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Tuesday, 31 August 2010


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That kind of power strip is usually quite expensive, so I haven't used them myself; but I would have if I got a really good deal! They're very nice, having an outlet right where you need it in places like that is good. (In fact those look a cut above the ones I've found too expensive to use.)

I hope the outlet the wet side strip, at least, plugs into has a GFCI on it.

Lightroom plus Photoshop plus a powerful computer plus at least an Epson 2880 printer (to do B&W well). Plus a good scanner. Storage disks plus backup disks. Ink plus paper is generally more expensive than photo paper plus chemistry (though the waste ratio may be very different).

But besides, you wanted a darkroom.

And, this way, you've postponed having to come to grips with those old images for months! :-)

Looks fine Mike, but I think you will find the viewing lights too strong.

I took me several attempts to get the darkroom viewing light so that the enlargements _viewed with the eyes adapted to the relative darkness in the darkroom_ looked the same to me in the darkroom as they would later look when viewed at full light outside the darkroom. It was well worth the effort to obtain this goal.

I wish I had as many sockets in my darkroom as you have. Seriously!

You've forgotten a serious electric load... the high-end audio system! How are you going to be able to spend hours down there in the basement without the lps, cds, turntable, cd player, speakers, amps...? :-)


Looking good, man. A couple of thoughts on the viewing lights - which are a great idea. Fiddling with the actual wattage of the bulbs is better than a dimmer switch, which will shift the color temp of the bulbs a bit warmer and will induce a bit of filament hum - which makes me nutz after a while. And by all means use 'reveal' or, better yet, 'edison' bulbs.

My viewing setup for inkjet prints is an edison bulb at a 45 degree angle to a simple easel I made up out of foamcore. I futzed about with various bulbs before settling on the edison.

Eagerly awaiting the posting on the darkroom sound system...

Very classy.

Have not forgotten at all, I promise you. We'll get to that near the end of this series.


The combination of safelight and blue-masked windows makes it look like a disco. Cool. What's the cover charge?

The use of a dimmer switch is a sound plan. Personally I use 40 watt bulbs and no dimmer. The glass plate can also be used when you want to do some bleaching. I trust you are setting up a small surgical rubber hose to supply water to the print when bleaching. I first saw that setup when in Bruce Barnbaum's darkroom. Great system.

PS: Didn't mean to sound too facetious with my prior comment; I speak only with envy for the new darkroom.

One of the many nice things about a B&W darkroom -- a dimmer is a real possibility. For color viewing, you wouldn't want your color temperature wandering like that!

Yes, Bruce is the King of potassium ferricyanide! He's really good at that technique.


I haven't been in a darkroom in, yikes, 35 years, so discount accordingly when I ask "Should the viewing switch be RIGHT NEXT to the safelight switch?"

Mike, as Jamie pointed out, I hope you left enough power for the audio. Those big old tube amps do draw a fair amount of current.

Plus you have to remember to light-tight the amp so the glow from the cathode heaters doesn't spoil your prints.

I joke because I'm jealous. :)

Mike, I am highly envious.
A Leitz Focomat v35 and an Agfa Varioscope are both gathering dust (well actually they are stored safely) but alas, alack; there is no space to set up a darkroom.

Also, I noticed that you have some eco energy-saver bulbs for the room lights. I suspect that they, like fluorescents, will have an after-burn effect. That is, they emit a faint glow for quite some time after they have been turned off.


I echo David's comment regarding the GFCI. I would install a GFCI breaker to feed the receptacle strips.

It is a tribute to your writing I believe that I am assiduously following this building project of yours despite not having the slightest desire, nor the least of the skills required, to build a darkroom. Mind you, once the audio goes in maybe I'll change my mind. Thanks for keeping us informed Mike and hope the rest goes well.

No worries. Double cover for you.

Mike the Bouncer

That's the beauty of building a PERSONAL darkroom. I can accommodate my own habits and not worry about things I know I won't mind. I'll be fine with the light switches like that.

Besides, the way I'll be working, the only time I'll be turning the safelights off is when I'm turning the viewing lights on. So there's no risk of a mix-up.


Right you are. Those will no doubt go away in the long term. They just happened to be what I had in the basement light fixtures before this project started.

However, I won't be turning those white lights on and off as I work. Those are just the "clean-up lights," so to speak.


This the darkroom that also serves as an indoor swimming pool?

Let's hope those outlets are properly grounded, wouldn't want you to get shocked while standing in the swimming poolQ


I envy you. Never had the experience of having a darkroom and overwhelmed by everything digital nowadays the mere thought of the possibility of venturing into developing my own prints sounds exciting to say the least.

May be I'll include this possibility into my "might-want-to" list.


Mike, Great project but one caveat:
You write, "This picture also shows the switches for the lighting. The switch plate is placed high, above the shelf, to keep it well away from the wet."

The outlets are also above the shelf, presumably for the same reason. I'm not an electrician and the photo isn't informative enough to determine the
type of outlet strip you have but i have built a couple of darkrooms and know that in most places (maybe all) in the US, any electrical outlet that is near any water source must be GFCI protected (ground fault circuit interrupter).

I don't want to be a party pooper but you might want to check your local electrical codes - and your homeowner's insurance. Should you have
an electrical fire and postmortem inspection shows you were not up to code, it could void your insurance, even if it was not the cause of the fire -
insurance companies love to find reasons not to pay.


