I'm Getting A Darkroom!!!

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by dirty1thirdee, Jan 7, 2007.

  1. dirty1thirdee

    dirty1thirdee TPF Noob!

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    My family is getting an addition on our house, and my parents are giving me space to have a darkroom. My question is: is this EVERYTHING I need for a home darkroom? I will only be doing 35mm black and white, and I will be developing film and printing. I've been doing darkroom stuff at school, so I based this list of items off of my current knowledge.

    Another question: do mixed chemicals get old and unusable if they are left out for a while? How often do I need to replace Fixer and Dektol if they have been sitting out in chemical trays? Will I need to replace fixer and D-76 developer if they have been sitting in enclosed storage containers for a while?

    Thanks, and happy printing!

    Tucker
     
  2. ferny

    ferny TPF Noob!

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    I don't know about the fixer and dektol but remember that as time goes on water evaporates and the mixture will become concentrated. D-76 says it'll last about 6 month once it has been opened. It'll also only last a set amount of films. Keep them in the bottles you can squeeze down to remove the air and keep them out of direct light. That'll help them last better. I would scan in the back of my packet of D-76 but it's buried at the moment. :mrgreen:

    One note about your chemicals, 10 gallons is a LOT of liquid. That's almost 38 litres. The petrol tank in my car holds 40 litres! :shock: You don't need anywhere near that amount. So buy a small amount and look up local shops in your area so that if you run out when you really need some you can shoot out and buy another packet.

    Don't bother with the changing bag as your darkroom will need to be 100% light tight anyway. So when you're loading up your reel do it in the darkroom and save yourself some money. :)

    You haven't got a thermometer on your list. Film holders for when it's drying are useful but you can use bulldog clips if you'd like. A box of latex gloves. A flexible hose is useful for washing your prints and negatives as you can direct the water where you want rather than letting it fall from a height.
     
  3. dirty1thirdee

    dirty1thirdee TPF Noob!

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    I think the chemicals I had were a powder which you dilute with water. Could I just mix however much I need at a time? If not, I will definately just get small amounts.

    Please excuse my lack of knowledge on this, I probably sound like an idiot. I've heard about using thermometers before, but at my school I have never seen or heard about my teacher making sure the chemicals or room are the right temperature. I don't even know which chemicals I need to check the temps of. Please explain.
     
  4. ferny

    ferny TPF Noob!

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    You can just mix up what you want. But it'll take you a while to get through that amount and I don't know if they'll spoil in powder form. There's also the risk of them getting contaminated with water by accident or something/someone (animal, small child?) getting a bit too close to that powder. And there's the cost of buying that much in one go.

    It is important to get the temperatures correct. Too cold and it'll take a long time to develop. Too hot and it will damage the emulsion. If there is a big difference in temperatures in the chemicals you use you'll shock the film.
    99% of the time the packet will tell you how long to use what's in it for at a set temperature (normally 20°C) as that's what they've tested it at themselves.

    It is possible your teacher knows the chemicals and atmosphere of the room well enough to know what temperatures the chemicals will probably be at. It's also possible that he doesn't really care as they're not his photographs. I'd ask him to see what he says and you may learn something either from him or about him. ;)

    Bottom line, if you don't know everything about what you're using and how you're using it how can you predict the outcome and if something unexpected happens how will you know what caused it? They're dirt cheap as well.
     
  5. JamesD

    JamesD Between darkrooms

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    It's not generally a good idea to mix only a portion of a powdered chemical and save the rest for later, for a couple of reasons. First, the chemicals making up the powder may not be evenly distributed in the package, and therefore each partial batch can have a different chemical composition. Also, the envelopes the powders come in will no longer be airtight, and humidity and oxygen will cause the chemicals to deteriorate. It's better to mix it all up at once, then store it in smaller bottles. With Developer, it's especially important to keep the bottles full and tightly capped, because the oxygen in the air will cause the developer to deteriorate. If you leave developer in a tray overnight, it may not be any good in the morning. I've heard of people laying plastic cling-film over the surface of the liquid to keep the air out, but personally, I just either pour it back in the storage bottle, or throw it out, depending on how many times I've used it and when I expect to use it again.

    Kodak products will list on the package an expiration date for the powder in the envelope, and also an amount of time you can store the stock solution and working solution under ideal conditions. Heat, light, and especially oxygen will shorten the life of developers. Also, as you use the chemicals, they will lose effectiveness (especially developers) as well.

    If you're worried that you might not get to use all the chemistry before it goes bad, you might consider either buying smaller portions which you can use up before spoilage becomes an issue, or perhaps try liquid concentrates, which seem to last longer. An old trick for eliminating air from a partially-used bottle of chemistry is to fill it with clean glass marbles to bring the level of the liquid up to the mouth of the bottle.

    The enlarger kit doesn't appear to come with a timer; you'll want one (I personally would say "need"). The timer will allow precision timing for your print exposures (meaning consistency). Also, keep in mind that when you're handling undeveloped film, you want absolute darkness; glow in the dark dials such as the one on the timer you have listed (and on wrist watches) can fog film, so you'll want to cover them. Also, do not use fluorescent lighting in the darkroom, as they have residual glow when you turn them off. Tungsten lighting only.

