I'm Looking to start a B&W only darkroom, looking for tips

Discussion in 'The Darkroom' started by kilifila66, Jun 22, 2005.

  1. kilifila66

    kilifila66 TPF Noob!

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    Ok I am looking to make a black and white only darkroom. These are my questions.
    1) What do I need to start a darkroom in terms of supplies?
    2) What chemicals do I need?
    3) What lighting would you recommend?
    4) Which type of film does your recommended setup support (i.e. c41)?
    5) What type of paper do you recommend for B&W?

    I am not sure if all of these questions are related to the darkroom specifically but I only have 1 thing to bear in mind, I do not have a lot of space to work with. Thanks for any help you can give, sorry im a TOTAL noob with this stuff.
     
  2. darin3200

    darin3200 TPF Noob!

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    1) What do I need to start a darkroom in terms of supplies?
    An enlarger
    Trays
    For film, a film developing tank with reels

    2) What chemicals do I need?
    For prints you need a print developer, a stop bath and a fixer and for film a film developer and you can use the same stop and fixer (the fixer might need to be a different ratio though)
    3) What lighting would you recommend?
    They recommend certain amber bulbs, I am using a red light because I'm cheap :) but it works just fine. I put two pieces of black cardboard around the light though because there was a tiny amount of white light coming out around the top and the black would absorb a lot of that

    4) Which type of film does your recommended setup support (i.e. c41)?
    Black and white, if you haven't done darkroom at all before I wouldn't recommend going with c41 and color because the chemicals are more toxic and you have to everything in the dark. Not very many people do their own c-41.

    5) What type of paper do you recommend for B&W?
    Whatever is cheap :p But I'm using Ilford right now and it is giving a lot better result than the kodak I used to have but that might just be because I have a slightly better idea of what I'm doing now. If you are just getting started I would look into the Arista.EDU over at freestyle because it looks like a good deal.
     
  3. kilifila66

    kilifila66 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks Darin, Any suggestion as to an enlarger? I think max 8*10 and I am in the same situation you appear to be in, I am cheap.:mrgreen:
     
  4. Hertz van Rental

    Hertz van Rental TPF Noob!

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  5. ksmattfish

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

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  6. 303villain

    303villain TPF Noob!

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    i agree with the ilford paper, it works well! you can get it in packages of 25sheets and 100(those are the only 2 variations ive seen).

    ive never done c41, but the film i usually buy/process on my own is a tri-x400 film. its waay easier from what i understand.
     
  7. kilifila66

    kilifila66 TPF Noob!

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    Thanks everyone, as always I knew Hertz would give me the old link. I did a search when I first posted this and couldn't seem to find it. All hail Hertz the king of the TPF search and archive master! I appreciate everyones help, any extra links are appreciated.
     
  8. wharrison

    wharrison TPF Noob!

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    The first thing I would search for and obtain is an old, but still good, Leitz Valoy II enlarger with the Leitz Focotar Lens. Of course, if you have some extra money available, I'd then suggest an old, but still excellent Leitz Focomat Ic or newer model enlarger - they came in several different models.

    Why Leitz enlargers?

    Well, for one thing, they combine the best of both the condenser and diffuser types of enlargers without the disadvantages of both. For another, the single condenser acts in the same manner as a film plane insuring negative film flatness from corner to corner.

    FYI - condenser enlargers provide a sharp clear image, but they also compress tonal ranges into a contrastier print. So one has to generally overexpose and underdevelope to achieve a somewhat flat negative with a long tonal range. Condenser enlargers will also show every little - and I do mean "every" little - piece of dust, dirt, and scratches in or on the negative.

    FYI - Diffuser enlargers or enlargers with diffused light sources provide a wide tonal range, but the images they produce do not appear as "sharp", "detailed" or as "contrasty" as condenser enlarger. However, they do subdue scratches and dust on or in the negative. With a diffuser enlarger, one's exposure and developing techniques accordingly change to produce the desired negatives.

    Again, the Leitz enlargers combine the best of both without the disadvantages of either, i.e. a diffused light source with a single condenser - among other things.

    I've look at at the current offerings on Ebay. The Leitz Focomat Ia currently offered is too old and the lens is not the current or older Focotar; the others may be a bit too pricey for you at this time; but, nevertheless, I would search, save your money, do some research, and then make your decision.

