Why not a three-axis carpenter's laser as opposed to a Versalab?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Jim Rice, Apr 11, 2013.

  1. Jim Rice

    Jim Rice Member

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    The title pretty much says it all. I am looking at a refurbed Bosch GPL3. Aside from aligning my D5 I have no use for this.
     
  2. Jim Rice

    Jim Rice Member

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    I foresee issues with the auto-leveling feature, but I was sort of hoping someone would chime in about that, as well.
     
  3. AgX

    AgX Member

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  4. Jim Rice

    Jim Rice Member

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    My apologies. The Versalab is a laser tool specifically designed for aligning enlargers, which is what I want to do.
     
  5. superd

    superd Member

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    I'm not sure how you wanted to utilize that laser to align your enlarger, but looking at the Versalab Parallel tool, it is designed to check the alignment with very high accuracy, and the projector box appears a high precision device. Never used myself, but from instructions and given accuracy level, the Bosch GPL 3 won't even come close.

    Than again, where is the accuracy limit when it comes to enlarger alignment vs. visible difference on the print?
     
  6. Jim Rice

    Jim Rice Member

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    Pieces of glass at the negative and lens stages to reflect the laser dot dot back down upon the projecting laser emitter. The Bosch specifications seem pretty impressive (to me, what the hell do I know?) and the cost is significantly lower.
     
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  7. Patrick Robert James

    Patrick Robert James Subscriber

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    The Versalab will align the negative stage and the lens to the baseboard. The Bosch would align them to gravity if it is self leveling, which won't necessarily agree with the baseboard.

    I saw instructions once online for making an alignment tool with a laser pointer. You may be able to do it to save some dough. I have the Versalab and think it is worth the money if you are serious about print quality.
     
  8. superd

    superd Member

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    I think what I was driving at is Versalab projector box is purpose built with marked target and fine projection, with any other laser a similar box would likely be needed as the width of the laser beam (from a device like that Bosch) is quite large by comparison and accurate assessment would be nearly impossible. A good laser leveling tool for, construction work, costs hundreds of dollars, and dollars translate into a higher quality laser beam with tighter specs. Not knowing all the facts about both I still would say the savings are questionable given the overall satisfaction with Versalab performance and the rather unknown outcome of modifying a tool not originally intended to do the task.

    This is not the same as saying the Bosch cannot be used to make a useful enlarger aligner, which I'm sure it can be, but how would you test it?

    At the end of the day, making a negative of a flat test target with fine corner detail and checking the print might do. In my case, I've always been satisfied with the use of grain focuser (like Omega Peak) to check for alignment (grain is sharp around the negative regardless of its detail, so any negative can be used), as this is as far as I felt I needed to take it.
     
  9. superd

    superd Member

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  10. MartinP

    MartinP Member

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    The Versalab tool also works very well to make large enlargements by the "rotating the enlarger-head and put something heavy on the baseboard" trick.

    To get a 24", or larger, projection size (of which I'd admittedly only use 20") from my colour-head enlarger I turn the column round over the edge of the workbench. As I know the lens and carrier are aligned from normal use of the enlarger (checked with the Parallel tool), I put a sheet of chipboard on the floor, forming the temporary baseboard, with three rubber doorstoppers to support it. With the easel on the temp-baseboard and the Parallel on the easel, I can then move the angled doorstoppers in and out until the dot comes back down on itself, reflected from the glass neg-carrier (lens removed for this trick).

    It is almost as quick to do the alignment as to type the explanation. A remote-focussing extension is still needed to focus though, unless one has arms five feet long!
     
  11. Neal

    Neal Subscriber

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    Dear Jim,

    Why not contact Bosch and find out if it will do the job? They should be able to give you the information you need and it might work very well.

    In the name of full disclosure, I have a Versalab and wish I'd purchased it years earlier than I did.

    Neal Wydra
     
  12. AndreasT

    AndreasT Member

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    I have also used the Versalab laser. Came in handy making Enlargement up too 140x300cm. The grain was sharp corner to corner. The thig was though that it actually wobbled on its base. Why I do not know. Possible some let it fall down.
    Personally I think you can take nearly any laser light. Some do not have a straight flat base, but if the laser is not moved in any way after placing it under the lens it can be used.
     
  13. Rick A

    Rick A Subscriber

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    There's always cheaper non-self leveling laser levels that would do the job. I used my electronic level to align my enlarger and it worked very well.
     
