Get a talking timer for $15....
Get a talking timer for $15....
Old-fart analogue method: I used to use a cassette tape, record my voice counting off the desired intervals, and play it back in the darkroom. If you happen to have these stone-age devices, it's cheap and it works. No leaking light to worry about.
I use an ancient Time-O-Lite minute timer. It is surprisingly accurate for a mechanical device and can be used for dev, fix and wash. Counts from 1-60 minutes and buzzes at the end of the cycle. $5 at a garage sale.
Timing a few ways.
For b&w film development, an old Gralab 300. I use the 'drift by' temperature method for some developers, like PMK Pyro and Harveys 777 that I find work best at higher then room temperatures, say around 24C.
If the darkroom and all gear are sitting at 18 or so (nice cool basement darkroom) I will set the timer at 10 minutes. Then I will pour the warmed (microwaved) developer into a 'cold' tank at 26C or so, and measure the temp after the first 15 seconds of agitaion. Then I adjust the timer to suit the temperture. I have a Kodak darkroom development dial calculator, from a mid 80's dataguide kit that is calibrated in 'Development Numbers'. So I know from experimental calibration, for example that 777 at higher than 22C, when the Glycin in it becomes active for FP4+ has a DN of 43.5 for contrasty subjects, and 45.5 for flatter subjects. Each development number gives a range of times versus temperatures. So figuring the time for a temp is quick with this dial calculator. A minute before the developer was scheduled to end, I check temperture again. If it is more than 1 or 2 C cooler, the Gralab is easy to adjust while it is running to add on the required time to suit the averaged temperture between start measurement and near end measurement.
For tray development of paper the gralab is also used.
For C-41 and E-6 film processing, when you are more a part of the machine when it comes to development, I have an old Vivitar Process Time Commander that I have rebuilt the power supply on to bring it back from the dead (All mid 70's to late 80's Vivitar timers share a power supply design defect. A Zener diode burns up with time, and then the voltage is out of range and they stop working. I have fixed about 4 of them with a mod to install a sinlge chip voltage regulator, and onsold them on the *Bay.)
The process time commander has 3 programs of 6 steps each that can have each step programmed to any time between 99 minutes and 1 second. Programs can advance from one step to the next automatically. They can also require a manual intervention to tell you to advance. In this mode the timer display stops counting down the time at the end of the step, and then starts counting up while sounding a warning tone, so you can figure out how late you are in moving the process along.
An audible tone can chirp a user defined period before the end of the step to allow you time to drain chems out before the next ones go in at the start of the next step. The programs can be linked together, which is handy for e-6, where, with rinses between bleach and fix, you are easily over 6 steps.
I will be sad when the Vivitar terminally dies. I do know what I will be programming the next device to act like though.
This is a reply to Mike Wilder. I just bought a Vivitar Process Time Commander from the early 80's and I would really like to know what the Zener Diode fix is. I haven't checked inside the power supply to see if I can see what might be up. Will be doing that shortly, but wanted to contact you sooner than later to get any information that you might have for me.
Tray processing film in total darkness or prints under safelights? It's not clear what you want...
At any rate, in my main darkroom, I use a Zone VI compensating developing timer. I has red LEDs that can be dimmed for film processing. I keep in on a shelf out of the sight-line of the trays. It has a footswitch to stop/start the timing and beeps every 30 seconds. Works great for both film and paper processing. They come up used from time to time and I would highly recommend one. Small and foolproof to use, even if you don't use the temperature probe function.
In my Vienna darkroom, where I just process film in trays, I use a combination of metronome and kitchen timer in total darkness. The kitchen timer is set to the developing time and located close to the developing tray. Before turning out the lights and unloading film, I start the metronome ticking at 60bps (once per second). I unload, pre-soak and then, just before immersing the film in the developer, start the timer. I use the metronome to count seconds for agitation. The kitchen timer goes off 15 seconds before full developing time is up. I then gather the film, drain and move it to the stop after counting the 15 seconds with the metronome. Stop is easy: count with the metronome. Fix the same: I count two minutes with the metronome then turn on the lights. The rest of the fixing time I time with the clock on the wall.
For paper under safelight, any clock with a sweep second hand and easily visible will do just fine. My smart phone stays in a light-proof pocket on my apron in the darkroom and is just for incoming calls, which I can ignore if I'm "in the dark" at the time the phone rings.
Rather than a metronome, I've used a battery powered digital clock that ticks once a second, or count every fourth tick of an ancient wind-up clock. Kitchen timers are fine for tray developing film. Start the timer just before removing the film from the pre-wash, and remove from the developer when the timer signals. Once the film is in the fix, a dimly lit clock is O.k. for the rest of the processing.
I use this mechanical timer. Most of the clockwork in it is plastic, so it won't rust.
I think one of the best types of timer (particularly if students are using them) would be a sand clock. I know the time is fixed, but you have no mechanical parts and no electrics.