An inexpensive, effective enlarger alignment tool
I have been less than successful in completing a satisfactory alignment on my enlargers so I decided to improve on the mirror concept. I made some changes to the basic instructions I found on the web and now have a very accurate and simple (inexpensive) alignment tool that is quite sensitive. I can detect a few thousandths of movement quite easily. I was unable to achieve a good alignment using the tiny donut hole.
I bought a 12"x12" mirror at the craft store and split it into 3-4" widths by 12" long. I scraped out a hole about 3/16" for viewing and added four Avery labels (3/4"x1-1/2") and assembled them into box shape about 1-1/2" square (id).
This 4x12" mirror is placed mirror down inserted into the negative stage. Another 4x12" mirror is rotated 90 degrees and placed mirror side up on the baseboard. The enlarger was raised to the height to make an 8x10.
View down through the 3/16" hole and you will see the succession of boxes disappearing into the center (when properly aligned). Also, if you leave a slight gap between the corners of the Avery labels (I didn't leave much and am going to modify mine in the future), you will see a darkish 'X' disappearing into the center. Adjust enlarger for concentric boxes and the 'X' sinking into the center. You can see the center of the X shift with the slightest movement of the negative stage adjustments.
I could never get a proper presentation with the donut hole arrangement and this presentation is extremely sensitive and it is very easy to do a check before a printing session....and it doesn't cost hundreds of $$$.
Checking the lens stage isn't quite as simple as I have to hold the mirror up against the rim of the enlarging lens with the presumption that the rim is square with the optical axis. Also, there is the probability that upward pressure on the lens rim will change the position of the head and bias the alignment. I am going to work on find a way to attach the top mirror to the lens without me holding it in place. I am going to experiment with large rubber bands around the mirror and negative stage snugging it up against the rim. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
Bottom line: I have an enlarger that doesn't have lens stage adjustments but is parallel with the negative stage. When I finished, I checked grain with a Peak 2020 and have the best alignment corner to corner I have had in some time.
Please excuse the fingerprints on the mirror in the photo.
I simply use an angle finder. Sold in any hardware store. I got mine at Ace hardware. Probably for under 10 bucks. I also use it to align my 4x5 and 8x10 camera standards in the field.
I have tried to do the same thing, but it took me a while to realize that the hole I looked through had to be outside of the enlarger's optical path. I was trying to do something with the light source inside the enlarger, etc.
I think you mean "180 degrees" (mirrors facing each other) and not 90 degs.
Lens stage: if your lens has a fillet, you could use a screw-in ring glued to the mirror. To check alignment, you just screw the mirror onto the lens.
Using film since before it was hip.
"One of the most singular characters of the hyposulphites, is the property their solutions possess of dissolving muriate of silver and retaining it in considerable quantity in permanent solution" — Sir John Frederick William Herschel, "On the Hyposulphurous Acid and its Compounds." The Edinburgh Philosophical Journal
, Vol. 1 (8 Jan. 1819): 8-29. p. 11
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I've just done my best to level everything with a bubble level. Never seen any hint of unsharpness due to misalignment even in 16x20 prints.
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The mirrors face each other (180 deg.) but the long axes of the mirrors are 90 from each other. I almost knocked the baseboard mirror to the floor; I felt it was appropriate to rotate it 90 from the top mirror to prevent an accident.
What kind of bubble are you talking about? I have tried to buy a good circular bubble but haven't found one. I bought one from Lowe's but it wasn't even close to level compared to my long level.
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Fred, out of curiosity, have you checked your long level, swapping end for end? you may find quite a bit of discrepency. I have yet to buy a 4' level under $100 that agreed when flipped, even the good ones will need tweaking after bouncing around for a year or two.
Especially when guys like my dad use them to pack the dirt around post holes. He's been doing it that way for at least 30years! I couldn't ever convince him it was a bad idea.
Originally Posted by epatsellis
I have previously used a spirit-level with a magnifier in it, from some old lab equipment, and I have the idea that it may not be accurate anymore, but it is still consistent. An assumption is that the column is straight, but given the size of the thing I couldn't change it even if it wasn't . . . I will have a go at the double mirror idea, with the hole to look through etc. and see how that works out.
I have used a filter of the appropriate size screwed into my enlarger lens with my Versalab; one could cement a mirror to the filter quite easily I think. The alignment of the enlarging lens with the front of the barrel has been discussed as I remember by Ctein in his book - there is possibly a discrepancy between the face of the barrel and the barrel itself, but how picky are you going to be? I did find that a cheap filter gave me different results than a B&W. The fit of the filter glass in the ring seems variable. How many of those angels are dancing on that pin?
I have two good levels, one 4' and one 2', both are identical and read the same when swapped end for end. I have a couple of torpedo levels that aren't in that league.
In light of the fact that most enlarging lenses are not perfectly centered, I am using the exposed/developed leader that had been abraded with 100 grit sandpaper as a test neg and that gives me very fine lines to check overall focus. Then, on the enlargers that have negative stage pitch and yaw, I simply adjust for best presentation. Of course, the enlarging lenses at 2.8 are a tad softer at the edges but are great down about 1-1/2 to 2 stops for final check.
I am contemplating renting a 6-8 inch machinists level to see if that is an accurate way to go. Still, the mirror setup is so quick when beginning a session and it gives me the confidence that I am starting on solid ground.
My worst enlarger, a salvaged 23CII that was stored in a shed for several years and severely banged around (a lot of sheet metal was out of square), has come right into alignment with little tweaking.
I am pretty happy with the setup but I don't know that spirit levels are any quicker/better but I want to do some experimentation with how far out can an enlarger before it is visible in a print. Ballpark guess: I would guess a lot of enlargers are out a bit but are still producing reasonbly sharp prints, especially at the 8x10 size. A 16x20 would scream at you if the enlarger was much out of alignment.
It could be that a bubble alignment/check is just as good when it comes to viewing the final print. My mirror setup is very sensitive and what little drift I see from session to session may be inconsequential.