This section is from the book "Modern Photography In Theory And Practice", by By Henry G. Abbott. Also available from Amazon: Modern photography in theory and practice: A hand book for the amateur.
By consulting Fig. 20 you will get a good idea of the other side and end of the room. Facing the sink is a wide shelf or table, about two and a half feet from the floor, where you can sit down and dust out your plate holders and load your plates, with your back to the light. Above this table are two shelves for the storage of bottles, boxes, etc., and at the end of the room opposite the door are two more shelves one over the other. You will perhaps think there is a superfluous amount of shelf room, but you will find by the time you have had the dark room say two or three years that you will have to clean house every once in a while to make room to move around.
One very necessary thing, which must not be omitted under any consideration, is a hook for the inside of the dark room door. This will effectually keep out all intruders while you are developing. Ventillation must be secured, and this can be easily effected by boring a series of inch holes at the top of the room over the sink and another series next the floor on the opposite side. Over the series of holes tack some strips of wire screen to keep out rats, spiders, and other vermin. Over the series of holes tack a long strip of tin bent in the from of an inverted L, as shown in Fig. 22. Light refuses to turn a corner, without the aid of prisms or reflection, and if we paint the inside of this tin black we need have no fear of white light entering the room. In Fig. 22, W is the wooden wall of the dark room; H the holes; T the tin strip and S the screws or tacks holding the tin in place. The faucet shown in Fig. 21 is preferable to the ordinary one, as it elevates the stream, and in the case of washing off a plate there is little danger of the film side coming in contact with the faucet. A light rubber hose can be connected with it and the washing box, which is illustrated in Fig. 23. This box is an excellent one as the water enters from the tube at the top and this tube extends to the bottom of the box, where the water is discharged. The water rises between the plates and is carried off at the outlet at the top and to the right hand side. As the box has corrugations on all sides, it is adapted to hold several sizes of plates. Running water is a great convenience, but not an absolute necessity in the dark room. If your dark room is situated at considerable distance from the water supply, or you do not feel that you can afford the expense of putting in the necessary plumbing you can make a good substitute by means of an old water cooler, or by building a box and coating the inside of it thoroughly as advised for the sink. The cooler or box can be located on the end of the sink where the faucet is in Fig. 21. If a cooler is used the rubber tubing can be used the same as on a regular hydrant. If a box is used a faucet of some kind will have to be inserted in the side of the box near the bottom. If a box is used, a cover that fits fairly tight, should be made for it, to keep out all dust. A short piece of waste pipe can be used and the waste water caught in a bucket.
Should it be inconvenient or out of the question to have the light outside of the dark room then a first-class dark room lantern is a necessity. Nothing gives the amateur quite as much trouble as the cheap dark room lanterns on the market. The light often goes out at a critical stage, and the smoke and smell is something dreadful. If you cannot afford to buy a first-class lantern, then we should advise you to make one from a soap or starch box rather than invest your money in one which will never give you any satisfaction. Fig. 24 illustrates an excellent form of lantern manufactured by John Carbutt.
In Fig. 24 this lantern is shown with the side door open as used in making bromide prints, while Fig. 25 shows the same lantern as used in developing, and also with the slide door open while examining fixed negatives by the ground glass. Do not make the mistake of buying a small dark room lantern. You may have little room to spare in your dark room, and the small patterns may look very neat and tempting on the photographic supply counter, but in practice they are an abomination. A lantern which is large enough to give a thorough draft and have plenty of air space for the lamp, is the only one which will not smoke. If your purse will not admit of your purchasing a first-class lantern then, as we said before, you had better make one. Fig. 26 shows a diagram of a home made lantern. This lantern can be made from a small box, say 14 inches high by 8 or 10 wide. We believe that the diagram is so explicit that a detailed description will hardly be necessary, but in order that it may be thoroughly understood we have lettered the diagram. A, B and C are all made of wood, D is a window glazed with both ruby and orange glass, one back of the other, which makes a very safe light. Each glass is held in a separate groove so that either one or both can be removed at pleasure. C is a hinged cover; E is the button for regulating the flame from the outside of the lamp, and F is a small pipe which should lead outside of the dark room and into a chimney flue if possible, and all heat and smoke are thus carried entirely outside of the dark room. This pipe can be made from a piece of ordinary speaking tube, which can be purchased very cheaply. You can work with a lamp constructed on these lines for hours without fatiguing the eyes, as the light is all thrown downward upon the tray in which you are developing.
Fig. 26. Tray covers are a great convenience in a dark room.
They can be easily made from pieces of cigar boxes or her light wood. Their use is to cover the trays in the event that it is necessary to open or regulate the dark room lantern, and are constructed similar to the illustration shown in Fig. 27. These tray covers should be made with projections around the four sides so that no light can creep in upon the plate. A small knob should be fastened to the top for convenience in lifting. Another very necessary adjunct is a cover for your drying rack in order to protect your plates from dust while drying. A frame should be made of some light wood which is high enough and wide enough to cover your entire drying rack, as shown in Fig. 28, and this frame should be covered with cheese cloth. You can then place your plates in the direct draft without fear of them becoming covered with dust while drying. This cover can be easily constructed by any ingenious amateur and he will be well repaid for the time expended in its manufacture. The cheese cloth covering catches all the dirt, lint and small fragments which would otherwise stick to your plates. This plate cover, when not in use, should be kept in a square paper bag so that no dirt can accumulate inside of it. You will notice in Fig. 21 that the first three bottles on the shelf are numbered 1, 2 and 3. These are the developer bottles and should always be numbered with large figures so that no mistake can possibly happen in the dim light of the dark room. These numbers can be painted on the bottles with asphaltum, or large figures can be cut from a calendar or elsewhere and pasted on. The formula of each bottle should also be written on a piece of white gummed paper and attached to the bottle below the number. This should be done in the case of all stock solutions, reducers, intensifiers, etc., and will be found very convenient for reference in the future.
A solution which is not in constant use often gets laid to one side and the formula and directions for its use are forgotton, but if labeled as suggested, you always know the contents of the bottle, and when necessary a new solution can be made up from the accompanying direc-tions. Ordinary gummed labels soon become detached from the glass bottles, and to prevent this give them a coat of varnish, allowing the varnish to extend over the edge of the label onto the glass of the bottle. As far as practicable always use bottles with ground glass stoppers, as corks are not reliable with ordinary chemicals. Ground glass stoppers have an aggravating tendency to stick in the mouth of the bottle, but this tendency can be readily overcome by applying a small amount of parafine or vasaline to the stopper. In the event that your dark room is located in a base-ment, you will find it wise not to keep your stock of plates and printing papers in it. Negative and lantern slide plates, bromide, silver and gelatine papers deteri-orate very rapidly when kept in damp places. Plate holders being usually of very delicate construction and very liable to warp, should never be left in the dark room for any length of time. Hyposulphite of soda and other chemicals should never be kept in the dark room while done up in paper bags or packages. Not only do the chemicals deteriorate when in this shape, but in a basement dark room, which has a tendency to be damp hyposulphite of soda will be carried in the atmosphere and deposited in the form of crystals all over the dark room. Keep your chemicals in wide-mouthed bottles with ground glass stoppers.