Your own safelight

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by fotophox, Mar 21, 2005.

  1. fotophox

    fotophox Member

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    A safelight is basically just a dim bulb with a colored filter, right? So, is it really necessary to buy a specialized safelight, or is there a way to make a makeshift one of your own?
     
  2. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Buy some ruby lith. Put a small bulb into something like a soup can with the ruby lith at the open end. Test to make sure it's safe. Or search for LED safelights.

    The 5x7 Premier safelight is pretty cheap. A replacement 5x7 filter isn't much less then the whole safelight sells for.
     
  3. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    As usual the answer is: it depends.....

    The simplest safelight is as you describe and it will work. However, if you want brighter light in the darkroom then you need to get more hi-tech. Sodium vapour lamps like the Durst Duka 50 and LED based lights can give you a much brighter light as they emit on a much narrower spectrum than a simple glass filter.

    For a DIY job, you can use high intensity LEDs - Red to be safe, but if you check your paper's response and LED datasheets you may be able to use a lighter colour such as amber. Having said that, Paterson safelights of the simple kind are readily available new or used in the usual places.

    Bob.
     
  4. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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  5. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I bought a 5x7 Premier for 27 bucks from Adorama they have safe bulbs from $5
     
  6. wildbill

    wildbill Member

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    The little 7 watt red bulbs sold by freestyle work for me with black and white. They fit into any standard household lamp socket and cost less than 5 bucks.
     
  7. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    When I first built a darkroom, I used a 7 watt red bulb (from the hardware store - where they are less expensive than when the same bulb is sold by a camera store).

    Later, I built a safelight for my darkroom. I bought a 5" round filiter at a photo flea market, mounted a lamp base in a 2 lb coffee can (empty, of course), and attached the filter to the open end of the can using mirror clips that came from the hardware store. Unfortunately, there was a light leak around the filter, but that was quickly solved using black masking tape. Fabricated a hanger for it using a scap of metal that was left over after installation of a new furnace.
     
  8. fotophox

    fotophox Member

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    The 7 watt bulbs themselves are colored red?
     
  9. fotophox

    fotophox Member

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  10. fotophox

    fotophox Member

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    Would Christmas tree bulbs work? Not the tiny kind, but the larger, night-light style.
     
  11. Woolliscroft

    Woolliscroft Member

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    You could probably build your own safelight, but given how cheaply you can buy one, why bother?

    David.
     
  12. Mongo

    Mongo Member

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    I picked up a 25W "party" bulb at the hardware store. It's a standard sized bulb, painted red, and the paint covers the whole bulb (beware of bulbs where the external coloring doesn't quite reach the socket at the bottom of the bulb).

    I run the light continuously when I'm printing, and have never fogged anything. I did position it behind my enlarger column so that the column casts a shadow over part of the paper, but that's only to make focusing easier. I've used graded and VC fiber paper with this bulb, and my nephew uses VC RC papers in the same darkroom. No fogging at all, and it's bright enough to read in there if you want to.

    One other thing: Make sure the bulb is really _red_ and not purplish-red...the latter would, I imagine, fog paper.
     
  13. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Yes, the bulbs themselves are colored red, at least the Adorama 11W and the 7.5W cherry lamp it replaces. The cherry lamp has what looks like a red enamel coating, and I just visually compared the 7.5W to a red LED lamp, and the color looks about the same. But that's not the way to judge accurately. Both fit a standard Edison lamp socket.

    What you're looking for is limited spectrum, and limited output. That 11W from Adorama might be too bright for direct lighting, needs to be tested, and I suspect should be shielded and bounced off a ceiling. The same would apply for the Christmas tree light you mentioned. Some older styles had enamel coatings, but the newer ones I've seen have a tinted glass that might not be as spectrally limited.

    The red version of this LED lamp:
    http://superbrightleds.com/MR16_specs.htm
    Model E27-W24 Wide Angle
    24-LED Medium Base Flood Light, 100 Degree Beam Angle - 120 VAC
    is equivalent to a 15-20W incandescent, fits a regular edison socket, and probably needs some attenuation, but can't be dimmed with a regular AC dimmer. Shield it and bounce it off the ceiling at a safe distance. It has a rated lifetime of 30,000 hours, and costs $10 + shipping. I use these in the room next to my darkroom and to protect night vision in an observatory. I use some 12V red and amber LEDs from the same place in my darkroom because I can dim them by using less voltage.

    You'll need to test anything home built, and should do the same with any commercial product. Testing procedures are at:
    http://www.kodak.com/global/en/consumer/products/pdf/k4.pdf

    Lee
     
  14. dr bob

    dr bob Member

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    I have issues with using "Christmas tree" red lights for a number of reasons. They may not be entirely dyed with clear or non-red regions about the base. The dyes used may not filter blue light sufficiently. The coatings are usually not uniform and may have spot defects. Commercially available bulbs are so relatively inexpensive with respect to the time used, it doesn't make sense to me to risk using anything other.
     
