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macandal
26-Nov-2016, 15:53
So, from time to time I start thinking that I want to build my own darkroom in my parents' house. Depending on the amount of pleading I'm willing to do, that will determine, first of all, whether or not I can build my darkroom in their house, and second, the amount of space I get to use. The space can be as tiny as a little closet, and as big (or long) as about 40 ft X 10 ft. Anyway, I've been reading as much information as I can find about building darkrooms and one constant I find is that it is recommended to work backwards. That is, think about the largest print you want to make and that will determine the size of your darkroom. Now, I was wondering if there is an easy way to determine this. I mean, if the biggest print I want to make is 30" x 40" or, mural size, 3' x 5', how much space do I need? Because space may be a factor, if you could tell me how to figure out what the minimum sizes would have to be for these or any other sizes, I would appreciate it.

Thank you.

Jac@stafford.net
26-Nov-2016, 16:16
It's almost simple. I am presuming you are doing B&W. The sink size is important and it need not be a straight length if you build your own: it could be "L" shaped. Trays for developer, stop, fix1, fix2, and wash (or holding if you wash outside the darkroom). Do the simple arithmetic. One thing that I emphasize is the distance from the enlarger to the developer portion of the sink. Personally I like it close so I can just turn around.

I look forward to contributions from more of our members.
.

jp
26-Nov-2016, 17:36
Yes, you'll want room in the sink for about 5 trays. I have a roughly 6x8' darkroom with a sink on one side and can do 11x14" prints maximum comfortably. I've done 16x20 with stacking trays and re-using trays, but it's not practical or recommended.

I can say it'd be nice to have 5 foot prints, but I don't have anything nice enough for that size or my nice prints are soft focus which would not scale to that size. If I did need a huge print, I'd probably make a nice small print and send it with a negative to a pro and tell them I want a big print done like this. And it would be pricey but not as much as home renovation.

One long side is the sink, the other side is a table with two enlargers on top, a UV printing box underneath, and plenty of storage shelves, etc.. I'd advocate for plenty of chemical storage as it seems shipping is becoming less casual for that. I keep some up high out of children's reach, others under the sink.

If you want to do alt process, you'll want a bigger dry area than silver printing. Big enough to be cutting/coating/drying paper, loading contact printing frames. Some ventilation is good. Air cleaner is good so you don't deal with dust on your negatives. Install separate tracklights for normal lights and red LED safelight. Loading film takes very little space, I throw a clean dry 16x20 tray in the sink and work out of that for a film loading workspace. Nothing is far that way.

If you can visit other people's darkrooms you can have a feel for what you want. There is a darkroom pictures thread here, but it does not show scale very well, but is good for little ideas.

Jim Jones
26-Nov-2016, 18:02
I learned developing and printing in a 4' by 6' darkroom. Obviously, we didn't make murals. If you want to do 3' by 5' prints, you'll need quite a bit of floor space, tray space, and height for the enlarger unless it is used horizontally, which also takes a lot of space. Typically, the distance from the enlarging lens to the photo paper is a little more than the long dimension of the film. In addition there is the height of the enlarger above the lens. Trays can be stacked vertically. As for sinks, I've had that luxury in only one of the seven darkrooms I've improvised. Perhaps 30" by 40" murals could be made in a 6' by 8' darkroom, but it would be unpleasant. Film alone could be developed in something little larger than the exterior of a Tardis. If space and permanent house alternations are a problem, give digital printing serious consideration.

LabRat
27-Nov-2016, 01:20
By your "working backwards" tip, I think that means that take the size paper sheet that you would consider printing on, let's say for example 16"X20", think of each step in the process that that size sheet will sit in the space in the dry to dry steps... A box of paper holds the unexposed sheets that needs to be accessible to provide a sheet, so that needs counter space while holding (maybe + exposed sheets), maybe a cutter to make sheets smaller and test strips, paper goes to enlarger easel, then off to developer/stop/fix trays, maybe additional trays such as HCA/toner/hold, then washing area, then the bottleneck of what to do with all of those wet, washed prints??? Each step requires that size paper has a "footprint" that it sits on while it's in that step, and that space will be required (and can be added up using simple math)... And any excess space will always be used for something else too...

