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Thread: How to Build a Low Budget Darkroom

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2018

    How to Build a Low Budget Darkroom

    How much would it cost to set up a darkroom? (rough estimate / testimonials?)
    I should use any glues for floors waterproof?

  2. #2
    Guilherme Maranhão coisasdavida's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    São Paulo, Brazil

    Re: How to Build a Low Budget Darkroom

    Hopefully, if all goes well you will not have to waterproof your floor. If you are thinking about a darkroom sink, epoxy paint has been used in the past for this.

    Recently a lot of people here in Brazil have been giving away their entire darkroom setup, so maybe you can find items for free locally in your town and don't need to spent so much.
    On the other side, supplies have become more expensive here too, so you have to search for all the DIY ideas you can apply.

  3. #3

    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    San Joaquin Valley, California

    Re: How to Build a Low Budget Darkroom

    A dark room is simply a dark room, especially if you're going low budget.
    Mine is a piece of cardboard cut to fit into a window opening in a bathroom and a towel to block light coming in from under the door.
    A treated plank spanning the sink offers additional counter space for trays.
    A piece of heavy glass for making contact prints---I now have a Printfile Contact Proofer which I now prefer, but you can certainly use glass.
    I have timers (bought used) for processing prints and film, although I understand there are Apps for this now.
    For a safelight I used to use GE Guide Lamps(plug in OC night lights) which I can no longer find (two on a card for about a buck) so now I have a short string of red led Christmas lights bought on end of season close-out for about 3 bucks (ouch!)
    Add trays, a thermometer, stir stick, tongs, a graduate for mixing chemicals and dark jugs for storing your solutions (mine were free from pharmacy----gallon size which Robitussin syrup came in) a length of clothesline and good clothes pins for hanging sheet film to dry and something to dry and flatten your prints. I built my own drying screens using 1x2s, nylon window screening material and screen molding, the wood got a coat of shellac, but that's old school and probably not as cost effective as using aluminum frames and beading. For flattening, I took Mr. Gittings advice and use a piece of polished granite, once again free--- scrap from a housing remodel.
    For a light source for contacts, I use an old enlarger because it's convenient, but I could have used a desk lamp or hanging light bulb.

    How's that for low budget? Exactly how low depends on how much of it you already have and what you can find free.
    Good luck and have fun!
    Of course you can make your dark room as sophisticated as you want---and man, a well done dark room is sure nice to have---but you can certainly get by with a modest set up.
    Mine hasn't changed much since the first dark room I set up in High School.
    FWIW my floor is plain ol' linoleum
    Ventilation supplied by the fan which is required by the building code*
    If you're a splasher you may want a work station floor mat, which you can find at various supply stores.

    * Whenever I replace a bathroom fan I always buy a fan with three or four (or five) times the cu. ft. capacity required.
    When old folks use it, it sucks their wrinkles flat and make 'em feel better about themselves
    Last edited by John Kasaian; 18-Apr-2018 at 10:22.
    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.

  4. #4

    Join Date
    Apr 2018

    Re: How to Build a Low Budget Darkroom

    I got an almost complete darkroom setup about 6 months ago (enlarger, timers, trays from 5x7-20x24, tongs, safelights, I don't even remember what all else for $40. The only things I needed were an easel and chemicals! That was cheap enough that even I could afford it as an unemployed recent grad. Check local. A lot of this stuff is bulky so the shipping cost makes it expensive. No shipping = cheap.

    Now, I don't know about finding deals like that in Thailand. But, if you're shooting large format, you don't even *need* an enlarger. What's wrong with a contact printer and a bare bulb in the closet under the stairs?

  5. #5
    Eric Woodbury
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Re: How to Build a Low Budget Darkroom

    My first custom darkroom sink was made of corrugated cardboard, then covered in resin and fiber-glass. It went around a corner. Worked for 7 years and then I moved. For a little extra money, use plywood and epoxy paint.

    When I was a kid, I had a counter with linoleum on it. No sink for the trays. Water was supplied by 1/4" (6mm) copper tubing.

    I didn't have a timer for the enlarger (an old Kodak). I watched the second hand on the clock and turned the light on with a wall switch. If you don't have cheap trays, you can use glass baking dishes or plastic storage containers. My washer was a cat litter tray.

    You can make a paper safe by taking a large paper box (250 sheet box). Tape the top to the bottom along the top edge of box and relieve the corners so the top of box is hinged.

    Happy times, EW

  6. #6

    Join Date
    Sep 2003
    Santa Fe, NM

    Re: How to Build a Low Budget Darkroom

    Eric, must be did we do all that stuff.....I guess we just made do.....with what we had.....sink, sink, you had a sink.....jan

  7. #7
    Eric Woodbury
    Join Date
    Dec 2003

    Re: How to Build a Low Budget Darkroom

    Jan, it's not how old, it's how many years are left. Uh-oh. I am in trouble.

    Yes, I had a cardboard sink. It was blue. Ask Karl. Now you live in Santa Fe. You don't need sinks there because you don't have any water. Aren't you dry printing?

  8. #8

    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    near Seattle, WA

    Re: How to Build a Low Budget Darkroom

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric Woodbury View Post
    Jan, it's not how old, it's how many years are left. Uh-oh. I am in trouble...
    Life is not short. It's just that we're dead for soooo long.

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