Darkroom Woes Can't even make a test strip


TPF Noob!
Sep 10, 2015
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Well, I am finally in my new darkroom after an unexpected detour. It turned out mucha s I expected with a few things to fine tune. The first session of film processing went thru without a glitch. But I am running into problems with enlarging. Keep in mind it has been forty years since I have been in a darkroom. Something is drastically wrong and I need help figuring out what it is. I can't even make a test strip. Everything comes out either completely over exposed or just a muddy slop with no detail or contrast. I am using Ilford Multigrade IV and Kodak Polycontrast paper with Dektol developer. The negative looks clear and sharp. What am I doing wrong? Here are what my test strips look like.

Is your developer fresh? Not just recently mixed, but not having set around for a millennia before mixing.
Stock solution made from unexpired package. Fresh tray made up everytime I try to make test strips. And I have made several attempts. All with the same results. I try all aperture settings on the enlarger and exposure times. I get these results with very short exposure times.
No filter in enlarger.
I left a test strip exposed to the safelight for several minutes longer than it is exposed when I am making a test strip and then developed it. There was no fogging. It remained pure white.
Yeah, safelight is a good bet. I'd also check for light leaks in the room. You didn't mention the paper - is that old?
Another problem can light leaks from the enlarger.

Also, have you actually light-proofed the darkroom? You really can't tell if there's light leaks from outside right after you turn off the lights. It can take 5-10 minutes for your vision to completely dark-adapt, so minor light leaks might not be visible immediately.
Paper is current. Had same problem when I tried to make contact prints from some larger negatives. Don't think it is light leaks.
I'd check the safelight then.

No filter in enlarger.
Well that's likely at least part of your problem right there. These are poly contrast papers.

I see no whites on any of the test strips, which is an indication of fogging.
Depends on how he's making the test strips (and the exposure of the negatives). I'm looking at the actual image on the paper and I'm seeing clear detail, but very low contrast, and it looks to me not unlike the results I would get with Ilford MC when using rather 'bleah' negatives to start with and noticing after the exposure that the #7PC filter was still sitting on the darkroom table...
Paper is current. Had same problem when I tried to make contact prints from some larger negatives. Don't think it is light leaks.

Contact prints are also fogged or over-exposed ?
How long was the exposure time ?

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