Safelights and paper developer?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Aug 20, 2007.

  1. I need to outfit my darkroom with safelights. I currently have
    red safelights, which I am not fond of, but seems to be all
    that I can find here. :-(

    Someone gave me a Kodak safelight (large cone-shaped thing with
    a 15 watt bulb in it) complete with an OA and an OC filter.
    It had not been used in many years, it still had a U.S. plug
    on it and a 120 volt bulb in it.

    I have yet to try to buy any paper, what I have is several
    years out of date Ilford Multigrade and Agfa Brovira. From
    what I have read, I probably will only be able to buy Ilford

    Agfa and Kodak are "out of the game" and the more obscure
    papers have to be mail ordered from the U.S. or Germany and
    have little chance of surviving the trip, except when shipped
    via air express, which would be about $100 a box.

    I therefore might as well confine my questions to Ilford Multigrade
    paper. Will it work properly with a red safelight? Which filter
    (OA/OC) should I use in the Kodak?

    Any recemondations for a commonly available liquid paper developer?
    I plan to make up a tray full of developer and stop bath and throw them
    out when done. Fixer will probably be old, but still useable, film fixer.
    (should I dilute the fixer?)

    Thanks, Geoff.
    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Aug 20, 2007
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  2. Outdated paper is likely to be fogged. While the use
    of an anti-fog agent can same some of it its best just to
    avoid it.
    The red safelights are fine for both graded and
    variable contrast papers but are somewhat unpleasant to work
    under. The recommended safelight filter is the Kodak OC. Do
    NOT use an OA, this is an older type of filter intended for
    graded paper and will fog VC paper. The Ilford equivalent
    filter is the No.905.
    These filters are intended to pass as much visible
    light as possible so that the darkroom is easy to work in
    without passing light the paper is sensitive to. However,
    the red safelights quite satisfactory from the fogging
    Safelight filters can fade so should be tested. Both
    Kodak and Ilford have test procedures on their web sites,
    the Kodak test can be found by entering K-4 in the search
    engine on their web site. Because the combination of
    exposure to the safelight and to the enlarger results in
    greater sensitivity to fogging a simple exposure to the
    safelight will not tell you if its safe.
    The Kodak bee-hive safelight is a very common item as
    are the filters for it. You should be able to find more of
    them at pretty low cost.
    There is really very little difference among paper
    developers. I would use whatever is conveniently available
    to you.
    The requirements for fixing paper are more stringent
    than those for film. Do NOT use partially exhausted fixer.
    A better method is to use a two bath fixing system.
    The second bath remains relatively fresh and will clean up
    after the first bath. When the first bath becomes exhausted
    enough its tossed and the second bath moved up, the second
    bath being replaced by a fresh bath. The capacity of this
    system to fix paper completely is four to ten times the
    capacity of a single bath. This system should also be used
    for film.
    While the Iodide leached out of film tends to slow
    down fixing it has relatively little effect on a two bath
    system and relatively little effect of Ammonium Thiosulfate
    (Rapid) fixer. So, if you are going to use the same fixer
    for both film and paper rapid fixer is preferred.
    For paper you can use the fixer at film strength, but
    be careful of excessive fixing times because acid rapid
    fixer can bleach the image a little.
    There are a couple of ways to test fixing baths for
    exhaustion. The best is to check periodically for clearing
    time. This is the time it takes for the emulsion to become
    completely clear in the bath. It is very hard to determine
    this for paper but it can be seen easily for film. I suggest
    using a scrap of film to test the fresh bath and test
    periodically using a scrap of the same film. When the
    clearing time doubles toss the fixer. This is OK for the
    first bath of a two bath system but for a single bath will
    result in excessively exhausted fixer. Soak the film for a
    couple of minutes before testing because wet film fixes at a
    different rate than dry film.
    Another test is to use a solution of Potassium Iodide.
    This will produce a cloud of Silver Iodide in exhausted
    fixing bath. Kodak gives the formula and method in their
    darkroom handbook. Fixer test solutions are also available
    Total fixing time should be about double the clearing
    time. For the two bath system fix for half the time in each
    A further economy is to use a sulfite wash aid such as
    Kodak Hypo Clearing Agent. This does several things but
    among them is the ability to make some otherwise bound up
    silver complexes soluble so it has the effect of partially
    compensating for inadequate fixing. It is also a definite
    economy where water is at a premium.
    Standard Acetic acid stop bath is fine. If you use
    rapid fixer avoid the use of Citric acid stop bath, such as
    Ilfords, because the combination of Citric acid with the
    Ammonium Thiosulfate fixer makes a pretty good bleach.
    The cheapest way to make up stop bath is to buy Glacial
    Acetic (concentrated acetic) acid and dilute it to 28%
    working solution. This is then used to make up the usual
    1.5% stop bath. A liter of Glacial will make many gallons of
    stop bath. Don't try to save the stop bath, just toss it.
    Despite the current trend to eliminate stop baths they
    serve a useful purpose in preventing dichroic fog in the
    fixing bath. A water rinse will work but should be thorough,
    at least 30 seconds to one minute in water kept pretty
    fresh. Eliminating the stop bath really has no advantage
    despite some pretty strong fans of the method.
    Ilford makes good paper and, at the moment, seems to be
    about the only paper manufacturer with good quality control.
    IMO, most of the small manufacturers are using very old
    technology and there are many reports of inconsistent
    results. Fuji also makes good paper but does not sell it
    outside of Japan.
    Richard Knoppow, Aug 21, 2007
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  3. Richard Knoppow wrote:

    Thanks for the wonderful answer. It will be a great help.
    I agree, but it's what I have. :)

    I'll have to see if I can get any paper locally. Darkroom stuff does
    not sell well here.

    Up until some time in the late 1980's photgraphic equipment (and personal
    computers) were taxed at about 250% (two and a half times the price
    in taxes), when I moved here in 1996, it had been reduced to 140%. So
    very few things were sold here.

    Schools had darkrooms and some imegrants from rich countries, but
    most, like me had to sell what we had as we could not afford to
    buy it again for the tax people.

    In the last few years, it has been dropped to simply VAT (15.5%), which makes
    it more affordable. However since 9/11 the chance of shipping anything by
    air without it being X-Rayed is pretty slim. Surface shipping is safer,
    but the temperatures vary from well bellow freezing in the winter to
    over 120F in the summer.

    In the last few months, the USPS has revised their prices upward, and a
    friend sent me a small vaccuum sealing device she bought at a yard sale
    for $4. It was about the size of 100 sheet photo paper box, 4x11 inches.
    The shipping was $35, without tracking, guarentee of delivery or

    Freestyle, for example ships only FedEX and therefore a package of 8x10
    paper would cost $100 to ship.
    Ok, thanks. I'll stick to the OC. Now to find a 15 watt bulb. I looked
    through Home Center and the smallest bulb they had was 25 watts. Smaller
    bulbs have been replaced with miniflourescent bulbs. I'll have to find
    a lighting store.
    That's good to know. I have two safelights that are red. They are very
    dim, and use 7.5 watt night light bulbs, which are easily found, and I
    bought a large supply. :)

    I also have two Phillips safe light bulbs, which are like regular
    red light bulbs, but coated with a safelight filter. One I bought,
    which cost as much as the small safelights and the other was a gift.

    I know this is rambling, but I expect that in 10 years, the situation
    in the U.S. will be the same. :-(

    This is really a gem. I was bought up on the quarter on the paper
    safelight test. I'll look for it right away.
    It's the only one I've seen here. It was given to me unmodified
    as it came from the U.S. complete with a 120 volt bulb in it.
    I would love to find more, but don't have much hope.
    Thanks, I appreiciate that information. I was a big dektol
    user and have long since forgotten what liquid I used. :)

    Ok, thanks.
    Ok, that's what I use.
    I did not plan to, that's why I said I would dilute it. I can
    make fresh and keep it seperate.

