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Darkroom supplies 101.
Old 02-14-2006   #1
Stephanie Brim
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Darkroom supplies 101.

I need recommendations on the things other than an enlarger that I'll need for a well-organized and tidy *bathroom* darkroom. Note two things: I'll be working with a rolling cart for the enlarger plus a folding table (or two) for the trays. How do you guys set up?

I'd also like to hear your takes on best paper/developer combinations. I'm thinking of finding some Kodak paper and using Dektol, but if there's anything else that I should try first let me know. There are a million and one ways to develop paper, a million and one papers to choose from, and a million and one things to try. I'm an experimental person so I'm willing to waste some paper for a good cause.

And one more: book recommendations. I'm going to pick up The Darkroom Cookbook, The Negative, and The Print, but are there any other things that I should read? What are your favorite books on darkroom technique? Are there any that I could read on down the line for when I start getting interested in alternative processes?

Thanks, guys. I kinda owe all this to you in a round about way. Said that many times, but I'll say it again for good measure.
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Old 02-14-2006   #2
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I like Kentmere VC (cheap but excellent) in Agfa Neutol. Since Agfa went broke, and Kentmere is probably a lot more expensive in the US, that probably isn't of much use to you. Kodak b&w papers are discontinued, right? Or am I thinking of another brand... If they are, perhaps it would be better to start out with another paper, it's good if you can stick with the same paper/dev combination for a longer while to learn things. You'll have plenty of time to experiment afterwards. If Kodak did not discontinue it's b&w papers, or if there are exhaustive stocks of it still available, disregard what I just said.

I probably have some books lying around. The Negative, and some others. I never look in them - a shame, I know, but that's the way it is. I'll see what else I have, perhaps we could arrange a deal so that I can get rid of my books and you can get them on the cheap - if you wish.

What kind of recommendations on the things you need are you looking for? Do you have all the basics and are you looking for recommendations for building a darkroom in your bathroom specifically, or do you still need to get everything bar enlarger and trays? (let's see what I have in my darkroom - enlarger + lenses, timer, trays, paper tongs/squeegees, focus aid, graduated pitchers, negative tank and accessories, negative clips, thermometer, some good bottles to store chemicals in (a lot of these: toner (2x), developers (2-3x), fixer (1), etc), ... I don't have, but you might like, an easel, a densitometer, a print dryer, ...)
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Old 02-14-2006   #3
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I'll take good recommendations for anything and also opinions on anything from people who have done this before me. I'm going to kind of rely on everyone ELSE'S knowledge to get myself aquainted with everything.
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Old 02-14-2006   #4
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I thought Kodak didn't manufacture papers anymore? Anyways, I never really liked Kodak, Ilford has been the way to go. A bit more expensive, sure, but if I get proper blacks in trade, it's a no-brainer. YMMV.

What kind of rolling cart do you mean? Wouldn't one introduce unwanted vibrations? Or does it even matter?

I envy you, I'd love to build my own darkroom, so I wouldn't have to always go somewhere to print.

edit: JVX - don't use an easel? o_0 Huh. What then? Glass plate?

Last edited by skarpia : 02-14-2006 at 00:38.
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Old 02-14-2006   #5
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Nah, shouldn't be a problem with the rolling cart. It'll have locking wheels...I'm thinking of spending around $60 and getting a rolling computer cart. Will work nicely.
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Old 02-14-2006   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephanie Brim
Nah, shouldn't be a problem with the rolling cart. It'll have locking wheels...I'm thinking of spending around $60 and getting a rolling computer cart. Will work nicely.
Oh yeah. That's actually a great idea.

I stumbled upon this because of this thread, I haven't seen it before.
http://www.darkroomsource.net/faq.shtml
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Old 02-14-2006   #7
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I envy you as well. I got no place (and also no time) for a darkroom. Haven't printed in a darkroom since freshman year in college. Those were the days
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Old 02-14-2006   #8
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Go to the Kodak web site and get look at their technical publications you can download free of charge. It is a great source.

As far as the chart, do not have the timer or switch you start and end your exposures on it. Vibrations will soften the print. Stand still if you are an a wooden floor during the exposure as that will shake the cart as well. Rolling computer carts are not a great place to put an enlarger, but you can use it if you are careful.

Things for the darkroom:

Enlarger / lens / carrier
Grain focuser
Print easel
Contact printer
Red light
Enlarger timer
Timer for developing
Thermometer
Trays / tongs
A dust free place to dry prints/film
A hair dryer to dry test prints - never judge wet prints as they dry down
Containers to mix chemistry
Print viewing light - use Kodak recommendations
Contrast filters - the large ones that fit under the condensor are better than the ones under the enlarger lens
Spoting dye and brush
Black masking tape
Negative sheets and storage binders
Patience
Towels
Lupe
Light table / panel
Blower
And a bunch of other stuff I can't remember.
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Old 02-14-2006   #9
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The good thing about my situation is that I'm in a basement...I don't have to worry about shaking the floor when I walk. No wood under me...it's solid rock. Makes for less worry about vibrations.
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Old 02-14-2006   #10
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Get a foot-operated enlarger on off switch.

And take a CD player in there with you.
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Old 02-14-2006   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Claremont
Get a foot-operated enlarger on off switch.

And take a CD player in there with you.
Oh yes, The Essential IMHO, but in reality, The Divider: Music. Never could do anything without music in the darkroom. My friend can't print anything with music. Total silence for him.

Operas and Jazz, preferably.