Ah, the sweet sounds of music while printing. In my darkroom I have an old Quad 303 amp, Quad 33 preamp and some wunderkin CD changer. The speakers came out of a recording studio. As we all know you have to be in the right mood to get a good print so the choice of music varies. Sometimes loud, sometimes soft but always well appreciated.

Oh, man, your darkroom is looking nice! Even better than the one I have in my utility room (no basement) where my trays of chemicals go on the washer and dryer and my prints go in a utility sink until I'm ready for the final wash. I can only light-proof it after the sun goes down. I think people need to understand that they can develop prints in a small space with some forethought. Though maybe this is also why I haven't turned off the lights in my "dark" room in about 6 months. Anyhow, your darkroom looks to be shaping up nicely.

"i have built a couple of darkrooms and know that in most places (maybe all) in the US, any electrical outlet that is near any water source must be GFCI protected"

Right you are, and that wouldn't be a bad idea anyway, but bear in mind my "wet side" isn't wet--there's no running water and no drain. It'll just be trays on a countertop. A GFCI might still be a good idea, but I've been informed I'm not in violation of code (first of all I wouldn't want to be, period, but also, I wouldn't put the pictures on the internet if knew I was!).


Mike, a small suggestion: take the time to re-route the power cord out of the power strip top surface, so the cord isn't sticking out of the strip right into your wet work area. You'll need to disassemble the strip, drill a new hole on the top surface, install a new grommet(low cost, available at any hardware store) and reroute the cord. The tidyness of this new arrangement will please you every time you use the room.

What kind of materials are you going to be using? Are there still papers that require a red safelight instead of an "OC" light?


I was going to say the same about having similar pull cord switches for the safelights and the viewing lights as someone else on this thread: but here's a potential solution. Stick or tie something (or a clothes peg) on one of them to give you a physical reminder each time you reach up to it. That way you won't ever make that mistake.

It's a bit like those little nubs they put on buttons on cars or keyboards so you can find your way around in the dark (or not looking down).


Thanks for all the good wishes and compliments!

I appreciate the tips about the light switches and such--and not to look a gift tip in the mouth (er...)--but don't forget, I've spent somewhere between 12,000 and 14,000 hours working in darkrooms in my life. Not as many as some but more than most. I know what I tend to do wrong and what I tend to get right. I'll wager I'll never get the light switches mixed up. It's just not a problem I've ever had.

BTW, my biggest problems in the darkroom: daydreaming, procrastinating (oops, those are my biggest problems ALL the time), and a serious and distinct tendency to workprint while I'm fine printing.

What I mean by that last is, I love to workprint--explore my contact sheets and make quick but good 8x10s of new negatives to see what the pictures look like. The process SHOULD be to live with the workprints for a while, see which pictures have "legs," then go back into the darkroom to make fine prints of the selects. What I do is, I go into the darkroom to make fine prints, make one or two, and then get bored with the fine printing--the problem being that I already know how any given negative is going to look in a well-printed version. There's no "reward" of discovery. So I "cheat" and explore a new negative I've never printed before, because I want to see what the picture will look like. IOW, I'm back to workprinting--only with big fiber paper instead of little RC paper. It's a problem. I need more discipline where that's concerned....


Hi Mike.

Thanks for the article. It makes me realize how much I don't miss my darkroom and how thankful I am that it's all gone digital! I do miss Kodachrome though.

Hope you try making some digital negatives to do contact prints. Would like to hear your take on how the prints compare with enlarger made enlargements. This would also allow you to make "silver" prints from your digital camera.

John, Mike, everyone

It’s quite right to be concerned about electrical safety, but not everyone understands how the various protective devices work. Here is some information from an ex-electrician. This is brief view of a huge subject. If in doubt about anything electrical, ask and don’t guess.

I do not believe that a Ground Fault Circuit Interruptor (Residual Current Device in the UK) will prevent many electrical fires but fires are often prevented by fuses or circuit breakers. Though you are quite right about insurance companies, John.

Electrical fires are generally caused when an electrical appliance or wiring has far more amps than it can handle. This can be caused by a partial or complete short circuit or by overloading. Overloading might be where too many appliances are used on a circuit in a house that feeds power outlets (sockets) A short circuit is where there is no restriction on the current; instead of going through the appliance where there is a restriction or a resistance to current flow, it takes a shorter path where there is little resistance.

Fuses and circuit breakers protect against short circuits and overloads. They also protect against electrical shock when there is a short circuit between the hot (or live) wire and an earthed metal object, for example the metal casing of an appliance.

It is possible to draw a bit more current than the rating of the fuse or circuit breaker without the fuse blowing or the breaker switching off the current, but doing this quickly damages flexes, outlets, cables in walls etc, and will cause problems later. Do not do it! Ever! This is a very good way to start a house fire.

A GFCI or RCD detects a difference between the current travelling in the hot or live wire and the current in the neutral wire. The difference is in the order of a few milliamps and in the UK, RCDs protecting sockets in houses are set to trip at 30mA. A bit more than 30 mA is enough to kill you.

Some of the electrical resistance of the human body is in the skin, and if the skin is very wet then the resistance of the body is lower and so a larger current will flow through that body. GFCIs are required in the US, I understand, where water taps and electrical appliances are close together.

I’ve heard of Arc Fault Circuit Interruptors being used in the US and that they prevent some fires, but they’re not something I’ve had experience of, nor do I know my way around the USA’s electrical building codes.


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