  14. superd

    superd Member

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    I think we need to note the difference between a tool like Versalab (laser specs aside) and just another laser level. Versalab, as I understand it, projects laser beam up and will show a reflection on its surface, away from projecting hole, indicating out of parallel planes. A laser level does not really have the "landing" area and will need to be modified so you can reliably see the off axis issues. For accuracy sake that plane needs to be perpendicular to the laser beam. Can be done, but as I noted earlier, cheaper laser levels have ugly beam characteristics and getting a good one is not going to save anyone any money, not even a used (unless it's part of a divorce settlement).
     
  15. Jim Rice

    Jim Rice Member

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    Just what I needed to know. Looks like I'll just have to bite the bullet and spring for a Vesalab.
     
  16. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    All the above are toys. Either get ahold of a serious level or a serious laser. I am both a major Bosch
    distributor and the biggest distributor of German Stabila levels and lasers in the country, so know what
    I am talking about. I use a real machinist's level. Or, you can use a high-end carpentry level if it has
    machined edges. Expect to pay around $75 or so. It's not the kind of thing you'll find at Home Cheapo.
    As far as lasers go, I borrowed one in about the $2500 range to do alignments, but then corrected that
    factor with front-surface mirror targets, like a collimeter.
     
  17. spijker

    spijker Subscriber

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    Drew, can you be more specific and suggest a "serious laser" model that would do the job and is more in the price range of a hobbyist i.e. NOT the $2500 range. If the Versalab "toy" laser does the job for $190 as various people state, then why would one spent $2500 on a "serious" laser just to align his/her enlarger? That's not realistic. But if there's an affordable alternative laser then I'm interested to read up on that.
     
  18. Mike Wilde

    Mike Wilde Member

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    Silly me. I just take a black bit of fixed fogged film leader, or sheet film piece, and insert it into the negative carrier (this presumes a glassless carrier).
    I scribe the emulsion off carefully by tracing around the neg while it is held snigly clamped in one place in the negative carrier by scratching the emusion off with with a steel pin point.

    Then with a steel rule, I scribe a pair of linee to join the opposite corners of the pin scratches.

    Put said scribed neg back into the carrier, and carrier into enlarger.

    See what turns up on the base board. Use the ruler to measure the white segments - the opposing ones should be the same length if the neg stage and base board are parallel.

    If they are not equally sharp, then the lens stage is out of alignment, and can be optically trimmed to make sure all lines up sharp.

    What is this not doing that the laser gizmoes does?
     
  19. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Mike - that is an excellent technique which I sometimes use as a focus target. The point is to scratch it rather than drawing the line with a pen, so that the crisp edges of the scratch mark comes into acute focus. I use a machinists scribe on an evenly exposed piece of sheet film. But it needs some backup. You also need a magnifier which will focus into the corners of the field and not just near the
    center, or at least some good magnifying glasses. Then you need a true machined straightedge to make certain your baseboard isn't warped, to establish how your easel really fits. So far, quite simple.
    But for serious work, one wants all three planes aligned all at once. I won't go into detail here, but
    anyone who knows how to sight in a gun barrel, using an collimator or laser, and partial-suface mirrors,
    will get the clue. It's like extending the line over several hundred feet, bouncing back and forth on a
    semi-silvered mirror, that brings everything into alignment within a tiny fraction of a degee. At one time
    Salthill marketed a simplified version of this kind of thing for enlargers, and it worked wonderfully. That
    was pre-laser. For casual use I also employ a basic 12-inch Stabila level with a machined edge. These
    are German-made, not Chinese; and I have some Starrett machinist's levels as backup, which are too
    finicky for the uneven surfaces found in most enlargers.
     
  20. DREW WILEY

    DREW WILEY Member

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    Spijker - Mike's method will work way better than any cheap laser. You can never assume that those
    kinds of gadgets do what they claim, any more than you can assume that a cheap carpenter's square
    is actually square unless you have a more serious machined reference. I've not only sold many kinds of
    lasers but have conceptually involved with various manufacturers in what comes to market. And for that
    kind of money you'd be lucky if a kitchen cabinet was level. The width of the beam is contolled by OSHA so it won't be intense enough to blind you; and that equates to a fairly thick line. Enlarging is
    usually more critical. A lot of the things I say might seem like overkill, but all these little things add up.
    Yeah, One of my enlargers actually has a machined easel that is dead flat and weighs about four hundred pounds! That would be overkill for most people. But it did warrant the whole nine yards approach to leveling. I would recommed, however, that one acquires a well-made level with one machined edge, as well as a longer machined straightedge (or one device with both characteristics).
    Fifty or seventy-five bucks spent that way will be a lot more cost effective than some half-assed made
    in China laser (maybe fine for leveling a sandbox or fence line).