View Full Version : Building a big tray ladder

Ed Pierce
7-Jul-2004, 10:54
I've recently started using 20x24 trays, and don't have the room to lay them out side by side. I set up a crude "ladder" with sheets of plywood and odd scraps of wood. Has anyone here ever made a ladder this big? What did you use? Thanks

Gem Singer
7-Jul-2004, 11:37
Hi Ed,

Thing about constructing a 3-tier rack out of 1 inch PVC piping, along with PVC elbows and T's. Parts and supplies are readily available at your local Home Depot. No need to bond the pieces together. They will hold together by friction. That way, if it's not exactly right, you can always take it apart and modify the configuration. I built a tray rack, that I use with 16X20 trays. It fits above my bathtub and extends high enough for me to use while standing along side of the tub. It can easily be dis-assembled, if necessary.

PVC pipe comes in various standard lengths. It is relatively inexpensive. It is light weight, but strong enough to support a 20X24 tray filled with liquid, and it does not need to be waterproofed or painted.

7-Jul-2004, 12:59
I only have one 20x24 tray and definitely don't have the room for multiple trays in my darkroom. Not even enough room for a rack (slanted wall), so I've started using a single tray for 20x24 prints. i read about it on Loydd Erlick's site. See this link:


This works very well in my experience. No need to lift huge prints out of trays, just put the dry sheet in the tray and pour in all the liquids in sequence. You have to clean the tray between prints but I can really recommend giving this method a try.

Regards, Onno

Andrew O'Neill
7-Jul-2004, 23:17
I built one out of 2x2s while I lived in Japan. I had a very small darkroom in my kitchen. It was in a corner, darkened by darkout material and lots of duct tape. It was awful. Anyways, I found the best way was to build the shelves so that the trays could be staggered. The top tray (developer) was further away, middle tray (stop) a little closer and bottom tray (fix) even closer. This made it easier dropping the print down from tray to tray. I had another tray on the floor filled with water to store prints. Somtimes I put my foot in it, flipping the tray forward....water everywhere! Even so, this system actually worked really well. Now that I am back in Canada (after 12 years over there!), I have a decent darkroom with lots of room BUT I will utilize the ladder method for 20x24 trays again in the near future because it is a real space saver.

Michael McBlane
8-Jul-2004, 09:48
I use one all the time. I stack 5 20x24 trays. I'm able to have developer, stop, fix 1, fix 2, and Permawash (which sits in the sink)

I built it out of 3/4 inch plywood and it's sort of like shelves. I staggered the bottom each shelf so that they stick out a couple of inches each on the way down. When I use it, I stand on something like a 10 inch step stool, for the developer tray and after that I can handle the prints by standing on the floor.

To agitate I just rock the trays. Access is only (except for the top one ) available from the side and I have no problems using it.

It leaves me room to have a 20x24 tray with a syphon wash, as well as a 20x24 archival washer and a 20x24 bleach tray and a 20x24 toning tray all in the sink at one time.

David R Munson
8-Jul-2004, 16:26
Personally, I'd probably weld something together out of angle steel. It would weigh thirty pounds, but it would last forever. Short of that, I'd probably go with some 1x2s and some wood screws and just make something out of that. Either way, though, I'd build it such that the lips of the trays fit over the frame and there wasn't anything under the bottom. I figure an open design would last longer as it would be less prone to rotting or warping if made out of wood.

Michael McBlane
8-Jul-2004, 17:47
Just an added note on the plywood that I use. I have used it for about six years and barely have any staining on it at all. I don't slosh the chemicals around in the darkroom and I don't think rotting is going to be much of a problem.

I simply painted the plywood and it looks as good as it did the day I built it.

Jay DeFehr
12-Jul-2004, 20:47
I've been thinking of building something similar, as my darkroom is VERY small. My idea is to make a 4-sided box (3 sides and a top) of plywood of appropriate dimensions for the 5 20x24 trays, 1 on the top, and 3 on shelves that move on drawer slides, and the last in the sink itself. By making the shelves on drawer slides, it is possible to have the trays much closer together vertically, as agitation is accomplished while the shelf is extended beyond the box with the rest of the trays. It will only require 3 sets of slides, so even using good quality, full extension slides will not be prohibitively expensive. I would place barriers of plastic sheet material between the shelves to prevent solutions from dripping into the lower trays during agitation. Ideally the cabinet and shelves would be made of stainless steel sheet metal, but I don't have the tools to build it, or the money to have it built that way. If plywood is good enough for Blansky, it's good enough for me!

Řyvind Dahle
12-Jul-2004, 22:42
A darkroom sink could be built out of wood and bathromm vinyl, so why not custom sized trays? I think the hard part is "welding" the vinyl, though.


simon tempo
24-Aug-2004, 17:58
Build - Build - Build!!! You guys are all nuts who want to make monstrous ladders and wacky towers of wobbling fluid. Didn't you read the post about ONE TRAY (1)!?!?! If you got yourselves in a small ass darkroom, it doesn’t make sense does it? Try it for Christ sakes and get on with the work. Or if you’re lucky, you may find a stainless steel rocker tray like I did and never have to worry about damaging a print again...transferring from tray to tray to tray to tray etc....you guys are just kidding yourselves. Morons...imbeciles...fools.