Darkrooms

I have a grand plan of building a darkroom in the attic of my new home. But after two weeks of building works and our bathroom nowhere near finished it’s clear that my permanent darkroom project will be put on hold while other home improvements take precedence.

But there are still options – rooms that can be made light-tight for a fraction of the cost.

And interesting option is white blackout blinds, yes you read that correctly, white blackouts. I know, but apparently it works and would look a lot better in a bathroom that will be returned to its primary use when the printing session ends. I’ve worked out that with some crafty shopping on ebay, I could get my bathroom darkroom light-free for around 20 quid.

The issue of air is going to be more cost intensive.   Light-tight equals air tight, more or less so good ventilation is vital. And today I’ve discovered that the extractor fan doesn’t vent to the outside.  No, its spews out steamy bathroom air to the gap between ceiling and floorboards, and over the course of a printing session that would mean chemical laden air recirculating back into the room.  So back to the drawing board.

I have discovered some nifty darkroom solutions, from revolving light-proof doors to blow up darkroom tents.  But for now I’m going to have to make do with some light-proof cotton twill and an open window.

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7 thoughts on “Darkrooms

  1. Debra, my darkroom ‘black-out’ is a cheap blackout blind from Ikea, and yes, it’s white. All the walls are white.

    Also, light-tight doesn’t need to mean air-tight. You can use a thick curtain at the door, for example. I can’t think of anything toxic you’d be inhaling in a wee space that could be more harmful than domestos-ing your sink. Oh maybe Selenium, but don’t breathe it in!

    Please do give me a shout if you want any further help. All dev can be done in the daylight apart from loading the tank. Printing only needs semi-dark: I use red safelights and white ones too, and my darkroom door is on a landing so there’s a light trap.

    If there are any local colleges or similar near you, ask to go and have a look/chat with them. Many are reportedly building b&w darkrooms all over again.

  2. Selenium is so scary I capitalised it. 🙂 Does pong. Fixer too, undliuted, but there’s nothing in the way of toxic vapours floating around. Hope that helps it all to feel less scary/intimidating.

    If you’re ever near, come & have a look.

  3. Thanks Brenda. Your advise is always reassuring and reminds me how wrong much of the internet can be!

    I do have a question about how much I should worry about blinds overlapping the window reveals to keep out stray light.

    And I will definitely take you up on the offer to come and have a look at your darkrooom set up one of these days.

    • Sorry if I sometimes sound a bit know-all, but yes you’re right, there’s a lot of confusing info out there.

      Test for light-tightness by putting a coin on a strip of paper in your ‘dark’ space, for say one minute, no other light. Dev paper.

      You can put a row of coins down on your strip, spaced a minute apart to see how long your space is light-tight for. Adjust and test again.

      Lith printing that needs as much as 45mins developing isn’t so sensitive to tiny amounts of light throughout that time, it’s just normal ID11 etc that is at risk of fogging.

      You do need some way of changing the air but opening a door or window occasionally works. My darkroom door is open all the time it’s not in use. Even a full day session doesn’t need venting.

      • Brenda – you only ever come across as helpful ad I’m sure that other readers taking their steps (back) into the darkroom will find your advice as useful as I do.

        I’ll try the coin test when I get hold of some chemicals.

  4. Not sure I can help much other than to say that the darkrooms I’ve ever worked with were rather improvised affairs.

    The main thing about having a window open was just to be careful to stop it from blowing the light blocking material away. I seem to remember that a warning on the other side of the door was more important to stop people from stumbling in.

    I must look up the inflatable tents though. Sounds most intriguing!

    • Good point about drafts from the open window.

      You mean I need one of those red lights like in xray rooms? Or maybe a DND sign would do the trick.

      I’m not enticing you to have a go, am I?

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