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Thread: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

  1. #1

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    Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

    I'm starting to get back into a number of projects and have been putting off building a proper darkroom since we bought our home in Dec 2019. Now is the time! I'm gonna try to document the build along the way and figured that it could be useful to others to see my process and how it comes together (planning on posting here and the Photrio/Apug forum). Experience has also shown that the community here is also always a great source of feedback and ideas. I'll plan to post here periodically with updates as I make progress. There are a million ways to build a darkroom and I'm doing this with a bit of a budget in mind and with minimal advanced carpentry/plumbing/electrical/etc skills. I'm also basing my build on my own needs (which I'm sure differ from many other people) so none of it is meant to be scripture but I hope it's useful to others who may want to build their own. I'll no doubt also have questions and would appreciate your insights and wisdom. If you have ideas along the way, please share. I won't be able to incorporate everything but I'm sure there will be great ideas I haven't thought of.

    Here is my first video discussing the construction of the sink which is of medium size (I'm working with limited space so couldn't do full size) and is made of lumber from your common home improvement store. The internal dimensions of the sink is 60"x25 which lets me fit two 20x24 trays when needed and more when working at smaller sizes. The sink will be epoxy sealed using West Systems two-part epoxies which are my preference when needing to get a really high quality long lasting waterproof seal like I'll need in this case:

    Youtube Video - https://youtu.be/3eGZprBwoEI

  2. #2

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    Re: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

    Good luck with your exciting project.

    I started my darkroom when we moved into your current home in 1994. I had an alcove in the garage that I had walled off with a door in the middle. Since then, it's been one project after another. My space is only about 6'x8', but I can do a lot in my darkroom. (That includes enlarging 8x10 negatives.)

    I have quite a large area just outside my darkroom with my drymount press, and table space areas for cutting mattes, viewing and munting prints, etc.

    My most recent project was just prior to COVID, in which I incorporated John Sexton's method for viewing prints in the darkroom. Mines a little different; but it has the same fundamentals. I think my next project build a wall around my print preparation area just outside the darkroom.

    What will be the size of your darkroom?

    A suggestion: You might make your sink width a little wider, like 30" to allow for stacking trays using a homemade stand. The width of my sink is 30", and the extra space often comes in handy. The sink length is fine. In fact, I get by with a 4' length in my small darkroom.

    Do you plan to have an exterior (to sink) print washer, like a Versalab 11x14 or 16x20?

  3. #3

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    Re: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

    Can you share some pics of your print viewing station? I’d love to see and am always looking for ideas as this darkroom comes together.

    And yea, limited space doesn’t really have to be that limiting. That’s a part of why I’m putting these videos together i.e. to show that you can make a lot work in a small space.

    The darkroom is about 13.5 ft x 5’ 6”. Fairly narrow.

    I actually did work in try stacking into my measurements based on my trays so it’s possible. I won’t be using a full set of 20x24 trays though. I use a Jobo 3036 drum for processing which is a major space saver so I only need a tray or two when I want to work with a print outside of the drum. I’m still deciding what I want to do for washing prints. A 20x24 capable print washer is large and weighs probably 200lbs (very rough estimate) when full of water. I also primarily make direct positives and make one print at a time so a multi-print washer may be beyond my needs. I’ve had good luck just using s tipped tray with running water which saves space and weight so I may keep doing that. If I find myself needing to wash several prints at s time, I’ll just build a separate stand for a proper print washer.

  4. #4

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    Re: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

    Here is the Part 2 video.

    I used West Systems epoxy as I mentioned and it worked perfectly. Four to five coats (105 epoxy + 206 Slow Hardener) yields a thick surface that has depth and looks like a glass sheet is sitting on the wood. The 206 Slow Hardener works great as a leveling epoxy which gives you a nearly perfectly smooth surface (if you don’t use a vacuum to purge all air from the mixed epoxy, which I didn’t, you may have some tiny air bubbles but those done impede getting a very acceptable surface). I did not use a fiberglass layer for the surfaces as I mentioned but I did use fiberglass thickener (West Systems 406 Colloidal Silica filler) to thicken the epoxy for filling the corners/seams. You need that so that the epoxy doesn’t run out of the seams. I talk a bit about that in the video.

    Next up is plumbing the sink. I’m not running hard lines because I may need to shift the sink around a bit from time to time. My water outlet in the room is also 4 feet up the wall (outlet for the washing machine) so I’ll be building a utility sink drain pump to move water up and out from the drain. I’m working on a video now to show how I go about that.

  5. #5
    Ironage's Avatar
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    Re: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

    Thanks for sharing. I built my darkroom about a year ago. I used a elevated drain also, but was able to raise my sink a bit to be at the level of the drain. Instead of a drain pump you could save the noise and expense by setting the sink on a raised platform. I enjoyed the epoxy video and learned from it.
    ...Dilettante! Who you calling a Dilettante?

  6. #6
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

    Great!

    Probably good you did not post in DIY

    Keep the videos coming!

  7. #7
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

    Use PEX as I have, it is very strong hot or cold and is quick and adjustable if you leave a long bend

    I prefer using crimp bands with hand plier crimper

    Pex Hot and Cold by TIN CAN COLLEGE, on Flickr

  8. #8

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    Re: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

    Quote Originally Posted by Ironage View Post
    Thanks for sharing. I built my darkroom about a year ago. I used a elevated drain also, but was able to raise my sink a bit to be at the level of the drain. Instead of a drain pump you could save the noise and expense by setting the sink on a raised platform. I enjoyed the epoxy video and learned from it.
    I don't mind the noise of the pump especially since it's only intermittent. It has a float so activated only when water reaches a certain level and then turns off. In my case, the drain outlet is so high up the wall, I'd have to put the sink on the ceiling to get gravity to do the work so not really feasible. Glad to hear you learned a bit about the epoxy!


    Quote Originally Posted by Tin Can View Post
    Use PEX as I have, it is very strong hot or cold and is quick and adjustable if you leave a long bend

    I prefer using crimp bands with hand plier crimper

    TIN CAN COLLEGE[/url], on Flickr
    I was looking at some PEX the other day when I was at the store. I'm just using flexible braided lines at this point so no seed for anything plumbed to the hard lines but if I end up with anything that needs to be plumbed in that way, I'll almost certainly use it. Seems like a great material.

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    Re: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log


  10. #10

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    Re: Journey to build a new darkroom - Build log

    Here is another update with videos. I had a chance this morning to upload a couple of videos that I've been putting together to talk about the blower I've chosen to use for the ventilation system. I've gone with the Dayton 1TDU2 which is 1202 CFM and has good reviews. I originally picked a much smaller blower (based on misunderstanding some data) and had to upgrade when I discovered the problem.

    This video discuses my plan for how I'll set up the blower with ventilation cones to reduce the intake to 4-inch standard drying tube size, and then further to 2-inch and to sink for optimal suction. Reducing the intake also provides air flow restriction which helps to ensure that the blower motor doesn't free spin and burn out.

    And this video is a step-by-step guide for how to wire the Dayton 1TDU2 blower to a power cord for 120 voltage (it's also possible to wire it for 220). I also show a moment where the blower surprised me and I almost lost some fingertips. Safety first!

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