Darkroom take 2

Well, I still haven’t found a way to make linking to my own images any easier on here, but I have some more recent events I’d like to blog about before they’re old news. So I figure I better wrap up the darkroom post.

I left out a kind of interesting little bit of the story last time. You see, I only budgeted for the inside of the darkroom and planned on leaving the studs exposed outside. I bought spray foam to fill in the cracks and make sure the room was light tight even with only one layer of drywall. My dad was not very happy about that, but did agree to buy the drywall for the outside as long as I would put it up. We also went ahead and added some outside outlets and in the one upper corner – speaker connectors for the radio I planned on putting in the darkroom.

I did work a few other special features into it as well at that point. First I added some ventilation into the walls. I built baffles out of cut down 2×4’s between the studs so there was no path for light to follow. The baffle on one side was static, while on the other side I installed a large muffin fan to circulate air. I also wired in a doorbell with buttons both right outside my door and up in the kitchen so my parents could contact me without having to come downstairs. The lights were wired on two switches – dark lights at the normal height and white lights higher on the wall so they wouldn’t be hit accidentally.

At first my equipment was pretty sparse:

The enlarger I bought new, it was a real challenge to do quality work on it. I bought a decent lens (spent more on that than I did on the enlarger) but the Besler Cadet was cheaply built and not very stable. The table it sits on I built myself using the top of an old computer desk we had – but making my own legs to raise it to an easier work height when I was standing (or sitting on the bar stool from a relatives old bar.)

Wet side features include the large white cabinets from my great grandmother, I built a paper safe into the largest drawer. As well as a kitchen cabinet that came with the house, I just had to add the top to it. The laundry tub I also plumbed in though it had originally been in use elsewhere in the basement – I just claimed it and gave it a better home. On top of the stereo is a clock I got at a hamfest dirt cheap and ended up housing in an old piece of tupperware. It was just the right wavelength and would not fog paper so it worked great for me.

But the trays on the counter were only a temporary solution while I built my sink. The sink was made out of 3×4″ OSB then sealed with multiple coats of outdoor paint and clear acrylic. Eventually it started to rot out around the drain…but it did last a long time before that happened:

I also put some pegboard up and acquired more and more darkroom equipment. As well as some other little toys that I kept around as moral boosters 😀 I didn’t save up enough to add a ceiling for some time…but when I did it made a big difference. Much less dust and the white surface made the safe lights more effective. I know painting a darkroom black is usually done to prevent stray reflections…but I always preferred keeping the walls and ceiling light so the little light there was would be more useful. And once I got into doing color work which necessitated working without any lights….I just didn’t see much point to taking everything out so I could paint.

The Vivitar enlarger I got at a used equipment shop in Columbus cheap after trading in my grandfathers antique enlarger that I never used. (it was a Kodak and I don’t have any photos of it that I know of.) It was a step up from the Cadet…but just barely. You can also see my helper handle hanging off the side of the table. I built a moveable shelf off the side of the table so I could do very big enlargements (the short height of the Cadet was one of it’s big limiting factors!) but couldn’t reach the focus knob…the helper was my solution to that problem!

Over in the other direction you can see one of the air vents and the radio. I removed all of the lights in the radio, then put a small red safe light bulb into the Schlitz sign hanging on the pegboard which I plugged into a switched outlet on the back of the stereo (meant for a tape deck or turntable.) I kept the top of the Schlitz sign unscrewed so it was easy to reach in and unscrew the blub when I did color work. The St. Pauli Girl banner still hangs in my kitchen to this day, though I really can’t stand their beer!

I collected a few more cheap enlargers at garage sales and such and ended up eventually traded them in along with some cash for a Durst color enlarger. It was 35mm only but I really wanted that color head so I could get rid of my VC filters and eventually learn color. Sure enough eventually I ended up buying a Jobo tube processor and teaching myself color printing. While I was in college my mom ended up burning out the power supply on my Durst – so she bought me a new one as a replacement. I think she eventually got the old power supply fixed and kept the original enlarger…but by that point I was using the darkroom so little that it’s hard for me to remember.

The Durst and Jobo are still with me, patiently awaiting the day I have the time and space to setup a darkroom again. While I shoot almost exclusively digital now I do miss the days of the darkroom and would very much like to do some B&W film and paper work again at some point. The new house has a bathroom with no windows as well as a laundry room with no windows…so the chances of me doing something are pretty good.

Oh yeah, that reminds me. Photos of the new living room paint are coming…it’s just real hard to get a shot that shows the colors well. I need to remember to take it before the sun gets too high in the sky to get under our awnings and into the living room!

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