Friday, 11 November 2011

Wet side of the darkroom.

On this side of the room you will have laid out your developing dishes in the following order: developer, stop-bath, fix, print washer and/or sink. These may have heaters under them or you can have a slotty laid out in the same way. Obviously this will take up less space.
Typical wet side layout

This is where you keep your chemicals, it is also the place that the solutions are poured out and back into their storage containers. The height of this table needs to be right so you can work comfortably in the standing position. It is a good idea to store these chemicals under the table if there is a leak it will go on the floor and not drip into your working dishes ruining your prints. For safety reasons it is not a good idea to lean over your dishes to retrieve items from shelves above while your working as you may knock the contents of the dishes over yourself.

Remember that these chemicals need to be treated with care and you should follow the safety advice recommended by the manufacturer.

Safety in the darkroom

There are some health and safety issues in the darkroom. The most commonly used chemicals are no more dangerous than household detergents and bleaches, some of the more specialised chemicals can be hazardous. Here are some do's and don'ts to make things safer.
  • Wear gloves ( rubber or Latex), protective cloths and use eye protection.
  • Wash spillage's to skin and eyes quickly with lot of water.
  • Keep a tap hose for this purpose'
  • Clearly label everything.
  • Make sure there is good ventilation.
  • Dispose of solutions safely' seek advice if needed.
  • Mix chemicals slowly and in the right sequence.
  • Filter water and home-made solutions to remove bits especially for film processing.
  • Eat, drink or smoke when mixing chemicals.
  • Inhale dust from powders.
  • Fail to read instructions and warnings first.
  • Use kitchen scales for chemicals.
  • Use metal containers, mixers and trays.
  • Add chemicals together without knowing if the outcome is safe.
  • Add water to strong acids or alkali's ( e.g. caustic soda-Na OH). Always add them to water not the other way round and slowly.
  • keep large glass bottles on high shelves.

Dry side of the darkroom.

Typical layout for dry side of darkroom
This is the area where you will have your enlarger set up. The table will need to be large enough to allow for timer, puffer (like a rocket air) and magnifying glass. There will also need to be space for you to lay out your negatives, printing paper, scissors and or guillotine/rotary trimmer and holding back and burning in tools. It is a good idea if this area also has cupboards and draws for keeping your paper and equipment in.

Darkroom layout

When setting out your darkroom it is best to set your work flow from left to right. By doing so you are less likely to contaminate the dry side with chemicals or water. You should keep the enlarger table separate from the development table. The dry side takes up less space than the wet side so can be put along a shorter wall. The support for the enlarger should be completely stable and set at a comfortable working level when standing. For a standing position the right height is 95cm (37").
A typical lay out
Remember electricity and water don't mix so take particular care when providing power for your equipment. If in doubt consult an electrician. It is not imperative that your darkroom has running water but ventilation is and will need a light proof grate.

This may sound strange but make sure that the illumination is sufficient to allow you to see round the room when printing.

Darkroom Heaven.

Is having a room set up permanently with plenty of space designed the way you want it. The most common conversions are the spear room, loft, garage and garden shed. All need to be planned carefully. It can be a bit tricky laying on power, water and waste disposal but worth the effort. It is also a good idea to insulate in the case of the garage, loft and shed, done correctly you should not get extreme shifts in temperature.

Kitchen darkroom?

This is a good place to set up. There are three draw backs: the first is the agreement of your other half, if you are the other half then there is no problem. Second it is not permanent. Third you will need to find some way of making the whole room light tight. The good points of this set up are you have running water, electrical sockets and extractor already in place. The enlarger (dry area) can be set up on the kitchen table and the paper processing (wet area) can be set up by the sink, with final wash done in the sink. If you use the kitchen you should clean up carefully when the session is finished.

Darkroom in the Bathroom

This is one of the most popular places to set up. Bathrooms usually only have one window to black out but the down sides are, it is still temporary and has a lack of power, requiring you to provide a safe source.

Wet and Dry areas can be set up in different places but the most common way is to put a board over the bath to provide a working surface. If you feel that the bath is too low you can build this up to a reasonable working height. If you step the board you can place the enlarger over the bath as well instead of placing it on the toilet, with the dry area being higher than the wet it will stop chemical splashes getting on to the baseboard of the enlarger contaminating the paper. If you use the bathroom make sure you clean up any spilled chemicals.

Darkroom in a cupboard.

This is the smallest place that you can set up a permanent darkroom. You will need to arrange some sort of ventilation powered or passive as the chemicals give off fumes. The space then needs to be big enough for you and your equipment. The dry area with the enlarger can be set up on the shelf above the wet area for paper processing with a bucket of water to store the processed prints in, until you are finished and the final wash can be done in the kitchen or bathroom.