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Darkshop Posts

Darkroom sink



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.

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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.
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Light cork


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

Kelty P1, updated

It’s been a rough year so far, but at least the frequent colds and injuries have given me more time to print and to catch up on projects while I’m recovering. I’ve make a few improvements to my 5×7 pack since the last version here.

The bag itself is great and fun to modify. Outside it’s essentially the same. Different tripod but it still attaches to the side with a compression strap at top and a leather loop hooked to a carabiner at the bottom.  It has a decent suspension and very roomy at almost 60 liters and it’s very durable. And the main compartment is full access due to full-length zipper, the main reason I bought it over three years ago. Continue » Kelty P1, updated




Another simple but important accessory. This is a very lightweight, compact, comfortable, and dark view camera focusing cloth.  Quite simple to make with a basic sewing machine in about an hour.

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5×7 film scanning hacks


Mystery shadows with Epson V700, parallel lines on right vertical edge of frame
(enlarged and contrast boosted for clarity)

I went though some embarrassing fits of misdirection trying to track down the cause of these odd parallel shadow lines of less density around the negative’s rebate edge. First I thought that it was an artifact of slosher tray development- due mostly to the tendency of film to curl along its length, thus leaving a edge of the film that would stick out of the developer and receive less development due to the meniscus effect. But the artifact was still there when I began to develop film in a Jobo drum, which spins the film in individual tubes through the solution constantly during processing. At that point I was convinced it was caused by using excessive movement of the front standard of my camera when composing a photograph, which then would cause an off-axis shadow from the back aperture to be cast along the corresponding edge of the film. So I beveled the edge of the back aperture to make this impossible. When that didn’t work I stained all the margins of my film holders flat black to make sure they weren’t causing some odd light scatter. When that didn’t work I finally looked at my scan procedure itself. Continue » 5×7 film scanning hacks

Carbon Transfer Printing

Reading over the tissue making part, I may have given the impression that time is the overarching expense of this process. Nothing I say in part 2 will dispel that notion. Carbon tissue is a very inexpensive process as far as material costs go, but the overall investment of time can feel a bit conspicuous.
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Carbon Transfer Tissues

 This might get long…

I print carbon only a few weekends a year, so I thought it would be worthwhile to make a visual log of the process before I forget it all. I  have a written journal for carbon stretching back to the beginning, filled with meticulous notes of every step and every change along the way.  Not surprisingly, the journal is increasingly tedious to wade through when I decide to make a few prints. So this is an attempt to digest what is working well for me at the moment into a relatively brief overview. Continue » Carbon Transfer Tissues


Jobo motor base, in progress

October 11

I’ve been developing film in trays in the dark almost 20 years, which sounds more like a prison sentence than a term of experience. To be able to work in normal room lighting, I’ve made a few daylight hand-inversion tanks, and had good results with 4×5- but for 5×7 the tank size and solution amounts make this approach impractical.

I’ve always wanted to try a Jobo ‘Expert’ Drum, which uses a minimum of solution, and works by rotation instead of inversion. I finally found a deal on one (they are ~$500 new), and was excited about putting it to use. I was struck, using this thing for the first time manually, how unbelievably tedious it is to spin this drum for 10-15 minutes, and how awkward to get the chemicals in cleanly, and how much of a hassle to clean and dry between batches of negatives.   Out of desperation, I made all these cheap and ridiculous ancillary items – funnel and stand, converted skateboard roller base,  hair-dryer to dry the tank between uses, and a ridiculous crank-wheel- all just to be able to give this thing a proper evaluation.  Since I was already in over $300 over the drum, I didn’t want to waste a bunch more money if I was just going to go back to tray shuffling. (Trays cost under $15 and need no accessories.)
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