running supply list

Note that these are the items I use— you can buy whatever you want! I'll update the list as new items come to mind or are purchased.

 

FIRST AND FOREMOST

The holy grail of my dimroom, the thing that is next to coffee on a list of important things, the item I would take with me to a deserted island so I could properly organize rocks and coconuts as I slip into insanity:

 
 

If you are a member of the label maker family, hello. You know how this goes. If you've never set a hand on a label maker, let me welcome you to a land of clearly marked bins. Once you label one thing, you label everything. Your world is organized, cherubs toting harpsichords fly down from the heavens, your student loans are magically paid off.* 

*Note that while a label maker is a physical apparition of the unicorn, it will not do all of those things.

 

LABWARE

  • Pyrex beakers (set of 5). This particular set contains a 50ml, a 100ml, a 250 ml, a 600 ml, and a 1,000 ml. There are cheaper sets available, but when it comes to glassware I'd rather go with what's more sturdy.
  • Yankee trays: 11x14 and 8x10 (set of 3). These are some of the cheapest trays I've found (you only pay $6 a tray for the 11x14 set!). The bottoms are very slightly ribbed, but they don't dip down (so you don't lose precious chemistry, which is especially important in regards to gold toner, etc). I absolutely love Cescolite trays, but they're a bit out of my budget ($20 for an 11x14 tray, $14 for an 8x10 tray).
  • Swedish dishcloths. Hear me out on this one. Swedish dishcloths are biodegradable, incredibly absorbent (around 15x their weight), and they're happy! I've had people mistake my dishcloths for prints. They're perfect for drying brushes, cleaning beakers and trays, cleaning up spills, etc. They replace sponges and paper towels. I currently have an 11x14 drying mat and two standard 7⅞" x 6⅝" cloths (specifically this yellow daisy one and this tribute to Hokusai). You can also find this set of Skoy cloths on Amazon for $7 for a set of 4 (seriously, it's a steal).
  • OXO angled measuring cup. For when the measurements on beakers aren't specific enough.
  • Measure-n-Pour glass. This beauty measures millimeters, liquid ounces, teaspoons, and tablespoons, all for $2!
  • Milk jugs. If you're also working in a lab that doesn't have running water, save those gallon containers. They're perfect for storing water, diluted fix, etc.
  • Cat litter jugs. Once again, no running water = no drainage system. Cat litter jugs make a perfect dump tank, especially for materials that have to be taken to hazard waste.
  • Tongs. I'm currently using these tongs, but these were the ones I used at MSU (go for the second link, you get a set of three for a buck or two more. Learn from my retail mistakes).
  • A thermometer. This is what I'm currently using, but because I am an American™ I'm not the best at translating celsius. Choose your degrees accordingly.
  • Plexiglass. This is what I bought, you can also find sheets of plexiglass at hardware stores.
  • Measuring spoons. My mom generously gave me the plastic OXO set that we've had since the mid 2000s because she knows how much I love them.
  • A kitchen scale. It doesn't need to be a fancy, science grade scale. I use a Taylor scale and it does the job just fine.

 

THE "Big" ITEMS

  • A contact printing frame. Photographer's Formulary and Bostick & Sullivan both sell print frames. You could also make your own.
  • A UV light box. I personally use the sun because it's free. However, with a UV light box you'll have consistent times. Times for sun exposures will vary from season to season. You can find light boxes at Photographer's Formulary, Freestyle, eBay (potentially), or you can build your own.
  • A scanner. You need to save your work somehow, right? I'm currently using an Epson V600 and it's been great. I've also used an Epson V750 (the newer model is the Epson V850) and an Epson Expression 11000XL. My scanner cost me all of $200, while the V850 runs for $1,000 and the 11000XL runs for $3,425 (note that the two latter scanners are not mine, but the scanners at MSU). The V600 has the ability to scan film, as does the V850 and the 11000XL. The main difference is that the V600 has a strip transparency scanner for film (you can scan two 35mm strips, four slides, or one strip of 120mm film, no 4"x5" film). Both the V850 and the 11000XL have full transparency scanners.
  • A printer. If you're working with digital negatives, you'll need some kind of pinter. Paper negatives are always an option, and you don't necessarily need a high-end printer for that. I've used an Epson 3880, an R2400, a 2200, and the newer P800. I haven't bought a printer yet, but I'll be buying the P800 eventually. For now, the older HP printer I have access to is printing off workable paper negatives.
  • A light box. If you're doing any prints with multiple layers, you'll need a light box to register your negative. I'm currently using a Bretford Acculight 6000 that I received for free. You can find used light boxes for pretty cheap (Bretford, Porta-Trace), or you could build your own.