    Ok, thanks,

    I have some, but I know it is at least 15 years old. Does it go bad?
    I'm in the desert. :) Like L.A., you might not believe it if you
    see it, but water is at a premium here. I am using some sort of
    wash aid, but Kodak chemicals were hard to find here and are probably

    oops. That's what I have.
    I used to do that in the U.S. I have never seen it here.
    Thanks for everything, I'll report back. I hope I can find paper,
    I've already bought out local supplies of bulk 35mm film, plastic
    reloadable casettes, HC-110 and Rodinal.

    When asked if more (developer) was on the way, a local store said yes.
    which I wonder because the Rodinal was the old Agfa version. Another
    store in Tel Aviv danced around the issue, but gave the impression I got
    the last of their chemicals. The HC-110 I bought from them had gone bad with
    age (something I thought almost impossible for a factory sealed bottle).

    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Aug 21, 2007
  4. On 21 août, 08:39, (Geoffrey S. Mendelson) wrote:
    At B&H, UPS shipment is cheaper than USPS and service is much better
    (tracking #, fast delivery, etc ...).
    Multigrade, fiber papers are here:,upper(ds)&sq=asc

    I ordered once a bunch of electron tubes from New-York through USPS.
    I received them with "some" delay as they went through South Africa
    before arriving in Europe.
    I suppose someone mixed Swaziland and Switzerland, phonetically close
    but just on two different continents ...
    They work fine, I use some of them together with their amber
    But, as usual, test your safelight to be sure it is safe ...
    As washaid, I just use a plain 2% sodium sulfite solution I through at
    the end of the session.
    This is a very cheap chemical.
    Or you may go the formula Richard gave some times ago which is more or
    less similar to Kodak's one.
    Buy also your chemicals from one of the US large distributors but,
    because of air shipments regulations, you're usually limited to dry
    chemicals (Dektol, Xtol, etc ...).
    In your situation, I would try to find a local supplier of raw
    chemicals and mix my own, it may be easier.
    Good luck,
    Claudio Bonavolta
    Claudio Bonavolta, Aug 21, 2007
  5. Geoffrey S. Mendelson

    Rod Smith Guest

    When did you check their prices? I recall that Freestyle added some
    overseas shipping options a few months ago, with the goal of making
    themselves more affordable for non-US customers. If you did your checks a
    while back, it could be you should check again.

    A few other options include B&H (in the US,,
    Fotoimpex (in Germany,, and Megaperls (in Japan, I haven't checked overseas
    shipping prices (or even product prices) at most of these places; I just
    happen to know about them and I believe they all do ship internationally,
    so they're worth checking out.
    You might see if you can find a red LED bulb. I use one of these as one of
    my two safelights:

    I've heard some people use the amber ones, too, but I'm not sure they'd be
    safe with VC paper.
    My second safelight is a coated low-wattage incandescent bulb, similar to
    what you describe. I bought it from B&H or Freestyle (I don't recall
    which). Coated red bulbs sold for non-photographic uses might or might not
    be safe; the coating might be incomplete or it might pass light outside of
    the safe range. If you've got no other choice you might as well try one,
    but I certainly wouldn't assume it's safe without testing.

    Oh, I've heard of people using red Christmas tree lights as safelights.
    I'd imagine those are rarer in Israel than in the US, though. ;-)
    FWIW, I've heard that Rodinal makes a decent paper developer, but I've
    never tried it myself. (It must be used at greater concentration than with
    film -- around 1+10 dilution, IIRC.) There's also a mix-it-yourself
    version of Rodinal called paRodinal; see and Times.html
    (it's one of several formulas there). The advantage of paRodinal is that
    it's easy to make from acetaminophen (Tylenol) tablets, sodium sulfite,
    and sodium hydroxide (lye). When mixed, the acetaminophen is chemically
    converted into p-aminophenol, the developing agent in Rodinal. Given what
    you've said, you might find it easier to track down these ingredients than
    to track down a packaged commercial developer.