  15. Josef Guay

    Josef Guay Subscriber

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    I use two Model E27-W24 lights from Superbrightleds.com in my darkroom. They are too bright for direct illumination, but are great for indirect illumination.

    For the cost, they are a great value. I will purchase a couple more myself.
     
  16. photobackpacker

    photobackpacker Advertiser Advertiser

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    Buy one intended for your materials. There are two reasons for this - the first is you don't want to fog your paper. Secondly, most of us find our stamina for darkroom sessions will go up as the lighting level goes up. You want to know the point where these two conditions intersect - The brightest work environment that is safe for your materials. Then you can adjust downward from there to suit your preferances with confidence you aren't creating a problem.

    How do you know it is safe? You don't take the marketing department's word for it!! You test.

    I was fighting an un-safelight and lightleaks aplenty and didn't know it. I was working with premium equipment, by-the-way - Thomas Duplex and a Saunders VCCE LPL 4x5 enlarger that was brand new! The symptom - I found that as I moved from 8x10 prints up to 11x14 or larger (or increased size to crop an image,) I had to increase contrast to get bact to the original desired impact. I thought this was normal. It isn't. It is a symptom that you may be fighting an UN-safelight and/or enlarger light leaks. In seminars I have attended, this is the number 1 most common problem.

    This is particularly sad when you consider all of the time, money and care that goes into an image up to that point only to have it degraded by non-image light in the final process.

    I tested my lights with the "quarter on the paper fragment" test and found them safe. Then I tested with the Kodak test and found I was getting image fogging with only 1 minute of exposure to my Thomas Duplex Safelight - the one that boasts you can read a newspaper with it. (I was never sure why I would want to read a newspaper in my darkroom, but their marketing department thought it would be cool, I guess.)

    If you haven't tested for enlarger and safelight problems, I urge you to do so. Go to the Kodak web site and search for 'How Safe is Your Safelight?.' From the items returned by this search, click on the one titled 'K-4'. This will open a PDF file that will guide you through the process. It is a bit complicated and boring as all-get-out but it will smoke-out your unseen enemy like no other test. Post your responses after you do this. I am curious as to how many of you discover a problem.

    Cheers
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 24, 2005
  17. JLMoore3

    JLMoore3 Member

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    Thomas Duplex Safelight

    Just thought I'd throw in a couple of cents worth of info: I picked up a Thomas Duplex, but wasn't happy with the amount of light it was eminating... So, I did some research & found a smaller wattage version of the bulb- 18 watt SOX18. This has worked quite well for my smallish darkroom (11x15). Just do a search for "Low Pressure Sodium SOX18" and you'll find lots of online merchants for the bulb.
     
  18. photobackpacker

    photobackpacker Advertiser Advertiser

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    Have you tested it? I had to stop my Duplex down so far, I was sprouting mushrooms after a day in the dark. Even with that, I was safe only to 7 minutes. I switched over to a Kodak 10"X12" with OC filter. I supplement that with a Zone VI LED light set on the VC setting. It is so bright, I knew I would be fogging. - Surprise - I tested out to 12 minutes with the Kodak test and there was no sign of fogging. The Sodium Vapor light is not a good band. A dimmer bulb may be good but I recommend you test it. My Thomas goes on ebay.
     
  19. gbroadbridge

    gbroadbridge Member

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    You guys really use *red* safelights?? Red safelights make me feel ill and I've used yellow/brown for more than 25 years.

    You really use red???


    Graham.
     
  20. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Deep dark red-)
     
  21. Carol

    Carol Member

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    Phew I was worried I was the only one who didn't use red. Mine is a green/yellow bulb and just plugs in to the main light socket.
     
  22. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Hmmm.

    Maybe I'm showing my age here...

    The first time I went into a darkroom with a yellow safelight I thought there was something deeply wrong; I learned to print in 1970 at summer camp, and we had a single dark red bulb hanging from the ceiling for our safelight, even though we used graded paper only. When I took photography in high school four years later, we had a yellow safelight (I think it was an OC filter), and though the darkroom was much brighter and we were using Polycontrast paper, my muddy prints were somehow my fault, never related to safelight fogging (and at 14, I didn't know enough to even try to argue with the teacher).

    When I get my darkroom darkened, it'll get LED safelights, if I can make them work from mains power, and they'll be red, red, red. To me, if it's not red, it ain't really a safelight (and no, I don't develop film by inspection).
     
  23. kwmullet

    kwmullet Member

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    This is a HOOT! A while back, I contacted many pro B&W printing labs all over the country looking for one to make large Azo prints for me. One of them, in amoungst the comments that there's really no value in using "dead" papers or pyro developers mentioned that "of course, the larger the print you make, the lower the contrast gets".

    At that point, I just felt like an ignorant stooge. I'd never been familiar with this tendancy.

    Now, I know that at least in this particular case, I wasn't the ignorant stooge. :smile:

    Here's a direct link to the PDF.
    -KwM-
     
  24. Huw

    Huw Member

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    I use LEDs, they are on my site huws.org.uk, and I can read a newspaper and they are safe (Kodak test) for at least 10 minutes.
     
  25. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    ..
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 3, 2005