BRUSHES

*Note that Connoisseur brushes can be found at cheaper price points than what is listed on the Connoisseur website.

 

ChemIstry/pigments/paper

  • Bulk chemistry. I almost always buy my bulk chemistry from Photographer's Formulary. Freestyle and Bostick & Sullivan also sell bulk chem.  If you want chemistry lists for specific processes, head to my About the Processes page.
  • Pigments for gum printing. I primarily use M. Graham pigments— they have an extensive color variety and I've never had an issue with them. The M. Graham pigments I'm currently using are:
    • Anthraquinone Blue. Anthra Blue is a "blue jean" blue.
    • Ultramarine Blue. Ultramarine is a true, classic blue. It's a very royal blue sort of shade.
    • Phthalo Blue. Phthalo Blue is more of a sky blue. It's the lightest and most yellow-toned M. Graham pigment I use.
    • Nickel Azo Yellow. Not to be confused with Azo Yellow, Nickel Azo Yellow is a gold shade. Azo Yellow is a baby duck, whereas Nickel Azo is a rubber duck.
    • Hansa Yellow. Hansa is to yellow as Ultramarine is to blue. (*I'm not currently using Hansa, but I've used it in the past and I love it).
    • Perylene Maroon. Perylene Maroon is blood red (you could call it the more trendy oxblood). It's a deep, fairly neutral red.
    • Quinacridone Rose. Q. Rose is your standard magenta. Not too red, not too blue.
    • Azo Orange. Azo Orange is orange. Think of a glass of concentrated Tang, and you have Azo Orange.
  • Pigments (cont'd). I've also used Grumbacher pigments. These are definitely not as nice as the M. Graham pigments, but I've yet to notice any major issues. The Grumbacher pigments I'm currently using are:
    • Indian Red. Indian Red is more brick and earthy than Perylene Maroon.
    • Indian Yellow. Indian Yellow is closer to Hansa Yellow.
    • Sap Green. Sap Green is an earthy yellow-green. It's not in my regular set of pigments, but it's a nice shade when your print is in need of a bit of green.
    • Turquoise. The Grumbacher Turquoise is a traditional Caribbean Sea shade of turquoise.
  • Pigments (cont'd). For powder pigments I use Natural Pigments. Each pigment has a description of it's source and it's history. The Natural Pigments pigments (ha) I've used are:
    • Indian Red. The thing to note with natural powder pigments is that they are nowhere near as intense as manufactured tube pigments. Indian Red an Blue Ridge Hematite are two of the more pigmented shades I have. The powdered form of Indian Red is still brick and rather earthy, but it's quite a bit lighter.
    • Blue Ridge Hematite. Hematite is a cooler red.
    • Limonite. Limonite is a sort of grey yellow.
    • Ultramarine Blue Ash. While tube pigment Ultramarine is incredibly intense, pure Ultramarine is not. It's more of the traditional fresco blue.
    • Lamp Black. This is by far the most pigmented powder I have. It's a cooler black, but it will give you the contrast that powder pigments often lack.
  • Pigments (cont'd). Daniel Smith also has a variety of watercolor pigments. They're a similar quality to M. Graham, but there seems to be significantly more color availability. The Daniel Smith pigments I'm currently using are:
    • Iridescent Aztec Gold. This is a very true metallic gold shade. It's a metallic iridescent shimmer— thankfully it doesn't look glittery. (experimenting as of 8/17)
    • Duochrome Desert Bronze. Desert Bronze shifts between copper and a sort of dark sea foam green (it almost mimics a copper patina). It has the same metallic iridescence that Aztec Gold has, but it shifts colors depending on lighting and paper color. (experimenting as of 8/17)
  • Paper. You can use whatever watercolor paper you like (or whatever paper can handle water/wet chemistry for that matter). Here are the papers I use:
  • Transparency film. If you're doing alt-y things, chances are you're printing digital negatives. I only use Pictorico OHP transparency film (Ultra Premium for salt printing and Premium for everything else). You could also use standard office printer paper to make paper negatives.

