View Full Version : Darkroom Sink

Peter Hruby
25-Jan-2006, 14:15
I am doing my own darkroom and my wife wife is not happy but at the end it came down to sink construction.

I am probably to build one, because I live in Ontario, Canada and ... there is not too much sinks available on market or they are expensice or they are mostly Ebay from western USA.

If you know good sink substitution I can buy or look after, I would be happy to hear from you.
Also, if I decide to build one, what material I should consider (plastic) and what glue? I am sure at least one of us build one.

Any suggestions regarding sink would be appeciated, like size, height, how to divide it.
I can make it long as needed, my wet space is 10 feet long. I do 4x10 and 8x10 contact prints, printed on azo, and on Ilfochromes, with option to go to 10x20 in future. I use Pyrocat-HD developer. In the future I would consider platinum-palladium printing.

Thank for suggestions.
Live long and prosper LF.

25-Jan-2006, 14:34
I built an L shaped sink out of 1/2 or 5/8 inch plywood and sealed in chemical-resistant swimming pool paint. Mine is quite crude and simple but functional and has withstood intermittant use for 7 years-I'm sure someone will have have more refined ideas, but mine probably cost me $50. Probably another 50-100 for the homemade plumbing/mixing apparatus.

25-Jan-2006, 14:35
Hi Peter. I built my own sink six years ago out of 3/4 plywood, coated with a material used in boat repair that is painted on and forms a permanent, chemical resistent and water-proof surface. The coating is called Coal Tar Epoxy. I got it at a boat repair shop. It is amazing, and easy to apply (just roll it on like paint). I've moved the sink a few times and it is very durable (like a boat) and resists cracking from stress or flexing.

I got the plans out of a book called "Build Your Own Home Darkroom" by Lista Duren and Will McDonald. It's a great resource. I just modified their ideas to fit my needs. I made my sink 8 feet long and deep enought to process 20x24 prints. But with this method you can make it any size you need. I use mine for film and print processing.

Michael Kadillak
25-Jan-2006, 14:41
I acquired a stainless steel sink at a time when I contemplated 8x10 as my largest shooting format. Long since blown by that criteria. Given an opportunity to regress back to this decision point there is no question that I would build a wooden sink with flat wooden slats (or the modern decking material made from plastic and fiber) over the top and a sloped bottom to the drain using fiberglass over the wood to cover the bottom. I would make it large enough to accomodate 20x24" trays in either orientation. Under the sink I would install openings to accept various trays. Put several shut off valves of the highest quality in your water lines to isolate filtration or temprature controls and make sure that you can gain quick access to your floor drain. Always turn off yout water lines if you are going to be out of town or in the field shooting for periods of time. I had a water valve go out on me a while back and I was blessed to be home when it happened. A lesson learned.

Lastly, I recommend that you purposefully overdesign your air exhaust system to keep things fresh and pleasant in the darkroom. My next darkroom will have a metal hood, large wooden sinks and the tallest ceilings I can get.

Cheers and good luck with your project!

25-Jan-2006, 15:01
Hey Peter: Check out West System Epoxy. Small kits are available at Lee Valley and Noah's in Toronto (they Mail order). It will all make sense after you read the West System guide in combination witha 5/8 to 3/4" plywood substrate. This is how we build boats and an E-6 dip and dung line I built 25 years ago could only be disassembled with a 15 lb sledge hammer. E-mail me your phone # and I'll give you the low down. You are going to build a custom made plywood-epoxy boat. Cheers from Lunenburg,N.S. -N.

Peter Galea
25-Jan-2006, 15:10
Peter, call your local newspaper. Since most have gone digital, many have darkrooms to dispose of. My local paper was thrilled that I took away two rooms full of darkroom equipment. Much of it Kreonite, matter of fact I have TWO sinks, with filtration, temperature controlled water jacket, and even eyewash stations. All the publisher wanted was a nominal check made out to his favorite charity - Newspapers in Education. It was a Win/Win all around.

