This section is from the book "Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography", by J. B. Schriever. Also available from Amazon: Complete Self-Instructing Library Of Practical Photography.
OFTENTIMES the problem of fitting up a dark-room in the average home is troublesome in the extreme. As a compromise, the bath-room, some closet, or even the basement, is resorted to with anything but satisfactory results, not only to the amateur, but to the other occupants of the house, whose caustic remarks about monopolizing property in which equal rights are supposed to be vested do not help in the development of any negative, to say nothing of a balky, under-exposed one. A dark-room fitted up in the habitable part of the house is apt to be so unsightly, to any but enthusiastic eyes, that it is seldom attempted. It is just such a room that I wish to describe, so that others may enjoy the luxuries of a first-class room, without offending the aesthetic sensibilities of the less enthusiastic members of the household.
Any bed-room, or other convenient room, the larger the better, over which the amateur has undisputed sway, may be fitted up for use, and still be presentable for other occasions. The room I use is a dressing room opening off my bed-room. It is six and one-half feet by seven and one-half feet, and would be better larger, as the air would not foul so quickly; however, judicious ventilation has accomplished much to keep the air pure.
Illustration No. 79 shows the arrangement of the room, which is wainscoted on all sides, four feet high, with 7/8-inch matched ceiling, and this ceiling forms the doors to the cupboards, which extend across one side of the room from the floor to the ceiling. The washstand is the ordinary-marble stand, with a 15x9-inch oval bowl. The faucets are connected so as to form one outlet, which permits the water to flow cold, hot, or mixed to any desired temperature. The waste is a metal plug at the bottom of the bowl, which operates by turning a lever on the marble slab back of the bowl. The overflow is what is known as the "Patent Overflow," the openings being at the top of the bowl in the back. This arrangement leaves an entirely free receptacle for washing prints or negatives, and the suction does not draw the prints down over the outlet, destroying them and overflowing the bowl, as is the case when the waste is at the bottom, and there is no chain to injure prints or negatives.
Illustration No. 79.
The drop table forms a convenient place for frames, holders, etc., as well as for other articles, when the room is being used as a dark-room, and it may be dropped out of the way when not required. It also supports the door to cupboard for developers and light. When closed it appears as ordinary wainscot; when open it forms the most convenient of places for developers, hypo, graduates, etc., used during development. The ruby light is also in this cupboard right where it is required for working negatives or bromide papers, and consists of an ordinary wall bracket gas jet in the room adjoining and opposite the glass. It is controlled by a cock in the dark-room, as well as at the fixture in the other room. It is so arranged that it can be swung away from the ruby glass and the glass covered by a small hinged door, so that it does not show in the adjoining room when the door is closed. The light can be turned up or down without leaving the chair while developing, and, not being in the dark-room, it does not vitiate the air there.
The outside window to the dark-room is obscured by simply raising the ordinary inside sliding blinds, which have no revolving slats, but solid wood panels instead, so that the operation of converting the room into a dark-room is simple in the extreme. A dark-green window shade is placed between the window and sliding blind, and the brightest sunshine has no effect on this light-stopping combination. There is a tin panel in the lower section of the blind, at the proper height, opposite the drop table, in which a tin slide obscures the light during development. When enlarging, this slide is removed, the shade left up, and the camera, with focusing glass removed, attached to a tin frame which slides into place in the tin panel, when the room is the finest kind of an enlarging room, as the work is done in full view, where masking, cloud printing, and the numerous little dodges so useful in enlarging can be done freely, the bromide paper being tacked to a board which can be adjusted in any direction to get any degree of enlargement desired, all that is necessary being two T-shaped pieces of wood placed top down, and the board clamped to these at the desired height, then one of the supports is clamped to the table at the proper distance from the camera. The whole operation is so simple that enlarging is a pleasure. There is a small hole in the blind, covered with ruby glass, at a convenient height for looking out. Experience has demonstrated the necessity for some way of determining whether or not the sun continues bright or disappears under a cloud during the exposure, and this small window does the work nicely, as the shadows cast by the sun can be seen distinctly through the ruby glass.
Over the washstand is a cupboard having a mirror for a door and a swinging mirror each side of the door. This is used when printing gaslight papers. The large mirror in the center, which forms the door, is swung out at right-angles and obscures the table from the light at the side of the door to the dark-room, when all of the operations of filling printing frames, developing and fixing, can be done with gas turned up full. The swinging mirror, at the left, is swung around in front of the cupboard and the printing frames hung to hooks on the back, the swinging gas bracket being adjusted to any desired distance from the frame.
At the rear of the room are a number of cupboards, so dear to the heart of every amateur, in which can be stored all requisite paraphernalia, negatives, etc., so that anything can be found in the dark if necessary. The arrangement of these cupboards would warrant a separate article but for the fact that each amateur has decided notions of his own as to filing negatives, keeping his stock and chemicals, the arrangement of drying closet, dark closet, tray racks, etc.
The room is ventilated in two places. Over the door, in the ceiling, is an opening from which an ordinary 6-inch stove pipe runs up and out of the roof with a ventilating cap on top. The pipe does not run straight up, but has an elbow to offset the pipe, and thus prevent direct rays from reaching the room. The opening at ceiling has a cover which can be drawn down to open ventilator, and is wide enough to prevent direct light rays from entering the room. Near the window is a small enclosed gas stove, which heats and ventilates in winter; the pipe acting as a vent-flue helps to ventilate in summer. There are a number of holes in the bottom of the door to admit a supply of fresh air.
It is a pleasure to go into a dark-room of this kind, knowing that you will not be disturbed, and that you have everything you will require right at hand