 

STORAGE/CONTAINERS

  • Various plastic bottles. I have bottles from Photographer's Formulary, Nalgene (specifically this one), and I also use squeeze bottles (similar to these).
  • Plastic drawers. I have this drawer set for storing paper (a drawer for plain paper, a drawer for salt paper, a drawer for gum paper), and I have this drawer set for brushes, labware, and chemistry (it also doubles as a dark drawer for more light sensitive processes).
  • A spray bottle. Be sure to buy one that can spray a fine mist.

 

items of importance

  • Tape. I personally use Scotch removable tape or Scotch wall safe tape. The standard "green" Scotch tape will usually take off layers of paper and leave a residue on your digital negatives.
  • pH test strips. While they're not entirely necessary, pH strips are helpful if you're working with specific levels of alkalinity or acidity.
  • A blow dryer. If you, like me, don't do anything to your hair, you can take that dryer out from under your sink and put it in your dimroom.
  • Clothesline. The fancy retractible kind or the string kind work equally well.
  • Clothespins. There isn't much to say about clothespins, but I do prefer wooden clothespins to plastic ones.
  • Hangers. Be sure to buy hangers that clothespins would fit on. Wire hangers will always work. I currently have plastic hangers that are thin enough for the clothespins to fit on.
  • A shower tension rod. If you don't want to use a clothesline/don't have the space for one, you can use a tension rod and hangers to dry prints. I used a spare tension rod when I was sizing paper in my apartment and it worked perfectly.
  • A mortar & pestle. If you're using powder pigments or other materials that need to be ground in, a mortar and pestle would be quite handy. I got mine at tjmaxx for $7, it looks fairly similar to this one from World Market. So far I haven't had any major issues with pigments staining the white marble.
  • Sandpaper. I sharpen my watercolor pencils with sandpaper. I've also taken gum and PVA layers off with sandpaper
  • General office supplies. Pens, pencils, paper rulers— you think this would be obvious, but as I was trying to make this list I realized that I don't have non-art paper in my dimroom.
  • General cleaning supplies. I use Simple Green for everything (except glass, I use Sprayway cleaner).
  • An apron. I bought my canvas apron at Michaels in 2016 and it's still mostly in one piece.
  • Gloves. When I started out in alt I used gloves religiously. They aren't necessary, but I think they're good to wear when you're starting out. I only wear gloves when I mix silver nitrate or ammonium dichromate.
  • Watercolor pencils. I personally prefer to use watercolor pencils for hand-coloring. Faber-Castell has some wonderful sets.
  • A notebook. I always have a notebook with me in the lab. I have a notebook for each project (research, ideas, processing, etc.), and I also have general process notebooks.
  • MultiTimer. MultiTimer is a life saver if you working with multiple prints or processes. The free version of the app allows you to have 12 different timer slots that you can customize by timer type, color, icon, alarm, etc (the full version costs $4.99). It's currently only available for Apple, but there are similar apps across brands. All of your timers are stored, so you don't have to constantly create new ones.
 
 

ITEMS of LESS IMPORTANCE

  • A coffee maker. I'm sure at this point in the list you think that some chemical has thrown me a bit off my rocker, but who doesn't want coffee at an arm's reach away at all times (unless you don't like coffee, I suppose)? I had a spare coffee maker from when I moved, so it now has a happy home in my dimroom.
  • A fan. If you're working in an outdoor dimroom, specifically an insulated shed with a tin roof, buy yourself a nice fan. My dimroom has been upwards of 104°F (40°C), so for me a fan is indeed important.
  • A salt lamp. I have a salt lamp because it's a happy little rock that lets off just enough light if you need a darker space. The individual lab I worked in at MSU only had red light or fluorescents, so I bought a salt lamp to meet in the middle. Do I think that salt lamps emit negative ions and cure every ailment under the sun? No. It is a salt lamp, not a label maker.
  • A diffuser. If you're using with fix in a hot dimroom or if you working solution of ultramarine blue smells strangely smells soggy cheerios, a diffuser could be the answer to your aromatic problems. Diffusers will also add a touch of humidity, which is always welcome when working with alt processes. I usually make a mix of eucalyptus, lemongrass, and peppermint— it's bright, fresh, and it'll wake you up, which is perfect if you're a member of the Coffee Does't Work Anymore club.