Alt processes will have different needs, as well as color... Then there's having additional dry space for print/material finishing + storage, + wet space for chem mixing/storage... (Easy to keep clean + well vented is a +++), as well as not too hot/cold, and in a not dusty or damp area, and of course, nicely dark with the lights off... And power/running water (H&C)/drains... That's the basics...

Nice cheap sinks can be made from hydroponics flood tables, google them...

This should give you something to think about...

Good Luck!!!

Steve K

vdonovan
27-Nov-2016, 02:25
So, from time to time I start thinking that I want to build my own darkroom in my parents' house. Depending on the amount of pleading I'm willing to do, that will determine, first of all, whether or not I can build my darkroom in their house, and second, the amount of space I get to use. The space can be as tiny as a little closet, and as big (or long) as about 40 ft X 10 ft. Anyway, I've been reading as much information as I can find about building darkrooms and one constant I find is that it is recommended to work backwards. That is, think about the largest print you want to make and that will determine the size of your darkroom. Now, I was wondering if there is an easy way to determine this. I mean, if the biggest print I want to make is 30" x 40" or, mural size, 3' x 5', how much space do I need? Because space may be a factor, if you could tell me how to figure out what the minimum sizes would have to be for these or any other sizes, I would appreciate it.

Thank you.

Mural printing is quite a bit different from printing at conventional sizes. Most of my printing is 11x14 or smaller, so I designed my darkroom around that size. When I do make mural prints - once or twice a year at most - I rent the mural darkroom at Rayko in San Francisco.

Doremus Scudder
27-Nov-2016, 03:19
I agree that making mural-size prints is maybe a task for a different space, especially if your darkroom space is going to be in your parents house, not yours.

Might I suggest that you design a darkroom that is as spartan and non-invasive as possible (and portable as well) so that when you do get a place of your own, your parents can easily convert the darkroom to some other purpose and you can take the bulk of your darkroom with you wherever you go.

As for working backward; I agree wholeheartedly. Determining which print size will be the largest practical for you entails a bit more than just designing a sink to hold five large trays, however. There are a lot of other considerations. If you plan on exhibiting you prints, then you need to consider space for mounting. My 16x20 prints get mounted on 22x28" mat board; 20x24 prints on 24x36" board or larger. You're going to need a work surface that can handle the largest size mat board you plan on using. Also, you need to have drying space for several of the largest size prints you intend to make. And, you need to have an enlarger set-up that allows you to print up to your maximum size, and that likely from a cropped portion of your negative.

I've recently built a darkroom designed to handle up to 20x24 prints. I built a custom drop-bed enlarger stand to be able to make 20x24" prints from about 2/3 of a 4x5 negative with my Beseler 45; it's 36 inches deep by 40 inches wide. I have a sink that is 10 feet long by 30 inches deep; barely enough for 4-5 20x24 trays and my Versalab 16x20 print washer with its 20x24 insert. I'm making deck boards for the sink so I can convert it to a counter space that's 10 feet by about 32 inches and will support a dry-mount press large enough to mount 20x24 prints on 24x36 board in two passes. I have 10 under-counter drying screens on the dry side that are 22x30 inches so I can wash and dry 10 20x24 prints in a session. The darkroom is just about 10-feet square. I have print and negative storage in separate rooms. As you can see, working up to this big is a pretty big demand on space, and I have what I consider the bare minimum. If I were doing a lot of alt-processes, etc., I would need even more room.

So, for now, you might want to limit yourself to a maximum size of 16x20 for a few reasons. You can make 16x20-inch prints on the baseboards of most 4x5 enlargers, so you won't need more than a standard countertop or table to set up the enlarger. I made 16x20 prints with tray stackers in a sink that I built to stand above a bathtub. It was on legs with rubber suction-cup feet and could be set up and taken down in a few minutes. I had my enlarger on a cabinet with industrial casters attached and it could be rolled into the bathroom/darkroom and out again into the garage in a few minutes as well. Most of what I needed for developing film and enlarging was stored in the cabinet. I made plywood frames covered with felt to fit in the bathroom windows to block light; these could be mounted and removed in a few seconds. Plumbing for the sink consisted of removing the shower head from its hose and connecting my portable plumbing set up; an adapter, a hose, a gang valve, an inline filter and a few feet of tubing, etc. This whole set up came with me through two moves and worked just fine. The prints I made with it are still being exhibited and sold. For mounting, I took over the dining room for a day; I set the table up on blocks, covered it with a blanket and hauled in the dry-mount press and other equipment from my storage unit or garage. Worked just fine.

