Temporary Darkroom (Nova Tent)

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chuck94022

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Has anyone had experience with this item?

I need to build a dry side space (enlarger, exposed print drum loading area, etc.) that can be dismantled when the room is needed for other purposes. An alternative is to use blackout curtains from Dead Link Removed They make a version of their blackout curtains specifically for temporary darkroom setups, with special light trap valences at the top, and floor draping to eliminate light coming from below. I think either solution would end up costing about the same, though the Cubicle Curtain option my be slightly cheaper.

The Cubicle Curtain option might allow for more space, but will require that I dedicate a fixed part of the room. The tent allows the dry side to be set up anywhere, but would be a much smaller space. I would put the enlarger (a Beseler 45mxt) on a rollaround table so that it can more easily be moved into and out of the space.

In either case, if I decide to print inside the darkroom, I'd probably end up using a Nova print processor to save space (perhaps the fiber paper processor, since my alternative is the Jobo.)

Thoughts, comments?

-chuck
 

Bob F.

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I would just warn about fumes. In such a small space, you will need a fan to draw noxious air to the outside. The Nova will cut down a lot on the fumes as only a few square inches of chemicals are in contact with the air. Use odourless (citric acid based) stop and low-odour fixer to improve things even more. The stop has no smell at all but the fixer has some, but nowhere near as much as normal fixer.

I find most developers I have tried have little bad odour but try your favorite. Neutol WA is my present fave: it has hardly any odour and keeps for a couple of weeks at least in the Nova (I've only had the Nova for a couple of weeks now so can't speak on longer-term storage).

Rather than buy the Nova intended for fibre use, you can use the fibre paper holders in the normal Nova; the non-fibre Novas are more plentiful on the used market. Holders for different sized paper are available as accessories from Nova at (for Nova) reasonable prices.

Using the Jobo is of course an option - not sure how that compares with smell reduction compared to the Nova.

Bob.
 

pelerin

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chuck94022 said:
Has anyone had experience with this item?

I need to build a dry side space (enlarger, exposed print drum loading area, etc.) that can be dismantled

<SNIP>
I think either solution would end up costing about the same, though the Cubicle Curtain option my be slightly cheaper.


In either case, if I decide to print inside the darkroom, I'd probably end up using a Nova print processor to save space (perhaps the fiber paper processor, since my alternative is the Jobo.)

Thoughts, comments?

-chuck

Chuck,
You might try contacting Precision Technical Sewing in Palo Alto. http://www.techsewing.com/ I would talk to Joshua Orkin and explain what you want to accomplish. They are nice, easy to deal with, and the samples of work I have seen from them are very good.

As far as what to process the paper in goes, I would try the Jobo before I invested in something else. A tube processor certainly seems more cumbersome than dip and dunking but it is quite possible to process fiber in a Jobo. I have several clients who do it (for what I would assume are reasons similar to yours) and the print samples I have seen look fine.
Celac.

Full disclosure: I do not work for PTS and have no stake in whether you do business with them. They (PTS) have purchased products from the company I work for and constructed a show display for me. PM me if you would like to see it.
 

eric

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Bob F. said:
Ikeeps for a couple of weeks at least in the Nova (I've only had the Nova for a couple of weeks now so can't speak on longer-term storage).
Ansco 130 lasts a loooong time in my Nova


Rather than buy the Nova intended for fibre use, you can use the fibre paper holders in the normal Bob.

I use fiber in mine all the time. I have a trimate 16x20. The holders, IMHO, is just a gimmick.
 

Dave Miller

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You won’t have to worry about fumes within the Nova tent because it comes with it’s own fan unit. What you may have to attend to is the ventilation of the room that you set the tent up in. That will also apply to the curtained alterative that you mentioned.
 

dancqu

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Dave Miller said:
You won’t have to worry about fumes ...

You don't have to worry about fumes period. I don't know why
any body would worry about fumes or smell for that matter.

It's too easy to adopt an entirely fumeless oderless processing
method to even bother giveing them any thought.

