The Dream (alternative) Darkroom - questions
My present darkroom is a small bedroom on the main floor http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v1.../Darkroom2.jpg It has served me well but I need the space so I am planning to move my darkroom to the basement within the next year so
The basement will provide ALOT more room and also accommodate a light-trap entrance so my assistant (a Bloodhound) can come and go without letting in the light. The easiest way to light-proof the basement is to do the entire space (1 door and 2 windows), so I'll have lots of room, about 18x35 feet, (shared with the furnace, water pump, laundry, etc.)
One end of the basement has a "cold room", about 6x10 feet with shelves on two walls where preserves were stored - that will become a storage room for chemicals and such.
I have space along one wall that is about 16 feet long and I was planning to use a 2x8' space for a dry side and the other 2x8 for wet side (one LONG sink with removable covers).
I also have a room about 10 by 14 feet (no door) next to the cold room that I am thinking of using for an "exposure room" so I can do exposures without having stray light in the darkroom.
I think I have all the bases covered as far as the conventional darkroom but since I have drifted into Tintypes and POP prints, I can foresee getting into more "alternative" photography and I am wondering what additional features I should plan into my darkroom design for the alternate processes. Since I am fairly new to the alternatives, I thought people here might have more ideas.
This will be my "dream darkroom", probably the last one I will have before "the old fart's home" so I want to do it right! What should be in an alternative darkroom that gets forgotten?
Having built numerous darkrooms and made numerous mistakes, let me offer you three thoughts.
(1) Before you get too far along, sit down there one evening after dark and check out the firelight from the furnace and hot water heater. Mine put out quite a lot, especially when running (not just the pilot).
(2) Pay attention to work-flow. Most people simply place electrical things near the outlet and sinks near the drain. This kind of thinking is how you wind up with with the print washer in the farthest corner from the door, through which you need to carry the wet prints to hang them to dry. Think of the "work triangle" design of modern kitchens. Same exact thing, except you will be cooking in the dark.
(3) Make the lab as large as possible. When the size shrinks even a little bit, the first casualty is the counter space. My last commercial lab was 11' by 22' and had 33 running feet (around a corner) of 3' deep counter. Plenty of room to spread out.
My "retirement" lab is exactly half the size, 11' by 11'. But even with a smaller sink, the counter space is only 4 running feet, 2 feet deep. I have no room to work with large boxes of print paper.
I did basically the same thing. The thing I wish my basement had was more height. At full rise even a small enlarger can need a fair bit of head room. Worse I like a higher counter height. I ended up building a low bench and using a chair. Not the best but it lets the enlarger head go all the way up. Too big can become an issue in the dark. With mine the water source is a fair distance away. I've forgotten things and had to go find them. Which is kind of fun since it usually happens when I'm printing colour and no safelight. Of course I've got paper out at the time to.
Yup the furnace can be like a night light. Mine is far enough away and points away from the spot the trays get setup so it's not an issue. But I try and keep my back to it when loading film.
The only suggestion I'll make is about the electrical outlets. Calculate *just* how many you will need and add 50%. Then double that number. That is what I did ... and I still DON'T have enough.
I would also spend the extra, and get GFI (Ground Fault ... I forgot what the "I" satnds for) outlets ... every one of them ... especially if your darkroom is below ground level. You WILL have "wet stuff" close to electrical outlets ... that is reason enough to treat the whole place as if it was a wet shower room, or bathroom complete with hair dryer and electric razors.
Ed Sukach, FFP.
My darkroom is 12X22 and was designed with that use in mind. I am pleased with it but wish I had done certain things differently.
I built my darkroom sink out of Plywood and fiberglass. It is 8' long and 30" wide. With a deep well (for clean up) and a drawer on one end, I ended up with only 66" of working space. I can work comfortably with 3 16X20 trays but have to set up and tear down my print viewing board with each print. I am designing a new sink that will be 12' long, no deep well and will include a print viewing area.
Consider running your plumbing high and have hoses dangling down to the sink. This will allow shelves on the back wall without interfering with plumbing runs. The hoses clip into broom handle clips on the front edge of the shelves to get them out of the way.
Sink drainage slope is another mistake I made. I allowed too much (1/2" per foot) and end up having to prop up trays to level them in certain applications. In my new sink, I will have only 1/8" per foot of runnoff. This will allow me to use a water dam (a 1/2" X 1/2" x 30" rubber bar) that fits across the sink and slows the water flow - causing it to form a small tempered pool. This will take the place of using a large tray as a water jacket.
Ground Fault Interrupters are absolutely essential.
