If you have a medium format
or a 35mm format enlarger, then you probably do not need to wall mount
your enlarger. However, if you have a 4x5 enlarger, you might want to
consider the benefits of wall mounting.
Most baseboard-mounted 4x5 enlargers operate just fine when making small
and medium-sized prints. But, as you raise the head of the enlarger
higher and higher from the easel, the physical stability of the mechanism
becomes less and less. This results in the head of the enlarger becoming
vulnerable to slight vibrations that will result in slightly non-sharp
images. Something as common as someone walking across the floor can
set up a harmonic vibration that will shake the head enough to ruin
a 16x20 size print.
One way to deal with the vibration problem is to stabilize the top of
the enlarger's column. Of course, you don't have to actually
wall mount the chassis in order to stabilize the top of the column.
Just attach some sort of support structure to the top of the column
and secure it to the wall behind the enlarger. It really doesn't
take much to stop harmonic vibrations.
You might want to wall mount your enlarger so that you can establish
a shelf-like easel support that can be lowered to facilitate larger
size magnifications. See the Beseler MXT sketch.
Lowering the easel support for large magnification prints is far more
desirable than trying to use a mirror to project the image on a distant
wall, trying to rotate the head for wall projection, or trying to turn
the enlarger around and project on the floor. Lowering the easel support
does not require making a change in the enlarger's optical alignment.
Once an enlarger has been precisely aligned, don't ever do anything
to put it out of alignment.
Using mirrors for wall projection is very difficult due to the precision
alignment requirements of the mirror. And, of course the mirror itself
must be of top quality if the resulting image is to maintain its quality.
Using mirrors was difficult enough in the old days of black and white.
Today, with color images, mirrors are almost impossible to use and maintain
color quality, since different color wavelengths tend to scatter differently
whenever they are bent (as with a mirror).
You might want to wall mount your enlarger so that you can cope with
a low ceiling. By wall mounting the enlarger, you can drop part of the
column below the normal easel support level. See sketch of the Beseler
45V-XL chassis. I have a very low ceiling in my darkroom, so I have
wall mounted my 45V-XL chassis in a manner similar to that shown in
Wall mounting should be a technique that improves the stability of the
enlarger. Therefore, you need to mount it on a wall that is, itself,
The best type of wall to use is an outside, load-bearing, wall. A nice
concrete wall in a basement is almost ideal.
Try to avoid using inside, non-load-bearing, walls, which are commonly
constructed inside buildings to divide one room from another. They do
not bear any of the weight of the building that is above them. They
are constructed from lightweight materials; typically 2x4 lumber with
wallboard (or plasterboard) covering. Such a wall can actually act much
like a bass drum and amplify noises and vibrations that occur within
The wall-mounting hardware that Beseler offers uses heavy-duty screws
designed to be screwed into wood. If you are going to mount your enlarger
on a concrete wall, you might want to consider mounting a sheet of 3/4"
or 7/8" plywood to the wall first. Then attach the enlarger to
the sheet of plywood.
I wouldn't bother using plywood that is any thinner than 3/4".
It simply won't be rugged enough to handle the stresses and weight
of the enlarger. Remember, you're doing all of this to increase
stability. Common plywood sheets are 4x8' in size. You might have
to cut it down a bit in order to fit it into the room, but I'd
suggest that you leave it as large as possible and securely attach it
to the existing wall by the best means possible. If you have wooden
studs in the wall, you can attach the plywood to them with 1/4"
lag screws. Lag screws are much stronger than common wood screws and
with their square or hex head you can use a wrench to draw them down
really tight. Drill a large pilot hole through the plywood first so
that all the forces of tightening the lag screw are exerted on pulling
the plywood against the wall, not fighting with the plywood itself.
Be sure to use a large, flat washer under the head of each lag screw.
Drill pilot holes in the wall studs to prevent the lag screws from splitting
If you are attaching the plywood to a concrete wall, use lead anchors
and lag screws. You'll have to get a special masonry drill bit
(carbide tipped) from the hardware store and drill pilot holes in the
concrete for the lead anchors. If you are attaching to a concrete block
wall, be careful to place the lead anchor holes in the mortar between
the concrete blocks. Do not try to place a lead anchor in the side of
a concrete block. It won't hold.
Always drill the holes a little deeper than you think you should, and
always seat the lead anchors as deeply as possible to avoid breakout.
If you aren't familiar with all of this, talk to the folks at
your local hardware store. They will be able to show you just what is
needed. It isn't difficult to make a very solid connection to
a concrete wall. Just take your time and do it right. If you think you
might have a little trouble with drilling holes and lead anchors and
all, get a 15-year-old to help you.