As an alternative to the enclosures being considered
I'd suggest the single tray method with chemical reuse or
one-shot. I use it one shot; very dilute of course. The space
gained may be all that is needed to better locate. Dan
 
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chuck94022

chuck94022

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The primary use of the space is for dry activity (enlarging primarily). I mentioned the Nova because at times when I want quick turnaround of test strips, I might want something less intrusive than loading up the Jobo. Also, I've heard of problems with fiber prints in the jobo. (I've mostly done RC paper and Cibachrome in the jobo, so don't yet have an opinion of fiber in it.) So I figure I might end up getting a Nova for use inside the space.

Ventilation is not an issue. The space would be carved out of a large room that has good ventilation (a sliding door to the outside plus a large window). Currently the floor in the room has carpet, but we are going to replace that with hardwood. The room will also serve as my wife's yoga studio and a guest bedroom, thus the need to be able to quickly dismantle the space. I do my wet processing with the jobo primarily, so don't need a dedicated wet space. I have a place in another room for the jobo. But if I want to do work with trays or Nova, I'll need the dark space.

I do 4x5 enlarging, so my enlarger is pretty big. The available bathroom does not have sufficient space for me to set up an enlarger. Thus the need for my dark space.

-chuck
 

quokka

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I am thinking of getting one of these tents. I am just getting started with photography (other than taking mediocre snapshots with a P&S). I am taking a darkroom course at a great public darkroom about 25 miles away (in Hayward, California) but the traffic between here and there on a weeknight is awful and I would enjoy the luxury of a home darkroom.

Nova no longer has a US distributor and shipping from the UK is expensive but I do not really have any other options for a home darkroom. My place only has one bathroom and carving out part of the spare bedroom has a GAF of zero. There is plenty of space in the garage, but it has a high ceiling with lots of beams and struts, so I cannot lightproof a section of it with curtains.

Has anyone actually used one of these tents? My main concern is that they are so small. I am not very claustrophobic, but I am quite tall (6'3", 190cm) and worry that the space will feel cramped rather than cozy.

Can anyone comment who has experience with the Nova darkroom tent?

Does anyone in the US have one they are looking to sell?

Cheers,
Rory
 

smieglitz

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I built a portable darkroom out of pvc pipe and curtain blackout material. It cost about $175 for materials and I paid a seamstress $100 to sew it together for me. I posted a few pics of it (there was a url link here which no longer exists). I later modified it with a large sleeping bag zipper on the front flap for ease of entry.

It is similar in size to the Nova tent and the white interior might be preferable for printing. I know it works well for wetplate. In any event, the ~$300 cost was well worth the investment, especially when compared to the $830 Nova tent.

I plan to keep the frame and make another tent out of the aluminized darkcloth material I purchased. The new tent will also have a couple more red plexiglass windows in it. I figure the tent will then do double-duty as a large reflector for shooting in the field. Plus it will look like some "Lost-In Space" thingy which may be appropriate given its inventor.

Joe
 

jeroldharter

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chuck94022 said:
The primary use of the space is for dry activity (enlarging primarily). I mentioned the Nova because at times when I want quick turnaround of test strips, I might want something less intrusive than loading up the Jobo. Also, I've heard of problems with fiber prints in the jobo. (I've mostly done RC paper and Cibachrome in the jobo, so don't yet have an opinion of fiber in it.) So I figure I might end up getting a Nova for use inside the space.

I agree with the previous post that the single tray method might be better for your situation, especially if you are just starting with fiber based paper and have not settled on a standard process. I have a Nova 16 x 20 quad but I have gone to the single tray. I tired of cleaning the Nova (not awful but I didn't like it). I didn't like sloshing the wet prints around or the small marks left on the prints by the holders. Also, the 4 slots are not enough for fiber based processing. Selenium toner stains it severely. Also, it is extremely heavy when full so you would need another mobile cart. The cost and hassle of that would deter me. However, if you already have a Nova slot processor and don't have access to plumbing, it is a good option.
 

quokka

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smieglitz said:
I built a portable darkroom out of pvc pipe and curtain blackout material. It cost about $175 for materials and I paid a seamstress $100 to sew it together for me. I posted a few pics of it (there was a url link here which no longer exists). I later modified it with a large sleeping bag zipper on the front flap for ease of entry.

Joe


Fascinating!

How hard do you think it would be to incorporate ventilation? I am planning to use a Nova slot developer (if I can find a used one) which should cut down on fumes but I think I need some active ventilation.

Does the blackout material go under the frame, or does it keep the light out by "bunching up" around the bottom?