I use a 236 CFM Dayton Squirrel cage blower (Also known as a shaded pole blower) to provide positive pressure ventilation. It is perfect and keeps the fumes under control nicely. I picked mine up on ebay for around $40. New, they are around $90.
One other consideration - My darkroom has a 7 foot ceiling. With my Saunders LPL, I have to work sitting down at the enlarger. Had I planned better, I would have created a well in the overhead joist area and run it up into that. As it is, I am directly below a heat vent on one side and a cold air return on the other. Like Manitoba, in Minnesota you don't want to sacrifice heating for photography.
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I agree with Ed's recommendations on Ground Fault Interrupter outlets.
Originally Posted by Ed Sukach
My space is closer in size to your planned storage room, but here are some odd thoughts:
Check with your local electrician about Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (Residual Current Detectors). My understanding is that you need one on the first outlet in a run.
Separate the power to the enlarger(s) from heavy drain items like refrigerators, air conditioners, etc. With the space you have I think you would benefit from separate supplies to the three areas (yes, put power in the storage room - you never know!). Waist-high outlets on walls save bending down, and keep cords away from your feet. Power cords and feet have a remarkable affinity in my experience.
If you are planning on using UV sources there may be power issues there.
Have some emergency lighting, a phone (preferably not cordless / powered unless you get a small uninterruptible power supply) even if you keep the ringer off, and if you use a computer for record keeping think about running a network cable or wireless signal. Easier to arrange during the construction phase.
I don't know what the floor is like, but self-levelling compound could help. Sloping or uneven floors are tiring. Non-slip surface.
Think about the ventilation and extraction of air with multiple rooms. You really want air extracted from one room only since you are thinking of a labyrinth design - otherwise the fans will fight. Perhaps positive filtered feed to the darkroom and workroom, with the extraction close to the dark area entrance so that fumes are not spread through the facility. Of course you may be producing fumes in the workroom, and some of those may be inimical to silver-based materials.
Alternate exit? If you are on your own a lot, you might find a baby monitor useful to listen for visitors / couriers / four-footed mischief 8-)
Put spill trays in chemical storage areas in case of leaks, and have separate areas for different chemical groups.
I feel, therefore I photograph.
Get rid of the dog!! Why bring more hair, dead skinparticles, dust, fleas, and who knows what else into your darkroom?
"Get rid of the dog!!" - YOU MUST BE JOKING??!! She's my four-footed fury daughter, my faithful companion and best friend! Surely this was not spoken by a dog owner.....
I plan to use GFI breakers on the low outlets for equipment that may be used around water. For higher outlets, they will be on normal breakers. The basement is totally unfinished and I am handy at running wire - I even have a box full of breakers - so I plan 6 double boxes (4 outlets each) along the "process bench" and a seperate feed for the "exposure room".
The floor is VERY wet with the spring thaw every year so I am going to put a small sub-floor along the bench (which also protects from electrical hazards).
I have a telephone line in my present darkroom that will be relocated to the new darkroom. I have a doorbell button on the gatepost in the yard and a chime in the livingroom - adding a chime in the new darkroom makes a lot of sense!
My heat and hot water is electric, so there are no flames to contaminate the darkness.
Because there are no doors between the basement and the rest of the house, I planned to do air extraction over the wet side. Since it's just me and the dog, a few fumes seeping into the house isn't a big deal.
Thanks for the tip about slope on the wet side! I was planning a 2" drop over 8 feet so that should be ok. I LIKE your idea of a water dam!
My ceiling isn't very high so I had planned for the table under the enlarger to be removeable when I need more height.
I checked the basement on a bight sunny day and it is as dark as Toby's . . . well, you know! A half an hour sitting in the basement and it was painful to come out into the light.
They layout isn't ideal but I have to work around the furnace, laundry, duct work, teleposts, etc., so that leaves me with one long bench (16 feet), with adjoining smaller rooms - the small one for storage and the larger for an exposure room.
I know it means more walking but every darkroom I have had has been small and I am tired of being cramped and not having room for all the equipment. I look forward to having a generous space, even if it mean more movement.
I would newer allow a dog to enter in my darkroom not even my lovely cat get in. I think you are a selfmadewoman or at least a woodworker after the look into your lab picture.
Make it as large as possible, in some years it will be to small anyway. And for many alternative processes you need a UV bulb somewhere above a table and you need a contactprintingframe. And pud the wet part on one side and the dry part on the other side. And make sure that you are finished till I came next time to USA so I can get my film developed in your new darkroom. ;-)))