Chapter 13: Electric

I've been flipping back and forth between shooting plates, working on the rolling blunder, and finishing the darkroom. For a long time, I let the darkroom languish because I was using it for developing plates; I didn't want to mess up anything. Well, I had a shoot scheduled for saturday but the model got sick and, in a fit of frustration, I hopped in the truck and went to the building supply store and got going on the wiring.

Usually, for a project like this, I spend a lot of time thinking things over before I get stuck into it. That's because I've discovered the hard way that my subconscious often comes up with pretty elegant solutions to problems, if I just give it a little time. With the wiring, I knew I'd have one chance to get it right or I'd be left with a big ugly mess.

I decided to use PVC conduit because it's cheap, it's grey, and it's incredibly tough; I figured that I could make a single loop around the room, with everything coming off a single master pipe-run, using lots of boxes and drops for everything. Rather than lining everything up perfectly (which I am capable of doing) I wanted to get a sort of rough look, so I didn't worry too much about measuring, I just positioned stuff and drilled away.

I was originally thinking of painting the conduit bronze-colored but I think the PVC grey is pretty good. It stands out from the walls; I may just give it a slight wash with metallic highlights as a finishing step.

Conduit and boxes on the wall

Each of the pieces that mounts on the wall required drilling into the cinder-block, hammering in a plastic plug, then screwing the component in. Then, measure the length of the next piece of pipe, position the next piece, etc. This is 1" conduit - there ought to be plenty of room inside for lots of wires! There are T-boxes with drops for the safe-lights, outlets for the power for amplifier/audio, and a master box for switches, to the right of the enlarger. You can see, in the sink, a wooden box - that's my silver-nitrate tank that I use for sensitizing my wet-plates. One of the painful things about doing this work is that it's impossible to drill into cinder-block without making a fucking mess. Right now there is gritty concrete dust all over everything; I have until wednesday to get it all cleaned up.

Master switch boxes

Here you can see the master switch box and outlet box for the enlarger and accessories. Next to it is the big knife-switch on its mounting-block. My plan with the knife-switch is to attach a 1/16" jack into the base and patch that into coils of copper wires leaving the knife-switch. Those will carry signals to the speakers, on big ceramic insulators. So the big switch is the "mute" button for the iPad. I'm trying to do all the drilling at once so I can finish it, get the room clean and dust-free again, then finish the wiring and everything else.

Viewing lamp

Up until now, when I've got a plate and I want to see how it looks, I've had to carry it out into the hallway in the light; which increases the chance I'll drop it going through the blackout curtains and the door. I got an old US-Navy surplus architects' lamp, re-wired it, put a high-output LED narrow spotlight bulb in it, and mounted it on the wall with a heavy-duty footswitch. Now, when I pull a plate out of the fixer (that wooden box you see there is my cyanide tank, you can watch the plate clear through the transparent front) I'll be able to just stomp on the light switch and see what it looks like. I am mister efficiency!

The blue hose you see is the current water-line. I just threw it together enough to make the sinks work.

Pipe supports

I fabricated braces for the water-lines out of plywood; they'll look fine when they're painted. I made them so that they're screwed to the wall and the top splits off with another screw so that the water-line can run through the holes. When I've got the electrical system done, all that'll be left to do is to re-run the water pipes. It's actually going to be necessary to de-mount the black sink because I need to re-do the drain - I patched it into one of the old sink drains and there's a lot of crud in it; the water backs up. I am going to re-plumb the drain into the former commode mount, which is a 4" pipe. That ought to do the trick!

Tomorrow I will try to fabricate a pair of light/hoods for the safelights out of plywood and cardboard; I'll try to make them sort of match the bottom of the enlarger table. Once I've got those on the wall, I can clean everything, then run the electricity (which will be a day's work) and then the rest is the home-stretch! By "home stretch" I mean it's all paint and touchy-feely stuff - nothing technical or exacting.

(Chapter 14)