My "Building a basic Darkroom" advice needed thread

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by hoffy, Feb 20, 2009.

  1. hoffy

    hoffy Member

    Messages:
    2,578
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Location:
    Adelaide, Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Howdy all,

    SO's not to make a million and one threads, I thought I'd make a thread to post all my questions.

    I wasn't planning on doing a darkroom for another 6 or so months, but I purchased a small enlarger this week & I have gotten the enthusiasm up to get into it.

    Now, at this stage, I am talking basic. The ideal location for me is going to be the laundry. I have a chest type freezer, that will be ideal for putting the enlarger on (as long as I turn it of before working....and turn it back on when I am done, or I am a dead man) and there is a big stainless sink. My plan would be to build a removable benchtop, for the wet work (16mm laminated MDF?) that will overlap into the sink.

    SO, what do I need to make this a success? At the moment, I am thinking:
    • trays x 4 (4th tray for washing)
    • Tongs
    • Safelight
    • drying screen

    What else would I need to get going (considering I plan to start with RC papers and no bigger the 8x10).

    Should I immediately consider an exhaust system?

    With making it light proof and easy to setup,pull down, should I get black blockout fabric, or will black pvc sheeting be OK and durable enough? (the plan is to velcro this up over the window/sliding door).

    Also, the safelight. In a darkroom lot that I bought off ebay, it came with a standard bayonet fitting red light with nothing but "R2" printed on it. Would this be sufficient?

    That will do for starters. I will add more questions as I think of them.

    Cheers
     
  2. ozphoto

    ozphoto Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,516
    Joined:
    Apr 2, 2006
    Location:
    Bangkok, Thailand
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Groups:
    Hi Hoffy.
    The black PVC is an option to consider, however, good ol' Adelaide heat and sun will start to destroy this and it will eventually crack and crumble.
    I'd get some blackout instead - the velcro option will work as long as you ensure it goes all the way around the blackout.
    The exhaust fan is a good idea - I have a small darkroom and I used it before fitting one. Had a bit if a headache afterward so installed as quickly as possible. Goodbye headache, hello more time in the darkroom!

    It's nothing fancy, just one that you would use to diperse the steam in the bathroom, attached to a PVC pipe that sends the fumes outside - you can actually feel the drawn out air if you place your hand near the outside pipe.

    I've got a spare Kodak safelight that I got with a bunch of stuff. Drop me a PM (I also live in Adelaide) and you can have it.
    I'd also go with an extra tray just for toning - check out Total Photographics at Kent Town, they always have cheap second hand stuff there and it always changes week to week. I got 2 nice ones (ok they were kinda old) but they work perfectly. Ask for Toby, Neil or Peta.

    Perhaps an easel,if you are handy you could make one yourself out of plywood with a raised edge on one long and short side - give great borderless prints. If you go the blade type, I'd consider the largest you want to eventually make. I ended up buying two, when I could have saved $$ and just bought one.

    For me that's an 11x14 4-blade easel. But I use the above-mentioned borderless one for anything smaller than 5x7.

    I'll have a dig around for you and see if there's anything else I can swing your way. - Welcome to the wonderful world of B&W (Color) Printing!

    - Nanette
     
  3. OP
    OP
    hoffy

    hoffy Member

    Messages:
    2,578
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Location:
    Adelaide, Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hi Nanette,

    Yes I would be interested in the safe light.

    BTW, I have done the Total Photo thing a few times now and have got some bits and pieces.

    I'll send a PM and we can work out details.

    I am, though, still interested to find out whether this "Safe Light" bulb that I have is the real deal. I Don't think that its a decorative globe, as the whole glass is tinted the same colour.
     
  4. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,087
    Joined:
    Jun 27, 2003
    Location:
    NH
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    You would be better off with an amber safelight. I can see much better with these over the red ones. The bulbs work as long as they aren't scratched. Do a safelight test when you are setup. It's always a good idea when using a new light or space.

    You could just get a 20x24 tray to use as the sink with two 8x10 trays in it. Then put a third tray with the washer in the sink. Use an alkaline fixer and water for the stop bath. I did this for a while in a bathroom. Worked fine as long as I was ok with 8x10.
     
  5. rthomas

    rthomas Member

    Messages:
    1,251
    Joined:
    Jan 2, 2009
    Location:
    Charlotte, NC, USA
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I had a safelight globe bulb once, and it was not at all safe (for the paper). I can't advise on yours since I don't remember the manufacturer but I've always used the standard safelight filters Kodak makes (made?).
     
