What to use for enlarger work table...

Discussion in 'Enlarging' started by Richard Man, Nov 30, 2005.

  1. Richard Man

    Richard Man Member

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    I am setting up a darkroom, or a dark area, in the garage. To efficiently utilize the space and since darkroom stuff is relatively cheap now, I got a print processor and a print washer so I don't need much space for the wet space. For the enlarger, would it be best to get a table so I can sit on a chair or would one of those workbenchs with drawers sufficient? I don't mind standing for a long time (e.g. an hour or two is no problem) so the latter sounds appealing, especially then I can use the drawers for storage. Any recommendations?

    Thanks.
     
  2. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    I bought two kitchen cabinets, put 2x4”s horizontally on the sides between them at the table height needed, then laid a ¾ sheet of plywood cut as a table top and screwed into the 2x4s. To make the whole thing more stable I put a sheet of plywood across the back of the two cabinets and table top. I screwed in a 2x4 at the join of the plywood sheets. I then screwed the back sheet of plywood into the wall studs. It has been good as an enlarger stand, but I suppose the table could double as a tornado shelter.

    The second enlarger is a Durst 138S converted to 8x10 cold light. It has a weighted floor stand. The top of the stand in bolted to the wall. Vibration is not on my wish list.

    John Powers
     
  3. BWGirl

    BWGirl Member

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    Well... since you do not say where in the world you are, I will have to assume it's warm enough all year round to work in a garage. :wink:

    I think whatever you use as a bench, make sure it is sturdy and not extremely sensitive to vibration (wood is better than metal).

    The other thing to consider is that standing for long periods on concrete can play he!! on your back... I bought one of those rubber anti-fatigue mats for my darkroom... it's a good thing! :D

    Drawers are nice! You always need shelves, drawers or whatever. You could even make one of the drawers light-tight and use if like a paper safe while you are working.

    If you get a stool (as opposed to a chair) you could actually have it both ways... standing until you get tired, then sitting for a while. Just make sure you don't wonk the bench while you are exposing paper... makes for sore knees and ruined prints! haha :smile:

    Hope this helps a wee bit! :D
     
  4. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I recently built a couple of tables from kitchen countertop material donated by a friend of mine. I use the larger one in my wet area and the smaller one as a stand for my enlarger (it's just large enough). I built both at about the height of a kitchen table, so I'm most comfortable using the tables sitting. I also bought a cheap office chair with wheels, so I can roll from the dry area to the wet area without standing up. Previously, I had my darkroom equipment on some ranky old bedroom dressers that came with my house. They were high enough that I had to stand, and I found that my feet didn't like that. (My darkroom sessions are typically 2-4 hours long.)
     
  5. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Similarly to John, I used 3 kitchen units from my local DIY store to make an 8' long worktop (http://www.apug.org/forums/attachment.php?attachmentid=914). They are screwed together through their sides and pulled out about 9" from the wall to give the width needed to fit the enlarger. A 2x1 strip of timber goes along the wall behind them at the same height as the top of the units. The top is a counter unit which is screwed to the timber strip on the wall and screwed to the units using the brackets that came with them for fixing the normal kitchen counter top. It happily held two 4x5 enlargers (now only one).

    See the Darkroom Portrait thread for tons of ideas (http://www.apug.org/forums/showthread.php?t=10966).

    Cheers, Bob
     
  6. noseoil

    noseoil Member

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    Another option for a counter top is a solid core door. These slabs are available at lumber yards in paint-grade with a hard surface (masonite) and are flat and heavy (1 3/8" or 1 3/4" thick). They are available from 2' x 6' 8" up to 3' x 6' 8" as standard sizes. Get one without the hinge mortise or lockset hole and you have a pretty good work area. Best to use a sealer on all sides and edges to protect from moisture (don't use latex paint, too clammy when it dries). Another option is the particle board with a fused surface called "melamine" to have a slick surface which is water resistant. It is available in different colors, but is best with an edge applied to the working side. tim
     
  7. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    It's not that hard to pick up some 2x4" or 4x4s and to build a custom table. Top it with some MDF or some plywood or whatever your heart likes.

    You can build it to the height that works best for you. To the width and depth you like. Cost will likely be less then any prebuilt.