    For that matter, you could try to get more traditional photographic raw
    ingredients, such as phenidone, metol, etc. You could then mix a wide
    variety of developers. I believe that JD Photochem
    ( in Canada ships internationally. Even if
    shipping charges are ridiculous, chances are you'll be able to find some
    ingredients locally, so the total cost on a per-liter basis of developer
    should be reasonable. If you don't know Thing One about mixing your own
    chemicals, check out a few resources:

    - Steve Anchell's _The Darkroom Cookbook, 2nd Edition_, ISBN 0240804236
    - Steve Anchell and Bill Troop's _The Film Developing Cookbook_, ISBN
    Rod Smith, Aug 21, 2007
  6. Geoffrey S. Mendelson

    Andrew Price Guest

    On Tue, 21 Aug 2007 05:33:26 -0700, Claudio Bonavolta

    Good suggestion. See also Lloyd Erlick's article :


    on this subject. The other articles on his site are also well worth
    Andrew Price, Aug 21, 2007
  7. Rod Smith wrote:

    It was a year ago, I should check again.
    I wonder if I can just make one from red LED's? I have many of them. It won't
    look as nice, and I'll probably just run it off of a "wall wart".

    I expect not. When I was in high school a camera store opened nearby
    (but not near enough for me to use) with a rental darkroom. It had
    flourescent lights with the tubes in red sleeves. I wonder if I
    could get one of those, but the room may be too small.

    I've gotten far enough to test things and found that my "darkroom" was
    too bightly lit at night to be of any use. I covered the windows with
    aluminum foil (just the thing for low price, easy availabilty, and sloppy
    workers) and tried it out tonight. It's dark enough to work at night.
    It's actually two rooms, a larger area with a clothes dryer in it, which
    I am using as an enlarging table, and a small powder room with a counter,
    sink and toilet as the wet room.

    I'm safe until the rainy season which starts around November first,
    then my wife will actually use the dryer for its intended purpose.

    I tried the Kodak safelight with a 10 watt bulb in it and it lit up
    the powder room well enough to work. I could not find any 15 watt bulbs,
    and on the third try, the local hardware store produced some 5-10 watt
    (I wish they'd make up their mind) bulbs. I'll have to measure their
    current draw.

    I'll probably use it for the wet room, and the red lights for the enlarging
    area. Now I have to figure out how to set up a switching arangment so
    that they go off when the enlarger goes on. I don't have a timer, but
    I can count to 10 and if I concentrate 15 :)

    They show up in the fall for Sukkot (the feast of Tabernacles), where
    everyone builds little huts and eats in them for a week commemerating
    the annual census and harvest where everyone traveled to Jerusalem
    and lived in huts for a week. We decorate them and eat in them,
    some people sleep in them.

    By Christmas time, they disapear from the stores. :)

    I tried that. I found that the local tylenol equivalent was expensive,
    pure sodium hydroxide was available only from a soap maker (who was
    willing to sell me 250 grams at a time), but sulfite was impossible
    to find. None of the camera stores carried it, and I could not locate
    a pool supply. Private pools are rare here.

    I guess I could try that, I used to do it a long time ago. Thanks.
    Eventually it may not be optional, as every day goes by the supply
    of ready made stuff shrinks.

    Thanks for all the advice. I appriciate it.

    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Aug 21, 2007
  8. The option they added was USPS international priority mail. It was
    reasonably priced up until May, when the rates were restructured.

    Now it's $20 for the first pound and $4 for each pound after that
    including packaging. There is a special box rate (you use their box),
    which may or may not fit and Freestyle is under no obligation to
    use it. It's about $35 for up to 20 pounds.

    I assume if I were to get some small things, then it would cost about
    $45 ($35 for the shipping and $10 for the packaging). Paper may not fit
    in the box, or be too heavy and I would have to go with the by the
    pound option.

    Most if not all, packages are X-rayed at least once.

    I guess it's worth a shot, I'll wait until next month when it's cooler.
    No need to have things cooked in transit. :)

    Thanks, Geoff.
    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Aug 21, 2007
  9. Most of long post snipped...

