Many of us find ourselves short on darkroom space. If your darkroom is a temporary setup in the bathroom or kitchen, or if you have a more permanent place in a closet or bedroom corner, you probably wish you had more space. And the problem is compounded when you want to make a larger-sized print. Having three or four 8x10 or 11x14 inch trays in a bathroom is a big enough problem, but finding room for several 16x20 inch trays is a nightmare. One solution is to use a shelf developing system. One company actually marketed a shelf ssytem, but who knows if they are still in business. No matter, this type of setup is easy enough to make yourself. Basically, it's just setting up a few larger-sized shelves -- permanently or temporarily -- so that you have one tray of chemicals on each shelf. That way, all of your trays only use as much space as one tray. With 16x20 trays you'll need large shelves, but you'll save even more space. Make sure you put the developer tray on top -- it's ok if a little developer drips into the stop bath, but not the other way around.
If you only occasionally want to make larger prints, you probably won't even try to find the space for a shelf system. Why spend all that cash on all those expensive, larger-sized trays? For those of you with space concerns AND cost concerns, there are several alternatives to buying a bunch of big trays. The obvious approach is to buy a tube. Several companies make processing tubes from 4x5 inches up to 30x40 inches. The larger the tube the more space you save. A 20x30 inch tube takes up about the same counter space as an 11x14 inch tray. You can use the tube on a motorized base or roll it by hand -- if you have enough space.
There are other, even cheaper alternatives. Some people like to see the print being developed so they can pull the print, if needed. With tubes, you can't see the print. Others find that the larger sized tubes are too hard to find or too expensive. You can make space-saving mural "trays" yourself from 12" plastic PVC pipe sliced right down the middle, from end to end. One piece of pipe will make two "trays". Get a section slightly longer than the size of the print you want to make. It's pretty cheap and cuts easily with a saw. Seal the ends with a rigid floor tile and silicone sealant. This keeps the "tray" from rolling. Lay the "trays" on the floor and put a gallon of chemical in each one. The print is lowered into the tray and lifted out the other edge. Works great because the pipe is round. You can make enormous prints this way.
For smaller mural prints, up to 30x40 or so, just go to a garden supply store or hardware store. They will have long plastic flower pots for the window sill or for paint/plaster that are about 3 or 4 feet long and four inches tall. Fill with chemicals and slip the paper in and out.
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