Jim Noel
25-Jan-2006, 15:25
I second the suggestion of West System Epoxy. I built my sink of 3/4" plywood about 16 years ago and coated it with West Systems. It is still good.

Since that time I have had two friends build a similar sink with which they are very happy.

Mike Cockerham
25-Jan-2006, 15:41
The plywood form is a good idea. I am going to try the spray on bed liner for pickup trucks.

Ed Richards
25-Jan-2006, 15:59
> I am going to try the spray on bed liner for pickup trucks.

Unless you can find some designed for plywood pickup trucks, you might rethink this. There are lots of coatings that do great on metal but fail on wood.

25-Jan-2006, 16:23
if you're near a big city, it might be worth looking at used sinks at a restaurant supply store. what you'd actually want is a salad bar, or something similar ... restaurant kitchen sinks are the wrong shape. sometimes you can get a great deal on a piece from a restaurant that's remodeled or gone out of business.

25-Jan-2006, 16:37
hi peter

if you can't find the coal tar epoxy that eric g suggested, fiberglass resin works really well too.
i had to rebuild+repair a wooden sink i used the 2 part resin + fiberglass cloth to make my repairs.

i presently have a plastic sink that i hate, and i am thinking of building a sink inside my sink ... out of plywood and
the stuff eric suggested.

oh, if you can find "marine plywood" it is really good stuff.

good luck!

25-Jan-2006, 16:53
Forget the Pickup bed coating. Any of the 2 part epoxy kits will provide an inert, durable, sandable, paintable, chemical resistant barrier. The pick bed liner material would be much more difficult to clean and will eventually peel. Epoxy can be applied in thin coats, will be partially absorbed by the plywood and never peel. In fact it makes the plywood stronger.

WEST is premium epoxy but there are many other brands. Lee Valley carries WEST but in small expensive kits. Check any of the boat building suppliers, ie Noah's in Toronto, and you will see a variety of choices at different price points.

This is simple stuff to apply: mix as directed and trowel on with a plastic spatula.

25-Jan-2006, 17:03
Just to add... While marine plywood is indeed good stuff there is no reason to use it, unless you are finishing clear and want a fancy wood finish. Any exterior good one side plywood will do the trick.

Cloth considerably adds strength, but also some construction complexity. You really don't need any extra strength if you use 3/4 inch plywood.

You can thicken the epoxy with fine sawdust or any of the commercial thickeners to a peanut butter consistency, and use this mixture to fillet your joints and ensure waterproofness.

Peter Hruby
25-Jan-2006, 17:11
Thanks for advice, looks like plywood and boat epoxy is way to go. I appreciate all you input.

Dan Dozer
25-Jan-2006, 17:30

My sink area is a very inexpensive do it yourself assembly that was very simple to do and has held up pretty well for three years now. I got two polyethylene "under bed" storage bins at the local home store (Lowes). They are each about 3' long x 16" front to back x 5" deep. I put a 5/8" plywood top on ledgers on the walls with a leg post at the center front for support. The overall sink area is about 7' long and the two bins give me about 6' of sink space. They only cost a few $'s each and the construction was very quick and easy to do. The bins also have a lip around them which allows you to just drop them into a hole cut in the plywood top. I can even put the lids on the bins if I want to cover the sinks - difficult to do that with a normal darkroom sink. I cut a hole in one corner of each to attach the drain. I can use darkroom trays up to 12 x 16 very easily.

I have recently started doing Pt/Pd and it does cause some minor challenges. I'm working with 8 x 10 negatives so my paper size is normally 11 x 14. This requires trays up to 12 x 16. While they do fit in the sinks individually, there isn't nearly enought room in the sinks to get all 5 trays that I need. So, a couple of the trays for final clearing go on the dry countertop next to the sink. If I ever move up to larger sized Pt/Pd images, I may have to re-think things.

If you are interested in going this route - send me an E-mail and I'll take a couple of pictures.

Hope this helps.

