View Full Version : Darkroom Event and Design

Robert McBride
25-Mar-2006, 10:50
I have a thrilling tale of excitement and danger to tell. Check on your darkroom equipment/plumbing ASAP. Today, I was in the darkroom at the wet-side sink area in preparation for a weekend printing session. On the left side of the sink, I have an old Kodak temperature regulator that I saved from the destruction of an X-ray processing office. On the right side, I have a thermometer setup (I donít remember the manufacturer) that was originally intended to mount below a faucet and uses a stem/dial type thermometer to measure the temperature of the flowing water. I installed it in the plumbing system to monitor water temperature going to the washing equipment. Well, to get to the adventure part, while I was on the left side starting to set up the trays, I heard a loud noise to my right. I had thought that a wash-hose or sink sprayer had popped loose. What I saw was the thermometer bouncing off the drying cabinet and a stream of water gushing across the room onto the dry side (basement darkroom, so itís not that big). The stream hit around 7 feet high on the opposite wall above the counter. Unfortunately, this is also where a computer monitor sits on the counter. In about 3 seconds the computer when down and in about another 5 seconds the GFIC tripped, plunging the darkroom into a condition better suited for film loading. I had just gotten my hand on the valve to the thermometer before it tripped. The thermometer has been in place for around 8 years without so much as a drip occurring. The threaded fitting did not come loose but the thermometer just shot out of its ferrule.

What are the lessons learned from this experience:
1. Regularly check the plumbing fittings on the wet-side.
2. Separate the power into at least 2 independent circuits and split the lights between each.
3. Look for possible spray paths for water and any potential targets.
4. An easily reached master control valve might be a good design in future darkrooms.

Have to get back to the clean up now, the counters are cleaned but the floor, and many other things are still wet. I guess the printing session is cancelled because I have a hole in the plumbing system.

I thought that I should put out this warning to others.

Ralph Barker
25-Mar-2006, 12:06
Excellent points, Robert. Most plumbing designs assume that nothing will ever fail or leak, and only allow shut-off for fixture replacement or repair. A bit of disaster planning, such as the installation of collection pans or spray shields can save future headaches. A safety light, wired into the white-light circuit, may also be a good idea for larger darkrooms.

Al Seyle
25-Mar-2006, 12:26
Now that should unleash a flood of darkroom horror stories (pun intended!)...

Kirk Gittings
25-Mar-2006, 13:31
15 Years after finishing my darkroom, a pinhole leak developed in a sweat soldered copper joint on the hot water line above my sink. It emitted a very fine stream of water, which landed (of course) on a nearby counter in an open, archival, Light Impresions box full of deveoped and filed 4x5 b&w film from a very important personal project. It happened during a time when I was not doing much darkroom work. I had recieved a grant to produce that project and much of the film was irreplaceable, because the historic building that the film was from was already torn down....

There is a good reason, if you have the room, to have a complely separate dry side and wet side in your darkroom.

Robert McBride
25-Mar-2006, 14:22
I took the assembly apart. The thermometer has Premier on the face. The casing is identified as a Flow Temp manufactured by Pfefer Products, Van Nuys, CA. I remember that I bought this in the mid 80s. I canít believe that the incident happened while I was standing there and not some other time. The spray could have gone on for days before it was discovered. It looks like a simple replacement of the compression washer should fix it.

Every darkroom needs a dry side but it shouldnít be used as any sort of long-term storage location. This also shows the advantage of cabinets and not just open shelves.

Richard Boulware
25-Mar-2006, 16:52
Last spring, I opened my brand new darkroom and gallery that I had devoted two years to in construction time and back breaking work. Shit..(oops) I am seventy years old, but a feisty old fart, and I had taken a loan on my townhouse and hung two and a half tons of dry wall and installed over 400 two by fours.

Everything was complete. The two enlargers, a nine foot long Kreonite sink, carpeted darkroom floors matching the gallery...and all the 'goodies'!

Under the glow of a Thomas sodium lamp, I decided to make some prints,...just to cristen the facility. I thought of a film test on 35mm and decided no...and turned of the Leica V-35. Nope! I selected a favorite 4X5 negative and got my Omega ProLab D-5 ready to go. I turned on the print washer and after a few minutes, things sounded funny.......................

I investigated, to find that the sink was not draining. I had huges buches of BLACK CRAP floating all over my beautiful Krenote sink. I went to white light, and investigated to find pieces of banana peel floating throughout my sink which is on the downward drain side of my kitchen disposal, which was brand new. Sink totally clogged. I learned a big lesson at that time. NEVER THROW BANANA SKINS INTO YOUR KITCHEN DISPOSAL. YuccH!

After an hour of cleaning the sink and opening the drain...things were back to normal and I resumed making a 'ceremonial' first print in the new facility.

Great facility,...as long as you remember 'Banana Peels'! They'll trip the best of us up.

Eat bananas...they are very healthly...but not on the down side of drain pipes..in the hallowed grounds of photographic darkrooms.

Be well, Richard in Denver.

Keith Pitman
25-Mar-2006, 16:56

I had an almost identical experience --why is it the hot water joints that go out? Fortunately, nothing was damaged except that some of the reference material was pretty soggy. I still remember the incident every time I use those documents with the wrinkled edges.

25-Mar-2006, 16:56
Murphy's Law.