I'm also new, having set up my first darkroom a couple of months ago. Just about everyone on the forum knows more than I do, but I can perhaps give some advice from a beginner's perspective.
www.rogerandfrancis.com has some great tutorials under the "photo school" section of their website. The Roger of rogerandfrancis, Roger Hicks, is a regular here on APUG.
Ilford (a company that manufactures B&W chemicals, film and paper) have a useful "getting started" page at http://www.ilfordphoto.com/applications/page.asp?n=9 which has information sheets about setting up a darkroom, developing black and white film, and printing. I've followed the Ilford instructions step by step for developing my films and am very happy with the results. The same principles apply no matter whose film, paper and chemicals you use. Simon Galley of Ilford is also a regular here.
Just remember that you don't need all the equipment mentioned in the Ilford guides. All I have is my enlarger, a tank for developing film, four trays (for paper developer, stop bath, fixer and water), 3 pairs of tongs for moving paper between the trays (using separate tongs for different chemicals to prevent contamination), a spirit thermometer, a safe light, a pair of scissors for cutting test strips, a few jugs for measuring and mixing that I purchased at the local plastics shop, and some cloths pegs for hanging prints and film to dry. Exposure meters, squeegies, digital thermometers, grain focussers, multigrade filters, printing easels, special film clips etc. are nice but not essential. (OK, I have an easel. It's still not essential.) My darkroom doesn't even have running water, although it is next to a bathroom where I wash prints.
Ctein's book Post Exposure is available as a free download at http://ctein.com/PostExposure2ndIllustrated.pdf. It's a book about advanced darkroom printing techniques and not intended for beginners. But when you want to move beyond the basics it is an excellent resource (although it's not light reading - I'm still working through it).
A Colour (*) enlarger allows you to control the precise colour of the light that the enlarger uses to expose the photographic paper, which is necessary for colour printing. Colour printing is probably not a good place to start - for one, you have to work in the dark - so I recommend B&W, which allows you to work under a red safelight, and is less demanding in terms of equipment and precise temperature control.
A colour enlarger does have the advantage of allowing you to use variable contrast papers without requiring multigrade filters. Variable contrast papers allow you to change the image contrast - exposing with a yellow filter gives low contrast, exposure with a magenta filter gives high contrast, and you can get intermediate contrasts by varying the amount of magenta and yellow filtration, which a colour head will allow you to control. Admittedly, filters are probably easier to use since the exposure does not vary as much when using filters as when using a colour head.
Welcome, and have fun!
(*) We spell the British way here in darkest Africa!
Last edited by andrew.roos; 03-17-2012 at 03:22 AM. Click to view previous post history.