25-Jan-2006, 17:44
Peter and All: Please make sure that you use only EPOXY resin and not polyester (Poly is the automotive stuff you add a couple of drops of hardner to) as Polyester does not bond well to wood. In jointing panels larger than 8ft use a scarfe joint... "Wooden Boat" may have a description on thier web site (check the Redwing 18 project). Good Luck and if you require a sailmaker ring me...My neighbour just built the largest working main in the world. -N.

25-Jan-2006, 17:58
Hi Peter, Just a few more notes:

They call it "Coal Tar Exopy" in the book but there are other versions of this with different names. I still have the can from mine if you need the exact name. I went to a boatbuilder, described the project and he knew exactly what to give me. It's an Epoxy specifically used to repair and coat wood and fiberglass boat hulls. It comes in 2 parts with a hardener. The first coat absorbs into the wood. The second coat makes a shell. You roll it on like thick paint. It's indestructable (for a darkroom sink anyway).

I used Marine plywood. I think it is just a higher grade plywood that is smooth on both sides. I painted the outside with regular paint and wanted it to look nice, so I got the good wood. But you could save a little money and just get the wood that's smooth on one side.

There are a number of ways to make sure the wood joints are extra strong and sealed with waterproof material. It's easy to do and cheap. Again, it's all explained in detail in "Build Your Own Home Darkroom" by Lista Duren. That book is a gem. I built my sink with water lines and shelves following their suggestions and it worked like a charm. You can also easily disassemble the sink/stand/waterboard if you need to move it (which I have twice already).

Mike Chini
25-Jan-2006, 19:23

The best thing to do (IMO) is to grab your local yellow pages, find a 'metal fabricator' and call them up. I had a 72" sink made to my specs and delivered to my door within 2 weeks and it cost under $300. Just make sure they know what it is for so they can use the proper gauge of stainless steel. I believe it is 315L or 316L gauge. Saves a ton of work and it should be more than you'll ever need! Call a few to get competing estimates if you so choose. Also, account for a small front splash and larger backsplash. You will then just need to build a support table which should probably just be a large wooden table with no surface to allow for the sink to flex in the middle with temperature changes.

Peter Hruby
25-Jan-2006, 19:28
Hi Eric,

Can you take pics of the book which they talk about sink? At least I will have an idea how to build one. You can email it to me.

What is the best method to join wood? L shaped steel rods and screws? That would be my idea.

Is anything better that what I sugested?

Austin Moore
25-Jan-2006, 19:38
use some good plywood and coat it in west system marine epoxy

Bruce Pottorff
25-Jan-2006, 19:44
I had my plywood sink coated with truck bed liner, and it has stood up very well; in fact, it looks new. Photographer friends thought the sink was purchased retail. Best move I made when I built my darkroom.


Dave Langendonk
25-Jan-2006, 21:31
Check out this link:


25-Jan-2006, 22:10
Hi Peter,

The book is available at Amazon and I have seen it in Borders and Barnes & Noble (where' I got mine):
Here's the link to Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0936262044/sr=1-2/qid=1138251070/ref=pd_bbs_2/102-1992908-3512914?%5Fencoding=UTF8). I'll send you a picture of the cover by email.

With the method in this book, you join the wood using wood screws, wood glue and waterproof caulking. Then you apply the Epoxy. Frankly, it comes out built like a tank. The guy who installed the air duct in my darkroom ceiling stood inside it while he worked. It's very solid, and very modular, although it does take some effort to cut the wood and assemble. The other great thing about that book is they walk you through all the tools you need and how to use them. Plus how to correctly measure the wood, etc.. I built not just the sink, but an enlarger stand with adjustable easel, drying racks built into a work table, and a 2 ft square color-balanced light table--all from plans in the book, and all with (basically) a curcular saw and Mikita drill. I just modified things to be bigger or smaller to suit my preference. The plumbing is all built into a panel that attaches to the back of the sink. It is all freestanding.

