Some time ago, someone mentioned that improvements could be seen in print quality if you painted the surface of your enlarging easel black. By luck, I happened on the twin one of my easels recently, going cheap in a shop with used photo gear. Five bucks, and a bit of flat-black spray paint later, I was ready to give it a go.
I picked a neg with large areas of delicate highlights and significant shadow detail -- an old white clapboard building, with an open set of wooden steps. Once I'd zeroed in on my exposure, I made two prints in quick succession, with the only change being the easel. The paper was Ilford Multigrade RC.
Result: no perceptible difference, either in the highlights nor in the shadows, as seen by myself and two other photography buddies, plus a non-photographer with a good eye.
I do love the theory, but it doesn't seem to be born out in practice. If anyone has had conflicting results, or suggestions on better testing procudures, though, I'd love to hear about it.
don wilkes, Victoira, B.C.