Introduction: Leveling Table for Dry Plate Photography

I am getting ready to make my own dry plate negatives. One of the required materials is a small table that can be perfectly leveled and is made of a material that will cool the recently poured plate.

Throughout this instructable, I will offer suggestions on how to improve my design.

Step 1: What You Need

Needed
11x14 piece of plywood
3 hex type 1/2" bolts
3 nuts that fit said screws
command adhesive strips ( Could Substitute with double sided foam tape)
11x14 sheet of double thickness glass (Could Substitute with marble slab, or single thickness glass)
Electric drill with bit that is slightly smaller than the nuts you intend to use
Hammer
Pen
Ruler

Optional (but recommended)
2 Part epoxy (15 minute kind)
1 metal nail
tape
Electric sander
Paint
Small 'bumpers' (the things that keep chairs from scratching the floor)

Step 2: Measure Twice, Cut Once

 I've decided to make my table 11x14, so i can accommodate multiple 4x5 sized glass plates (two 5x7 plates, or 8x10) 

I was using scrap wood so I had it cut down. I would recommend plywood as your wood material. Its cheep and won't fall apart like particle board.

Be safe with power tools!

If you don't have the ability to cut wood, Home Depot will cut down boards to size. I recommend using standard photograph frame sizes such as 5x7, 8x10. This will make choosing glass easier.

Step 3: Setting the Leveling Legs

These 'legs' are cheep to get and should allow almost half an inch of travel between one edge to its opposite. We want three legs that will act like a tripod and will level easily. There is a photo of my leg placement.

Measure the diagonal width of the nut and use a drill bit that is slightly smaller. Drill a test hole on something you don't care about, and if getting the nut to fit in will require a hammer, then you've got the right bit. 

Take your time drilling and use your ruler to check the depth of the hole. We want the nut to be flush with the surface. Only drill as deep as you need to.

Place the nut over the hole, and gently tap it into pace with a hammer.

If you don't have a bit that will be a good match for your nut, then in step four I'll show you how to use epoxy to compensate

Step 4: Leveling Legs Cont..

 I was scavenging for parts from my garage, and i was unable to find a drill bit to match my third bolt/nut combinations. 

I drilled a larger hole than the nut. I then carefully covered the back of the nut with tape. This is to prevent epoxy from getting into the threads.

I squired some epoxy into the hole then mixed it with the nail. Once well mixed I partially threaded the bolt into the nut and set it into the epoxy filled hole. 

Causing the epoxy to over flow is ok, but don't let it get onto the bolt or inside the nut. 

Step 5: Sanding/Painting

 I used 60 grit sand paper in an electric sander to smooth out the surfaces of my board.
This would have been a good idea to do before glueing the bolts. 

I painted the board white to improve visibility in the darkroom. 
Another great idea to do before setting the nuts in.

To keep the nuts from being clogged with paint, I cut small pieces of tape and placed them over the nuts. I gave mine 3 coats, and its not perfect. But I build this for my own use in the dark. I don't think i'll demand a refund ;)

Step 6: Getting the Glass

 Earlier I recommended that the tables be build using traditional photograph frame sizes. This is so you don't have to have access to glass cutting materials. Good sources for picture frames that you can remove the glass from are flea markets and dollar stores. 


I have the tools to cut glass so I will be recycling a broken entertainment center glass door.

With my ruler and sharpie I draw out the size of the glass plate I need. Then carefully score the glass and use special pliers to break the glass upon the score line.

I used 220 grit sand paper in a sanding block to remove the sharp edges from the break. A knife sharpening stone will do the same thing. Be careful to avoid breathing in any of the glass!

Step 7: Mount the Glass

 I used command adhesive strips to attach the glass to the board, but foam tape would serve just as well. I wanted an adhesive that would be simple and forgiving of slight warping in the board.

One strip in each corner, and then with careful placement lower the glass.
Keep in mind: You can clean the bottom of the glass before its mounted but not after.



Step 8: Mount the Leg Booties

 My father sugested that I put some sort of surface protector on the feet (hex bolt heads) of the leveling table. This is a good plan for two reasons:
1. Protects your surface
2. Keeps the table from sliding around. Now it kind of 'sticks' to the table.

I recommend using hex bolts because their flat surface makes adhering the bumpers very easy.

Step 9: Done!

Place a bubble lever in the center of the table. Adjust the screws until both bubbles are in the center. 

Now pour some plates!

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