Till you get a permanent place of your own, I recommend you do something similar, for both your and your parents' sake. Running water (and drain, of course) is really, really nice to have in a darkroom. That makes a good argument for being able to set up and take down in a spare bathroom on the days you want to print. Space for four 16x20" trays can be minimized if you use tray stackers. I used two 3-level tray stackers, but only used the very top and bottom shelves, i.e., two trays per stacker, which allowed me to have four 16x20 trays in the space of two. My 16x20 washer was in the bathtub under the removable sink.

A 16x20 print mounted on 22x28 board and framed makes a fairly large presentation. Most of my work is smaller than this.

Hope this helps a bit,

Doremus

esearing
27-Nov-2016, 05:31
I print 8x10 99% of the time and can get away with a space that is only 4x6 in a garage storage closet. When I need to print large I use the garage and set up a temporary sink/trays using plastic and 1x4 frames. This has taught me I really need two things beyond equipment and chemistry, Water and air temperature control. Build your room indoors if you can or a basement where temps may be more stable.

Steve Sherman
27-Nov-2016, 06:13
Set your darkroom space up using the same principles used in efficient kitchen design, the Golden Triangle. Keep the enlarger, sink and work surface in an easy to access (fewest steps) from one to another. Enjoy the process !!

Robert Bowring
27-Nov-2016, 08:31
My advice is to start with the sink. Figure how large it has to be to handle the size of prints you wish to make. Once you figure what size to make it multiply that size by 1.5 and make it that big. You can never have too much sink. Once you have the sink built build the darkroom around the sink.

John Kasaian
27-Nov-2016, 09:47
Just some thoughts---
I wash my negatives and prints outside in a VersaLab washer and water the foundation landscaping at the same time.
Drying screens are easily built.
A folding plastic table from Costco can increase your counter space yet store easily when not needed
Cleanliness is next to godliness---believe it! Do not tolerate dust in your dark room.
Enlargers do not like to wiggle.
For a sturdy counter with storage, find two identical "old school" filing cabinets (real thick steel, not the flimsy stuff they use today) look in a Re-store or used office supply and put a solid core exterior door on top. If you use this on the "wet side" invest in a plastic laminate for easy clean up. On the "dry side" you can run power cords through the cut out for the door knob.

Drew Wiley
28-Nov-2016, 12:26
I have a ten foot sink, and wish it were a twenty foot sink!

ac12
28-Nov-2016, 17:29
From what has been mentioned, consider separating the stuff that HAS to be in the darkroom from the stuff that can be outside. Example, mounting can be done outside the darkroom. This reduces the needed darkroom space and counter space needed inside the darkroom.

I think you should really think about the LARGE prints. I found 16x20 about the biggest that I can handle in a tray, and even that is difficult to handle, so 11x14 is my practical maximum size for trays. So the larger size prints, I need/use an alternative method to process. Example, I bought a 16x20 drum, to use for 16x20 prints. And a drum takes a LOT less space than the equivalent size in trays. As was mentioned, set up for the largest "normal" size print (whatever that might be, maybe 8x10, 11x14 or 16x20), then go to a commercial darkroom for the infrequent HUGE prints. This reduces your cost, as the darkroom cost will go up as the print size goes up. The sink will likely be a HUGE expense, and the larger the sink the more costly it will be. Example 16x20 prints, tray might be 20 inches wide x 5 trays = 60 inches. That is 8.3 feet of tray space. On top of that you need space to clean stuff, and the print washer. So you are taking about a sink 10+ feet long, or more. What will it be made of; stainless steel \$\$\$ or fiberglass or ... The longer the sink, the more important the supporting structure is (\$\$), to prevent flexing and cracking/leaking the sink.

You also really want access to a window to vent the darkroom fumes. You have to make an exhaust with a light trap. So an inside room is not the ideal choice for ventilation. My mother did not like the smell of the kitchen, the day after my brother and I used it to print.

The other is that in your parents home, you need to have a setup where you can break down the darkroom, if they sell the house, or if you move out of the area. Example, I have a great darkroom at my parents home ... 2,500 miles away from me. I spent a lot of effort building it, but the darkroom does me no good now. So don't go spending a LOT of \$\$\$\$ and effort into it. Even if you buy your own home, you may move, and your darkroom gets left behind.

