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  1. #1
    Xia_Ke's Avatar
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    Need help/advice on new darkroom

    First off, let me just say I have NEVER done ANY darkroom work. I've only ever been in a darkroom once and it was about 12 years ago. I have done my fair share of homework and reading but, could use the help of those with first hand experience.

    The Room - Below you will find a diagram of my bathroom. All dimensions are in inches. The tub is actually a clawfoot tub and a little more rounded with a halo above for the shower curtain. The door is on the left wall by the toilet and there is a window on the opposite wall beside the tub. This window is on the backside of the building so not much light. I plan on doing prints at night to help alleviate the possibility of light leaks. There is one GFI outlet on the top wall between the toilet and sink. Ventilation is no problem as there is a good exhaust fan already. Obviously the darkroom will need to be broken down after use and I have space to store everything. This also means I would really like to take a K.I.S.S. approach so it's reasonably quick and easy to set-up and take down.

    The Budget - I will have about $500 to spend, maybe a little more. This also includes chemicals and paper to get me started. This pretty much rules out purchasing new.

    The Plan - I will need the ability to print 35mm, 6x4.5 and 6x6 negatives. I plan on mostly doing 8x10 but would like the ability to 11x14. The door and window of the bathroom will be covered to take care of the tiny bit unwanted light. I have sat in the room with them covered for 15 minutes and there are no light leaks. After looking through some of the bathroom/temporary darkrooms here, I'm thinking my best bet will be to get a rolling cart to put my enlarger on and also to store stuff in when not in use. I want to make a large tray/table to fit over half the top of the tub for my trays to prevent spillage. The tub is pretty deep and I figure I can have the table/trays on one half of the tub and in the other end near the faucet have a print washer.

    My Concerns - This is an apartment and I rent so I'm worried about staining. Another big concern is I have 2 indoor cats so I have no idea what I'm going to do about drying. I can keep the door closed so they can't get in but, I want to glossy FB prints and with the long drying time, I'm worried about dust/hair. Would I be better off getting a heated print dryer?

    If you're still with me after all that, I'm sorry...LOL I'm just the type that measures 10 times to cut once. I know with my budget and space it won't be any high end darkroom, I just need the basics. I am open to any suggestions you may have on layout and also on equipment. With my budget I will be going with mostly used equipment. Anything I should keep an eye out for or be cautious of, particularly with an enlarger? I'll have my funds to start shopping in another 2 or 3 weeks and trying to work out the last kinks.

    Thanks in advance for any help,
    Aaron
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Bathroom Project.jpg  
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    "A good photograph is one that makes the viewer so aware of the subject that they are unaware of the print."- Kodak
    "...if you find afterwards that you made a mistake, the price of the film and chemicals was...tuition!" - greybeard
    "The hard part isnít the decisive moment or anything like that Ė itís getting the film on the reel!" - John Szarkowski

  2. #2
    cosmonaut's Avatar
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    At what point could you have lights on? Then you could move to a bigger room. Maybe the kitchen to wash and dry. What kind of enlarger are you looking for?

  3. #3
    Ole
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    I used to assemble and disassemble my Opemus 6 (35mm to 6x6) enlarger every time, since I used the kitchen as a darkroom where I lived before. It takes me about 5 minutes to get it into or out of its box.

    For drying (especially with cats around - I have three), put some strong clips on a wire coathanger, and suspend that from the shower curtain ring. Put two prints back-to-back on the clips and allow to hang until dry.
    -- Ole Tjugen, Luddite Elitist
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  4. #4
    Xia_Ke's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by cosmonaut View Post
    At what point could you have lights on? Then you could move to a bigger room. Maybe the kitchen to wash and dry. What kind of enlarger are you looking for?
    Well, I do have a double sided stainless steel sink just outside the bathroom door. Can I keep the prints in a holding tank til I've finished a small batch them move them to a washer in the other room? I'm thinking my drying will have to be done in the bathroom as it's the only place I can close the cats out of. That is unless I got a print drier which I could set-up in the kitchen. As for an enlarger, I have no idea which

    Quote Originally Posted by Ole View Post
    I used to assemble and disassemble my Opemus 6 (35mm to 6x6) enlarger every time, since I used the kitchen as a darkroom where I lived before. It takes me about 5 minutes to get it into or out of its box.

    For drying (especially with cats around - I have three), put some strong clips on a wire coathanger, and suspend that from the shower curtain ring. Put two prints back-to-back on the clips and allow to hang until dry.
    Thanks Ole I don't think I'll have to worry about full disassembly. I should hopefully just be able to roll the whole cart, with enlarger intact, into the storage closet. Hanging over the tub was one of my thoughts for drying. This is how I dry my negatives right now. Seems a lot of people use screens and that was another thought but, then dust/cat hair would be an issue with the emulsion facing up.


    Anyone have any recommendations on enlargers I should keep an eye out for in the secondary market?
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    "A good photograph is one that makes the viewer so aware of the subject that they are unaware of the print."- Kodak
    "...if you find afterwards that you made a mistake, the price of the film and chemicals was...tuition!" - greybeard
    "The hard part isnít the decisive moment or anything like that Ė itís getting the film on the reel!" - John Szarkowski

  5. #5
    cosmonaut's Avatar
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    Maybe a holding tank for the cats, just while developing is in progress......

