Horizontal 8x10 Enlarger --- Search for a Commercial One or Build It??
First, please forgive the verbose post. I think I'm mostly just "thinking out loud".:)
For years I've collected LF equipment for my personal use and was planning to piece together a nice hybrid setup. However, my economic situation has changed... it's actually a bit desperate at the moment. So I'm auctioning some of the gear I collected to use. I might be able to realize my original plans within 8-12 months but my present situation restarted my thinking.
I had planned on a completely dry workflow using color negative film, having it commercially processed, and having drum scans made of the very few worthy of the cost and effort. I pieced together two camera kits: 1) a compact/lightweight 4x5 kit with smaller/lighter lenses dedicated solely to 120 roll film for 6x12cm, and 2) a larger 4x5 kit with lots of rear shift and larger/heavier lenses to stitch multiple sheets into 4x8, and 4x10. I've yet to invest in any of the digital bits for my planned workflow because scanners, printers, etc. quickly become outdated so I was saving those for last... it's a good thing I did.
I've worked as a photographer full-time for most of my career and it was always at least part of my job. Most of this work was junk with a creativity bone rarely thrown in now-and-then to make it somewhat tolerable. It's been over 35 years since I did any real photography for my own personal edification. At age 13 I fell in love with B&W photography and the tonal "control" possible with it. Back then, there wasn't much tonal control available for color photography. New films, chemistry, processing techniques and, of course, Photoshop have changed all that. BTW, I started with Photoshop 2.0. I have no pipe-dreams of acquiring any kind of recognition or making any profit. That opportunity is long gone. I was never a great photographer anyway... and I'm way too far out of practice with creative aspects of the medium.
My aforementioned re-thinking has me pondering the "me too" aspect of photography. So I'm thinking of foregoing the full-blown hybrid workflow and settling back to the old ways of my youth. This would be B&W sheet film souped by hand in open tanks with hangers and selenium-toned, fiber-based paper souped in trays and selenium-toned, long wash times, tedious flattening processes, mounting problems, and chemical disposal. I'll shoot 8x10" when I can carry it and 6x12cm when I can't. The only thing "digital" about my workflow will be enlarging masks created on a flatbed scanner and printed on a small but high-quality printer for easier, more precise, more consistent, dodging/burning.
I want to make prints as large as there is paper available... 16x20 would be considered small.
TO THE QUESTION: Should I search for a ready-made horizontal enlarger or build one?