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  1. #1

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    My first darkroom: please help

    For the past 4 months, I've been heading out to a local darkroom that isn't that local. (about a 2 hour commute each way). I'm now heading in a direction to build my own darkroom. I'm looking for some guideance to lead me down this unexplored path.

    I've got an enlarger, that is itself a long long story.
    Beseler 45 MX.
    During the shipping process the head was damaged.
    Beseler 45A.

    According to my research parts for repair the 45A is difficult to find. So the first order of business is to find a new head.
    - What kinds of heads will fit easily on the Beseler 45MX? I'll be printing black and white only.

    I'm also looking to block a large window in a room that I will be converting into a darkroom. I have some heavy black fabric; the nice sales lady said that it was light tight. I will wrap it around a board and smush the fabric wrapped board into the window. Hopefully to block all external light sources.
    - Will this work?
    - Do you have any suggestions?
    - Is it not enough for the day time?
    - I should stop asking so many question and do it. Then try one of those coin testing opperations.

    I got an enlarging lens that is in pretty rough shape. If the lens is in really really bad shape, what kind of results might I expect when I print? spots?

    - Do boardless easles hold paper flat?
    I like the idea of printing the picture to all four corners, but it seems it might be a problem if the paper can't be held down flat.

    Shopping list:
    - second enlarging lens?
    - timer
    - negative carrier
    - easel
    - tongs + treys
    - grain focuser

    My last question:
    - am I missing anything?

    Thanks

    edit:
    Additional shopping:
    - safelight
    - 4x5 film carrier

    note:
    I already do all my processing at home. Thumbs up and check check.
    Last edited by Dikaiosune01; 06-16-2011 at 08:39 PM. Click to view previous post history.

  2. #2
    jp498's Avatar
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    It is possible you can repair your enlarger head. Nothing about most enlargers is very complicated. My beseler 4x5 got damaged on the metal frame around the baseboard when shipped to me, and I made new metal pieces for that with angle stock from the hardware store and some hand tools. I've also cleaned, lubed, and rewired color heads.

    If the lens is in rough shape it might have reduced contrast, be not so sharp, things like that. Used enlarger lenses are plentiful, and a nice componon-s or el-nikkor is quite affordable used and high quality. a 135-150mm can do 4x5 and MF. You might want a shorter one if you do 35mm.

    If the fabric you get isn't light tight, sandwich some metal foil in it. that will certainly be.

    Your shopping list is almost good. If you develop film a thermometer would be good, but isn't necessary for paper developing. You seem to be missing a safelight from the list. A red LED bulb will do, or a proper used safelight. You'll also need something to hang or dry your finished work on. RC prints you can hang from an indoor clothesline/wire setup. FB prints you might want a screen to dry them on or a blotter book.

    I don't like to print all the way to the corners. I like speed ezles and have some room for a mat board to cover the edges of the photo. When I print 16x20 though I don't have an easel for that, so I just lay the paper down and it flops flat. YMMV with regard to humidity, etc...

  3. #3

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    If you have Craigslist i would search there for a entire enlarger. I bought a 45 in excellent condition for $50 and then i found another one for the same price that i have stored away and will use for spare parts.

  4. #4
    Christopher Walrath's Avatar
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    I can answer some of these for you. Others will follow.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dikaiosune01 View Post
    I'm also looking to block a large window in a room that I will be converting into a darkroom. I have some heavy black fabric; the nice sales lady said that it was light tight. I will wrap it around a board and smush the fabric wrapped board into the window. Hopefully to block all external light sources.
    - Will this work?
    - Do you have any suggestions?
    - Is it not enough for the day time?
    I would double wrap it to be safe. This is what I intend to do when I get mine going here shortly.

    - I should stop asking so many question and do it. Then try one of those coin testing opperations.
    And then perform this test regardless. Knowledge is power. And knowing if you have a problem and/or exactly how much time you have would be advantageous to say the least.

    I got an enlarging lens that is in pretty rough shape. If the lens is in really really bad shape, what kind of results might I expect when I print? spots?
    If you have a really bad lens you can expect really bad prints.

    Shopping list:
    - second enlarging lens?
    - timer
    - negative carrier
    - easel
    - tongs + treys
    - grain focuser
    I would absolutely look for a new lens. If you get one this will be your first, not second, lens. Especially if the one you have is as bad as it is reported to be.

    I would get an easel that holds the paper down.

    The grain focuser is optional. I suppose my prints would be even THAT MUCH SHARPER if I used one. I focus my enlarger as I do my camera by zeroing in on the best focus and use f/8 or f/11 so it is really difficult for me to get an image out of focus.

    How many foramts do you shoot? Make that negative carriers.

    Trays, I would get the size above that which you anticipate printing so that if and when you decide to move up in size you will already have that which you need.

    Timer. A GraLab 300 is my pill of choice and it does well. But an old red Kodak timer will do in a pinch.

