Transforming the smallest room

Well, you'd better have another loo at your disposal if you want to do this, but here's a quick step-by-step guide to how we could convert the loo in our last house to a darkroom and back, taking a few minutes each way.


The Starting Point

The house was built in about 1885 and for some inscrutable reason all five houses in the terrace had this extraordinary curved wall in the loo. Also, the camera isn't cock-eyed: the top of the door really does slope down like that. We shot this sequence with a 14/3.5 Sigma on a Nikon F.

When we decorated the loo, which came with a folding orange plastic door (very tasteful!) we decided to go for a thoroughly Victorian look with a cream-painted tongue-and-groove wooden dado surmounted by a brown dado rail. We hadn't thought of the darkroom when we did this, but the dado rail came in very handy.

The floor is oiled parquet. Sealing it with yacht varnish would have been a better idea.




Step 2: Blackout

Two layers are safer than one. The first layer is a sheet of plywood cut exactly to size and fitted in the window. The second layer is a piece of blackout material stapled to four battens. These push into the window frame and are wedged with a fourth piece of batten.

The blackout stage takes under a minute to set up or take down.

The white fluffy bit on the right, incidentally, is a towel hung on the back of the (right-hinged) door. Power comes in via the wire in the top right corner which is plugged in (via an earth trip plug) in the room next door.




Step 3: Enlarger

This is where the dado rail really came into its own! A piece of MDF, carefully cut to shape, rests on the dado rail as if on two brackets. The dado rail is in turn supported by the tongue-and-groove, so it's plenty solid enough. Battens screwed to the wall would obviously be just as effective, but a lot less aesthetically pleasing. Installing the shelf and enlarger takes another couple of minutes: three minutes so far.

The safelight is hung above the door, out of sight in this picture.




Step 4: Processing trays

A big 20x24 inch tray holds four 8x10 inch trays: developer, short stop, fixer, holding (water) bath. The step-stool makes a convenient seat when processing.

Our record time for set-up was 4 ½ minutes ready-to-fill, or under 10 minutes ready to use.

Because we already had a full-size darkroom (see the free Our Darkrooms module) we didn't install an extractor fan, though we would have done (venting into the space between the ceiling and the floor above) if we had planned on using the darkroom much. An extractor fan in a loo isn't a bad idea anyway.

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© 2007 Roger W. Hicks