Skip to main content

A Small Darkroom Upgrade

I recently purchased a couple of Photon Beard easels. They had a reputation of being quite good. The reason for this is that my only easel to this point was an LPL 8x10 easel that I got for a good price. After a little paint and refurbishment it was good as new and has served me well. For larger prints I decided to economize. I bought a magnetic white board and a roll of magnetic strips. I hang the whiteboard from my cabinets and then tilt my enlarger sideways to project the image. It fits 12x16 paper in landscape or portrait position and could handle 16x20 in portrait as it is presently hung.

The setup was serviceable but not simple over the past couple of years. Holding up the paper and trying to pin it down with magnets can be frustrating under safe-light conditions. It is made more difficult when heavy FB paper is used if it has a pronounced curl as the magnets are not strong enough. Furthermore the margins are inconsistent. As I say passable; but the frustration got the better of me as I saw decent easels going for prices well under £100. My 12x16 I got for £12 though it was in atrocious shape and took a Saturday afternoon to set right. A much better 16x20 one set me back £50 which is a decent price though I saw one get away for £20.

To date my largest work has been 12x16; and though expensive it is very satisfying to make enlargements of this size. Alas whenever you upgrade or change equipment it seems there is always some unintended knock-on effect. In my case my Meopta 6 enlarger can only extend to 16x16" (6x6cm negative) when projecting on its baseboard. Additionally the mounting post interferes with the much wider easel frame of the Photon Beard easels when making larger prints. Mounting the heavy easel on the wall is probably more clumsy than my whiteboard setup the new easels are meant to replace and projecting on the floor is not very convenient. I decided to make a new baseboard. Some basic measurements indicated I needed to raise the enlarger about 9" above the baseboard to get to 20" prints. This also allowed me to create an undercut beneath the mounting for the easel border to fit under.

I started with a 2'x4' sheet of 3/4" plywood. The 2' dimension would set the baseboard width. In order to accommodate the largest easel and to allow the enlarger in its new height to clear the cupboards above the counter I needed about 34" of baseboard from the back wall to the front edge. I then built a small box to mount the enlarger 9" high with 10" long sides. The top of the box where the enlarger is mounted is 14" long to make for a 4" overhang over the easel border. These pieces are all screwed together. Because the baseboard hangs over the edge of the counter-top I used a piano hing to allow the last 11" of baseboard to fold up when not in use.

The first photo shows the baseboard extended. The enlarger stand in the middle sites on the small box with a small overhang.


Baseboard ready to use.
The next photo shows the front of the baseboard folded up flush with the edge of the counter-top. This allows easy access to the cabinets below when the enlarger is not in use.
Here the front of the baseboard is folded up. 
Finally all setup and ready to go.
With 16x20" easel in place
Initial tests show I could a little bit wider than 20" which is good from cropping out the edges. I had originally been concerned the center gravity would be far enough forward to worry about tipping the whole thing on the floor. For this I planned to put braces form the back of the baseboard straight up to the bottoms of the cabinets. This turned out to be unnecessary as the whole setup is very stable. 

Comments