Old English wooden enlarger for 6×8 inch glass plates

Just came across this old photo of mine. Looking more like a guillotine this was my first large format enlarger. It is an old English wooden enlarger for glass plates purchased 25 years ago just outside Launceston, Tasmania.

Just came across this old photo of mine. Looking more like a guillotine this was my first large format enlarger. It is an old English wooden enlarger for glass plates purchased 25 years ago just outside Launceston, Tasmania.

When I first arrived in Tasmania I was pretty keen to try and set up a darkroom in my rental home. I had even made some local friends who had built substantial home darkrooms in rented homes.

I had a spare bedroom, but I didn’t have an enlarger. When I was home in Perth I had priced a new Beseler 4×5 enlarger. They were very pricey.

Looking at the second columns in the local Tassie papers I found an advert for this enlarger. It was within a 100km radius of where I was living on the north coast. It seemed like too good an opportunity not to look it up.

To my surprise, the enlarger was made of wood. This was unlike anything I had seen before. Made for glass plates up to about 6×8 inches, with two heavy window weights to counterbalance raising the head, brass gearing, fittings, and lens. The light source (missing in pic) was a metal box with 5 globes and diffusing glass. Must have got damn hot. When I got the beast home, I replaced the globes with a Zone VI cold light head and stabiliser with a 180mm Schneider Componon-S lens.

I made exactly two 16×20 prints from 4×5 negatives before realising I had a major problems with the edge to edge print sharpness from lens board misalignment which I could not repair. Wood borers had created a bow in the enlarger’s columns.

Also, the glass plate holder was not adaptable to today’s acetate based films. I tried improvising with other types of carriers, but eventually I realised I was pushing **** uphill.

After 12 months or so of hiking around Tasmania’s central highlands, I came home to Perth. In the back of my old station wagon was with this old monster. I eventually boxed it up and gave it to a friend to live out its remaining days in his camera museum. You may come across my old English wooden enlarger one day.

By the way, 12 months after I returned to Perth I found a second hand Beseler 4×5 MX enlarger advertised in the Sunday Times Readers’ Mart. It had become a surplus requirement for a commercial photographer. It is now my main enlarger and I have had it for nearly 30 years. Still waiting for its first USB upgrade!

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alexbond
Since 1989, Alex Bond has published cards, calendars, books, and posters under his imprint Stormlight Publishing. His images showcase the West Australian environment. Bond's handcrafted, silver-gelatin, fibre-based prints are personally made by the author in his darkroom.

One comment

  1. Have had a similar scale wooden enlarger given to me by the grandson of Curtis Moffat. He used it in the 20s/30s. Would love to know more about its use. The V&A were offered it at the time of their exhibition of his work – they had to say no because of its size.

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