Whether you’ve just coated screens with emulsion, cleaned them up, or reclaimed them for a new job, having a safe, storing those screens in a dry environment is important to the process. Finding the perfect space for those screens may be complicated. Why not build your own? Darkroom guru Colin Huggins shows you how to create a dry box to keep those screens safe and get them to dry faster.
WHY IS A DRY BOX IMPORTANT?
A dry box keeps screens separated from the rest of your darkroom. The space should be dark, and warm with plenty of air flow to dry the screens. Getting your screen dry is super important. Wet emulsion is gummy emulsion, and won’t rinse out well.
How do you keep those screens in optimal drying conditions? You can purchase a drying cabinet, which keeps your screens in that perfect dry, warm atmosphere. Think of it like a safe for your screens: it keeps dust and dirt from getting on the screens, and dries your screens a whole lot faster.
But if you don’t want to spend the money to purchase a cabinet, don’t worry. You can build one yourself. All you need is a bit of creativity, some carpentry tools, and enough space to build one.
WHERE SHOULD I CREATE A DRY BOX/SPACE?
A dry box doesn’t have to be a box. If you’re in a home shop, a closet is a great idea. It’s already separate from the rest of the shop. A closet is usually dark already, and since it’s meant for storing things, it’s perfect!
To create an optimal space for drying your screens, you can simply mount slats to the walls or place a drying rack in the closet. Then, you’ll need fans, a dehumidifier, and a hygrometer. Block out any light that may enter the closet and watch your closet dry space get to work.
You can also create a dry box in virtually any shop. Let’s go over the steps to building your own.
CREATING YOUR OWN DRY BOX
To create the perfect environment, you’ll need a dehumidifier, fans that blow directly across the screens, and warmth. In a self-contained box or small space, the heat coming from the dehumidifier is all you’ll need. Use a hygrometer to check temp and humidity levels in the dry box. Your humidity should always be under 40% in the box.
Use whatever materials you like to create the box itself. Colin uses 2x4s and plywood to create a box 5’ wide, 6’3” tall, and 3’ deep (see dimensional drawing for exact measurements). The box is split into three compartments, each with a different function.
COMPARTMENT 1: THE SCREENS
The door on the right side of the dry box opens to reveal the first compartment. It’s where the screens are stored. Colin’s dry box contains a rolling screen rack, but mounting the slats horizontally onto the box itself works fine as well.
If you’re mounting the slats to the box, first you’ll need to install the fans. To the right of the screen rack, mounted to the right wall of the dry box, are two 20” box fans that blow air directly across the screens. These provide plenty of air flow to dry the screens.
Embed box fans into the walls of your dry box so they blow directly across the screens.
COMPARTMENT 2: THE DEHUMIDIFIER
On the left side of the dry box sits the dehumidifier. Colin’s dehumidifier is a 5-quart unit, and is set to the “continuous” setting so it’s constantly taking moisture out of the air. The heat coming out of the humidifier provides enough warmth to keep the entire dry box above 75℉. A hygrometer sits on top of the dehumidifier, keeping track of the humidity and temperature.
Above the dehumidifier, about two thirds of the way up the box, another box fan has been mounted to blow up into the top of the box. This fan collects the air from the two fans on the right side and cycles it into the third compartment.
Having a dehumidifier in your dry box will keep the box in optimal drying conditions.
COMPARTMENT 3: THE AIR FLOW CHAMBER
The final compartment, stretching across the entire top of the dry box, is empty. The function of this compartment is to create an air cycle from the three fans. As air blows through this chamber from the upward facing fan in the second compartment, it’s cycled back down to the two fans in the first compartment, beginning the cycle all over again.
It’s important to have constant air flow throughout the dry box so the screens have the best possible chance of drying. By creating this compartment, no air is ever stagnant in the dry box.
A dimensional drawing of the DIY Dry Box. Follow this to build your own.
There are plenty of different ways to create a dry, dust-free environment for your screens. With a little elbow grease, you’ll be able to build the perfect environment for drying yoru screens.