View Full Version : Portable Dark Lab

31-May-2020, 15:24
It was a warm day so I decided to clean up my portable lab by changing out the bottom cardboard layer and washing it all out. Photos at bottom. The base is a big plastic storage tub from Walmart, about $20. I cut an opening, attached straps to hold PVC tubes, made a PVC tube frame, and my wife sewed up a nice tent out of black-out fabric (curtain liner). Why not just make a tent? The plastic tub contains any mess very nicely, stops any light leaks from the bottom, and I can pack everything into the tub, put the lid on, and wheel it down the trail if needed.

The lights are LED pack from Walmart but those don't really do much. I also have a multi LED road hazard light that is great. I might add a second one and get rid of the small circular LEDs. I keep my stock bottle of developer in a drink cup holder. There is a web strap on the right side of the box that holds my silver tank. This keeps it upright and not flopping around while traveling. If it were to leak or even break the plastic tub would contain the spill. The floor of the tub is very floppy plastic so I added a layer of corrugated plastic and then a trimmed to fit layer of cardboard. I replace both from time to time as they get messy. The two layers give the bottom a stiffness and support you want so the silver tank etc. don't fall over. I've labeled things pretty well below.

1. Set up for developing a 5x7 plate, using the "in-hand" method. The small beaker would have about 15ml developer in it and the black tray would be 1/3 full of water. Obviously it would be covered with the tent as developing needs to be done in the dark. The catch basin is just a $3 aluminum baking pan. I can replace as they get too messy.

2. Set up to remove the plate from the silver bath and place in the holder. The silver tank has been taken out of the strap that holds it to the side of the tub and is simply sitting on the floor of the tub. Paper towel to catch silver drips and reduce mess. Also would have a folded up paper towel in hand to wipe the back of the plate before loading it. I place one corner of the plate on the paper towel and let it drain a bit too.

3. Outside view. Tent is usually set up with the black side out in winter to help keep it warm. Otherwise I set it up with white side out to reflect heat, and the black helps to kill reflections inside.

4. PVC frame.

The frame is NOT glued, merely pushed together. I take it apart when done so I can see out the back window while driving. I also push the tub further back so the rear hatch will clear. The hatch itself gives me a little shade or protection from light rain. I always park the car with the nose into the wind so the tent doesn't blow around. I generally pour the plate and do the fixing either outside or over the folded down rear passenger seat as I get better visibility, but have sometimes done it inside my tent because of light snow or wind. All in all this set up has worked very well. I do 4x5, 5x7, and 8x10 in it and there is room for 11x14 I think. I might build a sort of two wheel dolly using PVC tubes and old bicycle wheels so I can wheel it to waterfalls etc.

Kent in SD

Tin Can
31-May-2020, 17:10
Thanks for posting

I may copy!

31-May-2020, 18:04
Looks great, Kent!
Nice design ... highly portable, easy build & budget, and room for 11x14!
As Tin Can said ... Thanks for posting!

1-Jun-2020, 02:48
Thanks. It looks simple and efficient.