October 26, 2013

Update, October 2013 - new cabinet and flatfile

The darkroom has been operational for almost 3 years.  I make small changes all the time, but this recent one was more involved and precipitated by the acquisition of a small, 5 drawer flat file.  The flat file came from my wife's studio after she acquired a much larger 20 drawer unit!

I initially set it over in a corner and thought I'd just set the dry mount press on top of it.  However, the heights weren't right and I was a little afraid the weight of the press would eventually sag the top of the flat file.  So, I have re-arranged the dry side of the darkroom, and built a new under-cabinet as a stand for the flat file, which brings it up to counter height.  The dry mount press now sits on the older (and very sturdy) cabinet, and all is well.

Here is the original floor plan of the darkroom:

And here is the revised layout:

In addition to this latest change, you can see that the two sets of shelves have been eliminated.  And yes, the door does bump the small refrigerator. It's just a coincidence, but the drawing is accurate.

The new cabinet was constructed to match the others, as all were built for this darkroom.

The raw material
The raw material was white melamine.  This material is stable, fairly cheap, and works fine for utility uses.  Since it is essentially particle board, however, you can't get it wet.  Dry side is fine.  I was fortunate that I was able to draw up the plans and get all the parts but one out of one new 4x8 sheet of material.  The one remaining part came out of scrap from prior projects.

Cuts had to be planned carefully.  There is an old carpenter's adage: "measure twice, cut once."  I measure 2 or 3 times, and this is after thinking the whole project through many times.  This was the only way to ensure that I got all of the pieces out of the material I had, since there was negligible scrap and only about 3/4" room for errors.

The larger cuts of the big sheet were done with a track saw.  I am so glad that I invested in this tool back when I made the first cabinets.  It is much safer than a table saw and more accurate than using a plain circular saw.

the first cross cut
all the parts cut out

Assembly was done with pocket screws.  I have a jig that makes drilling the pocket holes easy enough, and a small cordless driver makes the job go pretty fast.

The cabinet was sized to just fit under the flat file, and then to raise the flat file to the right height so that another piece of the melamine on top as a "countertop" would match the height of the other cabinet surfaces.  I was fortunate to find sturdy and pre-made plastic drawers that would just fit, and adjusted the shelf spacing to accommodate them.

Everything is in place and I'll be back to my backlog of printing in no time.

The new "dry side"

December 10, 2011

It’s time I made an update to the darkroom blog after a bit over a year. Still not doing as much work out there as I thought, but I retired this year so things will pick up. From the post on October 31 of last year:

Still to be done:

• Film drying rack.
• Make a frame for the print drying racks.
• Get a new air compressor.
• Better tray storage.
• Storage for the enlarger lenses.

The film and print drying racks were done timely, as was the procurement of the air compressor. Alas, the enlarger lenses are still in a cardboard box and the trays are still haphazardly stacked under the sink.

I’ve also discovered a new light leak due to cracked seams due to the building shifting. These things are inevitable and unavoidable; and easily fixed with some caulk and paint, but …

It never ends …

November 25, 2010

Do blogs ever end?

Sadly, most are just abandoned. However, this blog was created to document the design and building of my darkroom; and as the darkroom is essentially finished, the blog must come to an end. I plan to leave it up as a record, just without any additional posts.

November 20, 2010


I have been working and/or out of town since that roll of film was developed.  But, back in town on a weekend for a change, I had two other friend-photographers over to look at the darkroom this morning.  One brought me a darkroom-warming present of some developer.  Good time had by all.

There was a third visitor - a wasp!  It must have come in through the air conditioner.  It stayed up around the ceiling and didn't bother us.  I left the poor thing in there so it could die a natural death, and later I shall dispose of the body properly.

November 8, 2010

Back in the saddle again …

Yes sir, friends and neighbors, that is, indeed, freshly processed film in the wash! (Tri-X in D76). The darkroom is operational!

It’s been less than a quiet week, but I got a few things done. After spending half the week out of town, then returning to a veterinary emergency and other domestic occurrences, I still managed to mix some chemistry and develop a roll of film.

