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Darkshop Posts

Car cabinet

I have a Honda Element, which is a pretty good ride for camera trips. I’ve always wanted to build a cabinet in the cargo area to hold gear. What’s motivating me to do something about it though is the recent idea of making an extension platform that will allow for taking quick photos from the tail gate without a lot of setup/breakdown. Just mount a camera to the top, slide it out of the gate, then snap snap snap. Slide it back into the cabinet when done. If I design it well enough I will hopefully be able to leave the camera set up, cruise around, and maybe even get arrested eventually. Continue » Car cabinet

5×7 diary, part 3

Undersized, underthunk

After almost 4 years of use, I thought I would make a few improvements to my shopmade 5×7 camera.  One thing that always bothered me is the front standard. The gimbal swing is great, and the movements work well, but the rise and fall stanchions are a little anemic, should have used 3/16″ stock instead of the 1/8″, and should have made the anti-torsion bar that joins the stanchions at the bottom a little more burly as well.  There’s too much flex in the standard.  Also, the front shift platform is awkward. I stupidly economized on aluminum plate stock, getting only a 12″ piece of 1/4  bar stock for both the front and back shift platforms, and by the time I was done with the back the piece I had left over was about 1/2″ too short for the front. So instead of just ordering another $5 worth of material from McMaster-Carr I went ahead and used the short piece. Usually I’m not this cheap- maybe I’d already milled the dovetail slot before I realized it was too short. Regardless, the front standard pivot brackets overhang the platform, which not only looks goofy, but there’s also nothing to indicate a neutral position by feel, you have to eyeball the dovetails being flush with the platform. I thought about installing a detent, but due to the location of the dovetail slide and shift slot there’s no good place to install one. The furnace is on the fritz in the house, so as long as I’m cold I might as well spend some time in the shop. Continue » 5×7 diary, part 3

Ground glass / focusing screen

A ground glass focusing screen is something I usually rush through because when it’s time to make one  I’m usually at the end of a tedious camera build and want to hurry up and use the thing already. But I wanted to take some time and make a decent one- after all this is the one thing I spend the most time looking at on a camera. Usually I don’t bother to seam the edges so the little chips along the cuts refract light into the image area and generally looks pretty crappy, so I spent the time to carefully cut the screen, smooth out the all the edges, and bevel them before getting on with grinding the surface. I did this for a recent Arca Swiss CLA, and it turned out well so made another one for my shop made camera.

grit Continue » Ground glass / focusing screen

Arca Swiss Miss

Having only ever used shop-made view cameras I’ve always wanted to try an actual production camera. I saw a used monorail on a forum for sale for $400, so thought I’d treat myself after all the work remodeling and repairing the house this year. 5×7 monorails are relatively rare, and a 5×7 Arca Swiss even more so. This is an older Oschwald-era Arca, but it appears to have a lot of the functionality of the newer F-line models. There were some issues disclosed in the listing- no ground glass, missing light gasket where the back meets the rear standard – both are really easy fixes. It also had a few other issues such as dry spirit levels and some cosmetic damage, but nothing that would impact usage. The important thing was that it had light tight bellows, or so the seller claimed in the listing. Continue » Arca Swiss Miss

Gitzo G1320 center post hack

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I never really liked Gitzo-styled tripods, but needed an indoor tripod as my homemade one has spiked feet and is usually dirty. The twist legs locks on Gitzos are bad enough, but the center column on some models is especially egregious. I didn’t realize this at the time I bought a used one off Ebay, but it’s impossible to tighten the center lock down enough to keep the column from spinning, or at least it is on the version I have.  Markins has (or used to have) a hub retrofit to replace the the yoke entirely, but decided I would try to modify it before spending an extra $180 on a tripod I wasn’t wild about to begin with.
Continue » Gitzo G1320 center post hack

Darkroom sink

yikes

Yikes

9/15/16. I  need a new sink. I made this one about 12 years ago and used polyester resin, which as it turned out never really bonded with the plywood substrate. It’s started to crack and flake badly. The finish on the sink was never really even substandard- the resin went on like molasses reclaimed from a sandy bog. At least I tinted it black, which helped mute the ugliness a bit. But for the past two years I’ve had to trowel on silicone caulk to help make it last just a little longer. I can’t stand another year of this. The weather’s turning cool so need to get started on a new one. This will probably be the most tediously detailed diary that I’ve posted here. I have no memory of how I (mis)made the last one, and if I ever have to repair this new version, the details may help to isolate what I’ve done wrong.

Continue » Darkroom sink

Epson V700 scanner 5×7 negative carrier

After spending so much time making cameras, film holders and sundry other crap, the irony of taping a negative to a plain piece of glass for scanning is not lost on me. Glass does work surprisingly well considering the minimal expense and effort, but I’ve missed working in the shop so thought I would try to come up with a decent carrier for my Epson scanner. I though about modifying a standard enlarger negative carrier, but in my experience those need the tension supplied by the closing of the negative staging on the enlarger itself to keep them closed and flat. Not to mention good ones are difficult to find and expensive in the 5×7 format.
Continue » Epson V700 scanner 5×7 negative carrier

Light cork

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DIY convertible darkroom window block

A cheap way to black-out windows in a multipurpose room is to make a panel out of rigid insulation and masonite- a cork essentially- which fits by friction into the window jamb and can be easily removed.  My old version is about 10 years old now and getting pretty beat up. It’s also too heavy and thick due to the masonite and 2″ foam board construction.  I thought about stepping up to a Indow Window panel, but at roughly $30 a square foot means it would cost close to $350 for my single 26 46 darkroom window. I decided instead to just make a new lighter one using 3/16″ plywood underlayment and thinner 1″ RMax foil-faced rigid insulation (polyisocyanurate) sheathing. Both materials are very lightweight- this one is 14.5 square ft overall and only weights 5 pounds. Continue » Light cork