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Thread: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

  1. #1

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    DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    Hi all,

    So, I woke up this morning with an idea for a faster, easier, bigger darkroom for myself, and I'm worried I'm missing something really obvious.

    The problem: my house leaks light like a seive, and I want to cut down x ray film to different sizes, so changing tents are a bit small for that sort of thing.

    Proposed solution: in my (dusty, moldy) basement, I could set up an ad hoc darkroom space with boxes, broomsticks and folding chairs, wrap it in 3 mil black plastic sheeting from the hardware store, and inflate it with a box fan to make a room-sized dark tent. I could mitigate the dust problem by putting a furnace filter in line with the box fan. Air would slowly leak out of the crevices of the dark tent, providing some minimal level of ventilation.

    What am I missing? (Aside from common sense!)

  2. #2
    Jim Jones's Avatar
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    Re: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    It seems easier to use that black plastic to make the darkroom really dark. Perhaps a really good cleaning and sealing of most surfaces will reduce the mold and dust. Then you'll have a darkroom that is always ready to go. However, a furnace in that basement will complicate the process. Improvised darkrooms can be difficult to use. Edward Weston suffered greatly in using a '38 Ford as one in deserts. If you do improvise a tent, draw air in from the outside and warm it if necessary rather than wrestling with basement air.

  3. #3

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    Re: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    Without proper ventilation you would have serious problems with carbon dioxide and humidity of your own breath. A bad idea.

  4. #4

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    Re: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    I did something similar in a house I rented once. I bought a roll of black construction plastic and stapled one edge to the beams, forming a large room. The plastic was a foot or two wider than the height of the ceiling so it formed a skirt around the room that turned out to be mostly light tight. I think I might have put two-by-fours around the bottom to hold the plastic to the floor. The entrance was simply an overlap that I could walk through.

    It didn't have a water supply, though of course if there'd been one, I would have built the room around that wall. This darkroom worked well, and I used it for a few months.

    Ventilation was not a problem, and the basement I used was not damp, so that was not a problem. I would not worry about the dust--I think just hosing down the area you were going to use before building the room would work fine. But I would worry about the damp and mold's effect on anything I kept down there.

    Now my darkroom is a basement laundry room. There's one window, and I filled that by cutting a piece of cardboard to fit, then draping a t-shirt over it, shirt outside with the edges wrapping around to the inside, so that when the cardboard is pressed in place the t-shirt forms a light-tight gasket.

  5. #5

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    Re: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    Quote Originally Posted by Will Frostmill View Post
    So, I woke up this morning with an idea for a faster, easier, bigger darkroom for myself, and I'm worried I'm missing something really obvious.
    I'm unclear as to whether this means you have a darkroom right now or not, but you can "throw something together" and regret it later, or take a few breaths. There are lots of "How to build a darkroom" books out there that you can get cheap. You can spend some time reading one of these books, or you can "throw something together" and regret it later.

    I know, I've been there.

  6. #6

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    Re: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    What about working at night?
    Also, if you have a suitable counter top or table, find or make a cardboard box large enough to work in and spray the interior flat black. The box will cut light from the top and sides. Just make sure you have a dark, nonreflective wall behind you---hang up your focusing cloth if need be.
    I steal time at 1/125th of a second, so I don't consider my photography to be Fine Art as much as it is petty larceny.
    I'm not OCD. I'm CDO which is alphabetically correct.

  7. #7

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    Re: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    I have worked in a portable darkroom (big enough for two people side by side with a 35mm enlarger and a set of 8x10 trays) that was free standing. This was done in a tent in a field.

    If what you need is a sort of walk-in changing bag for film handling, and you do not have scope for a permanent installation (rental, small space, etc.) then a frame from PVC pipe and a covering of light-tight fabric is viable. It can also be disassembled.

    But if you have the option of a fully or even semi-dedicated space, even small, you are likely to do more with it.

  8. #8
    Hack Pawlowski6132's Avatar
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    Re: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    I'll assume you are not kidding about this. So, rather than build a tent using plastic, why not just buy a real tent and wrap it in the opaque plastic? Don't worry about killing yourself by inhaling your own carbon monoxide. That's stupid. You're just cutting film right?

  9. #9

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    Re: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    You used to be able to buy tents made for use as a Darkroom. If you can source one, you could set it up wherever suits. It may not have to be your basement? There are also tents made for growing ‘Tropical Plants’ which may work. I believe they are lightproof. Just make sure the neighbours don’t get the wrong idea!
    Alex.


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  10. #10

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    Re: DIY darkroom tent - bad idea?

    Thanks for your ideas, everyone! I see some really good points in this discussion. Perhaps I should consider something like John Kasian's idea, and use a large box as a basis for a rigid changing tent.

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