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  1. #1

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    First darkroom setup:

    I've been processing my own B&W film at home for a couple of years now but only used a film scanner to then scan them in. I've never made a single *real* darkroom print with an enlarger. I kept putting off purchasing an enlarger because I was intimidated by the entire process but finally decided to give it a shot and bought a Beseler 23C II with the dual dichro head today.

    It's the enlarger and all its bits, a timer, a couple trays, tongs and measuring cups. Besides the obvious things I'll now need like paper, a paper safe and paper developer, what else would you recommend I stock up on right away in order to just get started? I already have everything I need on the film end so that's no worry.

    Also out of curiosity, can anyone recommend any particular papers or paper developers that'd give me a good starting point? I know that's a loaded question and I apologize for that.

  2. #2
    eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Natron
    Also out of curiosity, can anyone recommend any particular papers or paper developers that'd give me a good starting point? I know that's a loaded question and I apologize for that.
    Start simple. Make mistakes. Get 100 sheet box of ANY brand multigrade RC paper. Get a filter set. Get a few 1 Gallon powedered Dektol. Use H20 for stop. Get no-stink fixer. Practice, practice, practice. Don't was't your money on expensive paper for now.

  3. #3

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    Actually, it's a fairly easy question IMO. Buy some RC paper, a developer, odourless stop bath and fixer (if the fixer you've been using for film isn't suitable for paper, but it might be). I really don't think it matters what brand you buy, you can get picky and opinionated later

  4. #4
    Kevin Caulfield's Avatar
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    Developer, stop, fixer and paper are really the only consumables. 100 sheets of paper will probably last quite a few sessions. And yes, brand doesn't matter too much.
    Do you have an easel?

  5. #5
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    Congratulations! Sounds like you took advantage of someone who is going digital

    I assume that you are talking about Black & White. To get started, I'd recommend getting a variable contrast, resin coated paper. It processes, washes and dries quickly which allows you to become acquainted with printing without the long "finishing up" time. Eventally you will try fiber base paper and decide whether you want to take that step.

    Ilford and Kodak and many others make fine VC (or MG [multi grade]) RC papers. Your Dichro head will let you adjust contrast without buying additional filters. For getting started there are also plenty of developers. I use Kodak Dektol which is economical and gives good results. If you have a local camera store that still sells basic darkroom supplies, you should be all set. If not, the internet can supply you with anything you need.

    You've already found a good source of help and information in APUG so I'd recommend that you get a good music setup for those long enjoyable evenings in the darkroom.
    That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
    =Neal W.=

  6. #6

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    Hey Natron,

    Where are you in Wisconsin? I'm in Fond du Lac.

    If you live near Kaukauna, go to Badger Graphic Sales and get some Mitsubishi semi-matte rc paper. Glossy RC paper is a little too glossy for me. Another option is Ilford pearl surface. Kodak has a similar paper, but I can never remember which it is. (The 'n' surface?)

    Peter
    www.desmidt.net

  7. #7

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    I like Agfa's Neutol Plus as a developer--there's no hydroquinone in it, so it doesn't smell like crazy as the developer gets exhausted. I tried Dektol for a while, and it's good stuff, but mixing it was always kind of irritating, and it was hard to deal with in my mini-darkroom. It'll work with most everything.

    As for fun darkroom toys, a good easel is surprisingly important. I have an RH Designs meter which is very useful, but there's nothing wrong with the old test strip standby. I do suggest you look at stuff for f-stop printing; it's a nice way to deal with test strips, dodges and burns, I find.

    For paper, I mostly use Ilford's Multigrade IV RC. Your store might have a little sample book; that's very useful for figuring out which sort of surface you like. I personally am partial to Ilford's pearl, although I use a lot of glossy and am developing an affinity for their satin surface (which is almost a matte paper). Agfa's Multicontrast Premium is also good. I find the Forte Polywarmtone I have very strange--it seems to emphasize highlight and shadow separation at the expense of midtone gradation, which is bizarre and makes me suspect I'm doing something wrong. Kodak's Polycontrast IV is probably just fine, although I don't use it myself. Pick one of those, use it a lot. RC is good to start with IMHO because it's much easier to process; I still don't have the ability to wash fiber paper well.

    For drying, I made do with a shower rod across my bathtub and clothes hangers to hang prints on at first. Nowadays I have a Paterson Drying Rack, which is actually kinda neat even if it is overpriced, but still do the shower rod thing for when I'm making contact sheets and I start knocking those out well in excess of my ability to dry them.

    Dante Stella's Guerilla Darkroom and Part 2 are pretty good.

  8. #8
    Bob F.'s Avatar
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    Paper safes are an optional extra. I don't use one: they make me nervous...

    Do you have a spare thermometer (use one to "calibrate" the other) - ditto spare enlarger bulb - really annoying breaking either on a Saturday evening with no spares in the drawer...

    Agree with what everyone else says about using any decent quality VC RC paper. I use Ilford, but it's not the cheapest. I would suggest glossy surface as this gives the greatest sharpness & contrast to the image, though in RC it is a bit "plastic" which some do not like. I would suggest 8x10 as a starter size as I find smaller is difficult to dodge & burn. I'd also recommend low odour stop and fixer as others have - makes a considerable difference. For developer, Neutol @ 1+4 lasts for a few days and has little odour. I decant it into a bottle between sessions.

    Once you get the hang of things you can start experimenting with paper types, toners and different developers etc - half the fun....

    Cheers, Bob.

  9. #9
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    Hey Natron!
    I sent you a PM, so if you live close by, let me know!

    I agree with the others that RC paper is your best first shot. You also said a "couple of trays"...I am hoping that, in this case, 3 is a 'couple'! You should have one for developer, one for stop bath & one for fixer. You can do with a bucket or other makeshift tray for your rinse.
    Where is your darkroom? Have you got that part down? There's a great thread here that shows people's darkroom setups, including many limited space ones!

    Well, congrats on the Beseler! I have one with a condenser head and I LOVE it!
    Jeanette
    .................................................. ................
    Isaiah 25:1

  10. #10

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    Wow! I'm shocked at how much information I received. Thanks everyone! (I'm in Marshfield in the center of the state)

    One additional question I had was which safelights are safe to use for this type of work. I see red, yellow, amber and brown safelights and am assuming each one has its own application. I don't want to pick up a red safelight and a pack of VC RC paper only to find out they aren't compatible and I just ruined my fresh pack of paper instantly. hah!

    I'm a bit worried hearing of everyone's sink setup as well since I won't have the possibility of setting up any kind of sink in the rooms I have available. I have no easel at this point but am considering ordering one when I order the rest of my equipment and chemicals from B&H.

    I do suggest you look at stuff for f-stop printing; it's a nice way to deal with test strips, dodges and burns, I find.
    Being an ignorant newcomer, I'm not quite sure what you mean by this.. mainly the 'stuff' portion of it since I'm not familiar with this type of equipment. Just looking for as much info as possible!

    I've heard of people getting away with temporarily using their 50mm enlarger lens for making prints from 6x6 negatives. What are the limitations if I decide to give this a try (just a bit anxious to finally put the old Rolleiflex to good use)?

    So, some Dektol or Neutol, pack of paper, 3-4 trays minimum, stop bath, fixer, extra thermometer or two, extra bulb, tongs for each tray, possibly an easel and... anything else small I may be missing here? Thanks again, everyone! I really appreciate the info and help.

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