I’ve taken the next logical step after really enjoying getting back into film photography and exploring it in ways I’ve never done in the past; shooting larger than 35mm, developing my own film, and basically doing so much more than just shooting a roll with a point and shoot and taking it to Boots to produce mediocre prints. I have built a darkroom! In the freezing cold and damp garage… but after a lot of work I’ve created a light (and dripping water) tight room that is actually capable of being quite cozy once the oil heater has been on for a short while.
It all began in January 2013 – operation clear the garage of ‘stuff’. This first picture was actually taken after lots of clearing out had been completed, believe it or not!
I acquired an old kitchen from some friends:
I bought an old Kodak Beehive safelight and rewired it:
A 35mm enlarger given to me by a friend was in a messy state thanks to the deteriorating foam packaging.
After assembling it and giving it a try I was a bit concerned that the light spill was a bit excessive:
I checked with my fellow #BelieveInFilm folks on Twitter who confirmed that it was indeed fairly excessive! I discovered a missing part and after realising where it went the light leaks were resolved!
I read that it’s a good idea to have the safelights turn off when the enlarger is ON to make it easier to see a stopped down image for dodging and burning. So I built a relay box that uses the timer output to turn the safelights OFF when the enlarger is lit:
Things were starting to come together, I just needed to build the partition walls to help keep the heat in and the light out.
Before going much further I did a little test printing, which didn’t go so well. More about that here:
But the next print, a few days later, was more successful:
A very useful addition to the darkroom equipment list – a paper safe – so much easier and quicker than opening and closing boxes:
Following some enjoyable and successful printing the rest of the darkroom build was in order. A top priority was to sort out the ventilation. I bought a bathroom ventilation kit from eBay. The first step was to make a hole in the garage wall:
Whilst knocking through the wall with my favourite chisel (everyone has a favourite chisel don’t they!?) I lost down the hollow wall space!!! :-O 🙁
With the help of some strong magnets and some new-found fishing skills I was able to retrieve it!! 😀
Then I had to wire in some new sockets from the garage consumer unit and a fused spur for the fan:
I had an email alert set up on Gumtree to notify me of darkroom enlargers being listed locally. One morning I woke up to a MEGA deal! Not only did it include some amazing darkroom gear including:
DeVere 54 5×4 enlarger
Paterson 35mm & medium format colour enlarger
Schneider 50mm Componon-S Enlarger Lens
Schneider 80mm 5.6 Enlarger Lens
Schneider 150mm 5.6 Enlarger Lens
Rodenstock – Ysaron 150mm 4.5 Enlarger Lens
All the adapter rings I’d ever need
Negative holders for 35mm up to 5×4
Massive 20×16″ high quality easel and a 15×12″ easel
Baeuerle Electronic Timer Bs782 that can time down to 0.1 seconds
Another Kodak Beehive safe light (I was looking to buy another one!)
120 and 135 contact printers
A few boxes of paper
A million other darkroom related goodies
In addition to the amazing darkroom haul, the deal also included:
Mamiya M645 with 80mm f2.8 lens
Minolta X-700 35mm camera and a bunch of lenses
A selection of Cokin filters
A bunch of expired film & more!
All for the amazing price of just £170. So many of the individual items are worth that much alone!
Here is the haul in the back of the car
And just some of the boxes filled with goodies
Here’s the massive 20×16 easel compared to my 10×8 easel
The Paterson enlarger:
I sparked up the DeVere 54 lamp and all was good:
The timer worked well too
The DeVere 54 was a bit seized but after some careful lubrication and gentle persuasion the head started moving up and down again!
I inserted a 5×4 negative and the 150mm lens and checked that all was working – 5×4 negatives look amazing when projected!
Now back to the darkroom build – I reconfigured things a little bit. I wasn’t planning to plumb the sink in so it was a bit redundant and a waste of space. I removed it and covered the hole. I placed out the 14×11 trays and the much larger 20×16 trays to ensure there was enough space.
It looked like there is enough space for printing up to 20×16 so I was able to cut the work top to size, creating a bit of segregation between the wet and dry sides.
Next step – building the partition! Time for LOTS of wood from Wickes to create the stud wall. I acquired plenty of used 120x80cm plywood to use as walls for free!
The beginnings of the stud wall construction:
Next I had to build a door from scratch. I considered building a sliding ‘pocket door’ but I decided to go for the simpler hinged door.
Painting with black matte paint around the door frame and a little on the floor helps prevent light from creeping in and does the job fine.
I made sure to have some extra height for the rather tall DeVere 54 enlarger:
I got the ventilation hooked up and working:
Another important addition to the darkroom – an old HiFi system!
I managed to acquire another DeVere 54 for cheap. It is in much better condition, it’s newer and it means I have a bunch of spares including the (probably difficult to source) light tube. Neither enlarger included a baseboard so I went about building one and figuring out a way to attach it.
Using the screw-in knob part at the back and some metal to hold the back of the baseboard…
A little countersinking for the screws at the front of the frame…
Here is the completed dry side:
And a panoramic view of the entire darkroom in action:
It’s very early days and I’ve only managed around 10 prints but I’ve already seen some results I’m really happy with, like this one:
More darkroom posts to come soon I’m sure! 🙂
Great Twitter hashtag: #believeinfilm