The film photography & darkroom work of David Kirby

A Free Fixer-Upper

I recently saw an advert in the classifieds over of the Film and Darkroom User (FADU) forum for some darkroom gear based in North Wales going for free.  I didn't really need much of the gear advertised but was, however, interested in a Paterson print washer that was listed.  I inquired further and discovered it to be a vertical slot washer, so I leapt at the chance to acquire one.  I have recently moved all my toning, washing and finishing gear into the house so that I don't have to keep running out to the shed to grab stuff, so a chance to nab a narrow vertical slot washer was too good to pass over.

The washer arrived over the weekend and so I spent a bit of time cleaning it up and getting it working.  Firstly it needed a good scrub which was easily done.  It also came without any tubing, but I remembered that I had some spare tubing that came with one of the Paterson flat single print washers that came with my darkroom kit when I purchased my enlarger.  I nipped out to the shed, dug the tubing out and gave it all a good clean.  The tubing has little rubber cups on the end that are supposed to fit over the end of a tap, however the taps in my house are chunky mixer taps so I needed to come up with a solution.  In this tutorial I wrote about how I made my own print washer, and (if you have read it) you will note that I purchased some hose from a DIY store that can be fitted to the outlet below the bathroom mixer tap which feeds the shower line.  I decided to connect this hosing into the rubber cup from the Paterson tubing which would allow me to hook everything up to the taps in my bath.

The washer itself in all its magnificent glory.

I gave it a try and water sprayed everywhere.  Whilst the hose fit into the rubber cup, pressure within the narrow tubing leading into the washer was causing water to backup and spray out the back of the rubber cup.  To solve this I got my glue gun and filled the gaps between the hose and tubing with hot glue and allowed it to cool and set hard.  I refitted to the washer and tried the water again, only for the hose to be pushed off the tap.  The pressure of the water was now backing up all the way to the tap and causing the problem.  I fixed this easily with a jubilee clip around the hose and tried again - success!  I then used another piece of tubing to get the outlet setup which was simple enough.

Jubilee clip attached to the bath tap to stop the hose popping off.

Hot glue used to seal the gaps where the hose meets the tubing.

I immediately discovered the reason for the higher than expected water pressure.  On the inside of the water inlet is a little plastic tube.  When the water flow is turned on the pressure causes the tube to pop out and push against the print rack.  Water pressure then drops off causing the tube to retreat back into the inlet before the pressure builds and the tube pushes out again.  After a little reading on the internet I discovered that this feature is used to agitate the print rack whilst washing occurs - most nifty!  It also became clear that this washer is quite conservative with water use, with only a little flow required to cause the plastic tube to agitate the print rack.

Hopefully I will be doing some printing tonight which will allow me to test this washer out but so far I am happy with it.  It's always nice to get a new piece of gear.

As for other things, well, I am well under way with my Iceland prints.  I have about 4 done now which I am happy with.  I am still working on my toning as the paper I am using did not react to selenium as I thought it would.  Hopefully I should soon have some prints scanned and uploaded to here for you to look at.  I also have a little article in a photography magazine which is coming out this week and have been asked to give a little talk at a local photography group early next year.  I will update you all further closer to the time.

For now though, as ever - happy printing!