 

resource websites

  • Adorama. Digital paper, gear, ink, student/educator discounts.
  • B H. Paper, labware, Picotrico, gear, used items, student/educator discounts.
  • Bostick & Sullivan. Contact printing frames, bulk chemistry, process kits, paper, labware.
  • Freestyle Photo. Paper, film, darkroom chemistry.
  • Hiromi Paper. World papers, Western papers, book cloth, bookmaking materials/tools.
  • Photographer's Formulary. Contact printing frames, bulk chemistry, process kits, labware, workshops.
  • TALAS. World papers, Western papers, bookmaking materials/tools, archival storage solutions.

a year later

So here we are, ten months after the last post. I'm hesitant to say this, but I think the darkroom is genuinely close to being done. An update on what's happened with the little darkroom since July 2016:

  • Laminate counters are down
  • The outlet is in and working
  • I got a free light box (always, always, always see if you can source out equipment and supplies before you buy them)
  • I finally ordered trays and tongs
  • I bought a contact printing frame (I know they're feasible to build, but with how I work it was probably easier/cheaper to buy one)

I bought my contact frame from the wonderful folks down at Photographer's Formulary. They have two different types of frames on their website: an economy frame and a swing arm frame. I bought a 16x20 economy frame for $92.25. Their 16x20 swing arm frame sells for $165. I've yet to use a print frame with clips instead of arms, but the price difference was enough for me to give it a go. The only other frame I've used is from Bostick & Sullivan— it's incredibly well-made and sturdy, but their 16x20 frame is $264.99 (I might have graduated, but that doesn't mean that the frugal art student in me disappeared).

The incredibly fun part about having your own workspace is that you can do whatever you want with it. I put my grandfather's chalkboard on the back corner counter (he used it to teach himself Spanish, I'll be using it for quick process and chemistry notes), and I found the cutest little retro toy refrigerator to use for small item storage— tape, pigment tubes, clothespins, etc. A light will be going in soon and my trays are supposed to arrive next week, so hopefully the first official print will come to be in the next few weeks.

on laminate and patience (and a project)

I'll start with this: I thought this project was coming to a close when I made my last post.

 

LAMINATE

I was asked to search for two 4'x8' sheets of laminate, which seemed easy enough.  Practically every hardware store carries laminate tiles, so they should have laminate sheets, right?

I started out at Lowe's, which had hardly any laminate to begin with. After spending a couple minutes in their single bay of laminate, I left.  Next was Home Depot, which had vinyl sheets, but they didn't have two rolls of darker colors.  They did have a wide variety of laminate sheets online, but it's best to see it in person and shipping sounded like it would take almost two weeks.  I called Western Building Center the next day (surprise, they don't have anything either), but they sent me to Cost Less Carpet, which is a local flooring store.  They had 4'x8' sheets of laminate at their Spokane store, so the product still had to be shipped, but it only took a few days instead of a few weeks.  We also picked up a gallon of contact cement to adhere the laminate to the ulay.

I chose a darker color in order to hide stains (lookin at you, silver nitrate).

I chose a darker color in order to hide stains (lookin at you, silver nitrate).

 

 

PATIENCE

Everything seemed to be going well.  We picked up the laminate and the adhesive today, which were both placed in the back of the truck.  Fast forward a few hours.  I happened to pass by the truck, and I noticed that something odd was oozing out of it.  Lo and behold, the lid on the contact adhesive either popped off or the can burst, causing it to slop an entire gallon on the truck bed and drip down to the driveway below.  I would like to say that there's a moral to all of this, but there isn't.  Also, if you happen to spill a small amount of contact cement, mineral spirits on a rag will clean it up.  We're still in the process of figuring out how you clean up a gallon's worth.

The adhesive managed to get on three tie-downs, a mattress pad, a chain, and the laminate box.

The adhesive managed to get on three tie-downs, a mattress pad, a chain, and the laminate box.

Note the smashed lip of the can, which could be why the lid popped off.

Note the smashed lip of the can, which could be why the lid popped off.

To put it simply, it works.

To put it simply, it works.