    The only real skill needed is being able to screw it all together. Odds are if you have something like Home Depot nearby they'll even cut the lumber to size if you ask.

    4x4s for legs or 2 2x4s sistered together. 2x4s for the rest. Might not look pretty but done well it'll be strong enough to stand a mule on.
     
  8. jvarsoke

    jvarsoke Member

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    I use an old computer desk propped up on cinder-blocks. Gives me the base height of about crotch level and an open bay of shelves (no drawers in this cheapo) perfect of keeping paper boxes.

    Wood is definately the way to go to reduce vibration.
     
  9. Phillip P. Dimor

    Phillip P. Dimor Member

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    I've used a door with 2x4's for a table before, works well and is cheap provided you don't mind a bit of sway. I used it for a drymount press and rotary trimmer.

    I found an old office desk that weighed atleast 350lbs waiting to be thrown out.
    It was left outside behind an old building. Worked out very well, extremely stable..
    Many drawers, etc. I used cinderblocks to prop it up, too.

    Places like www.sciplus.com usually have surplus materials like 1 to 3mil vinyl sheeting with adhesive, great for covering your tables. I love that site.
     
  10. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    Since I still use garage for cars, I had to be creative in space utilization ( a 6' X 7' space in garage contains 2 enlargers, contact printing area for AZO, and dry mount/matting area). One of the Durst L1000 enlargers is wall mounted on a rail. For the other Durst L1000 I created a wall mounted table out of 2X4s & 2X6s that is very stable. The table has no shelving underneath so I can store a stool there as well as getting close to the table while printing (dodging, burning, etc.).
     
  11. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    Whatever you use, you want something rigid, stable, and heavy so that the enlarger has a perfectly immovable platform, otherwise you can get the enlarger equivalent of camera shake. I use an old chest of drawers, which holds paper, lenses and other kit.

    David.
     
  12. rbarker

    rbarker Member

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    The ideal enlarger work surface is a block of granite of the appropriate dimensions. Chiselling out the shelves, however, can be a real bear. :wink:

    Short of that, I agree with the other's suggestions of using commonly available components, but maximizing rigidity and stability. For example, 3/4" plywood makes a nice tabletop - if the front and rear edges are reinforced. I glued a 1x2 along the front edge of mine to accomplish that, and the sides and back are screwed to a frame to provide the rigidity.
     
  13. jeroldharter

    jeroldharter Member

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    In regard to granite, be aware that sometimes you can find scraps of granite or syntheti quartz countertops from stone companies that install kitchen countertops. If you leave the edges rough cut and use the scraps you can get nice stuff that is easy to clean and keep dust free.
     
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  15. John Koehrer

    John Koehrer Subscriber

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    Been using a sears & sawbucks workbench for the enlargers. It has three drawers & one swing open door w/2 shelves. Trays etc go on a solid core door with 1 1/4' PVC legs w/PVC bracing.
     
  16. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    The basic answer is something sturdy. Also something that sits firmly on the floor. You can't afford to have wobbles or vibration, but many small tables will do the trick. I have a very small darkroom, and I use a small desk to hold the enlarger. It's handy because I can use the drawers for lenses and paper and stuff. I attached a little shelf to hold the timer and the color analyzer, and I braced up the back overhang of the enlarger copyboard. The desk provides a good working height, which is important. Many find it better (more sturdy) to remove the enlarger from the copyboard and attach it to the wall. The same requirements for firmness still apply, though. You can't have the image move on the paper, which means the paper must stay still. There are some commercial tables made, and they have some advantages.
     
  17. eli griggs

    eli griggs Member

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    Whatever you use to make your table or bench, be sure to leave about a 4 or 5 inch overhang to the top shelve so you can work close to the enlarger without jostling it constantly, for example when you use a grain focus device.

    Cheers
     
  18. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    How about an old steel/metal office desk or two low cabinets with a piece of pine wood on top?

    I personally think making a table with 2x4"s and a plywood is the best way to go because it's cheap but solid, and you can adjust it anytime you want.
     
