First, work your way up. If you don't even have an enlarger, you have a long way to go. Making a print that doesn't totaly suck isn't that hard, but making a print that you'ed be willing to hang is. It's a lot cheaper to improve your skills on sheets of 8x10. You might even look for a club in your area where you can speed up the learning process.
Second, find an Omega 4x5 enlarger with an XL designation. Easy to find, relatively cheap. Plenty of head height.
Finally, use the single tray method for sheets over 11x14. I use 5 quart plastic pails from the home center to hold the various chemicals (easy to pour back and forth from the tray) and an old Kodak tray siphon so I never have to remove the print until the wash is finished (I have two trays so I can get at least a small start on the next iteration).
Enjoy the ride,
I agree with the consensus to start smaller.
120* (6x6) is a lot different than 8x10. ;)
Neal is on the right track about an Omega "XL" enlarger. The XL just means that there is a longer chassis and therefore you can (eventually) make larger prints with less trouble. The advantage of a 4x5 enlarger, such as a D5XL, is that you can go to larger formats in the future, and they are usually built better than medium format machines. For 6x6, however, don't overlook am Omega B22XL (XL!!) if you come across one. If you have to pay more than $50, you've done it wrong. A Beseler 45 is not useless, either. When you find and buy an enlarger, make sure you get things like the right negative carrier, and lens boards.
I don't think anybody mentioned lenses. I recommend an 80mm for 6x6. EL Nikkor, Rodagon, or Componon.
*Not to be pedantic, but it's simply "120", not "120mm".
I print 20x24 in my 66"x71" darkroom with no issues at all. In fact the smallest I print is 11x14 due to what my market is. I use a Beseler 45MX with the baseboard converted to a magnetic easel which has pretty much replaced all my Saunders 4-blade easels. I use speed easels and the sheet metal covered baseboard with clear plexiglass strips cut to custom sizes with rare earth magnets taped on them. Most of the reason for this is how bad fiber based paper curls in my neck of the woods. I do up to 16x20 in trays that are stacked in a compact pull out shelf system and do fiber 20x24 in a Jobo 3063 drum on a motor base. I use a 80mm Apo-N Rodagon for my 6x6 and have three anti-newton glass carriers for all my formats including and oversized one for 4x5 that allows full frame.
The head is a Beseler 45S color head with a custom variable speed fan. All my other electronics are RH Designs including the Stop Clock Pro, Paper Flasher-II, Zonemaster-II and Process Master-II.
For a safelight system I use a Nova 5-star LED with 4 heads that is on a rheostat. Every time I change paper size, I check alignment with a laser alignment tool, it takes seconds to check and less than a minute to adjust.
I really don't think it is as hard as some here have made it out to be, it took me less than a month and two 10 packs of RC 20x24 paper to figure out that I could easily do gallery quality prints on fiber at this size. I am on assignment right now but once I am done, I will elaborate with more details if need be...
I've still got my beseler 67, which has the reversible baseboard. I build a plywood box, about 8" square x 10" high, and mounted the same thread t-nuts to it as the enlarger base; and the box is t-nutted onto my work table. I can go very big with that setup, or do 8x10's. It's all fastened together with knurled (threaded) knobs, and it's easy to level with shims (I've got a chopped up credit card under one corner).
My challenge after that was what to put under my paper - found a formica tabletop at Ikea, about 26" x 40" with white laminate - 11 bucks.
I've looked at the plastic trays they sell to put under dog training cages - they go up to about 40", but are less than 2" deep - seems potentially messy. But I did get three 24x28 trays from eBay for $80 - they're usually 80-ish each.
I've seen that link and appreciate his thinking. It's led me to evolving that a bit though - I've bought the parts but haven't assembled it yet.
Originally Posted by ChuckP
Why not integrate such a large tray into a table, and add a drain to the bottom of the tray? Pouring out a 30x40x6 tray (or whatever it was) sounds like a mess to me - especially doing it for every print. A bathroom sink drain kit (the kind that uses a rubber plug vs. a drain lever) with an extra rubber washer, mounted in the tank, with catch buckets under it seems much more convenient. You can easily extend the tailpiece (they essentially get 'extended' by your trap in their proper use) or even angle the drain to wherever it's needed. You could get all fancy and add a PVC ball valve, but the rubber stopper seems fine to me.