How strong do you feel the frame is? I would like to be able to hang equipment (clocks, safelights, etc) from the frame to save space on surfaces.

Was it hard to design the cover and give a pattern to a seamstress? I can't quite picture how the pieces fit, especially at the door.

Sorry for all the questions. The money I could save this way will buy a lot of paper, film, and chemicals!

Cheers,
Rory
 

smieglitz

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quokka said:
...How hard do you think it would be to ...

Rory,

If you are planning to use a darkroom tent indoors, I think you could easily add some sort of port for ventilation. Remember, I'm using mine out in full sunlight, on location, with ether fumes coming off the plate, etc. Portability is a primary consideration for me. Indoors you would have a lot more flexibility. You could make the tent substantially larger if you were not going to haul it around on a cart out in the wilderness. (I transport this thing along with an 11x14 camera and big tripod in the field on a three-wheel jogging stroller I've adapted for that purpose.)

I have the frame internal but you could also have an external frame with some sort of fabric loop or maybe even shower curtain hooks incorporated from which to to hang the frame. I designed mine to quickly slip over the lightweight frame in the field, but you could design it differently, perhaps with more of a nod towards stability than portability and ease in setting up. Indoors you would also have a better selection of lightproof materials to use including those standard black lightproof fabrics. I chose heavy white curtain blackout material so the tent would not become an oven in sunlit conditions.

A main concern for me was being able to enter and exit the tent quickly during the 5-10 minute window collodion allows for sensitizing, exposing, and processing. In a printing darkroom, especially with ventilation, you would not have this concern and a simpler door could probably be fabricated.

In fact, my second tent will have a design change. I plan to have all six panels connected and an entry zipper that runs along the front panel top and down the side as well as the bottom edge. That way I can still slip the fabric over the frame easily and have a door that I don't have to mess with as much.

The key to making this thing successful is to limit the amount of sewing and the number of seams. Each time the needle punctures the tent to join something, you've got another pinhole to deal with. So, my next tent will have far less stiching and Velcro, and that will be glued on with contact cement for the most part. Where the back, sides, top and bottom join, make sure to leave a bit of extra fabric along the inside of the seam that can be folded over the sewing trail and cemented in place to make the seams lightproof. This also makes it easier for the seamstress to sew the thing together.

My new tent will have have a single huge piece of fabric (~7 linear yards or meters) that will constitute the top, left and right sides as well as the bottom, and that loops around the frame being joined at a single seam at the bottom middle of the tent. That will give me one seam from which I won't have to worry about light leaks. The rear panel will be sewn along all 4 edges to this loop and the front will be sewn along a single side. A zipper will run along the other three edges of that panel to seal the tent. I'll glue a small flap with velcro attachments to cover the zipper on the inside of the tent in order to hide those pinholes along the zipper.

I built the framework with different diameter pipes which nest inside one another for transport, again thinking of how to maximize the portability. The framework supports an integrated plastic tabletop (from a garage shelving unit) on which I keep sensitizing tanks, processing trays, etc. My box of wetplate supplies, chemicals, etc., fits under the table, out of the way. The frame also supports a hanging, battery-powered, fluorescent lantern the globe of which I've covered with rubylith. You shouldn't have any problem hanging conventional safelights off the frame IMO, especially if you use larger diameter pipe. Longer pipes with fewer couplings could also be used in a tent that wasn't designed for portability. This would add stability and also cut down considerably on the cost. The pipe is very inexpensive. Most of the cost for the frame is tied up in the couplings.

As far as the pattern, it is very simple. Basically it is a large, orthorhombic box. Mine has the front and back equal to the sides and is thus square in plan view, but there is no reason why the front/back or side dimensions couldn't be extended. If the tent should turn out a bit too large or small, it is easy to shorten the pipe frame or make an addition to it using readily available couplings.

Hope this gives you some ideas.

Joe
 

quokka

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Hi Joe,

Thank you so much for such a detailed and thoughtful reply. It has given me a great deal to think about.

The GAF for this project is still low (she is looking over my shoulder at the thread with a disapproving look on her face) but a bit a of persuasion should do the trick.

I will follow up on this thread if I try to build a darkroom along these lines. It might take a while!

Cheers,
Rory
 
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