Since last year I had this box with 50 sheets of Ilfospeed Multigrade paper in 40x50cm, (16×20 inch), but only one fitting developer tray. So with a lot of time on my hands in the last weeks I thought why not make some larger prints of the images I took last summer on Omaha beach. Not inclined to spend 100 Euros or so for the two needed further trays my idea was to get a pair of those clear plastik containers from Ikea, but they were closed like everybody else.
So while I tried to come up with a contraption large enough I remembered the very well stocked darkroom of my friend Cäsar. Working as an art teacher he had enough time and the means to tinker with lots of photographic equipment, like one of those Jobo CPE developer entrapments for film and paper. If you don‘t know those machines, they allow you to keep your chemicals and tank at a certain temperature via a water bath, agitate the tank, and you switch chemicals via rising a lever. Jobo still makes them, like this current CPE3
The method is very handy for color pictures for example. So it reminded me of the JOBO drums for developing paper without the need for huge trays, and lots of chemicals to fill them. But you don‘t need the machine for developing larger sized paper, one of the Jobo drum tubes is enough. I went to ebay and found one fitting for 40×50 paper for 30 Euros, including shipping. It arrived, unused and still in the original box, made more than 30 years ago in West-Germany.
The drum is one long cylinder topped with a revovable lid, from the same robust material like the Jobo or Patterson film tanks. The lid contains a funnel for inserting the chemicals, with a holding pod for 200ml of fluid.
All you need to do is prepare the developer, stop bath and fixer in their respective bottles. The construction of the pod allows you to fill in the developer while the drum stands upright, it will be released via slits into the cylinder as soon as you lever the drum horizontally.
In the darkroom you expose the image in the enlarger (I tested time and contrast beforehand with strips developed in handy 18×24 trays), roll the sheet together and place it in the tube. The 40×50 paper fits snugly into the drum, with only a narrow strip remaining between top and bottom. You replace the lid, fill about 200ml of developer into the funnel and switch on the white light, or leave the darkroom, if you like.
All you need now is an area to roll the tube. A distance of one meter is enough, I used the sticker as a marker for start and stop and rolled the tube up and down on the floor. The top of a washing machine is a good spot, but mine is occupied by the enlarger. You seal the drum with a red Jobo lid, and because of the small amount of liquid there is no danger of developer spilling out on your carpet.
After 1.5 to two minutes rolling the developer is done, you simply drop it back into the bottle for further usage. Repeat the process with Stop (or water) and Fixer, and your done. Open the lid, and a nice developed print awaits you.
Just clean and dry the tube, and you are ready to go for the next print. There was no problem of fixer residue between pictures.
The Jobo drum is a good alternative to a set of huge trays, and the tiny amount of chemicals you need is amazing. I would guess that you need to put 1.5 litres of developer in a 50×60 tray to float the prints, here you are done with a lot less. The drum gives you the ability to develop large prints even if you have a temporary darkroom in your flat, it is a quick, easy and clean process.
As usual, best from Berlin, and stay safe everybody!