26-Jan-2006, 05:17
Firstly, do you really need a sink, as such. Or do you simply need somewhere to put a row of trays that might spill a few drops of chemicals over the side as you agitate them? If the latter, you can save yourself a whole load of work by just making a flat table with 1" square wood strips around the edges to contain any small spillages and epoxy paint it. Add a drain at one end and you are done.

Have a separate deep sink, of the type used for doing laundry by hand, for washing the trays etc.

Bruce Barlow
26-Jan-2006, 06:22
I built one years ago out of plywood, and painted it with epoxy paint. I loved it. When I had the money and opportunity to have a stainless steel sink after we moved to a new house, I bought one.

If I had it to do over, I'd make my sink. The white paint brightened up everything under safelights, it was exactly what I needed, and it was horribly cheap. I miss it. Splurge on birch plywwod that's smooth on both sides. After all, it's the only sink you'll ever make, you hope.

"Build Your Own Home Darkroom" has plans that I followed, which make it easy for even a novice woodworker to be successful. I've built several things out of that book, with great results.

Stan. Laurenson-Batten
26-Jan-2006, 07:13
I fitted out my darkroom from scratch, I use all formats to 10X8 and process in-house.
My ideal is a shallow sink of about six inched in depth, made of plastic that is easy to clean, drain quickly and chemical inpregnation resistant.

The length I would opt for is as long as you can make it. When I am using the dry side of the darkroom, I often cover the sink area over with close fitting board so can use it as a good drybench as well.

Peter Hruby
26-Jan-2006, 08:48
Thanks again,

I do have a book from Kodak, Build your own Darkroom, I am kinda following this one, only they suggested to buy sink. Would be anybody interested to see my progression of building darkroom? I can do pictures, it might help somebody in the future.

Current status is 2x4 wood construction, laying down my own electricity.
Let me know I have my own website where I post pictures to see, but text will be here.

Michael Rosenberg
26-Jan-2006, 15:44

Posted in the LF home page is an article on constructing a sink using sheets of PVC and plywood. The sink is very simple, and durable. My sink has been in use now for 6 years, and I would not change a thing. I also describe in the article how to do the plumbing. Most commercial plastic fabricators either stock or can obtain the sheeting and cut it for you. Alternatively Mc Master-Carr has it and will ship anywhere. Also posted are pictures of the sink and plumbing. If you purchase plywood make sure it is Grade A/B, which has water proof glue. Most plywoods are made with water soluble glue. And do not use particle board!

Good luck.


26-Jan-2006, 19:47
But Mike, if the sink is waterproofed dont those water soluble glues work just fine? In my case, yes.

Brian Ellis
27-Jan-2006, 11:41
I hired a carpenter to built a darkroom sink out of plywood that I purchased at Home Depot but if you're handy with tools it shouldn't be difficult to do yourself. You might need a plumber for the water connections though. I coated the sink with three or four coats of a Benjamin Moore product called "Moorelastic" and when I used the darkroom more than I do now I recoated once a year or so just to be on the safe side. The sink was still going strong after seven years of use when I sold the house in which it was located.

One small tip if you decide to build it yourself. Make sure the drain isn't located in the center but is instead in one of the corners and that the sink is slightly shorter on the side on which the drain is located.

27-Jan-2006, 12:36
My first coatings were with Moorlastic, but it didnt hold up. It isnt intended to be submerged and it can (and did) soften up. I overcoated that with the swimming pool paint which is very hard and works great, but is miserable to apply.

Michael Rosenberg
27-Jan-2006, 14:52

In an ideal world darkroom sinks don't leak :-). But they may leak around the drain, or in a corner, or just over time in the extra humidity of the darkroom the wood delaminates. So the little extra expense more than offsets the cost of doing it over.


Mark Woods
27-Jan-2006, 16:26
My grandfather made my father's darkroom sink (actually two) in the early fifties. I use one of them today. Plywood coated with fiberglass resin. I made some "wet" shelves for my 3 1/2 gallon tanks to sit on that drain into the sink. These are made of redwood 2x6 with a 1x3 lip. This was coated 3 times with clear resin. Works great. No leaks.