Another essential for me WAS tobacco. Cigarettes or a pipe. Back in the "day" that was. Nowadays not anymore smokes, yay! (Except for good cigars, but that doesn't count...)
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Old 02-14-2006   #12
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I'll most likely print to a medley that includes Disturbed, Evanescence, Genesis, Mozart, and a bit of Jazz thrown in there as well. Perhaps some Nine Inch Nails when I'm doing something really gritty.
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Old 02-14-2006   #13
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You can even take a TV in there with you so long as you tape safelight orange film over the screen.
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Old 02-14-2006   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephanie Brim
Nah, shouldn't be a problem with the rolling cart. It'll have locking wheels...I'm thinking of spending around $60 and getting a rolling computer cart. Will work nicely.
Shouldn't be ??? Have you ever thought how long your exposure times are in the darkroom ? The rolling cart or computer desk you talk about is the worst of all solutions , technically it is exactly the opposite of what you need for an enlarger:
An absolutely vibration-free substructure . With that cart sharpness will be a lottery.


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Old 02-14-2006   #15
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In your laundry room/darkroom I would carry the enlarger in there and set it right on top of the washing machine.

The washing machine is a good heavy stable table at about the right height. Just don't set it to 'fast spin' and you'll be fine.
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Old 02-14-2006   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Stephanie Brim
Perhaps some Nine Inch Nails when I'm doing something really gritty.
No darkroom is complete without NIN and Depeche Mode. And Puccini, and Miles. And Arvo Pärt. And Jukka Tolonen. Oh look, it's the contents of my mp3-player. What a coincidence. ;D
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Old 02-14-2006   #17
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I don't know if you need a bomb-proof table for an enlarger, although that is the best. I did have a less than perfect rack for an enlarger and with a little care I got by with it - my current microscope stand is not particulary stable either. Certainly try the cart. If it works, you are OK. When you get a better situation for a new darkroom, then think of a better surface for the enlarger.

But one thing that just occured to me. If the cart is too low, it will be very uncomfortable to use. A height of about 36 inches makes a good work surface.
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Old 02-14-2006   #18
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Not sure what equipment you have now but in my spare bathroom I built a nice wood stand about 8 inches high with a drawer in it to hold my stuff. This stand would fit over the bathroom sink and put the enlarger at a comfortable height. I used several different enlargers before but since I wanted to be able to break down the darkroom when needed I chose a small Bogen enlarger that could do both 35mm and 6x6. I upgraded the lens to a Nikkor 50mm F2.8 and carefully aligned it. Over the bathtub I built a rack for the 3 trays to sit on made of the wire rack closet shelf material from Home Depot. I then put a large tray in the bottom of the tub and used a Kodak Tray siphon to wash prints with. Of course I had the usual timers, safelights and other tools to work with. Never developed film as I used Ilford C41 black and white on ilford multgrade paper. Sold all of it years ago.
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Old 02-14-2006   #19
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If you want to make *big* prints get a 40mm enlarger lens, not 50mm.
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Old 02-14-2006   #20
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I would try Ethol LPD as developer, more versatile than Dektol IMHO
lasts longer and gives very nice prints.

Per paper, get a cheap one... Arista Pro/Rebranded Ilford would be an awesome choice. Rebranded Foma (Arista Edu II) or rebranded Forte (Arista EDU) will work as well.
I'm an AGFA man myself, but since they are gone

I used to have a basement, but now have to roll cart my enlarger. I bolted it to the rolling cart directly, one less variable to take care of.
I put the folding table with trays inside the bathtub and use the hand shower for washing prints in a square trashcan.
You may want to put a couple of nails in the wall and run a line from the wall -> Curtain rod -> wall to hang your prints to dry.
Use the toilet seat as a seat for enlarging

Books: The Master Prinitng Book by Tim Rudman and Way Beyond Monochrome are my 2 favorites now.
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Old 02-14-2006   #21
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Whatever you use to hold the enlarger -- cart, whatever -- I'd suggest you not buy it until you know the size of the enlarger's baseboard.

Sturdiness isn't actually a super-big issue with modern enlarging equipment, because you'll be turning the enlarger on and off via an external timer. As long as you wait long enough for the vibrations to die down from paper insertion, focusing, etc., the actual operation of exposure isn't going to introduce any more vibration and you won't have to worry about it. Also, the sturdier your enlarger, the less vibration is a problem: the only thing that can affect sharpness is movement of the head relative to the baseboard, so if the thing is really rigid, you could set it on top of a RUNNING washing machine without any effect. (It's hard to find an enlarger that's actually THAT rigid, but I do know from USAF acquaintances that it's possible to make good enlargements on a jet in flight.)

For chemistry, I like Ethol LPD liquid. The great advantage of this for the occasional printer is that it comes as a liquid concentrate (so you don't have to mix and store stock solutions that can oxidize). It also lasts a long time in a tray or slot processor and can be used at varying dilutions.

Stephanie, I'm sending you a brief PM on some other stuff that might be specific to your situation.
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Old 02-14-2006   #22
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For paper go with Ilford instead of Kodak. There is no point of learning how to use the paper if it isn't going to be around. Unless you get a killer price on paper. I actually am practicing on Brilliant VC I and II, I bought about 450 sheets for 60 bucks. Some may say save the good stuff, but you have to learn somehow.

For music, I currently have the Boss live in Cleveland from 78. Still definitive Bruce almost 30 years later.

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Old 02-14-2006   #23
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Thanks for all the good responses. The cart I have no control over...it has to be something that I can take in and out of the bathroom when I'm using or not using it and I really don't want to physically lug the enlarger in every time. Because of the fact that the floor is a solid rock I shouldn't have much trouble with vibration.

Bruce Springsteen and Eric Clapton will be in my darkroom too, definitely. I listen to so many different kinds of music.
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