  6. #6

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    I used to do all my printing in half of what you have - a half bath with only a sink counter and toilet. I put a fold down card table over the toilet for the trays, put a board over the sink and the enlarger on that. It was really tight but worked fine. All this with an old 5 x 7 Bessler enlarger. I had to set everything up and tear it down every time I did any printing and it always seemed like I spent more time on that than I did on printing. I was barely able to get the enlarger through the bathroom door (turned sideways). I didn't use the sink during the printing process. This was really a one person darkroom - I could reach everything from where I sat on my stool. Good thing because there wasn't any more room to do anything anyway.

    When the prints were done and ready to be washed, I just put them in a bucket of water on the floor for later. After my printing was done, I took the print bucket to another bathroom for the washing (in the bathtub) and hung them up on a wire in the shower. I think your idea of a cart for the enlarger is the best way to go. I really struggled moving my enlarger back and forth from the garage to the bathroom. I also think that Ole's suggestion on the drying of the prints is also a good one.

    I'm sure your bathtub isn't flat on the top edges. It would be good if you could put a piece of plywood on top of part of it for a work space.

    Note that I had two indoor cats and they never gave a second look at what I was doing, so they weren't a problem.

    You might also see if Jim Fitsgerald sees this thread. He does a lot of "bathtub developing" and may have some more ideas for you.

  7. #7

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    My darkroom is a semi-converted bathroom, similar in size to yours. I do 35 up to 4x5 and I'm recently down to one enlarger, I print up to 11x14.
    For print drying, I bought a DIY window screen kit and made a screen that rests on the top of the bathtub enclosure You could possibly do something similar with your shower halo. During our heating season, even FB prints will dry rapidly.
    For film, I have a small towel rack that I mounted on the ceiling, and from it I hang film clips. Even 35mm rolls are high enough that the cat is no problem.
    For the enlarger, I'd buy or build a support that could go over the toilet, you could put wheels on it if it needs to be temporary. Something like a Durst, which can be broken down easily, would be a good choice for the enlarger too.
    I've not had problems with staining, even in the fiberglass tub, though most of the chemical draining happens at the sink. However, the drain on my sink is plastic with a "stainless" metal trim ring on it, and the metal is corroding. You may need to factor in replacing the drain at moving time. I'm not sure about the availability of heavy duty stainless drains that fit consumer bathroom sinks. I'm not renting, so I have no one but me and my wife to answer to, however.
    If the room doesn't need to stay functional as a bathroom, you have a little more flexibility. I built counters over the toilet and tub for the enlarger, and trays/slot processor. Although the counters don't involve permanent changes, everything is screwed in place, so neither fixture is usable for the intended purposes.
    If pictures would help, let me know.

  8. #8
    Xia_Ke's Avatar
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    Thanks for the replies guys

    Dan, you're correct. The top edges of the tub are not flat, they are rounded. I was thinking on the table for the top of the tub I could put some L-brackets to hang over the edge between the tub and the wall. This would prevent slipping. I'll do some searching for Jim's posts, see if I can dig up some info on his set-up.

    bdial, unfortunately this is a 1 bathroom apartment, so it would need to be broken down after use. Thanks for the suggestion on a table to go over the toilet. That would save a lot of space. To avoid corroding sink drains, would draining through a funnel work? I'd really like to avoid as much damage as possible. Taking a look at my walls, it might be possible to put in a small shelf or 2 but, I'd think I'd rather just get a couple rubbermaid storage tubs for storing everything when not in use.

    Correct me if I'm wrong but, I'm going to need both a 50mm and a 75/80mm lenses to do 35mm and MF? Thanks again for the help
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    "A good photograph is one that makes the viewer so aware of the subject that they are unaware of the print."- Kodak
    "...if you find afterwards that you made a mistake, the price of the film and chemicals was...tuition!" - greybeard
    "The hard part isnít the decisive moment or anything like that Ė itís getting the film on the reel!" - John Szarkowski

  9. #9
    pesphoto's Avatar
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    keep an eye on craigslist. There are some amazing deals for enlargers and darkroom stuff out there.
    For example, $200 will get you this.
    http://providence.craigslist.org/pho/525020814.html

  10. #10

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    Re: the lenses, yes, most likely you'll need both. A 50 might have enough coverage for 6x6, making small prints from 6x6 would be a problem though. Lenses are probably the least of your worries, however.

    Draining through a funnel would work. If your plumbing is the old-fashioned chrome plated brass it may not be a problem, mine is the new-fangled cheap stuff.

    Rounded tub edges or not, some plywood would work over the tub as a work surface. You can add some wooden cleats under the plywood, spaced at the tub's inner dimension to keep it from sliding around. If the tub is long enough you could leave the plywood short of the drain area and place a holding tray or washer in the tub.
    Such a setup for me, would be far too low, though. In this case, I'd place the enlarger, and it's support (if needed) at just over seat height over the toilet seat, then use everything from a sitting position using a rolling mechanic's stool, or a small office task chair.
    If you don't want to add shelves, packing the stuff into some storage tubs would be fine, it would just mean a little more set up time, maybe.

    1/2 inch ply on the tub would be stiff enough to support 3 or 4 trays (barely perhaps) but would be light enough to move easily. If you aren't dealing with legs to make it standing height then it would store easily too. Another consideration for a light but stiff work surface would be a hollow core door, they are quite cheap, and weigh perhaps a pound or two, especially the Luan faced ones. You are kind of stuck with the length and width though, as radical resizing is difficult, though not impossible.

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