Luis-F-S
29-Nov-2016, 10:29
Let me see if I've got this right. You've never printed and don't have a darkroom but you want to build one to print 30x50 and up? Yeah right! I've printed for some 40 years and 99.9% of my prints are 8x10. I've printed a few 11x14 and I know what I'm doing. My current darkroom is 8' x 11' and it houses an 8x10 and a 4x5 enlarger. I think you need to establish some realistic criteria before you figure out what to do.

Drew Wiley
29-Nov-2016, 14:58
Big prints are a fad right now. Most beginners don't realize just how much gear, space, and general expense can be involved, especially if all the chuckholes of the
learning curve are factored in. I could personally handle up to 30x40 inch prints in trays, though nobody does. It would take more of a swimming pool than a sink. Big drums are convenient for RC prints, but soggy fiber-based prints will collapse in them after a certain point. Kinda like wanting to fly a 747 before obtaining a
learner's permit for a car. Nothing wrong with ambition. But it's a lot more like running a marathon than a sprint. Most people give up a few miles down the road.

Harold_4074
29-Nov-2016, 15:10
The last couple of posts make a good point; some realistic thinking may be in order here.

Unless you are independently wealthy, you probably won't be climbing far on the learning curve while paying for 32x40 (or larger) printing paper (and chemicals). And while the glamor of huge prints is appealing, unless you have a high level of technique and future "homes" for them, the novelty may wear off rather quickly. (If expense were no object, you presumably wouldn't be considering putting a darkroom into your parents' home anyway; leasing space in a commercial building would make more sense.)

When I reached the point of making prints that were worth displaying, I came to the realization that an 11x14 print on a 16x20 mount takes a [I]lot[I] of wall space; practically all of my prints are 8x10s, either given away or stored in portfolio boxes in a closet. The 11x14s are mostly made specifically for gifts, or (by default) contact prints.

I could do 16x20s; I have negatives which would hold up under that much enlargement quite nicely. But what would I do with the prints? The old rule of "viewing distance = 3x print diagonal" means that they should be seen from about seven feet away. In my house, that would pretty much rule out all but two rooms (living room and family room) and neither of them has enough wall space for more than three or four prints on appropriate mounts.

All things considered, a darkroom sized for 11x14 makes a lot of sense; you can do 8x10 and smaller without having to take three steps between successive operations, and you can explore 16x20 without unreasonable inconvenience. Steve Sherman's reference to kitchen design is spot-on; a kitchen that is too large is tiring to work in, and if you are going to do enough photography to justify a darkroom, you will want it to be comfortable and efficient for whatever tasks you will be spending the most time doing.

Ted R
29-Nov-2016, 16:23
Perhaps modest ambitions are a good starting point, make 8x10 prints from 35mm negatives. These can be mounted and framed and a set of prints can be bound to make a book. See if you like spending a day in the darkroom before investing significant expense in large sinks and trays.

Eric Woodbury
29-Nov-2016, 16:30
Random Thoughts. Look through the post of all the darkroom pictures here. Excellent reference. Look at Clyde Butcher's darkroom. Consider the value of real estate in SF. Maybe make a 16x20 printing darkroom and if the desire hits, have 3 x 5' prints made by an inkjet service (blasphemy, I know). My darkroom is 9x12'. It's very comfortable. I have an 8' and 3' sink, with two enlargers that between them can handle negs from 35mm to 8x10. I can easily make 16x20s and could probably pinch out a 20 x 24, but in general, I like to print 8x10 and 11x14. After a few years, it's hard to store all the prints, so figure that too. \

Have fun.

angusparker
29-Nov-2016, 16:52
Feel free to come and visit my home dark room and see how I arranged it. I think we've met before and I'm in San Francisco too.

My darkroom is about 16x20 feet with a dry room and a dark room. The dark room is designed with both silver and alt processes in mind. The ventilation system is key. I have done prints up to 20x24 uncomfortably, 16x20 is doable and 11x14 optimal. I also have an area for a Jobo processor to mostly develop film.