 

and A PROJECT

After calling the warehouse where we got the adhesive from and attempting to clean up the mess (which is currently rendered impossible), my mom and I switched to something less troublesome. This is where more of my DIY side comes in– this process has made me realize that my version of DIY might be closer to 'design it yourself.'  My mom spotted this chair at a vintage sale for $15, and while neon 70s orange isn't my favorite color, it looked like it was practically brand new.  The best part of this project is that it didn't cost anything in materials, but I did snap a screwdriver in half in the process of removing staples.

So, I don't have counters quite yet and there's a pool of cement adhesive in the bed of the truck, but I have a place to sit and imagine the completed darkroom and a clean truck.

1973 orange, complete with pink duct tape and various faded stamps on the seat.

1973 orange, complete with pink duct tape and various faded stamps on the seat.

A significantly more subtle nod to the 70s.

A significantly more subtle nod to the 70s.

counters

JULY 19, 2016

The end is in sight!  Today is the day that my darkroom will actually start to look like a darkroom. However, that's easier said than done (here we go again).

Here are the original plans I had for the darkroom. It made sense in my head— three items (an enlarger, a sink, and a counter), three walls. We bought lumber according to this plan. 

Plan 1, which for some reason included putting the sink on castors.  I remember coming up with this idea and thinking that it was so clever. Hindsight is always 20/20.

(Note: the darkroom, while little, is not 8 inches by 12 inches).

 

LUMBER

  • 4 4"x" 12' fir & larch (while pine is a cheaper option, fir & larch is known for being more sturdy and easier to stain)
  • 3 ¼" underlay plywood (ulay for short)
  • 3 ½" ulay
  • 20 2"x4" 8'
The haul from the hardware store.

The haul from the hardware store.

The original enlarger counter, which would make a nice portable bar.

The original enlarger counter, which would make a nice portable bar.

We did a rough measurement, and despite my awareness of the standard counter being 36" tall, I decided that 40" would be a good height for the enlarger table (why, Megan? I often ask myself, but since I'm indecisive I always answer "I don't know"). 

Now, the enlarger I have is an Omega Condenser Head enlarger, which stands at 54" tall in total.  With this in mind I still decided that a 40" tall table was okay. This put the top of the enlarger at 7'8", a whopping 2'4" taller than I am. In short, have a cup of coffee before you take measurements, or follow the age old "measure twice, cut once" (or just listen to the handyman who knows a lot more about construction than you do).

Our handyman built it that way per my request. He was pretty happy when I realized that he was right all along, and so we switched to a plan he came up with.  My original three-counter, space wasting idea was traded for a counter surround that would give me an insane amount of counter space.

Plan 2, which includes a 'U' counter and a workable enlarger height. (Note: some people are talented enough to make the same mistake twice.)

Plan 2, which includes a 'U' counter and a workable enlarger height.

(Note: some people are talented enough to make the same mistake twice.)

One of the great things about the new plan is that it uses significantly less lumber, which means putting some bills back in your pocket (think of me as your bumbling guinea pig for this project— I'm running on one of those hamster wheels thinking I'm actually going somewhere and you're aware of the tank around you on a metaphysical level). Anyway, the point is that this is cheaper and more work/storage efficient.

The enlarger is now at a workable height of 32". 

The enlarger is now at a workable height of 32". 

Our handyman notched the 2x4s under the sink by about an inch and it fits perfectly.  Also, I am officially in love with the amount of counter space.  It's the little things in life. 

Our handyman notched the 2x4s under the sink by about an inch and it fits perfectly.  Also, I am officially in love with the amount of counter space.  It's the little things in life. 

ceilings & floors

JULY 16, 2016

My order for the day was to paint the floor, but, as you might have guessed, I got distracted.  The shop was delivered with studs in the interior, minus the plywood floor.  I, being a person who watches too much HGTV, decided to stain the studs on the ceiling.  This seemed like a perfect plan– I would stain the beams and then paint the floor, so if a couple of drops of stain made their way down it wouldn't matter.

As I started to stain the first beam, I realized that this might have been a mistake.  Here's a list of things to keep in mind:

  • If you've insulated your darkroom, it will be warm, especially during the heat of the day
  • A 4' ladder might not be tall enough to reach the peak of the ceiling, especially if you're 5'4"
  • Beams have three sides

I stained as many of the beams as space would allow (about 5), which took roughly 4-5 hours.  This would have been much faster if I was A) taller, or B) able to think of walking back to the garage to get a 6' ladder.