    My last question:
    - am I missing anything?
    Soft music. At least two safelights. 15W or less. And replacement bulbs for both the enlarger and the safelights. Does your darkroom have running water? If not you might invest in a print washer that does not require running water. At the very least a slop bucket for the chemistry and another container into which you can place prints pre-wash unless you run them into an adjoining room one at a time. Hard on keeping the eyes adjusted to the dark like that, though. A good paper safe is invaluable. Thermometer. Are you printing on variable contrast paper? Get some filters. Oh, and mountains of creativity.

    Thanks
    You're welcome.
    Thank you.
    CWalrath
    APUG BLIND PRINT EXCHANGE
    DE Darkroom

    "Wubba, wubba, wubba. Bing, bang, bong. Yuck, yuck, yuck and a fiddle-dee-dee." - The Yeti

  5. #5
    Sirius Glass's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dikaiosune01 View Post
    I'm also looking to block a large window in a room that I will be converting into a darkroom. I have some heavy black fabric; the nice sales lady said that it was light tight. I will wrap it around a board and smush the fabric wrapped board into the window. Hopefully to block all external light sources.
    - Will this work?
    - Do you have any suggestions?
    - Is it not enough for the day time?
    - I should stop asking so many question and do it. Then try one of those coin testing opperations.

    I did exactly that. As suggested above double the fabric. I cut and sanded the plywood to with wood and the cloth fit tightly. I use tape to tape to the cloth to the wall about 30mm or more in each direction. I put two handles on the wood so I can raise it up and move it into position. The handles are also needed to remove the wood because the fit is so tight and the wood is flush with the wall.

    This has worked very well even on the brightest days.

    You will find that all the work you are doing to set up the darkroom will have been worth it.

    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.

  6. #6
    Newt_on_Swings's Avatar
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    Develop on moonless nights just to be safe lol but really, just stand in your blacked out room for 15 minutes, and check all possible areas for light leaks, door frames, electronics, esp your window frames, keyholes etc.

    You best bet is to scan craigslist like a madman and see if someone is offering a full darkroom, buying components add up.

    I have printed on super cruddy and fogged lenses, they do reduce contrast and sharpness, but prints are generally ok. I compared the cruddy and scratched up el nikkor 50mm 2.8 (2/3 clouded and scratched on the front element) to my new rodagon 50mm 2.8 I got off ebay, and its much much better.

    I have a gralab 300, but I cant use it for enlarging, for timing film development it's fine, but cumbersome for use, like when doing test strips. try to find a timeolight or a digital timer.

    Double sided tape for cheap boarderless printing.

    Grain focuser is a definite, when its correctly aligned, it just subtracts one less variable from the printing process if you want repeatable results later on.

  7. #7
    puptent's Avatar
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    Some papers are sensitive to safe-light color, so you might need an OC and a red, depending on what you're using. A drying blotter is a cheap way of drying prints, just not high volume, and not so good with glossy. A dust mask, if you're mixing from powders, (oh, and if you are buying pre-packaged powder developers, always mix the entire contents because you can't be sure you'll get the proper ratios if you just measure out a little) cheap rubber gloves, and maybe a decent electronic scale; if you think you might get into caffenol, or other developer experiments. Check out e-bay for the timer, I've seen several package deals with a gra-lab and other accessories for less than a timer alone. Check out the Articles Tab here at apug, there are plans out there for home made electronic timers made with Radio Shack parts. You might want a contact printing frame with the format you are using. Storage bottles, enough funnels that you can dedicate one to each chemical, and graduates! Usually you can get by with a 50ml or a 100ml, and then a 500ml, and a 1000ml. You'll figure out what you need after you start mixing and can get started with a set of the cheap disposable mixing cups that Freestyle and others sell. A beaker and stirring rod are nice. It might be that you will need to filter your tap water. As you go you will find that the darkroom furnishes itself. Have fun!
    "We often think that when we have completed our study of one we know all about two, because 'two' is 'one and one'. We forget that we have still to make a study of 'and'."
    -A. S. Eddington

  8. #8
    puptent's Avatar
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    Oh, and a paper safe!
    "We often think that when we have completed our study of one we know all about two, because 'two' is 'one and one'. We forget that we have still to make a study of 'and'."
    -A. S. Eddington

  9. #9
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    A borderless easel can be improvised from a sheet of iron painted yellow or amber, and a few magnetic strips. An enlarger timer is convenient for mass produced prints. A digital clock that ticks once a second is better when much dodging and burning is required. Eventually you'll get good at counting seconds, and won't need the clock. It's handy in camera work, too. Soft drink plastic bottles seem to work well for chemicals. Dark bottles are often recommended for developer. A clear bottle in the dark is as good.

  10. #10
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    I blocked the window in my darkroom with heavy, black plastic that you can purchase at probably any hardware store. I will likely be with the paint drop cloths or in the garden section as it is frequently used in gardens to prevent weeds from growing.

    This is probably going to be more light tight than most any fabric that you can buy.

    Ed
    "I only wanted Uncle Vern standing by his new car (a Hudson) on a clear day. I got him and the car. I also got a bit of Aunt Mary's laundry, and Beau Jack, the dog, peeing on a fence, and a row of potted tuberous begonias on the porch and 78 trees and a million pebbles in the driveway and more. It's a generous medium, photography." -- Lee Friedlander

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