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Drew Wiley
29-Nov-2016, 17:14
Yes blasphemy; but wide-format inkjet has revolutionized making big prints. I still personally prefer the look of true optical prints as well as darkroom workflow.
But that more plebian option certainly doesn't save money. You get murdered on the inks and the paper. At least with optical paper, you're paying for some real
silver.

macandal
29-Nov-2016, 17:22
Feel free to come and visit my home dark room and see how I arranged it. I think we've met before and I'm in San Francisco too.Yes, I believe we have. I think we met at the LF Meetup in SF, in a room in one of the library branches somewhere close to the Marina. Are you in SF proper? If so, what area. I'd love to take you up on that offer. I'd love to take a look at your darkroom. Thanks for the offer!

macandal
29-Nov-2016, 17:25
Yes blasphemy.....Blasphemy indeed! Drew, how dare you?!! :D

angusparker
30-Nov-2016, 01:14
Yes, I believe we have. I think we met at the LF Meetup in SF, in a room in one of the library branches somewhere close to the Marina. Are you in SF proper? If so, what area. I'd love to take you up on that offer. I'd love to take a look at your darkroom. Thanks for the offer!

PMed you

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popdoc
30-Nov-2016, 06:48
Where on the forum are pictures and/or diagrams of other folks' darkrooms? How to access them?
After a 40 year hiatus, I'm building out my new darkroom too...

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LotusEsp
30-Nov-2016, 09:49
Where on the forum are pictures and/or diagrams of other folks' darkrooms? How to access them?
After a 40 year hiatus, I'm building out my new darkroom too...

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

I'm moving to a new house in Jan, where I plan on building myself a dedicated darkroom. Will happily document the build (and am on the lookout for any tips/thoughts/comments but didnt want to hijack this thread)

Ted R
30-Nov-2016, 09:50
Where on the forum are pictures and/or diagrams of other folks' darkrooms? How to access them?
After a 40 year hiatus, I'm building out my new darkroom too...

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

here

popdoc
30-Nov-2016, 12:10
Thanks!!!!

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Luis-F-S
30-Nov-2016, 13:39
Amazing what comes up if you use the Search function on this website. L

macandal
30-Nov-2016, 14:12
More ideas:

http://bathroom.janajustice.com/bathroom-darkroom/

Jac@stafford.net
30-Nov-2016, 14:45
I'm moving to a new house in Jan, where I plan on building myself a dedicated darkroom. Will happily document the build (and am on the lookout for any tips/thoughts/comments but didnt want to hijack this thread)

Add two cinder blocks height to the basement.

Leigh
1-Dec-2016, 14:18
Kodak published a book on darkroom design. So did some other folks.

I expect Google could find them online.

On edit: I was right. Google gets over 3 million hits for "book on darkroom design" (without the quotes)

- Leigh

angusparker
1-Dec-2016, 19:02
More thoughts: http://www.angusparkerphoto.com/blog/2016/1/suggestions-for-a-21st-century-darkroom

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angusparker
1-Dec-2016, 19:04
Add two cinder blocks height to the basement.

Or remove the drywall and insulation between the ceiling joists so you can get the extra 12" for your enlarger!

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xkaes
11-Dec-2016, 12:00
I would not go forword without reading the Kodak book "Building a Home Darkroom" by Ray Miller, 1981 -- ISBN 0-87985-273-9, or a similar book. You can probably get it cheap on EBAY or AMAZON.

You are generally right about working backwards, but there are several major things to consider up front from electricity to ventilation and plumping. If space will be tight, and it usually is, ALWAYS consider your options. Chances are there are ways to solve the problem that you are not aware of. It's kind of along the lines of the "measure TWICE, cut ONCE" philosophy.

I'm lucky, I've got lots of space, but I'm still limited. My largest easel is 8x4 FEET -- it hangs from hooks on the ceiling -- but my largest tray is 20x24". I opted not to have five 8x4 foot trays, but others have done it that way. I don't have THAT much room. For most film and paper processing I use tubes. Not only does it save a LOT space, it save chemicals (therefore money), assures fresh chemicals for each print, and forces me to get the exposure correct! My eight foot prints are processed in 12" PVC pipe that has been sliced down the middle and plugged at the ends with PVC plates. Fives of these "tube-trays" take up less space than one 4x8 foot tray would. Each "trube" as I call them only needs one gallon of fluid. Not bad.

So go slowly, get a book first, then think about it all, backwards, and write it all down as you go. You will be glad you did. We are all here to help you through it.

xkaes
11-Dec-2016, 12:04
Type in "Building a Home Darkroom" on EBAY. They have nine copies starting at under \$4 with free shipping.