Versalab Print Washer.. how good?
I currently have an 11x14 print washer that Steve Summitek used to make. It's a great cascade style print washer. I love it. I want to move up to 16x20 and now a way of washing is the only thing holding me back. I could use a tray and try siphon but that is only a temporary solution. I'd like an archival washer. Just curious as to others experiences with the Versalab print washers. They come up for sale quite frequently and rather inexpensive. New a 16x20 washer is only $300. That's not bad at all. Thoughts?
I have not done any residual fixer tests of the Versalab vs any other brand, but I love my 16x20 Versalab. It does the job nicely. I can't think of any cons of it except for something that is easily solvable, but it doesn't have a lid to hold floating prints down (eg cotton art papers) like my 8x10 Darkroom Aides/Arkay washer does. So I have a few plastic cross-rods that I lay on the top when washing 'floaters'. Honestly, not a deal breaker or anything.
It is large as you can imagine and amazingly heavy when full, I would estimate 150+ lbs, so consideration shd be made for its mass when full. I would never put it in my plywood DR sink for fear of cave in...
I have a Versalab 11x14 washer.
It works well. It's really durable. I keep mine in my garage and on a furniture dolly so I can roll it around. One time, with it full of water, it fell off the dolly and crashed onto a concrete floor corner first. It dented the corner a little but the material is so thick, basically no damage. It was only from 5 inches high but still....
An only negative I experience with mine is water overflow. The outlet side of the rig is just an open end hose with two tiny holes. Often, water fails to flow into the tube. What happens then is that it escapes from a hole made on the lip of the outer casing. If the flow is too fast, then it will overflow from the edge entirely.
So.... long story short, if your setup is such that if water overflows, it'd flood your darkroom, you may want to be careful. If it's going to sit in a sink, then it's fine.
Develop, stop, fix.... wait.... where's my film?
It's a very good washer. I bought one when I started making 16x20 prints. I still have it under my darkroom sink. I found a good used Zone VI that overcomes my main complaint about he Versalab: you cannot see thorough it. With smaller prints, I sometimes lost them in there and found them after they fell apart. Still would recommend it.
buy an ecowash from freestyle or B+H and never look back...I have nothing good to say about the Versalab. Have owned a Zone VI for 20 plus years but the ecowash uses very little water...
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I use a SaltHill cross current washer for my 11x14 prints, and narrowly missed out on getting a 16x20 model. It's hands down the best washer I've ever used, and is extraordinarily well made.
If you can track down a SaltHill, leap on it. Versa washers are pretty good, but as others have sad, are opaque which can be a pain.
I own and have used a Versalab 16x20 for many years. Here's a few observations:
On the Good Side,
* Effective. Does the job well.
* Inexpensive, relatively speaking.
* Virtually indestructable.
* Easy to clean.
* Can be used with very low flow rates. (1)
* The 16x20 has a dedicated insert available to wash 20x24 paper.
* Easily DIY-convertable to also wash negatives up to 16x20 in stainless hangers. (2)
* Comes with three heavy plastic paper hold-down bars.
* Empties from the bottom through a clamped hose fitting. (3)
* Still in production, so support is available.
* The folks at Versalab are incredibly helpful, pleasant and easy to work with.
On the Bad Side,
* A full Versalab of any size is HEAVY. Plan accordingly. (4)
* Print slots are not isolated. Must wash in batches.
* Even moderate water pressure can cause overflow. (5)
* Print racks must be assembled by user after delivery.
* It's not easily portable. Big with lots of hoses. (6)
* Made using opaque plastic, if that matters. It doesn't to me.
(1) Mine is hooked up to a Hass Intellifaucet K250 that can run at flow rates as low as 0.25 GPM, which matches Versalab's rating for these washers. I also have an inline flowmeter plumbed, so I know the claimed flow rate works correctly.
(2) I purchased two lengths of brass rod and bent them to suspend underwater and across the unit from side-to-side. I threaded eleven white nylon spacers onto each rod before bending them. This provides automatic spacing between up to ten hangers, which can then be suspended fully-submerged. I currently wash 4x5, 5x7 and 8x10 negatives in my 16x20 unit. Total DIY cost was under $10.00. Total DIY time was under 30 minutes.
(3) I replaced my hose and pinch clamp with a small valve, but it wasn't absolutely necessary. The original equipment hose and clamp worked just fine.
(4) I seem to remember one of the Versalab folks telling me that the 16x20 weighed in the neighborhood of 220 pounds fully loaded. Mine is therefore supported by a custom-built stand made using 2x4 and 4x4 lumber.
(5) There was originally a single overflow hole and drain hose in one corner of the unit. I chose to drill and equip three more in each of the other corners. This also added three more hoses, but absolutely prevents overtopping even at my maximum water flow rate.
(6) My intention was always to make my unit a pemanent installation. To that end I constructed a purpose-built, epoxy-coated wooden overflow sink for my unit. Dimensions were slightly wider than any potential overflowing and falling water. This allowed the washer to live outside of my limited six-foot long sink, and still be drained in-place. It also guaranteed a last line of defense against flooding so I could allow overnight print washing/soaking with full peace of mind.
Hope this helps.
"When making a portrait, my approach is quite the same as when I am portraying a rock. I do not wish to impose my personality upon the sitter, but, keeping myself open to receive reactions from his own special ego, record this with nothing added: except of course when I am working professionally, when money enters in,—then for a price, I become a liar..."
— Edward Weston, Daybooks, Vol. II, February 2, 1932
nother thumbs up for the ecowash!
Been using a Versalab 11x14 for two years and have zero complaints. Does the job well.
Update re its weight, I just weighed it dry: tub, hoses, print rack system (26 lbs) and measured the inside (12 inches wide, 23 L, 18 h), which yields 4968 cubic inches. I believe that yields 179 lbs water, so full wd be abt 205 lbs (26 dry + 179 water weight)....
Last edited by zsas; 05-30-2012 at 11:46 AM. Click to view previous post history.