Chapter 9: Cabinets

Now I am faced with a major decision: positioning the cabinets and constructing the countertop. I have a fair amount of space to work with but I need to think how to arrange everything so it will work well as a darkroom, look cool, and have good speaker placement for the audio gear - in that order.

The end of the room is 12-foot 6-inches, which is a bit of a problem because the pre-made countertop segments they sell at the builder's supply are 12-foot. So I think I will simply get a few pieces of plywood and construct my own countertop - it's pretty easy - you just put angle-brackets on the walls to support the edges, then assemble 2 layers of plywood so they overlap, then glue and screw. I assembled the cabinets without the tops on, so I'll just glue the plywood onto the exposed wood-edge of the cabinet-bottoms and that'll support things very nicely.

When I get closer to the end of the project, I plan to turn one of the upper cabinets into a toxic chemistry cabinet, by building a skull and crossbones over-plate that covers the front, and a big hasp/lock as the skull's teeth. But that's final finish work. I shouldn't get ahead of myself.

The assembled cabinets

If I may editorialize slightly: I hate the unnamed Swede who invented those horrific screw-lock flat-pack connectors. Why on earth furniture makers would prefer to use those instead of bamboo pegs and glue, is completely beyond me. Wood and glue are cheaper, easier, and vastly stronger.

Layout Plans

The obvious layout would be based on the illustration above. It would be fairly practical, though I think it would make the room look smaller. It would be easier to do the electric and plumbing for, though.

Plan A

In Plan B, the countertop runs across the floor and would be suspended on some kind of steampunk-y looking "iron" (painted plywood) braces in the center. The counters, upper and lower, would be on opposite sides of the wall, facing eachother. It'd be a bit tighter to fit everything together this way, and might make running the electricity a bit trickier. I also could make the enlarger sit on a separate round counter-top and have a sort of a rail running around the end of the room. Lots of counter-space is crucial for a good darkroom so I don't want to lose track of my overall objective in the rush to make it funky.

Plan B

There's also a sort of Plan C, which would involve putting the enlarger on a round protruberance with, perhaps, a velvet skirt and "rivet" edges, then a thinner countertop that ran around the end of the room with some staggered shelves going partly up the wall for storage, with green-foam "iron" cathedral arch-work on the end.

You can see why I don't want to rush into this. If I get it wrong I will hate it forever, and the way I construct things, once it's in, it would take a team of elephants or dynamite to pull it back out.

Covering the Countertop

I have a couple ideas for covering the countertop. The simplest and most practical is to buy a 4-foot by 12-foot section of granite grey vinyl flooring and just glue that down. The vinyl would be tough, soft(ish) and straightforward. Plan B would be to paint it with a couple coats of grey and then urethane clear-coat. Plan C would be to frame the edge with a slight lip, gasket the edges of the counter, and pour a gallon of smooth-on room temperature vulcanizing polyurethane rubber. That would be insanely tough, sort of gooey-bouncy (great for glassware!) and very chemical resistant. It would mean bringing and keeping the room up to heat while the urethane cured, for about an hour - there are all kinds of things that could go wrong with that approach; it'd be courting disaster.

A Switch

Do I Turn You On, Baaaaaby?

I am going to build a wooden box (covered with warning labels) where I can put my iPad/iPod and a small power-bar. It'll have big wires coming out of it, on ceramic insulators, which will run up to the speakers. The whole thing will have a single on/off switch that will control everything - and I think I've found the appropriate amount of overkill: a 1915 100-amp knifeswitch. I'm a bit nervous about having exposed current where there is water but, seriously, anyone who sticks their tongue on something like that deserves to die. I'll put some "NICHT GEFINGERPOKEN!" signs on it, or something. I could wire it so that the knife-switch controls a 9-volt relay that trips the 120-volt, but, meh, that'd be hard.

I'm going to spin down for a couple days while I think this through and maybe work on some of my other projects. Like, how to get 4 sheets of heavy plywood on top of my soft-top jeep. My old girly truck was a ginormous suburban and it was nice to be able to just open the back hatch and toss an entire 4-foot by 8-foot piece of plywood in. Now I'm having to do things like a normal person and I'm not sure I like it.

(Chapter 10)