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Garage Darkroom build
Garage Darkroom build
Published by Andy
1st March 2011
Default Garage Darkroom build

The following is the saga of building my first purpose built darkroom. Not having a spare room in the house to use and being of the belief that a car should be left on the street. I decided to build within my small single attached garage. I needed some storage space so I have grabbed about 2/3 for the dark room.

First step after clearing all the junk was to build a dividing partition. I was initially going to have a door for access into the rest of the garage, but I would have had to give up valuable counter space. I also had a concern about an emergency escape route. I decided to build a weak point into the partition with weakened plasterboard and no electrics, so I could break through if the need ever arose.

I built the stud partition and wall battening, then ran electrics to where I wanted the plug sockets. I put loads of sockets in on the idea that
A) The cost while building is minimal
B) I was not 100% sure where I need then
C) I really didnít fancy the idea of having to do it again

I put in 8 double sockets, 7 are around the dry benches and one is ceiling height above the wet bench. This one is an RCD as are the 2 closest to the sink
I followed this with insulation and plasterboard. I lined the other 3 walls with stud partition, insulation and plasterboard.

I installed a separate main light and red light switch, one on either side of the door, before the ceiling went up. I had to think where I wanted the red light to be, because of uncertainty I put a wiring point on 3 walls, initially planning to put up 3 safelights. In reality I have only used one over the sink, pointed towards the ceiling. I will put a second one in, but no need for the 3rd. I am using wall mounted old Kodak beehiveís with 902 filters and 25w bulbs.

I put a white spot light over the sink area on a pull cord. For print inspection
The ceiling was followed by insulation and more plasterboard.

I decided not to have the room skimmed, but instead went for heavy lining paper over a layer of polystyrene veneer. This was then painted white. The insullation has kept the chill out in the winter and cool in the summer. I use a portable oil radiator to warm the room up on the coldest of nights.

I have insulated the floor with 6mm insulation board and covered with a laminate flooring.

I noticed that all the well used darkrooms seem to have more water taps than plug sockets. With this in mind I bought a 3 way Lab tap off of elbow for a fiver..

Because I have utilised valuable garage space I have had to incorporate a small chest freezer and a beer/film fridge. So this first workbench is of kitchen height. I have put the chest freezer into a dead corner to save under the counter space.

I finally decided on a sink, after a great deal of thought and many hours googling I decided to unashamedly copy B&W Neilís design (Thanks Neil ). I made a 48" x 28" x 9" tub, that has a 40" drainer feeding onto it. This houses my slot processors. I thought this would be the most practical design. It will allow me to use large trays on the drainer and 1 in the sink.

I had B&Q cut a sheet of exterior 18mm ply (very good they can cut to the mm!) I started by first drawing a scale picture of the sheet and then carved it up to make the base, sides back, front etc... I then worked out the cutting order, remembering to take into account the thickness of the ply.

It went together quite quickly, and so if it doesn't work out, I will build another. It is constructed by making a 4 sided box then gluing and screwing a bottom to it. I made the box by using a biscuit join at each edge, smothered with waterproof glue and finally a couple of zinc screws in each to pull it together. By using a biscuit joiner I put each joint together on a flat surface so the bottom is true. the biscuit would allow movement before I screwed it.
On the base I used only screws, placed every 4 inches. Being Ply its quite light, and there appears to be no flex. Having machine cut edges made all the joints mate perfectly,. I sealed the joins with Wickes waterproof sealant then painted with International Grey garage paint. ( got a good price at a local Wilkinsonís)

I made a heavy stand out of 2 x 4, with the top rails recessed ( into the legs (lap joint I believe) and then fixed with screws. This is so the weight is put onto the legs directly.

This is way over engineered. I don't think the sink will actually ever have a plug and so will never be full of water, so in use the weight in the sink will not be that great. The stand would probably hold the weight of a car...

I have a durst ac1200 which is quite a beast, the column stands about 5ft tall, it has a 30" baseboard and a control panel. When I wound the head up to the top of the column to get the full hight it is close to 6ft. Now being a older style garage it has a sloping roof and a max ceiling height is 7ft. To allow full extension I would have to have a bench of about 12", which even for me is a little to low. I decided to use a 24" bench height and not use the full extension. And then build a 6" raising block about the same dimensions as the base board. This will be placed on the baseboard to give me a working height of 30", but can be removed for larger magnification.

I built the main enlarger bench with a top of 12mm chipboard and a layer of conti. I then set about putting the shelves up. I plan to have a drying rack underneath this bench for FB, if ever needed

Plumbing was just a matter of running a cold feed and waste from an adjoining toilet. I decided not to go for hot feed, instead using a kettle when need for making up ID11 and such like. I have a large washing up bowl in the sink that I use as a heated bottle bath using a large aquarium heater.

Being a flat bottomed sink, not all the water drains away. I use a 14Ē squeegee bought from Tescoís car dept for £1.50 to guide liquids to the plughole.
I use a large funnel and insert into the plughole for pouring liquids away, works well.
I use a small tray with a whole drilled towards one corner at the lowest point and put my paterson film tanks in when washing, making sure the whole is over the plug. (it makes tidy up quicker.)

I have a couple sheets of 24" x 18" x 3/8th perspex, which I hang on a couple on screws on the shelves above the sink/drainer. When examining a wet print they stick to these quite nicely and allow a head height view of the print. I unhook them and they double up as a squeegee platform to clean the water from freshly washed prints.

I've put a white board on the back of the door and have my chemical bottles numbered. When I make a stock solution up I put the bottle number/date and contents on the whiteboard. This saves trying to re-label the bottles everytime I use them.

Hope you find this of some use. Any questions please ask..

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By Dave miller on 1st March 2011, 12:26 PM

Thanks for taking the time to write this article Andy, Iím sure it will help others considering making themselves a darkroom space. I suggest that any questions are posted here, that way everyone gets the benefit of following the discussion.
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By MPerson on 2nd March 2011, 06:46 AM

Thank you for taking the time Andy.
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By Andy on 2nd March 2011, 08:38 AM

I've added a couple of extra lines and will add a couple of year down the line photos over the weekend

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By marty on 2nd March 2011, 04:54 PM

Excellent job indeed, congratulations. Well organized and neatly executed. I'm sure it will be really comfortable to work in.

Cheers, M.
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By Andy on 3rd March 2011, 08:06 AM

Here's a couple of photos showing the perspex sheets and film washing

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By Rolle on 12th March 2011, 03:37 PM

That looks very nice Andy! I just found me a AC1200 myself, but my garage/darkroom is very messy compared to yours.
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By Keith Tapscott. on 13th March 2011, 12:52 PM

That's a superb darkroom you have built. Andy.
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