In other darkroom news, the stereo is also up and running, although I haven’t hooked up the sub-woofer yet. When I got the CD player out of the closet, I couldn’t locate the power cord for it. No big deal, less than $3 at the local electronics store obtained another. This expenditure, of course, assured that I would find the original the following day!

Did a little yard maintenance, worked in the shop some, and still managed to soup some film.

Did I mention that I developed a roll of film?

October 31, 2010

The table

Got the worktable in place.

I had always intended to have a work surface in this corner. The original plan was to build it myself, just as I had built the other cabinets on the dry side. However, a couple of weekends ago my wife and I were shopping and came across one of those stainless steel work tables of the type that are in restaurant kitchens. It was the exact right size and looked perfect for the job. However, it was a bit pricy.

Since I was so close to finishing the darkroom, and this would save me several days of labor, and part of the cost would be absorbed by not having to buy materials, I inquired about the table. The question was whether or not the seller could disassemble it. No, was the answer, it doesn’t come apart. Well, I knew better, but this particular one was not going home with me.

A little internet research, and I came up with local suppliers of similar, if perhaps lesser quality, tables for about half the price of the used one that I had seen, and they came unassembled. Bingo! A stainless and very sturdy work surface.

When I was laying out the plan for the darkroom, lo, these many months ago, this was to be a combination desk, and negative prep area. Choosing negatives, cleaning them, mounting in the carriers, that sort of thing. At the time, I was not sure if the dry mount press would go in the darkroom itself. I have since decided that the press should go in the darkroom, since its principle duty is to flatten fiber prints.

Thus, this corner of the darkroom has evolved to be the alpha and omega of the printing process. The negatives start here, and the dry prints will end up in the yet to be built print racks on the shelf beneath the table. Everything else runs in a nice clockwise motion around the room.

You would think I had planned it …

Still to be done:

  • Film drying rack.
  • Make a frame for the print drying racks.
  • Get a new air compressor.
  • Better tray storage.
  • Storage for the enlarger lenses.

PS:  I recently got a "comment" on a post from back in May ("Another darkroom construction blogger").  It included a link to a darkroom blog by a photographer in France.  The blog is in English.  I added it to the other links page.

October 28, 2010

What's left (and what's still not right)

In any project that has gone on for way over the expected time, there usually comes a point where you just get tired of it. It doesn’t matter how much you want the project to be finished, or more importantly, want the final result of the project ( a working darkroom in this case), you are simply tired of the whole ordeal.

This darkroom is so close now, as to now be as frustrating as were all of the weeks and then months that passed while it was still so far from finished.

(Excuse the bad photoshop merge - I just don't put much effort into it.)

Where am I today? The safelights are up and wired. Testing them will be the first thing I do once I feel like putting chemistry in trays. All of the fixtures are in except for a work table. It goes where the chair is sitting under the shelves.  My plan had always been to build one, but in the interest of time and not much more money, I have decided to purchase one, as previously discussed.

So, what’s left to do?

There’s really nothing that would prevent me from working; not even the absence of a “work table”. However, I learned from my father’s wisdom and experience that there was often nothing more permanent then a temporary solution. So, I really want to get everything done. Granted, I may, and probably will, change and adjust things down the road, but starting without everything right now is not the answer.

  • I need to decide where to put up a rack to hang film to dry. (I have the rack)
  • Get the heater up and running. (Also already procured – but it may get down in the 40s this week!)
  • Make a frame for the print drying racks (old one didn’t survive the tear down of the last darkroom.)
  • Acquire the final fixture – a work table - so that I have a place for the light box.
Secondary importance, but I want it done:
  • Get a new air compressor (see previous blog post)
  • Get a stereo receiver (this is a story all to itself – maybe a future post)
And last – things that might wait, but are still on the must do list:

  • Better tray storage – right now they’re just stacked under the long sink. Need some racks or dividers or something.
  • Storage for the enlarger lenses.
And, of course, there are the dozens of little tools and do-dads that probably aren't in their final resting place.  They'll get moved around and settle eventually.  Almost there - almost!