Darkroom Finds / by Ray Phung

For quite some time now, I have been toying with the idea of setting up a darkroom in my bathroom. Developing and printing gives you that extra latitude to control your exposures, be it from pushing/pulling in development or dodging and burning.  It also gives you an added economic benefit.  Not so long ago, I purchased a roll of Fuji Provia 400x at the tune of around $17 for the roll.  35mm Kodak Portra goes at almost $10.  And this does not include the cost of developing and scanning (around $9-$15, with the high end for E-6 and B+W).  As you can probably tell, it adds up quickly, and I really wanted to find a way to minimize these costs.

Towards the end of December, I found someone selling random developing equipment for the large sum of $5 via Craigslist.  Of course I jumped on this awesome deal.  Included in this transaction was:

  • changing bag
  • 2 stainless steel developing tanks (4 reel and 1 reel)
  • 4 stainless steel reels (35mm)
  • Watson bulk film loader (loaded with Kodak Tri-X expiring in 1986) 
  • A dozen or so empty canisters
  • beakers, tongs, thermometer, lens cloth

Pretty sweet deal right? The very next day, I was perusing good ole CL again, and found someone else giving away an enlarger.  That's right.  For free!  I left work early and headed over to pick up a: 

  • Beseler 67c Enlarger
  • Zone VI cold light adapter
  • Schneider Componon-S 50mm enlarging lens
  • 35mm and 120 film carriers
  • timer and safelight
  • 8x10 trays (4) and a large wash tray; Kodak Auto Siphon for washing
  • More tongs, beakers, blower/brush

The enlarger was in pretty nice shape.  The only issue was that the baseboard was warped from being stored for so long.  This last weekend I headed over to the Rebuilding Center on N. Mississippi Ave.  It's this cool little non-profit that sells a plethora of de-constructed building materials at an awesome price.  Check them out www.rebuildingcenter.org.  For $2, I found the top of an elementary school desk (the kind whose top folds up) which was roughly the same size as the enlarger base. With a few pronged t-nuts,  I mounted the enlarger arm to an new base - Good as new!

So for $5, I now have a complete darkroom setup laying around my house.  Actually, it was closer to $10 with the new base and t-nuts.  In any case, I got a fantastic deal and was able to get a jumpstart on one of my 2014 resolutions - start developing and printing my own film.  

Next time, I will talk about shooting and developing the 1986-expired bulk film that I acquired during these transactions.