Number One – the bathroom

My first darkroom was in the bathroom of my parents’ house while I was still living at home, which started in high school and then most of my college years.  I had other temporary set-ups in a couple of rent houses and apartments along the way, but they were not used more than a few times and are forgettable.  However, I learned the basics of the craft in my parents’ hall bath.

For Christmas of my senior year in high school, I received a Sears Home Darkroom Kit, which consisted of a Yankee roll film developing tank with a single adjustable reel, 3 4×5 print trays, a thermometer, a 7.5 watt orange light bulb for a “safelight” (probably not totally safe), a small beaker, funnel, and plastic stirring rod.  There was also a small pack of 4×5 paper of unknown provenance, and a Kodak Tri-chem pack, suitable for developing either film or paper.

The heart of the kit was a small horizontal enlarger which resembled a mini plastic slide projector.  Focusing was done by sliding (yes, sliding) the lens in and out, and it was set up to print on 4×5 paper, in the fixed integrated paper holder, from either 135, 126 (instamatic) or 127 negatives.

I still have the roll film tank, the thermometer and the tiny trays, but none of it gets used, it’s more for sentimental (or historic) reasons.  Alas, the enlarger did not survive.  It’s too bad, since it would have been quite the conversation piece.

It wasn’t too much later that I invested in a “Testrite” enlarger.  I don’t remember, but it was probably a whopping $40-50 (a lot of money to me at the time), including a lens and two negative holders.  The company is still in business, but a look at their website shows that they have historically changed entire product lines about every decade.  It was a pretty cheap affair, but quite the upgrade from the Sears toy.

After another couple of years, I bought the entire darkroom of another hobbyist, the main item of which was a Japanese made “Lucky” enlarger, with a couple of decent, if unremarkable, Fuji lenses. 

In the meantime, I had gotten a Time-o-light timer, 8×10 trays, a basic print washer, tongs and other do-dads.

Everything was stored in the bottom half of a hall closet directly across the hall from the bathroom door.  So, set-up and tear down was actually pretty minimal.  The safelight, such as it was, did get to live in the room permanently, and the folks allowed me to black out the window with aluminum foil, since we didn’t open it anyway.  Some weather stripping around the top and sides of the door stopped leaking light, along with a towel under the bottom of the door.  

The counter was big enough for the enlarger and print trays.  Hot and cold running water, a proper drain, and central HVAC.  What more could one ask?  Well, more electrical outlets, actually.  There was, of course, only one.

Unfortunately, there are no pictures of the set-up, but I do have a few prints that were made in that bathroom all those years ago.