My new darkroom

Last year I wrote about the darkroom I had set up in my loft. Since then I’ve moved house, so I need to build the darkroom again. This time I have a windowless utility room on the ground floor, with running water and a worktop, so it’s already better than what I had before. Here’s how I’ve set it up.

Click for a larger version, and see below for a bit more explanation. Apologies for the poor quality of this picture – I used my phone as my DSLR is currently tied up in a laser lab at Bristol university’s chemistry department. Hopefully photos to follow!

  1. Safelight. This is a very old Paterson safelight, emitting just a dim red glow. Note that this is only suitable for black & white paper – all films must still be handled in total darkness.
  2. Liquid concentrates – Various Ilford products, (including Multigrade developer, Ilfostop and Ilfotol), Rollei Digibase C41 chemicals and a bottle of Agfa Viradon New sepia toner.
  3. Powdered concentrates – At the moment, just Ilford Microphen. Usually I would choose to use ID-11, but someone gave me 15 litres  of Microphen powder, so who am I to complain!
  4. Universal film tanks. These are Paterson tanks and can take 35mm, 120 or 127 film.
  5. Graduates, or as most people call them, measuring cylinders. I don’t know why the photography word is different. I also have some funnels for getting stuff back into bottles and some measuring jugs.
  6. B&W film chemistry, diluted and ready for use in processing black & white films.
  7. Gloves. Developer is quite alkaline and can make your hands sore if you handle it too much. Wearing gloves also helps prevent getting fingerprints on the film.
  8. Colour C41 film chemistry – in this case, Rollei Digibase C41. It is diluted and ready for use.
  9. Paper squeegee for getting most of the water off finished prints.
  10. Film squeegee for getting most of the water off processed negatives. Seems that most people are divided on squeegees for film – they avoid water drying marks, but can cause scratches. Always clean your squeegee!
  11. Scissors for cutting film up.
  12. Pop-up drying rack for hanging prints over the sink to drip dry.
  13. Rinsing tray. This is a normal paper tray, but I made some holes at one end so water trickles in from the tap, over the prints, out of the holes and down the drain. It’s an effective way of washing prints and saves buying an expensive print washer.
  14. Paper processing trays for developing, stopping and fixing prints. There are extra trays in the cupboard under the sink for occasions where I also want to tone prints. I also have other sizes.
  15. Paper easel. This one is a Durst 8×10″ but there is plenty of room for a larger easel on the baseboard.
  16. Dust blower for getting dust off negatives before printing from them. It’s a Giottos Rocket Blower, and works well.
  17. Focus finder for inspecting the magnified grain in the negative before printing.
  18. Warm water bath. C41 colour processing must be done at 38°C, so I fill this wallpaper pasting trough with warm water and place the bottles of chemicals and the film tanks in it.
  19. Thermometers & pencils, also some stirring rods. The thermometers are used to check temperatures of chemicals (20°C for black & white, 38°C for colour). The pencils are essential for making notes about the prints I make, so I can make more copies the same way in the future.
  20. Enlarger. Mine is an LPL C7700 medium format enlarger, and can make prints from negatives as large as 6×7cm. I have 50mm and 75mm lenses for 35mm and 120-format negatives.
  21. Work light, because sometimes you need to see what you’re doing 🙂

Not pictured:

  • A clock that ticks loudly so I can time things in the dark
  • A room thermometer so I can estimate how warm the chemicals on the shelves might be without having to check.
  • A place to hang films to dry. A 36-exposure film is about six feet long, and obviously won’t fit on my print drying rack above the sink!

Most of the photography-specific equipment was purchased either from FirstCall Photographic or second-hand from eBay. Most of the more generic fixtures and fittings were bought from Ikea or other DIY shops.

If you are a darkroom enthusiast, buy Ilford film, paper and chemistry! It might not be the cheapest brand but it’s probably the best and it’s good to support a British company. Too many traditional photographic companies have discontinued products, changed focus or shut down entirely. Support traditional photography, and buy more film! 😀

2 Comments

  1. Marc
    November 19, 2012
    Reply

    Hi Jonathan,

    I am just setting up a darkroom in my garage…I last did this over 25 years ago!!
    I hope I will get a refreshing change from Digital and being stuck to a laptop all the time.

    Kind Regards,

    Marc.

    • November 19, 2012
      Reply

      Excellent stuff, Marc! Give me a shout, let me know how you get on 🙂

      Cheers,
      Jonathan

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