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I want to make some large dark room prints (40x50 or larger). However the dark room I have access to, does not have room for 40x50 trays. So before I go and make a whole bunch of mistakes, working out how to do this, I would like to know if there any tried and true methods that someone can point me in the direction of.

I am happy with how I am going to set up an enlarger sideways to make the exposure, it is just how to develop the print which I need to work out.

Half baked ideas I have:

  1. Use a 20l 'poly-pail' (bucket with a sealing lid) and use it like a rotary tank
  2. Make a thin vertical tank out of acrylic sheet
  3. Hold the exposed print vertically above the sink and use a aquarium pump to hose the print down with dev fix etc.
  4. Use a wall paper wetting bucket and carefully dunk the paper in and out (under the wire).

Any suggestions?


Poor photo of the dark room. You can't really see the sink (bottom right). It's long enough to fit 4-5 8x10 trays. I would like answers which are also useful to others with a different (smaller) darkrooms; not just the one I have access to.

Darkroom I use

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  • How small is this darkroom. Perhaps a fresh pair of eyes may see a way to use the space. Can you post a photo of your darkroom, smaller then 40x50 will be fine ;) Think vertical trays instead of horizontal. – Alaska Man Oct 14 '20 at 16:14
  • Wow i was expecting a small room, it is just a small sink that you have to deal with. – Alaska Man Oct 15 '20 at 18:22
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No need for all that, you lay the un-developed print on a plastic drop cloth. Have the developer, stop and fixer in a plastic pail. Using a large brush, such as wallpaper's use to apply wall paste. Soak the brush in the developer, apply to the print. You can also use a paint roller. This is all done under safelight. Next stop with stop bath or use plain water. Follow with the fixer. Wash outside using a garden hose.

Nothing to it! Nobody said this stuff was easy. Don't forget to make small test prints if you what to keep the waste down by avoiding re-makes.

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  • If the dark room does not have room for 40x50 trays, where will the OP put the drop cloth large enough for a 40x50 print? Shouldn't it be level? – Michael C Oct 14 '20 at 16:37
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    Thanks for your insight. In times gone by, I mounted large mural size photo paper on the wall. I protected the wall and floor with a drop cloth, best is plastic sheeting. On the wall works OK. I even did this for color photo paper. . – Alan Marcus Oct 14 '20 at 16:44
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Soft kitchen sponges and plastic gloves (the kind you use for dishwashing). Expect longer times than when submerging.

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It appears that you have the counter space but not the sink space, to put three large trays side by side.

Think outside the sink.

You do not necessarily need a sink large enough for all the trays, you could bridge the sink with a board or boards and place your trays on them. Paint the board with an epoxy floor paint. The board could have a cut out for the sink so when it is time to pour the chem's out to the trays you do it over/in the sink without having to do a lot of full tray juggling.

If you wanted to Get your DIY on, you could make a waterproof board or trough or sink, that way you can spill then wipe it all to the hole over the sink.

Perhaps it is time to get/build a proper wet side darkroom sink. I built a ten foot long sink with 10 inch high sides out of 10 foot long piece of cabinet grade plywood, i then had it sprayed with truck bed liner, I had them smooth down the liner before it cured so there is no texture. Waterproof, chemical proof and possibly bomb proof. (i know its earthquake proof, at least 7.2 magnitude - I can be hired.)

I am confident given the space you have to work with that you can make it work.

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  • It is a hired darkroom, so I am not at liberty to redecorate to that level. Good answer all the same. – DarcyThomas Oct 15 '20 at 20:20
  • @DarcyThomas You do not have to redecorate, you could just put the board up when printing and take it down/away when you are done. You could ask the owner if they are willing to work with you or even consider making improvements if you contribute time/labor/money. – Alaska Man Oct 16 '20 at 17:02

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