On the bright side, painting about 96 square feet of flooring seemed like nothing after standing on tiptoes on a ladder.  For the floors I used an oil-based porch paint by Valspar.  Try as I might, I am not always a tidy person, therefore the floors could not stay bare.  The best and cheapest tool I've found for painting a floor is a Handi Painter. At less than $2, this is probably the cheapest part of the whole process.

Pre paint and stain

Half a beam in.  I originally thought I could get away with not staining those triangular plywood pieces, but (surprise) I was wrong.

Mostly done

having an exterior darkroom

MID JUNE, 2016

Once I had caught up on sleep after my trip to Peru, I was eager to get to work.  Of course, with life being the way it is, I did not jump out of bed after arriving well past midnight to sort out my darkroom.

About a week after I got home, I gave myself a designated darkroom day.  The goal was to clean off start staining the outside.  As I eagerly opened the doors to my little darkroom, I was greeted by a host of earwigs (an important thing to know at this point is that I am not, by any means, a bug person, especially concerning the slithering, tiny scorpion monsters that are earwigs).  My initial reaction was to slam the door shut, which I did, but that doesn't make an earwig colony disappear.  I spent the next 20 minutes or so standing at the threshold with a gallon of bug killer, and I, Megan Crawford, managed to squish earwigs with sandals on (as opposed to the more defensive close-toed shoes).

The moral of the story, as there is a point to this, is that an outbuilding is going to have bugs in it from time to time.  Just mentally prepare yourself for that, be it a spider making its home on the ceiling or a herd of earwigs living in the doors.

After the earwig debacle, I pulled out the can of stain (Cabot semi transparent stain in Cordovan Brown), and my mom and I proceeded to stain two walls over 5 hours.  Staining the exterior might not be entirely necessary, but that all depends on where you live.  In Montana we get all four seasons, sometimes all within one day, so I wanted to be sure that the walls would last and weather well.  You could also simply seal the walls with a spar urethane, but I seem to be good at making projects more complicated than they need to be.

 

interior finishes

EARLY JUNE, 2016

I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of my little darkroom (you can't do much when the building itself isn't there), and, how all things seems to go, the building arrived the day after I left to travel for 15 days.  

While I was hopping between states and countries, my family's handyman, Joe Leone, insulated the walls and installed the tongue and groove planks.  I briefly thought that I wouldn't need insulation (which is a funny thought in Montana, where snow is definitely a common thing in the winter).  This would be the first of many initial ideas that were wrong.

We used a basic fiberglass insulation in between the studs, and all of the tongue and groove, which we got at a considerable discount, was from RBM Lumber.

So, as this project is panning out, it's becoming not as DIY as I initially envisioned.  Traveling is certainly part of that, but I'm also not too familiar with the building side of DIY, although I like to think I am.

the learning curve / the supplies

LATE MAY, 2016

What I've discovered so far: garage sales are perfect for supplying a dimroom.  Now, your average sale won't have the "big" supplies (chemistry, a sink, miscellaneous lab supplies), but they will have things that are still necessary.  Think of shelves, lighting, containers, things that could double as trays– you get the idea.  They have the answers to all of the missing odds and ends.

THE SUPPLIES

  • 8'x12' shop from the Shed Man (this is by far the biggest expense, but arguably one of the most important ones)
  • laminate counter– a few bucks from a garage sale
  • cat litter containers for water/chemistry storage– free from a garage sale
A laminate counter I found at a garage sale.  Once I add legs, this will work as the dry side counter.

A laminate counter I found at a garage sale.  Once I add legs, this will work as the dry side counter.

The plot where the shop will be placed

The plot where the shop will be placed

day one

MAY 2016

As a self-proclaimed DIY lady, I've decided to embark upon outfitting my own dimroom.  The catch: put it together on a budget, and put it together without running water or a drainage system.  I'll be posting updates to this page as the project progresses, from the cost of supplies to DIY plans.  Here we go.

 

 

THE PLAN

Put together a workable dimroom on the fly (probably easier said than done. We'll find out).

I was originally planning on putting a dimroom together in a spare closet, but the ceiling of the closet I would have used follows the roofline, which severely limited the amount of workable space.