    I am sorry to hear of the problems caused by unreasonable
    taxes there. A real PITA.
    If you can obtain raw chemicals you can make your own
    wash aid. For paper a simple 2% solution of Sodium Sulfite
    will work well. I think sulfite is available for other uses
    than photography so it may be easier to obtain than it first
    looks. The use of a Sulfite wash aid very substantially
    reduces the amount of water needed for washing, by at least
    6 times. Also, you can save more but using a sequential bath
    method. Total washing time is about the same but the amount
    of water used is much less than for a running water wash.
    Kodak and Ilford give instructions for film but paper can be
    washed the same way. Agitate fiber prints in a sequence of
    about 5 minute baths of water for about 6 changes of water
    when a wash aid is used.
    Beware of red coated light bulbs as safelights. They
    _look_ red but pass enough other colors to cause fogging.
    They may be OK but test them. Actually, any safelight should
    be checked because the filters fade with time.
    Old paper can often be used with the help of an
    anti-fogging agent. The most effective is Benzotriazole but
    plain Potassium bromide will work. Bromide has a greater
    effect on the image color (tends to warm it up) and looses
    more speed than Benzotriazole. I will have to look up the
    amounts, they are given in Grant Haist's book and its in a
    box somewhere right now.
    In general, cold tone papers tend to pick up fog less
    than warm tone paper. I have some ancient Brovira which
    still works but warmer tone paper such as Agfa Portriga
    Rapid is useless even with the anti-foggant.
    Rodinal is not the ideal developer for anything but works
    OK where somewhat increased grain is acceptable. That means
    it work for large format negatives and for very fine grain
    film. In particular, it will develop T-Max or Delta films
    wtih relatively fine grain. Rodinal also makes a good, if a
    bit expensive paper developer at about 1:30.
    Richard Knoppow, Aug 21, 2007
  10. Geoffrey S. Mendelson

    Ken Hart Guest

    Watch out for dryer lint!
    Disclaimer: (a) I'm not a licensed electrician, nor do I play one on TV; (b)
    I have no idea what kind of electrical systems/parts are available in

    The wall switches that are used for three-way light circuits (such as the
    light in a stairway where there is a switch downstairs and another upstairs
    to control one light) are single-pole-double-throw switches. They have three
    connections: have the power coming in on the 'common', and out on one of the
    two others depending on the position of the switch. One position of the
    switch supplies power to the safelight, the other position supplies power to
    the enlarger.
    Ken Hart, Aug 22, 2007
  11. Thanks, I have never seen them here. I'll have to ask. Instead of using
    3 way light switches, hallways have push button start timers. They are
    scientificly designed through years of measurement and careful observation
    to turn off the light just before you get your door open and therefore
    plunge you into darkness. :)

    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Aug 22, 2007

  12. Some more comments as Geoff seems to need a post-nuclear war survival
    guide ...

    One more option for the safelights: to make my computers screens
    inactinic when working in my darkroom I cover the screens with red
    plastic film called Rubylith. This is not just a red film as it is
    intended for masking use in graphic arts and printers. It is very
    efficient and cheap, the only drawback is that it is becoming rare as
    most of graphic work has gone digital.
    There is also an amber version called Amberlith.

    Regarding self-made chemistry, a few other pointers:
    - Steve Anchell's pair of books (meant to be practical cookbooks and
    not scientific litterature), check with Amazon.
    - I put a copy of Kodak's J-1 publication which contains all basic
    formulas (and more) here (20MB pdf file): j-1.pdf
    - Photo Formulary have also published a bunch of formulas (under
    Technical Infos):
    - The same with Digital Truth together with a database of development
    - Ryuji Suzuki's website (seems down, hopefully temporarily):
    - and many other websites ...

    If Geoff stays with classic formulas like D-76 and D-72 (Dektol's
    public formula), the basic ingredients are similar and the number of
    raw chemicals could remain limited.
    If he prefers more environmentally-friendly formulas then those based
    on ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) are available (Mytol, E-72, Ryuji's
    formulas, etc ...).

    Regarding the raw chemicals in Israel, I did a quick search and found
    following website that may be a good start:
    One of the links points to an university, that could be a good idea to
    ask the chemistry department of a university what suppliers they use.

    So, good luck !
    Claudio Bonavolta
    Claudio Bonavolta, Aug 22, 2007
  13. I don't think so. It may seem that way, but it's a more of a combination
    of the effects of digital photography and the movement of research
    to the China and India, combined with post 9/11 paranoia.

