Enlarging easels

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by steve_gallimore|1, Nov 5, 2020.

  1. I'm looking for a new (to me) enlarging easel, but I'm finding them to be unreasonably expensive for what they are.

    Never had any problems with the easels in the university darkroom, they just worked.

    Currently I have a small easel "made in france", other than being too small, it's just badly designed. The blades slide under the frame, so there is a gap of several mm between the frame and the paper, leading to a soft edge on two sides of the print.

    I also have a Jobo borderless easel, where the paper is supposed to be held flat by double sided tape, which has rather lost it's stick on my example. Anyone know of a replacement?

    So, I'm mostly looking for a replacement for the small easel. I'd like a variable format, two blade is fine provided it doesn't have the problem described above. I don't intend to print larger than 8x10 currently and my darkroom is tiny, so an 8x10 easel would suite me fine. Any suggestions of what to look for on the usual auction sites?

    Might also have a look at building my own, if I can't find anything. I normally have full run of a well equipped woodworking factory, but the current situation means 'personal work' is out of the question. Still, any suggestions for a self built easel would be welcome.

    I also suspect half my issue with a certain auction site is their insistence on using an appalling automatic translation system when searching, I can't find what I'm looking for, even when I know what it's called, unless I also know what they translate it as...
  2. I have several easels, and find that three bladed ones work fine, although better with angled enlarger columns.
    The french Ahel made it in two sizes, I think. I wonder if it is the one you dislike, as it makes a soft side for that reason. I have seen the same easel under different brands. I have the small one that fit your size (I think it is one size bigger than 8x10"). It has a practical centering system that works. It is (IMHO) by far my most practical one, superior to my huge, four bladed Saunders.
    But I'm afraid that for straight column big enlargers, four bladed is preferred. The best european ones are quite expensive and scarce.
    Two bladed easels doesn't work for me; as a cheap solution they are fine, nothing else. I have several ones, made by LPL or maybe knockoffs.
    Never used borderless ones.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2020
  3. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Haven't printed for a good few years, but when I last did, I used architects tape to mark the area for the paper, and just placed it accordingly. I was using RC papers and they lay flat on their own.
  4. AJG


    I've always been partial to Saunders 4 blade easels--it's easy to set borders with them and they are heavy enough not to move around unintentionally in the dark. They are all that I've used since I bought my first one nearly 40 years ago. I've tried a couple of borderless easels and never found them to work that well. The only cheap easels that I've seen that work reasonably well are Ganz Speed Easels--they are single size with fixed borders. As long as you're OK with standard borders they function well.
  5. R.R.Beard made the best masking frames - not called 'easels' by us Brits - but they were always very expensive.
    Next down the list IMO are the ones made by LPL that were much more reasonably priced. The main difference being that the Beard frames have a strut that holds the mask in the open position. A nicety that's not strictly necessary.

    The 'problem' with two bladed frames is mainly operator error. Not ensuring that the paper is properly seated against the top and left guides, which leads to skewed borders.
  6. IMO, Saunders was always the best choice for a 4-blade. I also have a borderless that uses two slightly angled blades that works well. I think it's a Saunders too.
  7. If you're ever in Chicago give me a call! We can go to my storage room and rummage! I have a barely used 16"x20" 4 bladed easel.:rolleyes:
  8. That's a very kind offer, but I'm in France!

    Thanks all for the suggestions, I'm keeping a look out on the auction site.

    I have 'rr barbe' saved as a search...

    As to what to call them, I think the french 'margeur' is nicely descriptive as to what it actually does, though a 'margeur sans marges' starts to sound a bit odd.
  9. That sounds quite elegant in French.

    The literal translation of 'marginiser' or 'borderiser' just sounds faintly ridiculous in English. I'll stick with the slightly longer 'masking frame'.

    The word 'easel' has too many alternative meanings and brings to mind a three-legged wooden contraption.

    BTW. That maker's name is R. R. Beard, not Barbe.
  10. Try telling that to a certain auction website's automatic, can't be disabled, never makes a mistake, we don't want to listen to complaints, you can only search in your native language, we know best... translation system.
  11. Ah! I see, it's translating the word beard.

    Can you not enclose the word in quotes?

    Not much help since it's no longer in stock, but here's a picture of one.
  12. A problem that I've run into on some 2-blade easels, is that the blades are not always perpendicular to the frame.
    Because the blade is held on only one side, if the manufacturing is sloppy or the user had damaged it, the blades will tilt.
  13. That's down to quality of manufacture, and maybe lack of maintenance if screws work loose or springs become worn.

    It can also happen with blades that have runners at both ends. The blades and runners have to be extremely stiff and well-made not to allow any skew from square. The runners also need to be maintained to prevent sticking and ensure smooth movement.
  14. I have a COASTAR (Made in Taiwan) 4 in 1 easel similar to this one: EXC+++ PREMIER 4-IN-1 DARKROOM PRINTING EASEL 8"x10", (WALLET, 3R, 5R, 8R) | eBay . Its made of all metal and seems quite sturdy. I don't always use this, but it's great for 5X7 and 4x6 . To get an 8x10, you just flip it over and on the other side there is room for 8X10 paper. Of course it's not a $400 Saunders 4 blade easel (which I also own) , I don't think you can get precise borders like you can with the Saunders, but for the price it's not bad.
  15. I've bought a Durst COMASK, which is pretty much the same idea, just waiting for it to arrive.

    No luck on an adjustable easel yet, but, fool that I am, I completely forgot about the other half of the factory I work in, probably because I haven't set foot in there since March. With such lovely toys as a CNC punch/laser, CNC press brakes, laser and TIG welding, etc, I'm sure it'll be possible to create something once the crisis has passed.
  16. Totally agree.
    Unfortunately, it was worse in the school environment that I was in. Kids take very poor care of gear that is not their own.
  17. Besides the usual easels, I now have a 5x7 and 8x10 Speed-ez-el.

    When I was younger, I always thought they were too expensive, but then I got
    these (not at the same time) used. There is now a lot of used darkroom equipment
    available from people giving up on darkroom work.

    If you want the usual size prints, they work pretty well.
    Gary Naka likes this.

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