Make a Wooden Photographic Plate Rack




I am making my glass plate negatives from scratch and one of the required pieces of equipment is a plate rack. There are a bunch of ways to make one and lots of historical versions. I chose my design based off materials on hand. 

This rack will hold 9 quarter plates (3.25x4.25), 9- 4x5" plates, 6- 5x7 plates, 3- 8x10 plates

What your going to need:

1x4x11" lumber
.5x70" quarter circle molding
12 small finishing nails
small clamp

Step 1: Planning!

I took two pieces of the molding and tried various distances between them. I decided a quarter of an inch was a good distance. The closer the two pieces of molding are, the more vertical the plate will be. In this case, my plates lean at about 60* from horizontal.

Step 2: Cutting the Pieces

Please be careful when ever using anything sharp, especially if it plugs in and spins at high speed!

I cut the 1/2" molding into six 11 inch length and lines them up. I lined them up with the quarter inch gap and measured how wide of a board they would need to be mounted on. I measured four inches.

Cut the 1x4 down to 11" to match the molding's length and double check the fit of the molding. 

Step 3: Assemble the Rack

I secured each piece of molding with 2 one inch finishing nails. These are very small nails that will not cause the molding to spit. To help me with the first piece I used a small C clamp to hold the molding while I nailed each end. This is only necessary for the first piece of molding.

For each subsequent piece of molding I either uses a 1/4" spacer or the previous piece of molding as a support. My spacer was a piece of aluminum bar, but a pencil would work just as well. With the spacer in place, aligning and nailing the next bit of molding is as easy as squeezing.

Repeat using the spacer or the previous bit of molding until you have nailed down all the molding.

Step 4: Finished!

I am happy with a unpainted plate rack, but you may want to paint and seal it for easier cleaning. Look at how happy those glass plates are. The rack is ready for the darkroom.



    • Fat Challenge

      Fat Challenge
    • Jewelry Challenge

      Jewelry Challenge
    • Pie Contest

      Pie Contest

    6 Discussions


    8 years ago on Introduction

    Looks nice.

    I gotta say, though--the "historical version" link you posed has some real advantages...

    It stores the plates at an angle, so the water runs down to the corner where it drops off more effectively.

    When I was in college and using a lot of sheet film (4x5, 8x10 and larger litho films), we always hung the sheets at a corner so they'd drain to the opposite corner. Water collects on an edge parallel to the ground, so it always takes much longer to dry than the rest of the sheet. And you'd often get drying marks because the emulsion at the edge was wet for that longer period.

    Since the bottom of your rack is in contact with the edge, maybe it'll draw the excess bead off anyway. Tell us how it goes...

    3 replies

    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I do think i'll give making the historical version a try as well, but as a drying rack.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    When I develop sheet film, i hang them by the corner as well. the rack is used twice during the process. Once when i clean the glass, and to hold the plates while they set overnight. When I'm cleaning plates, i lay a single sheet of paper towel across the rack, then push it into the grove with each clean plate. The paper towel wicks the excess moisture off well. When I'm letting the film cure (dry/whatever) it has been poured onto the glass and put on a cool sheet of thick glass, once the emulsion has set some, its transfered to a 2nd piece of glass which acts as a holding area until i've coated all the plates. Once i've coated them all, they get stood up on the rack in a ventilated but light tight box overnight. If the emulsion is comming off onto the rack then something horribly, horribly wrong is happening ;)


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Hmmm. And are you using a wet or a dry plate process? That could also make a big difference...


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I could see that happening with some 8x10s perhaps, so i just tried it. But with quarter plates and 5x7's they don't weigh nearly enough to cause it to tip. I just put an 8x10 sheet of glass on the back row with out any in the front two and it didn't tip. The quarter inch gap makes picking up the plates real easy, but I load them back to font, and empty them front to back just to prevent scratches.