  6. OP
    OP
    hoffy

    hoffy Member

    Messages:
    2,578
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Location:
    Adelaide, Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    OK, cheers and no probs. Just thought I'd ask, because if the globe was OK....well you know the rest.
     
  7. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

    Messages:
    2,975
    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Aurora, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    About safelight, I have not done B&W in a long time so I use no safelight at all. I am going to do some B&W and I am thinking of experimenting with LED as safelight. The red LED has a very narrow spectrum so I think with modern LED's they should provide safe and relatively bright level of illumination.
     
  8. OP
    OP
    hoffy

    hoffy Member

    Messages:
    2,578
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Location:
    Adelaide, Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks Chan. I will keep that in mind.

    Now, another thing that has got me thinking is an enlarger timer. Not because its necessary, but because its going to make life so much easier. I have noticed that there is a wide and varied variety of these available. Any recommendations? Do I need it to sing and dance, or just a basic one is sufficient?
     
  9. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

    Messages:
    1,936
    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Location:
    Greece
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Groups:
    Hoffy, a timer makes life so much easier that it becomes a necessity. If all your exposures were very long then it would be some kind of luxury. But even so, dialing the exposure time and letting it go without paying attention to a clock makes the whole process more enjoyable. Finally, you don't need something exquisite. Any timer would do.
     
  10. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

    Messages:
    2,975
    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Aurora, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Hoffy, I know that you live somewhere in Australia but can you PM me your address? I would like to send you a high quality copy of the instructions for B&W enlarging. If you can make it smaller than it would be good.
    As far as timer goes, I use a Gralab 505 but just because I got it thrown in with the enlarger I bought. I would certainly recommend a digital model as it's easier to use. You may also consider a timer which also is an enlarging meter.
     
  11. dancqu

    dancqu Member

    Messages:
    3,676
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Willamette V
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    An even easier time seeing may be had by choosing
    Graded RC. The safelight color then can be yellow
    to orange.

    A correct choice of chemistry will make for an
    odorless fumeless darkroom. I've none of either
    in my acidless darkroom. Dan
     
  12. largeformat pat

    largeformat pat Member

    Messages:
    286
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2008
    Location:
    Upper Hunter
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Hoffy,
    If you are handy with tools you can make a box to house a safelight glass. these are about 8 x 10 in size and you only need to fit or have fitted a base for the lamp. This means you can use a standard BC globe of about 25 watts or a low voltage energy saver. I can send you a drawing if you wish. I n regard to a timer, have a look for a Novex timer. they appear on the auction site now and then. The other option for your window is a board fitted into the reveal. it is the held with some cleats. I found this better when using an fan. When you finally get a darkroom you only have to patch 4 screw holes.
    Pat
     
  13. Sponsored Ad
  14. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,640
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2004
    Location:
    Melb, Australia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Regarding the fan, you may be able to get away with not needing one for a while. For the PVC blackout, if you mean that black gardening plastic, I would recommend at least a double or quadruple layer, as it is light weight anyway, and it can tend to get small holes in it. For the safelight, I would agree that a yellow-green one is much easier to work with than a red one. Please be very vigilant looking for light leaks, and then you will be fine. Have fun. Best regards from Melbourne.
     
  15. glaiben

    glaiben Member

    Messages:
    74
    Joined:
    May 17, 2008
    Location:
    Kansas City,
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    I cut a piece of black foamcore to size to block the light entering the window in my guest bathroom, errhhh, I mean darkroom. If an edge leaked a little light, I built up the foamcore edge with black gaffers tape and voila, easy-in/easy-out blackout material.
     
  16. bsdunek

    bsdunek Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,504
    Joined:
    Jul 27, 2006
    Location:
    Michigan
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Rather than a fourth tray, I recommend a big plastic tub to put the prints in. Holds more water, and allows the prints to move around which will reduce the chance of staining.
     
  17. OP
    OP
    hoffy

    hoffy Member

    Messages:
    2,578
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Location:
    Adelaide, Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks. All sounds like good advice.

    Now, I have been thinking about the blackout of the sliding door and maybe my answer may be as easy as 2 largish pieces of 3mm MDF, screwed to the door frame. Easy to setup, easy to pull down. Relatively cheap. Light seal around the edges could be as simple as some duct tape or as complicated as some self adhesive foam.