    By the way, I have an old Leitz Valoy II enlarger, but never could afford - until now - the Leitz Focotar enlarging lens. So I made use of the lens head of my 50mm Summicron (Leitz) with the appropriate Leitz adapter, of coure, and easily pulled highly detailed, well contrasted, long tonal range 11 X 14 (and a few 16 X 20) prints from even a portion of the 35mm negative - including Tri -X developed at ASA/ISO 1200-1600 in Diafine.

    A short story: Decades ago, when I was working at Peoria Camera Shop in Peoria, IL one of our customers saw his neighbor take something huge out to the garbage for disposal. He just happened to notice the word Leitz (Leica) on the device. He inquired about it and since the neighbor didn't want it anymore, he ended up with a very nice Leitz (Leica) and all it needed was a few missing screws.

    I should have been so lucky!!!!!

    If you don't choose the Leitz enlargers, I'd opt for the 2.5 X 2.5 enlargers made by Durst - they were well built and should give you good service and you might even find a diffused light source for them, but they do not compare in anyway with results of Leitz enlargers and enlarging lenses. Period. Nor does any other enlarger for that matter.

    As far as developing tanks are concern, there are a number of good tanks on the market, but I've always preferred those made by Gepe - probably not made anymore or not imported into this country.

    The Gepe tanks were made of plastic like many others still on the market, but they had a device that permitted you to load the reels from the inside out. The whole affair was a little wider in diameter than those made by Patterson, which meant more (better) circulation of the chemistry over the film areas. The Gepe tanks have a wide mouth for quick pouring in and out of the chemistry and the chemicals enter the top and are directed towards the bottom first and then upwards. With the right hose and connections, washing is quickly done forcing the chemicals out from the bottom and over the top thus making archival processing much easier.

    Every once in a while, Gepe developing tanks show up on Ebay for auction. You might check around various web sites and photography stores here and abroad to see if they are still available. Sorry, but I won't part with my set of Gepe tanks and reels.

    Other than Gepe tanks, you might consider either those made by Patterson or (Honeywell) Nikkor (stainless steel). If you choose the latter, you'll have to learn how to load the film properly in the dark, before you try to develop your first roll. If you don't, there's a good chance that portions of your film will touch each other and no or very poor images will result.

    The easiest way to load a stainless steel reel is to make sure that the edges of the reel are resting flat on a surface and use your fingers to turn the reel to load the film. Once load, use your fingers so that they are touching the sides of the reel. You can feel the film move on the reels as you move the end piece of film back and forth to make sure that it is loaded properly. Practice several times in the light - with a junk roll of film and then try loading the junk test film in the darkroom.

    As for trays, I'd opt for good Patterson 11 X 14 trays - even though you may rarely make 11 X 12 prints. Of course, they'll use more solution, but then your chemistry won't get exhausted as easily.

    I'd also opt for a Patterson contact sheet printer. For one, this device will give you a print of all of your negatives, but, better yet, a contact printer will help you determine whether or not your exposure and developing techniques are consistent to produce consistent results - tonal ranges, density, contrasts, etc.

    As for other matters necessary for a good darkroom set up, you'll have to do some additional "homework" and, especially, gain experience over a period of time, and make use of your imagination. On this later point, you can set up an inexpensive "darkroom" by making use of a heavy black visquine (spelling?) available at your local hardware store and use it to cover up some basement windows. I also made use of some old blankets staped over doors in the basement. The blankets didn't make the "darkroom" light proof, if there was light in another room in the basement, but it did, when all of the lights were out.

    Hope this discussion is more than useful for your intended darkroom project!

    Bill
     
  9. darin3200

    darin3200 TPF Noob!

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    Another tip, don't buy new enlargers. I have a Beseler 23C II that goes for about $700 dollars from FreeStyle.com which I got used but in good condition from an old newspaper photographer for $90. Look around in the classifieds etc...
     
  10. 303villain

    303villain TPF Noob!

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    another thing you might want to look into as far as enlargers go is coontrast. you can use filters to change contrast(cheaper way) but if youve got the dough, you can get a poly contrast enlarger, like the ones theyve got at my school, and theyre sweet! next time im in there ill look at the brand cause i cant remember, but theyre two channel, adjustable contrast enlargers!
     

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