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  1. #1
    aaronmichael's Avatar
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    Temporary Home Darkroom

    The school semester is coming to an end and the last day to work in the lab on my campus is this Sunday. I think I'm going to feel very empty during the summer not being able to have fun in the darkroom. Therefore I was thinking about setting up my own at home just for the summer. I think I'd just use this for processing paper negatives from pinhole cameras and am thinking of either using my garage, the bathroom, or my bedroom. So what would I need to set this up?

    1. 4 Trays
    2. Chemicals
    3. Safelight
    4. Tongs


    I might be leaving something out though. Any suggestions as to what chemicals would be best for a home "darkroom" (powder vs. liquid developer, brand of fix, stop,...etc.)? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Luseboy's Avatar
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    Hello,
    I never knew the feeling of losing the school darkroom to the summer because i set up a darkroom in my basement during my first semester of photo class. If your going to do this, i would say use the bathroom, it is very nice to have running water in the darkroom. I'm afraid that if you don't have running water you will get frustrated. As for choice in chemicals, I'd say go liquid, and get a graduated cylinder as well. That way you just mix what you need each time, and then if you don't use up the whole thing before the end of summer, it won't go bad as quickly. I would go for adorama brand chemicals. They are pretty inexpensive, and work fine. I have been using the same bottle of adorama indicator stop concentrate for over a year now, with no problems. The working solution lasts a fairly long time as well, up to probably 3 months, depending on how often i print. Also, i would recommend buying the plastic tongs. Just get two sets of two, that way you have 4 tongs, leaving you an extra for the wash. The bamboo tongs tend to break, mold, and fall apart. And with trays, I would get something like the patterson's with a ribbed bottom, so you can more easily pick up the paper. AND, with safelight, get one of the 5x7 premier ones, they are very nice, and not super expensive. I have 4 of them in my darkroom.
    Hope this helps,
    Austin

  3. #3
    aaronmichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Luseboy View Post
    Hello,
    I never knew the feeling of losing the school darkroom to the summer because i set up a darkroom in my basement during my first semester of photo class. If your going to do this, i would say use the bathroom, it is very nice to have running water in the darkroom. I'm afraid that if you don't have running water you will get frustrated. As for choice in chemicals, I'd say go liquid, and get a graduated cylinder as well. That way you just mix what you need each time, and then if you don't use up the whole thing before the end of summer, it won't go bad as quickly. I would go for adorama brand chemicals. They are pretty inexpensive, and work fine. I have been using the same bottle of adorama indicator stop concentrate for over a year now, with no problems. The working solution lasts a fairly long time as well, up to probably 3 months, depending on how often i print. Also, i would recommend buying the plastic tongs. Just get two sets of two, that way you have 4 tongs, leaving you an extra for the wash. The bamboo tongs tend to break, mold, and fall apart. And with trays, I would get something like the patterson's with a ribbed bottom, so you can more easily pick up the paper. AND, with safelight, get one of the 5x7 premier ones, they are very nice, and not super expensive. I have 4 of them in my darkroom.
    Hope this helps,
    Austin
    Thanks for the advice. Totally forget about getting some graduated cylinders, I'll be sure to add that to my list.

  4. #4
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Take a trip to FreeStyle in Hollywood. They will help you get the things you need and you can get a student discount. FreeStyle is an APUG sponsor.

    Steve
    Warning!! Handling a Hasselblad can be harmful to your financial well being!

    Nothing beats a great piece of glass!

    I leave the digital work for the urologists and proctologists.

  5. #5
    aaronmichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sirius Glass View Post
    Take a trip to FreeStyle in Hollywood. They will help you get the things you need and you can get a student discount. FreeStyle is an APUG sponsor.

    Steve
    Yeah, I'll probably end up getting all my stuff from there once I decide to get things going. The one in Santa Fe Springs is actually closer to my place so I'll hit them up.

  6. #6
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Two tongs suffice; one for the developer and one switched between stop and fix. There are many substitutes for photo trays, such as the trays prepared food comes in or drawer dividers. Mark them for Dev., Stop, Fix, and Wash to prevent contamination. Also mark the tongs. I don't use tongs, but have to be careful not to get fix on the paper or into the developer. If desperate, one can line cardboard boxes with kitchen plastic wrap for one-time use as trays.

