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  1. #1

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    The optimal height for work surfaces

    Hi everyone,

    I have searched the forum for this topic but am not finding information specific to this.

    I will have a workbench for my darkroom built and would like to find out from all of you what you think the optimal height for work surfaces should be. In my last apartment I was forced to use a lower surface, which after a day's printing resulted in back-ache. I am reasonably tall (6"2 or 188cm). I have a Durst Laborator 1200 and the ceiling in the darkroom is high enough to accommodate a higher surface. I tend to do a lot of dodging/burning so spend longer times standing in front of the enlarger.

    Any feedback on what you guys think is a comfortable and ergonomic height for work surfaces would be appreciated.

    Many thanks.

  2. #2
    David Brown's Avatar
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    It has to be what is comfortable for you. I am average height (5'10") and so normal counter height in the USA - 36" - is fine for me. You may want them a bit higher.

    One thing I will mention. A common mistake in building darkrooms is the height of the sink. If your printing trays sit inside a sink, then the bottom of the sink needs to be at "counter" height. Most are too low and one has to bend over to develop prints.

  3. #3
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    I've used enlargers at several levels from the floor to chest high. The former was necessary with a 5x7 Elwood under a low ceiling, and uncomfortable. Chest high worked well with 35mm enlargers for fast high volume production of medium size prints. For large prints and large tall enlargers, a lower mount may be better. Where much dodging and burning is required, sitting at an enlarger mounted at desk or table height works well. I've also used wall mounted enlargers with the easel surface adjustable in height for large and small prints. Good darkroom workbenches are a big investment, and simulating darkroom work at improvised benches might help in determining one's optimum height. David is right about sinks.

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    Regardless of the working-surface height, I use a tall bar stool that I acquired from the estate of another photographer. From that sitting position I can access the enlarger easel and trays with ease. The surface height for the enlarger easel, which sets on a wheeled cart, is 31.5". The tray table is 30".
    5x4, 4x5, Half-Plate, 5x7, 8x10, 6x9cm, 6x7cm, 6x6cm, 6X4.5cm

  5. #5
    Bill Burk's Avatar
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    I built my sink at the "perfect" height... The edge of the shallow sink is just a little below the height where my forearms would be 90-degree angle to my body... So I have to drop my arms a little. Main advantage is that any splashes on my arms would run down into the sink instead of finding their way to my elbow.

  6. #6
    AgX
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    One also could consider to DIY adjustable feet for all elements. By this one not only could adjust the whole darkroom interior as such but also per element. If possible consider with ther effluent tubing of the sink, to give height for a telescopic or flexible connection.

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    What height are your kitchen work surfaces (if you have them)? Try putting a print on one of the kitchen surfaces and then bend over and look at it close up, as though using a grain magnifier at the enlarger. Is that comfortable? Would you be able to adjust the enlarger height in that position without painful contortions? What about doing the washing up - is your kitchen sink comfortable to use? You might be able to get a reasonable idea what height to make your darkroom surfaces by doing some simple comparisons such as these.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Edward_S View Post
    What height are your kitchen work surfaces (if you have them)? Try putting a print on one of the kitchen surfaces and then bend over and look at it close up, as though using a grain magnifier at the enlarger. Is that comfortable? Would you be able to adjust the enlarger height in that position without painful contortions? What about doing the washing up - is your kitchen sink comfortable to use? You might be able to get a reasonable idea what height to make your darkroom surfaces by doing some simple comparisons such as these.
    Thank you! Having spent the 90's in basement kitchens as a chef slaving over surfaces, stoves and sinks I don't know why I didn't think of that. Spock-Brain Failure.

  9. #9

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    Personally, I like to worksurfaces to be at ~36". Many bathroom counters are much lower, for reasons that I do not understand. For my sink, like to be able to rest my forearms on the lip of the sink and agitate the tray with my fingers which puts my sink a bit higher than standard. My last darkroom was in a basement, which did not have as much headroom as I would like, so the enlarger sat on a low bench with the baseboard of the enlarger at about 30" height. I made a box which was about 6" tall, and most of the time put my easel on the box, so it was at 36" height, and when I needed to print larger, I would take away the box and have an extra 6" of height to work with.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ghostman View Post
    Thank you! Having spent the 90's in basement kitchens as a chef slaving over surfaces, stoves and sinks I don't know why I didn't think of that. Spock-Brain Failure.
    That's why you didn't think of it... you now have a complete aversion to kitchens and work surfaces

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