    I can already see the effects here, some common household chemicals
    such as ammonia are banned. I also see that in the U.S. people who
    buy scales and organic solvents are suspected of running meth labs,
    or a bomb factory.

    When I was a child growing up in Philly, I had a microscope and a
    small home chemical lab. By 1970 the organic solvents I used
    e.g. xylene and acetone, were banned and all sorts of chemicals
    were no longer sold. At one time you could buy them in a rack in
    a hobby shop, like spices at a supermarket, but they were gone.
    I'll have to look for it. It should be easy to find if there are
    any graphic arts companies left. My guess is that they have all gone
    digital, it's obvious if you open any newspaper that everything is
    done with photoshop.

    Downloading it now, thanks.

    The university is Hebrew University, where I got my start
    in Israel in their computer science department. I'll ask them if
    they can help.

    Thanks for all your help,

    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Aug 22, 2007
  14. Don't worry this was just a joke ...
    Fortunately here in Europe (except UK maybe) we feel much less the
    9/11 effects.
    By the way, chemicals were already less widely available before due to
    safety regulations and another problem is that many chemical companies
    ask you to buy quantities way to large for the simple hobbyist.
    A link to the manufacturer:
    They have a link to company Arta Graphics being their distributor for
    Mid-East region:
    But I can't read Hebrew ...

    Good luck,
    Claudio Bonavolta
    Claudio Bonavolta, Aug 22, 2007
  15. Pre-press equipment and supplies can often be found
    at outfits that supply the silk-screening industry.

    A good art-supplies store will often carry rubylith
    for poster silk-screening.
    Nicholas O. Lindan, Aug 22, 2007
  16. Geoffrey S. Mendelson

    Peter Guest

    I suppose there would be a few more options for a wash aid although
    some ingenuity may help.

    If I recall correctly plain old sodium cloride (table salt) helps
    speed washing a little.

    Sodium Sulfite is just sulfur dioxide (SO2) combined with lye (sodium
    hydroxide). He says he can get the lye so all he needs to do is burn
    sulfur in a vessel that is sealed and has water in it. Water combines
    readily with SO2; the solution is slightly acid. Then take that
    solution and add a dilute solution of lye until a pH of about 7 is

    Having a pipette and an indicator to reach a neutral pH may be pushing
    it, but buying Hydrion pH paper over the net should not be hard and it
    doesn't weigh much. Adding lye solution with an eye dropper is a way
    to mimic the pipette (with a little care added - lye is nasty).

    Naturally, to do this, he needs to find some sulfur ... perhaps that
    is possible?
    Peter, Aug 22, 2007
  17. Geoffrey S. Mendelson

    Andrew Price Guest

    And the UK has no one but itself to blame for that ...
    Andrew Price, Aug 22, 2007
  18. Geoffrey S. Mendelson

    dan.c.quinn Guest

    Agfa for many years recommended a 2% solution
    of sodium carbonate. Dan
    dan.c.quinn, Aug 22, 2007
  19. Ok, I'll look for those things, but it's not a priority. In 2003 I bought
    large bottles of Tental developer, wash aid and fixer. The developer
    did not last, but the fixer and wash aid concentrates seem to be

    Of course once I get things going, I may use them up a lot quicker. :)

    Thanks, Geoff.
    Geoffrey S. Mendelson, Aug 23, 2007
  20. Geoffrey S. Mendelson

    Rod Smith Guest

    That ought to work, although with the usual caveat that you should do
    safelight tests. In fact, if you spread them out you might end up with
    more even illumination than you'd get from a single bulb.
    I'm using a broken washing machine as a table in my darkroom. My
    enlarger's control unit, which is separate from the enlarger's
    base/column/head assembly, sits on the washing machine.
    I've never bothered with this. My typical exposure times are in the 10-30
    second range, which shouldn't cause fogging unless the safelights are very
    close to being unsafe to begin with.
    I believe that sodium sulfite is used in wine production, so you might
    check if there are any stores that specialize in such things. Certainly
    it's a common enough chemical industrially; the tricky part would be
    locating somebody who'd be willing to sell small quantities to an
    Rod Smith, Aug 23, 2007
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