    Now, just getting back to the timer for a second. I am in discussions with an electronics guru friend of mine about making one myself. Apart from being able to count down time, cut out power and being able to be set to the closest second (worse case), would there be any other considerations required for a timer (yes, I know, you could probably find them cheaper on ebay....but building is part of the fun of the hobby, isn't it?!)?
     
  18. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,640
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2004
    Location:
    Melb, Australia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Timer wise, that should be about all you need it to do, but it would be way more useful if you could get it down to 1/10 second as the smallest increment.
     
  19. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

    Messages:
    21,098
    Joined:
    Apr 24, 2005
    Location:
    Delta, BC, Canada
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
  20. largeformat pat

    largeformat pat Member

    Messages:
    286
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2008
    Location:
    Upper Hunter
    Shooter:
    8x10 Format
    Hoffy,
    With your sliding door. I used fabric. I made a frame to screw to the door jamb. Then I got two pieces of heavy black fabric. I stapled one piece down one side and across the top. Then the other piece across the top and down the other side. So, in the middle you could part the fabric for access and then gather each side over when in. Hope this explains it's self. I had to rent a couple of rooms for a lab years ago and this was the final method I used. If you can't picture this send me a PM and I will draw something and get it to you.
    Pat
    Ps that adhesive backed foam weather proof tapes works very well.
     
  21. smieglitz

    smieglitz Member

    Messages:
    1,953
    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2002
    Location:
    Climax, Michigan
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Roc-lon curtain blackout material can be found at any decent fabric store. It is inexpensive, opaque, and white or eggshell in color which reflects any safelight illumination and makes for a brighter darkroom.
     
  22. OP
    OP
    hoffy

    hoffy Member

    Messages:
    2,578
    Joined:
    Jan 21, 2009
    Location:
    Adelaide, Au
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    OK, I never thought about white or light colours. I have been looking for darks or blacks. I can get that relatively easily & cheaply(I can even get some nice floral colours and paterns...just don't tell my blokey mates)
     
  23. Anon Ymous

    Anon Ymous Member

    Messages:
    1,936
    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2008
    Location:
    Greece
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Groups:
    You know, I'm about to make my own darkroom and I was having the same thoughts. Yes, you can make your own timer and it's part of the fun if you're a DIY guy, but you have to consider some things.

    1) You need to drive a relay. I don't know how easy it can be, but I'm clueless.
    2) The relay specs need to be withing some reasonable numbers. It depends on the load.
    3) Make sure you use fuses! You don't want to blow/burn things do you?
    4) A 1/10th sec accuracy would be something nice for short exposures. Of course, from some point on, a 1/10 sec difference is indifferent. So, if you use a 555 chip to generate square pulses you can make a "multiplier switch". IIRC, the 555 chip needs an RC circuit to regulate the frequency of the pulses. Make 2 different circuits to get 1Hz and 10 Hz frequencies and switch between them.

    Anyway, you can make nice stuff if you know what you're doing, but it could be a bit expensive. In any case, feel free to inform us about the progress you have made :D
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 23, 2009
  24. Chan Tran

    Chan Tran Member

    Messages:
    2,975
    Joined:
    May 10, 2006
    Location:
    Aurora, IL
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Driving a relay is easy. You should consider driving 2 relays instead of 1. One is electro-mechanical type and the other solid state type. Some enlargers light source don't like solid state type but otherwise the solid state would last longer. Relay specs of 120VAC 10A should be about right. If you want to control a specific enlarger then you get one that match it better.
    I wouldn't use the 555 chip with RC circuit as it's not very accurate. Building from scratch I would build a counter that count the 60/50hz power line frequency.
    Before I got the Gralab 505 for free I use a programmable controller with a PC as the way to input time. I used to print 4 4x5 on a sheet of 8x10 and I have the timer with 4 buttons. Each will start a different preset time. That way I don't have to change the time setting between exposing the 4 different frames. The time can also be set in stops or rather density.
     
  25. Kevin Caulfield

    Kevin Caulfield Subscriber

    Messages:
    3,640
    Joined:
    Aug 3, 2004
    Location:
    Melb, Australia
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hey, hoffy, what you are after is called triple-pass fabric. You can get it at Spotlight stores. I think you have them over there. It is reasonably expensive (I think around $15 per metre), but it is absolutely light-proof. Don't worry, I won't tell your blokey mates. :wink: