View Full Version : Timer in complete darkness?

Tim k
5-Feb-2009, 17:01
Ok, here is one thing I haven't been able to figure out on my own.

If you need complete darkness when tray processing, how do you time it.

Ralph Barker
5-Feb-2009, 17:09
Use a timer with a buzzer that goes off when the time is complete.

Robert Oliver
5-Feb-2009, 17:55
I just point mine away from the trays and keep it a couple of feet away.... as long as there is nothing for the dial to bounce off of it shouldn't be a problem. I am developing for 20-30 minutes with this technique. no fog noticed.

I also keep my timer below the lip of my sink and keep it a couple of feet away.

I am doing mostly minimal agitation with Pryocat HD in a black slosher tray.

I can never even see the faintest outline of my trays or sink with this method, even after my eyes have adjusted to the light for 30 minutes.

I do find other small light leaks in my darkroom.

My timer is ages old so I'm pretty sure the dial is less luminescent that it was when it was new.

5-Feb-2009, 17:58
You rarely need utter total complete darkness. Maybe with the fastest super speed films... I have timers with glowing phosphorescent numbers and have never known them to cause a problem. I just don't do work with fresh film right in front of them. I move a ways away.

Maris Rusis
5-Feb-2009, 18:57
"Voice Craft" talking timer; $20 from my local electronics store.

Tim k
5-Feb-2009, 19:05
So, as usual its not as complicated as I try to make it.
Thanks a lot guys.

Robert Glieden
5-Feb-2009, 19:10
I too have my voice recorded. I find it helps keep agitations consistent as well.
All the best,


Greg Lockrey
5-Feb-2009, 19:21
I use a $15.00 metronome.

D. Bryant
5-Feb-2009, 20:05
Ok, here is one thing I haven't been able to figure out on my own.

If you need complete darkness when tray processing, how do you time it.

I use a GRA LAB 900 process timer which allows the timer display to be turned off. The timer has 8 programmable steps, with or without a metronome and can be started or stopped with a foot switch. They can be purchased off eBay for $50 to $75.

HeathKit Electronics used to sell a wonderfull programable process timer but they have been out of business for years. Every once in a while these will appear on eBay and usually fetch about $100.

Don Bryant

5-Feb-2009, 23:31
I bought a portable tape recorder from a second hand store for $5 and bought a new tape and recorded some music on it (Led Zeppelin). I recorded my voice at the beginning of the album and then every thirty seconds thereafter, eg. Start, 30 seconds,one minute, one minute thirty seconds, two minutes, and so on until the thirty minute mark. It's cheap, works great and Zeppelin keeps you awake in the dark.

6-Feb-2009, 00:09
a year ago when I started doing LF, I developed in trays and used a couple of those cheap digital cooking clocks. I never tried doing more than one sheet at a time, I know some manage to shuffle a lot of film in a tray, but I did not wanted to risk scratches, so it was not easy.

Nowdays I dip & dunk and use the enlarger timer (a digital gralab). Precautions taken are unplugging the lamphouse, checking safelight off and putting a big piece of black foamboard between the tank and the timer. Far easier than trays and I can do semistand development. Good enough for me.

Jim Galli
6-Feb-2009, 00:28
I have the ancient analog Gralab 300 with the luminized hands. When I go dark I simply lean an old broken 11X14 darkslide up against the dial side. Whatever photons are coming out of the dial hands haven't made it around that dark slide so far.

6-Feb-2009, 09:17
I use a Time-O-Lite with a large glowing timer dial. I just put it someplace so that the developer tray can't "see" the timer. No problems.

pablo batt
6-Feb-2009, 09:31
i used to have a speaking timer made for the blind, it had a memory button so you could have your blix timing in the memory , one push in the darkness and you on your way

it would count down in tens and the the last ten second for each second.

about 10 dollars on ebay

sun of sand
10-Feb-2009, 23:19
luminescent watch -with the bands taken off leaving just the face
If a gralabs glow hands won't fog then a few slivers of light on tiny watch hands certainly won't
I do develop underneath a wall mounted gralab and simply drape a towel over it -also when loading film
Then use the face glow for DBI
Does that fog in 2+ seconds? I dunno.

I've used a sportsman/walkman type radio with timer that turns radio off ..then have to click back on with other hand while shuffling

Gene McCluney
10-Feb-2009, 23:26
A standard Graylab timer with the green glow-in-the-dark hands and scale works great. I have three of them in my darkroom, and NEVER have I fogged any type of materials. The green color is one that the human eye is particularly sensitive to, and unless the film or paper is actually touching the timer no fogging will occur. I mount them on the wall above my work areas, at or above eye level, which would be at least 2 feet away from any film or paper materials. This application is what these timers were designed for.

All darkroom timers with glow-in-the-dark scales are perfectly OK for use in "lights-out" conditions.

Back before I built my current studio, in my previous darkroom I had the ceiling covered with glow-in-the-dark stars I purchased from a toy store. It was great, when the lights were out, it looked like a clear night sky. No fogging happened.

11-Feb-2009, 00:12
i have been using the light on my watch and maybe it's just the way i have the trays but i have no problems.

11-Feb-2009, 15:16
I put my timer under the sink and adjust the LED intensity to low. You could turn the LED off also but I like seeing the time. Never had a fogging problem but I use BTZS tubes. However, the tubes are opened and placed in stop bath with safelight and timer LED on, sometimes for several minutes, before transferring to fixer.

Louie Powell
11-Feb-2009, 15:18
Gralab 300 with phosphorescent dots on the dial.

14-Feb-2009, 12:09
A simple way is to record something you enjoy listening to and voice over time ques as you go along. This way you can listen to stuff you enjoy while still keeping time for as long as you like.

A tape recorder, digital recorder or CD with the time ques recorded on it so you can hear them all work well.

When I first started tray developing 4x5 film (not that long ago!) I brought an ipod into the dark with me, sealed inside a plastic ziplock bag, and set up with a playlist of three songs that just slightly exceeded my development time. I calculated the length of the first two songs and then found the point in the third song that matched up with the end of my development time. Then I just made sure I was clear on which part of the song to stop at and used that as a timer. I got a bit sick of those songs over the month before I got a daylight safe tank (development ended at the lyric "As the big freighters go it was bigger than most, with a crew and good captain well seasoned." from Gordon Lightfoot's wreck of the edmund fitzgerald ;)).

There are mechanical, wind-up spring timers which can be preset to a certain time. The preset is just a stop to prevent you from winding past your desired time. These work fine in the dark and it's what I use now (generally in the light, but anyway). You just set it up ahead of time and then in the dark you just wind until it stops at your preset and then wait for the bell when its done.

Ross Chambers
15-Feb-2009, 00:36
Do please check out the RH Designs Process Master II:

Programmable for as many steps as you will need, continuous or interruptable count downs, dimmable light, beeps at 30 sec. increments and end of step, foot switch, small enough to put under the bench to screen any light, battery or mains power, up to 8 different processes, temperature compensation. Pricy? A little, but worth it. British? To the core!

Regards - Ross (from the ex colony)

15-Feb-2009, 08:33
I use the stopwatch on my cellphone. I keep it under a black cloth under the sink (developer tray is in the sink). Occasionally i take a very quick peek at the time. The cellphone screen is quite bright. So far, no problems.

17-Feb-2009, 15:19
The option that worked best for me was buying a Compaq iPAQ, second hand (mobile phones killed this market and they are very cheap now). Then I downloaded a program called Stoptime (for free). There you have 4 chronometers. One bips every thirty seconds, the other controls development, next stop bath and forth fixing bath. The alarms have different sounds. Once you started it you can switch off the screen or just cover it. Very practical also for tank development. Wagner

17-Feb-2009, 19:38
grab yourself night vision goggles @ e-bay for $80 and use your wristwatch or just watch with big hands, in addition to able to see you watch you will also be able to see what you are doing with your films in trays :D

17-Feb-2009, 22:13
I have a gralab that has luminous dials, once exposed to light, it glows for long enough to do a couple of batches of film.

Mick Fagan
21-Feb-2009, 06:22
The "Unicolor Jingle Bell" timer is possibly the cheapest, able to be worked completely in the dark, timer!

It is programmable in 30 second increments and is remarkably accurate.

I have used one for about 25 years for all film processing. As I mostly use a Jobo CPE2 I don't require darkness, however I still use the Unicolor Jingle Bell timer as it's audible ring alerts me if I get distracted.

I always use an old Junghans analogue stop watch as well, don't know why, I just do. The Unicolor Jingle Bell timer is always within 6 seconds on a 10'30" process, some of which is due to clicking the stopwatch with my thumb, then reaching down to press start, the Unicolor Jingle Bell timer.

I also do quite a few processes at 5' or 5'30" and the Unicolor Jingle Bell timer is within about 8 seconds of that time.

At one stage I had two Unicolor Jingle Bell timers, they were virtually identical in the timing.

They are worth looking into as a good dish/tray working in the dark timer.


Tim k
20-Mar-2009, 16:35
For what its worth;

I used a micro tape recorder that I had around the house, and recorded 30 second marks on a tape, while doing some daylight processing. I found it quite liberating not staring at a clock. I could go about whatever I wanted to.

That said, I picked up a little digital voice recorder and did the same thing. No more rewinding. Slick solution.

thanks guys

Stefan Findel
21-Mar-2009, 18:17
My last darkroom had a window leaking so much light, that I decided not to run film while the sun was directly shining on the window. I did not go so far as to process film only on an overcast moonless night, my film and I got used to a little leak. (I was processing 4x5 TMX in deep tank, and 8x10 TMY in trays) On all of this the RH process timer was emitting it's gentle glow... (If that seems too much, cover it with an ND (or other) filter made for studio lights) Did the film get fogged? Not that I noticed in practical terms. Maybe if read with a densitometer, the base fog was increased, but overall I was really surprised, how leaky a room can be. While I would not encourage carelessness (I consider myself a very clean worker), I just want to say, don't get carried away with all this. 'Total darkness' is relative. (Of course my current darkroom does not have a window, so I can process without consulting the weather forecast.)

Lynn Jones
25-Mar-2009, 13:23
I've always use a GraLab timer with the luminous numbers and pointers. In my 6 decades of experience the only time one of those have fogged film was when I absent mndledly stood four sheets of 4x5 up against the dial. Now folks that was dumb, and I did it. Got some very nice out of focus numbers on the film.