    The measuring graduate seems awfully expensive. I use a plastic measuring cup from Wal Mart, and I've never had a problem with it. I clearly marked it "photo only" so it never gets confused with kitchen measuring cups. You might be better off getting some one-gallon (or smaller, if you're dividing up your chemicals into smaller portions) plastic jugs for chemical storage. They work well, and cost much less than the tanks you have in the list.

    Finally, I'd seriously suggest putting a radio in your darkroom. I find that it makes it much more comfortable. Oh, and as ferny says, you'll need a thermometer. And don't forget a shelf for your reference books.

    Just curious, how big is your darkroom going to be? I've got mine set up in a 4-foot by 5-foot closet... kind of cramped, but it works pretty well. Wish I had running water in there, though...
     
  6. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    I'd use standard 1 gallon brown photo jugs for a home darkroom rather than the big chem containers. You'll waste chems mixing up more than a gallon at a time.

    Buying thermometers, graduates, clothline pins (instead of film clips), etc... at dept. stores or hardware stores instead of photo supply shops are ways to save money.

    You need at least 4 trays: dev, stop, fix, and a water holding bath.
     
  7. dirty1thirdee

    dirty1thirdee TPF Noob!

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    There's a Gralab timer at the bottom of the list, and I'm definately getting a timer. Even a split second can make a big difference.

    I put a black changing bag in the list, which I do plan on getting. I feel better reeling film in a bag rather than in a room, because in a room you can lose something, in a bag you can't. And thanks for the tip about fluorescent lighting, I wouldn't have known that otherwise.

    I'm definately doing this, we have a radio in our darkroom at school, and it seriously makes the time in there 10x as enjoyable with one.:D

    6' x 5', with a 2 foot deep counter along the 6' wall. It will have a sink. And under the counter there will be lots of cabinet space, for all my developing equipment and regular photo equipment. Right now the plans say that there is no entrance to the darkroom from the garage, so in order to get in there you have to first pass through a mechanical/heat pump/electrical room. This way I can leave the darkroom without letting any light in and ruining my prints and unused photo paper.

    I was planning on only having three trays for the developer, stop, and fix, and then running the prints under water from the sink faucet with my hands or latex gloves. In school I always wash my prints for about 30 seconds to 1 minute instead of the 5 minutes our teacher told us to, just because I am lazy.:lol: I haven't run into any problems yet.
     
  8. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    But if it's warm and/or humid your hands will sweat in a changing bag, and that's no good for the film. I was on a 2 week vacation (away from my darkroom) in Oregon a few years back. The humidity was very high, and when I tried to load my film holders with 4x5 sheet film it was almost impossible, because my hands got so sweaty.

    My darkroom is 15' x 15'. Eat your heart out. ;)
     
  9. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Residual fixer won't mess with you tomorrow. It waits 5 to 15 years before it destroys prints. Don't be lazy, you'll be sorry.
     
  10. dirty1thirdee

    dirty1thirdee TPF Noob!

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    Wow, I asked my teacher, who by the way is not qualified to teach photography seeing as she is an art teacher who was added to teach photo only because the class filled up, and she said that it doesn't matter if there is leftover fixer on the paper when you dry it, it just makes it feel different and smell bad. I can't stand her, sometimes I want to correct what she says, but she is the type of person who will give you a detention for that. She has taught me a lot of things about developing and printing, but still, I wish I had a better teacher. Thanks for telling me that, I probably won't be lazy with washing prints for a while.
     
  11. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    Most commonly fixer is an acid. We all know what acids do. There are some fixers that are alkaline (like TF-4), but that will still eat prints up eventually if left in the print. There is a ton of info about the potential problems of not washing fixer from film or prints available on the web and in books. It's very basic darkroom knowledge, and it's disappointing that your teacher doesn't know it.

    All it takes is one person in a darkroom to wreck it for everyone. If fixer isn't washed properly then it gets all over the place, like on the print drying racks. It doesn't matter how well you wash your prints if you then set them on a contaminated print drying rack. Fixer contaminated water drips on the floor from prints; then it drys to a powder and is kicked up when people walk through. Fixer gets all over the equipment, on the prints and film, and in your lungs. Always carry wet prints in a tray to avoid dripping. One contaminated print or film will contaminate everything it comes in contact with. Darkroom geeks have words for people who don't take care with fixer, and none of them are nice. ):

    If you are washing prints with other students at the same time, the total washing time should be from when the last print was added to the wash. If you are using a wash time of 5 minutes (for RC paper that's been run through a hypo eliminating agent such as hypo-clear), and your print has been in the washer for 4 minutes, and somone else comes along and plops their print in, then your wash time starts over at zero, and you need to wash it for another 5 min.

    To deal with this all people in the darkroom should put their prints in a water holding bath until enough have acummulated, and all start and stop washing at the same time.
     
  12. ksmattfish

    ksmattfish Now 100% DC - not as cool as I once was, but still

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    All chems and water baths need to be at the same temp. It's particularly important for film developing. Temperature is vital in determining how long to develop. It's hard for me to believe a photo teacher doesn't know this stuff. Definately a sign that film (and education) is truely dead. I'd stop wasting your time with this teacher, and avoid their photo classes in the future. They are teaching you that the darkroom equals frustration.

    If you are using Kodak films go to www.kodak.com, and look up your film. It will tell you how to develop it properly. It's simple to do it the right way.

    Other helpful websites about BW film developing:

    http://www.digitaltruth.com

    http://www.apug.org

    http://www.darkroomsource.net/tech-bw-film.shtml
     

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