I do not recommend that you try to avoid mounting the plywood sheet
by attaching the hardware directly to the concrete wall. The problem
is that you can't always position the lead anchors exactly where
you want them because the hole that you have to drill in the concrete
(for the lead anchor) sometimes drifts a little off-center while you're
drilling it. Such "off-center" holes would not align up
with the holes in the mounting hardware.
When mounting the plywood sheet to the wall, take advantage of the opportunity
to correct for any vertical misalignment that might exist in the wall.
Most walls are fairly true vertical, but, what the heck. Check it out.
And, if it's a little out of true, put some shims under the plywood
to draw it up to a true vertical position. It will make it a little
easier later when you align the enlarger.
Paint the plywood flat black. It will help to reduce reflected light
(from enlarger leaks) and the resulting fog that can occur. I like a
nice cheery, brightly painted darkroom. I have my darkroom painted mostly
white. But, in the immediate area of the enlarger, always use flat black
paint. There is no such thing as an enlarger that doesn't leak
a little light around the negative carrier. That being the case, accept
it and deal with it.
If you are making a shelf-like easel support, be sure to use heavy,
2x4, lumber for construction. Depending on how the easel support is
sustained, and how big you decide to make it, depends on how thick it
should be. When in doubt, make it a little thicker than you think it
needs to be. You don't want it to warp after a few years. If you
really want to do it up proud, go to your local handyman store and buy
a section of Formica-laminated kitchen counter top. It is available
in different lengths, and endless colors of Formica. There are types
of it that are perfectly flat (without the splash panel that is on the
back of some styles). You can also get an interior door (blank) and
laminate it yourself with your choice of Formica color/pattern. Unfinished
doors come in several different widths and can be cut down to shorter
lengths if you want. I've laminated them with Formica and made
tabletops, work benches, etc. They tend to remain fairly flat and resist
I suppose real butcher block makes the best easel support if you can
find it in a size big enough for your purpose. If you can get butcher
block, instead of laminating it, try coating it with casting acrylic.
The acrylic will set up and form a super smooth, hard, glassy surface
that will preserve the beauty of the wood underneath. Casting acrylic
is a two-part liquid compound that sets up rock-hard when you mix the
two parts together. You will have about 15 minutes to pour it and smooth
it out before it starts to harden. It will take about 10-12 hours for
it to harden to the touch, and about 48 hours for it to fully cure.
But, then, it's beautiful. The natural wood colors and textures
will show through the glassy coating. Do not try to paint the underneath
surface white. The acrylic has a slight amber tint to it that will give
a slight color caste to the white paint. A light wood stain and/or a
single coat of clear varnish is the best undercoat. Do not put the acrylic
on raw wood. Doing so will result in lots of tiny air bubbles that will
seep out of the wood and become trapped in the acrylic as it sets up.
Try to mount the easel support as level as possible. The more true level
you can mount it, the easier it will be for you to later align the enlarger.
Obviously, the sketches only show the parts of each enlarger chassis
that are relevant to the wall-mounting process. The wall-mounting hardware
kits that Beseler sells are not shown in the sketches. The instructions
that come with the kits are perfectly adequate and self-explanatory.
The sketches show a typical setup for wall mounting and using a shelf-like
easel support. The measurements shown indicate the ap-
proximate sizes for your planning purposes. If a particular dimension
isn't shown, it's because it isn't particularly critical
and you can make it anything that you want it to be. Be sure to double
check exact hardware measurements before cutting any lumber. Measure
twice. Cut once.
If you have a low ceiling in your darkroom, you might want to plan on
wall mounting at a height designed for being seated while you work.
Personally, I prefer to be seated when I'm working at my enlarger.
I frequently spend long workdays in the darkroom. By placing the easel
support about 30" from the floor, you will have a nice, comfortable
working height from a seated position. However, depending on your particular
body size, you might want to modify the measurement slightly for your
own, personal preference.
For more information, contact Charles Beseler Co., 1600 Lower Rd., Linden,
NJ 07036; (800) 237-3537, (908) 862-7999; fax: (908) 862-2464; www.beseler-photo.com.
Wall Mounting Tips
· Wall mounting enlargers can improve their stability and help
to make sharper prints.
· Attach a support bracket to the top of the enlarger to reduce
· Attach a thick sheet of plywood to the wall and then mount the
enlarger onto the plywood.
· Wall mounting the enlarger helps to deal with low ceilings in