    5x7 Premier safelights are nice. I gave my last one to someone setting up a darkroom, and get by with alternate safelights. Red LED bulbs are becoming inexpensive. Some red Christmas lights also work. A clock that indicates seconds is almost a necessity. Some of the old electric alarm clocks had neon bulb illumination which is fairly safe for paper. A kitchen timer is handy. Milk jugs can store wash water at room temprature. There are countless shortcuts for temporary darkrooms. Rather than rely only on advice like mine, analyze each need and consider all the possible ways of satisfying it. Always think. Humans may do it slower than computers, but civilization's great ideas came from someone's mind, not from electronic gadgets.

  7. #7
    aaronmichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Jones View Post
    Two tongs suffice; one for the developer and one switched between stop and fix. There are many substitutes for photo trays, such as the trays prepared food comes in or drawer dividers. Mark them for Dev., Stop, Fix, and Wash to prevent contamination. Also mark the tongs. I don't use tongs, but have to be careful not to get fix on the paper or into the developer. If desperate, one can line cardboard boxes with kitchen plastic wrap for one-time use as trays.

    5x7 Premier safelights are nice. I gave my last one to someone setting up a darkroom, and get by with alternate safelights. Red LED bulbs are becoming inexpensive. Some red Christmas lights also work. A clock that indicates seconds is almost a necessity. Some of the old electric alarm clocks had neon bulb illumination which is fairly safe for paper. A kitchen timer is handy. Milk jugs can store wash water at room temprature. There are countless shortcuts for temporary darkrooms. Rather than rely only on advice like mine, analyze each need and consider all the possible ways of satisfying it. Always think. Humans may do it slower than computers, but civilization's great ideas came from someone's mind, not from electronic gadgets.
    Thank you for the great advice. My eyes are only 20 years old so I think even a cheap dim safelight from Freestyle would suffice. At the darkroom at school I usually just wear a stopwatch to keep time. Thanks for the tip about the milk jugs, that's a great idea. I know that there are testers to see when a fixer is exhausted but how would i be able to tell when the developer is done?

  8. #8
    Luseboy's Avatar
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    To save cost, you can get graduated cylinders from a kitchen shop, just cheap plastic ones will be fine with most chemicals. As for telling when a chem is shot; for fixer, i just change it when my stop bath turns purple (the indication that it is exhausted) there is a hypo checker thing, but I don't use it, I just go by the stop bath. For developer, I use it until it takes too long to get a good black. I usually test this by flashing a small piece of paper and developing it for 2 minutes. I have run developers for so long that they will no longer show an image, but this was only in a pinch with zonal pro, which is a very short lived developer (and one that i do not recommend, but that is a different story). Also, you can use tupperware-like storage containers in place of trays. These are acctually very good, especially if you get lids with them because you can put the lids on inbetween uses, which is perfect for the pinhole work, that way you can put the lids over the chems while you go out and shoot or whatever, then come back, process, and do it again. I would leave the chems in a bottle though if you aren't going to be using them again within like half an hour. Real trays would be better, but this is much cheaper.

  9. #9
    Chirs Gregory's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by aaronmichael View Post
    Thank you for the great advice. My eyes are only 20 years old so I think even a cheap dim safelight from Freestyle would suffice. At the darkroom at school I usually just wear a stopwatch to keep time. Thanks for the tip about the milk jugs, that's a great idea. I know that there are testers to see when a fixer is exhausted but how would i be able to tell when the developer is done?
    I built my own safelight with the same money I spent on my window black-out. I got a cardboard presentation poster, cut a 3X6 hole in it, then taped four layers of red plastic (a report cover folded over once) over the hole. I also dug up some velcro so I made a removable panel to fit over the hole for when I need complete darkness. Finally, I finished the edge of the thing with some black gaffer tape, which was extended over the edge by an inch to make a tighter fit with the window frame. Now my darkroom has a view! (Note: I'm pretty sure that some UV can still get through my ersatz gel, so it obviously isn't as safe as a real safelight filter.)

    As far as developer capacity is concerned, whenever I start cursing the company that made my film or paper, I know it's probably time to mix up a new batch.

  10. #10

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    Check craigslist. I bought a whole bathroom darkroom kit - everything I needed - for $80 last fall in Denver.

    I just did a quick check for LA and OC and you will probably pay more than that. 20 minutes up the 405 you can get a Beseler 67C for under $100. Go ten minutes the other way and there's a guy in Orange selling everything else you need for $150.

    That took me 5 minutes to find. Give yourself a couple of weeks and you can do much better than this. It took me 6 months of watching and waiting until I practically stole this one from a guy who just didn't have time to do it any more and his wife wanted it out of the basement.



 

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