This section is from the book "Amateur Work Magazine Vol6". Also available from Amazon: Amateur Work.
Amateurs usually find or imagine enlarging very difficult or costly, and it is for them that I feel in-spired to write a few practical hints on the subject from my own experience.
The very words "bromide enlarging" had something mysterious in sound to me, indeed I know nothing about bromide papers yet, but I have spent my spare time for several days experimenting with a home-made enlarging apparatus until I have mastered it for enlarging on rapid developing paper, such as Velox or Yunox.
I did not succeed with papers requiring a longer exposure.
In the first place, I wanted to take pictures somewhat larger than 4x5, so purchased a long focus camera taking a 5x7 plate. If I had it to do over again, 1 would be satisfied with a 4x5 camera with long bellows, as it would be far more convenient for ordinary work, less bungling to carry or handle, and if I wished a larger picture, all I need is to have an apparatus ready to enlarge it at home. The results would be far cheaper than the results from 5x7 plates, etc., and, rightly done, as good.
Of course one should first master ordinary printing with developing paper.
For my enlarging apparatus I found a light packing box somewhat over 3 feet long. The length needed would depend on the sized picture one might wish and the focus of the lens. My box was about 13 in. wide by 10 in. deep, my lens of 8 1/4 in. focus; so I could make a picture 10x12 in., about as large as I cared to attempt without spending too much for trays, etc., and I doubted my ability to handle larger prints. With a lens of the same focus, if one wanted larger pictures, a large and longer box would be needed.
I removed the reversible-back from my camera, and made a holder to fit the back with pasteboard and glue, to hold a 4x5 plate. Other holders could be made for any sized plate. One would require very stiff pasteboard, I used the backing on kokoid plates, which I happened to have.
Having made the holder and put a negative in posi tion bottom up, in the back of the camera, I placed the camera box with the back against a square hole, which [ had cut in one end of the box. The hole should be nearly as large as the back of the camera, and just where the back comes against it. With some little cleats on the bottom of the box, I fastened the camera firmly Lin place, then raised a north window, put that end of the box under it and darkened the rest of the window and other windows in the room with curtains; so that the room was not light enough to fog developing papers while handling and developing, as I wished to do all the work as handily as possible.
in the room end of the box I opened the camera shutter and drew out the bellows until I could see a fairly clear copy of the negative enlarged on the pasteboard slide. Now came the difficult part, possibly the fault of my eyes, but I found I could not focus it properly by sight. When thought Iit was perfectly focused, a print would show haze. By experimenting I found that the picture seemed focused to me anywhere within a two-inch draw of the bellows, but the print knew the difference.
1 think I would have given up in despair if one of my first efforts at printing had not chanced to turn out sharp.
I had arranged the room-end of my box, so that the sheet of white cardboard-a very stiff, straight one, by the way-could slip between cleats on the sides of the box, and so be placed either nearer or farther from the lens, so that I could vary the size of the enlargement. The sheet of developing-paper was to be pinned to this cardboard slide. The slides between cleats were numbered according to the number of inches from the camera front-board; for instance, with my camera, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 26. Placing the slide at 23, I focused it by my eye, measured the exact distance from pasteboard slide to lens-board, placed a small piece of developing paper across some sharply defined part of the picture and exposed the right time, which must first be found for the negative one is working with. My negatives required from 1 to 8 minutes with the papers mentioneo.. If, upon developing the piece, I found the result hazy, with the lens-board 20 inches from paper, I drew out the bellows a quarter-inch more and tried again and yet again till I got the exact focus, then wrote the number of inches extension for that slide down in my notebook for future reference, and tried another, till I had. them all properly focused, and could enlarge a 4x5 plate to any size from a 4 1/2 x 5 3/4 up to 10x12, or thereabouts. As long as I use this box, the focusing need never bother me again.
I had some smooth pieces of board to place across-the top of the box while exposing, so that noextraneous light would fog the paper The window-end of box should be securely darkened so that no light will reach the paper from that direction except through the lens. A piece of dark cloth tucked in around the camera is sufficient. If there is shrubbery near the window, it is better to tilt the box so the clear light from the sky can shine through the negative.
When not in use, my box is stood on end in some out of-the-way corner.
Possibly some beginners may not at once see the good to be gained by all this bother. However, they would see if they had uselessly carried a 5x7 or larger camera, for very long; but there are other advantages besides getting a larger picture with less expense and trouble. Sometimes part of the negative is spoiled or uninteresting, but one little part would make a picture if large enough. Get out your enlarging outfit, focus that part to the size wanted-a 4x5, if desired-and you have a picture you wanted, without taking another plate. Get a sharp negative and enlarge what you want to a 4x5 size and print it. The various surfaces of developing paper should give what is wanted, even for newspaper work.-Western Camera Notes.