I'll drill it at one end and attach a PVC drain to go directly down to the tub drain. This will give me room for 4 trays (12x16) on top and storage and a print washer underneath.

    I have been just using some old plastic shelving placed across the tub which works OK but I wanted to have an area that was easier to clean.

    BTW, where is "just north of Inferno?"
     
  18. Jorge

    Jorge Inactive

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    "If she hasn't packed her bags and fled after a month or two, forget the ball and chain, an angel icon would be more appropriate. "

    For her definitly! heck she deserves one just for marrying the guy...:D
     
  19. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Light leaks are a problem with an improvised darkroom. Most fabric stores sell a material called "blackout" cloth. Its white so could look like a regular curtain; but functions very effectively in blocking light.

    Another suggestion ( mentioned earlier), BTZS tubes for print development. I constructed 3 tubes out of 3" grey electrical conduit pipe (total cost, around $60). I used male/female screw connectors for connecting the print & chemical sections. It may look like a plumber's version of Davis' BTZS tubes, but the screw connectors functions much better than a single connector. I half-fill a plastic closet bin with water at proper temperature, set my chemical bottles in it. Once chemicals' temperature adjusts, pour chemicals into smaller sections of tubes & begin processing by floating/spinning conected tubes in bin. Less chemical usage, less mess & small footprint.
     
  20. Ben Taylor

    Ben Taylor Member

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    That sounds quite like what I've ended up doing - I converted our existing shed for my dark room.

    Bigest problems were light proofing (lots and lots of blackout material) and ventilation, when the weathers hot its almost impossable to work out there. Also watch out and make sure its good and damp proof.

    I had fun geting rid of all the spiders first too :smile:
     
  21. Lex Jenkins

    Lex Jenkins Member

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    For at least a year I've been mulling over how to come up with a better small darkroom space. Right now I'm using the spare bathroom/laundry room.

    The room is large enough for a dedicated darkroom but is so poorly designed as a bathroom that it barely serves that function.

    My enlarger sits atop the dryer. My trays sit atop the washer. To get to the sink for rinsing prints, etc., I have to step over an extension cord that powers my HEPA filter and second safelight. I finally moved my radio outside the darkroom door to reduce the tripping hazard to one. Hard to believe I was once a federal OSHA workplace safety inspector - my own workspace probably violates several international treaties.

    I wash RC prints in an 11x14 open tray. I don't print larger than 11x14; seldom that large.

    My archival print washer for fiber prints is a squarish 5-gallon mop bucket with a recirculating aquarium pump. The bucket, a tray of HCA and a tank of selenium toner sit in the tub for printing sessions.

    Things get done but the place is an ergonomic nightmare, all the worse because I have a busted up back, neck and gimpy right leg. So I don't make fiber prints very often. When I do I want to get as many done as possible because it may be weeks before I have another session.

    The first changes I'd like to make would be to bring in a solid but lightweight metal cart for my enlarger to get it off the dryer.

    Then I'd get a Nova slot processor for my RC sessions. That would be a major help.

    And I'd build a sort of tent surround from black plastic shower curtains to protect the work area to some extent during laundry sessions. So much dust is kicked up on wash day that I can't use the space as a darkroom for 24 hours, even with the HEPA filter.

    Finally, tho', I'd like a real, dedicated darkroom space, even if it was the size of a phone booth. The only way I can see to accomplish that in our house is to do some interior remodeling, which would be tricky because the original design is so inefficient.

    Gripe, mope, groan. I complained because my darkroom is a dump and then I met a man who had no dark at all.