  19. severian

    severian Member

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    desk baseboard

    The desk ideas are really good. I found an old wooden desk, not 350 lbs, but I bet it is 200 lbs. I mounted an 8x10 enlarger to the wall and use the desk as bottom support. The drawers are a bonus.
    Jack
     
  20. eli griggs

    eli griggs Member

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    working height

    I don't think a sitting desk would be a good choice unless you elevate it or happen to be short in physical stature. You will want to set your table height to a comfortable working level, so when you bend to focus or make some adjustment at your work area, your back is not over-taxed. You also don’t want your work surface too high. Next to your enlarger choice, good bench and tray/sink heights can be the most important darkroom decisions you make.

    A good way to find out where to start is to stand upright with your arms at your side with your 'good' hand flat, level and palm down. Whatever measurement you get from the heel of the hand to the floor would be the minimal working surface height. This method is what I used to determine the surface height for several workbenches and I have found it to work pretty well. I don’t think you’ll want to add more than an inch/inch-and-a-half to this measurement. You also want to keep any floor mat height in mind when tweaking your worktable.

    Cheers
     
  21. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Eli's advice is good, but you also need to be careful about enlarger height with the bigger enlargers. I'm tall enough that putting my D5-XL at the height he suggests puts the head too near an 8 foot high ceiling, so I have a sturdy desk height table (actually a custom made enlarger table that I built) that I sit at for the enlarger. I also cut a relief curve in the front of the table to make it comfortable to use a grain focuser when making smaller enlargements nearer the back of the table (a slanted enlarger column).

    My wet side is at 41 inches, perfect for my height when standing at trays, running a Jobo, or hand developing film. (However, the 11 year olds I'm teaching have problems with my setup.)

    So I get a mix of standing and sitting for long printing sessions, which I find good.

    Lee

    Edit: For some reason the post from Eli was garbled (and labled as being from Phil) when I started typing, then disappeared and came back under Eli's name, maybe an HTML glitch or simultaneous editing. In any case, make sure you have enough room to get your enlarger head to full height beneath whatever ceiling you have. That's probably not a big issue in a garage, but in common basement and attic installations it can become a problem.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 6, 2006
  22. TimVermont

    TimVermont Subscriber

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    I use a heavy chunk of MDF. It is mounted on four screw-threaded variable height legs from IKEA. The table can be lowered knee heigh for big prints or raised up. Bonus is that the screw thread legs make it possible to level it with great ease. The enlarger is wall-mounted.
     
  23. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    This assumes you work in the darkroom standing up. If you prefer to work sitting, then desk height is likely to be very good. Personally, I prefer to sit; standing through an entire darkroom session (2-4 hours for me, typically) gets to be uncomfortable. I've got a cheap rolling chair so I can move easily from dry to wet side without standing up.
     
  24. eli griggs

    eli griggs Member

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    Yes, you are right; I did assume that all darkroom work would be done standing. I should have paid closer attention to the thread; it's just that I have never known anyone to do this sort of work from a chair before. Any stools I have used or seen in darkrooms worked well with standing height tables/sinks. I believe I must be prejudice against sitting because I would personally find it an interference with a good work flow. It's been awhile, but when last I did this sort of work a 14 hour day in the darkroom was something I did fairly often. Oh well, live and learn; you’d think at forty-seven I’d know better than to make assumptions like that :smile:.

    One more thing if a standing darkroom setup is used. A rail (or beam) like those found on old fashioned bars really does help with long sessions.

    Cheers,
    Eli
     
  25. avandesande

    avandesande Member

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    A small matter but particle board (that cheap yucky stuff) has excellent acoustic/vibration absorbing characteristics. This is why it is used to make speakers. Just make sure it is covered properly or it will fall apart. Kitchen countertops are usually particle board on the inide and a used one is a good choice.
     
  26. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Particle board is also poor for load bearing spans. MDF (medium density fiberboard) is stiffer, denser, and acoustically as good or better than particle board (found in higher end speakers), and then 3/4" or thicker plywood is again stiffer and better for load bearing spans.

    All should have some sort of stiffening battens if they span a significant gap in the support from below. MDF can be found at Home Depot in the US. Another option is strawboard (also found at Home Depot), made with more quickly renewable straw rather than trees, and without formaldehyde, a bit stiffer than particle board, but less so than MDF. MDF and strawboard also take paint and laminates nicely.

    Lee