As was mentioned, since you have not done darkroom work before, start out small. This way the cost of you learning how to enlarge is reduced. The bigger paper is EXPENSIVE, so you do not want to waste it learning how to print. When you can reliably print 8x10, then you can move up, one paper size at a time, because you also have to learn how to handle the bigger paper.
As David said, if you have the space, I would get a 4x5 enlarger. If you are space constrained or have to pack up or move the enlarger due to not having a permanent setup, then a MF enlarger 6x6 or 6x7 size. According to my D5 manual, a standard D5 chassis with an 80mm lens will make 10.2x enlargement, an XL chassis will make a 14.2x enlargement. So if you have the vertical height available, an XL chassis is a better long term choice...as long as you have the vertical height so it fits. My D5 manual says max height of D5XL is 64 inches. That is 5 feet 4 inches tall !!! To focus, you will need a small step ladder to get up that high.
You also need to plan how you will process the LARGE print.
For larger than 11x14, or even starting at 11x14, I would go with single tray or drum, to avoid handling a BIG sheet of wet paper.
Honeywell and Heath/Mitchell had rocking trays up to 16x20 that you can use for single tray processing. I used the Honeywell 11x14 rocking tray and it worked well. You have to search the used market for these rocking trays.
For LARGE size, same as PKM-25, I would use a drum. The trick is finding one that big. My biggest drum is 16x20.
Finally how will you wash the print? BIG washers are EXPENSIVE, a 20x24 will probably cost well over $500...used. The only low cost alternative that I know of is the Kodak washing tray syphon.
I think it goes without saying that you should get your system down with smaller paper. 8x10 is ok but often I find the working distance and exposure times too short to do any meaningful dodging, burning and or split grade burns and dodges. If I have to do an 8x10 from 120 film which is rare, I will use my 150 Apo-N to get more time and space to work.
As far as washing goes, I use a Eco-Wash 16x20 with half of the dividers taken out and just gently fold the already wet paper and put them in the wider slots, no more than 5 sheets in a run. I think 20x24 from 120 film is a fantastic size to strive for as in my experience, 120 film does not even start to really open up until 11x14 and 16x20 from 4x5. I bet that with some smart pre-planning and gradual expectations, one could be doing nice 24" prints in less than 6 months.
But you have to set your self up correctly in terms of the needed tools which is the right enlarger, lens, carriers and processing / washing gear.
Big prints are a blast to do and make you feel like you are really putting that negative to work, I love it!
Thank you all very much, much was helpful, some more discouraging than anything. Yes, I will definitely start smaller. And almost definitely will never shoot large format. I just got done hooting 8x10.
I have a couple questions. I'm looking at two enlargers, one is a be seller 23c and the other a 23c XL. I think perhaps 20x20 can do for me. The diff. between the two is $250. Question is should I get the 23c and project horizontally, or is that just another hassle and worth it to pay the $250 extra? $250 is a lot to me now.
I was thinking about a very simple singe tray dev. Make a hole it he tray which pours out into a bucket which can be plugged and unplugged. I'm not very crafty (understatement), but I think I can rig something by God's grace.
Also, I don't want to buy an easel bc of the price. So, I'm looking for a less expensive option. Maybe a used easel. May another alternative option.
And can't the print be washed in a tray using the single tray method I described?
Thank you very much in advance!
Plenty of smaller easels available from the usual sources - If you were closer, I could chuck a two blade one your way.. Bigger easels that would handle 16-20" paper, even second hand, are often expensive. An alternative is to use drawing (draughting) board or table cloth clips to secure the paper to a large board. Or if you can find a suitable sheet of steel, some magnetic strips could be used.
Originally Posted by healingvirtue
I face the same issues - Got a couple of 40" rolls to use, but no big trays or easel.
I have a Beseler 23c II XL and the largest size that I can print on this is 16x20 assuming that I use a 100mm standard enlarging lens for my 6x7 negatives. The enlarger will tilt 90 degrees to do wall projections for a larger blow-up. A couple of years ago, I got a Beseler 45 MX II enlarger for $17. If you are patient, there are bargains out there. I would suggest that you spend the money on the best quality enlarging lens that you can afford.