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Thread: Darkroom construction ideas

  1. #1

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    Darkroom construction ideas

    I've been thinking of putting together a darkroom as film developers near me are disappearing fast. I live in military housing so I can't alter the house & I'm kind of leery of letting chemicals drain into the bathroom tub in case they cause damage. What are my options? I was thinking that maybe one of these would work: http://www.homedepot.com/webapp/wcs/...00885+10401013
    I guess if all else fails I'll have to send my film out to a mail Lab. Any good ones?

  2. #2

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    Re: Darkroom construction ideas

    As far as plumbing damage, I've not heard of anyone having problems from standard film development chemicals. I'd be more concerned about proper disposal of spent fixer, which accumulates rather toxic complex silver compounds and is therefore usually illegal to dump down the drain. A good solution to this is to find a lab, even a local drugstore minilab, which accepts used fixer for silver recovery. Even if the minilab doesn't have their own silver recovery unit, you can ask who handles their fixer for them. Sometimes this service is free, sometimes there's a nominal fee. Also consult your local municipal waste disposal organization by website or phone for local information. Even if a minilab isn't available, your area will likely have other options for proper disposal.

    As far as the outbuilding you linked, two thoughts come to mind. The first is that temperature control of your chemicals may be a challenge. Especially for color process, which requires more stringent temperature control than black and white process. Second, but easier to manage, is that it's not likely to be sufficiently light-tight "out of the box." It's also unclear what disposal advantages you expect gain by using an outdoor enclosure vs. your bathroom (though there may be other advantages.) Any alternate drain an outbuilding provides can be used from your bathroom as well, if by just using some cheap plastic holding containers to use an alternate drain.

    Another option is something like the Nova Darkroom Tent. This can be used as a temporary darkroom or left up semi-permanently, e.g. in a basement, utility room, or similar.

  3. #3
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    Re: Darkroom construction ideas

    Your darkroom needs will depend on what you want to do in the darkroom. If you're only developing film in a daylight tank, a decent dark tent (e.g. Harrison) will suffice. If you plan to develop in trays, you'll need to be a little more inventive. Bathrooms are often used for this. You can set up a temporary table (e.g. folding card table) to support the trays, and then light-proof the door with a black felt curtain or other means (no permanent damage).

    Conventional darkroom chemicals won't cause damage to the pipes, but be cautious with things like toners.

  4. #4

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    Re: Darkroom construction ideas

    You are probably aware that the US military uses standard shipping containers to house and transport everything from command and control facilities to kitchens. We had a local barbecue seller who set up her take-out restaurant in one. I don't know the cost, but it has the advantage of being easily transportable

  5. #5

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    Re: Darkroom construction ideas

    I may just end up using the bathroom as long as it has a fan. I had planned to collect the waste in 5 gal. buckets for disposal. For the most part I'll be using the darkroom to process B&W film and to print 11X14's. Any gallery printing I do i think I'll leave for a pro lab do to guarantee the quality at least until I have more practice at it. what would be a minimum room size to get by with? would 4X10' work?

  6. #6

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    Re: Darkroom construction ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by sfjphotography View Post
    I've been thinking of putting together a darkroom as film developers near me are disappearing fast. I live in military housing...
    Have you checked with the base to see if they have a darkroom you could use?

    -Darren

  7. #7

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    Re: Darkroom construction ideas

    Are there base restrictions on getting rid of any chemicals? Spent fixer and some toners (e.g. selenium) are the only chemicals one usually needs to worry about. Developer, stop, any hypo-clearing agent are OK to pour down the sink.

    As to legalities, find out in your state. In Oregon, you can legally dump just about any darkroom chemical, IF you're not a professional. (Including spent fixer.) If a professional, the opposite is the case. But legalities aside, there are ethical practices to which one can adhere. For me, I dump developer, hypo-clear, and stop. I do not dump spent fixer or selenium toner.

    I have a confined darkroom in a space of about 6x8. But, it works fine for me. Here's a darkroom sink that I use:

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...nk_II_ABS.html

    At the time that I bought this sink, it didn't require special freighting. (The 6 foot model required freighting.)

    I made my own stand for this sink that has storage, a drawer, and a stack of drying racks that can handle up to 16x20 prints.

    I also built a small stand out of wood for use in my sink that allows me to use multiple 11x14 trays. I painted the wood with a waterproof paint. I wash my prints in a Versalab washer that sits right next to the sink.

    If I wanted to do 16x20, I could set up a two tray development system. Develop print in one tray and then put the print into a second tray of stop. Thereafter, replace the stop in that second tray with fixer, then with hypo-clearing agent, etc. While convenient, it's not necessary to have x-number of trays all lined up in a row. (The stop, fixer, hypo-clear, etc., can all have their own pitchers.)

  8. #8

    Re: Darkroom construction ideas

    B/w chemicals do not usually present problems when disposed of in small quantities, like a litre or so. By that I am meaning normal film and paper developers, acetic acid stop and fix. It's advisable to mix dev and fix together (balances pH), diluted in copious water. Avoid disposing of bleach-fix and other colour processing chemicals that way, though, and same for many b/w toners, ferricyanide and so on. A web search might bring up much more on this topic - and I believe Kodak used to have some helpful information, when they were concerned about such issues.

  9. #9

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    Re: Darkroom construction ideas

    Quote Originally Posted by Darren Kruger View Post
    Have you checked with the base to see if they have a darkroom you could use?

    -Darren
    All of the base photo offices, at least active duty, have gone completely digital. I'll be able to use the universities lab when I start my BFA. But that won't be until I get back from my deployment and then I'd have to drive 30min just to use a lab. I'd rather not have to do that all the time.

  10. #10

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    Re: Darkroom construction ideas

    As another resource, I'll recommend The New Darkroom Handbook. Very useful for darkroom planning, from temporary bathroom arrangements to large permanent darkrooms.

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