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What to look for in a used Beseler 23CII-XL

Michael Weiner , Jan 03, 2013; 11:14 p.m.

Looking at getting back in the darkroom after a 30+ year hiatus. Found a Beseler 23CII-XL on Craiglist, and I'm going to have a look at it tomorrow. Unfortunately, I have little idea what I should be looking for. Any suggestions?
Guessing that the question of what I might pay could come up. Based on the description ("excellent condition"), and what I've seen on Ebay, we arrived at $120. Includes lens (50mm Nikkor), lensboard, negative carrier, and three easels. End of the day, I'm not looking for the absolute best deal...looking for a fair deal, and to get a decent enough enlarger in my house so we can get going soon. Thanks.


Michael Axel , Jan 04, 2013; 02:06 a.m.

I think you have a fair deal. I like to flat out ask the owner if there is anything wrong with it, then read their body language. Look for too much rust, that the bellows are in condition with no pinholes or leaks, and that they are not to dried out. It should have the proper condensor for the negative size you're using. Make sure the hean, neg carrier area, and baseboard are parallel. Make sure the light comes on when turned on and plugged in. I think that's about it.

John Stockdale , Jan 04, 2013; 06:06 a.m.

The bellows can become detached from the frames but are not difficult to glue back. Leaks in the folds are more problematic.

Harry Joseph , Jan 04, 2013; 01:11 p.m.

Not much that can go wrong with the 23C. Although I had one with a Dichro Head that was eating up lamps in a couple of hours. The problem was a short in the lamp house so after I got it fixed, well actually after I replaced the head I never had any problems.

You might want to take a good look at the power-supply for any frayed wires and/or dents. These are pretty indistructable, but once they stop working they are pretty hard to find on the used market. I'm pretty sure Beseler still sells them though depending on your model.

Check that the crank that moves the head and bellows up and down is nice and smooth. If the frame is bent then the crank will not work smoothly, you might as well throw the enlarger away if that were to happen.

Check that the baseboard screws are nice and tight and not stripped. A brand new baseboard will run you about $75 + shipping from Beseler.

Can't really think of anything else that wasn't already mentioned... good luck.

Craig Shearman , Jan 08, 2013; 12:01 p.m.

I would turn off the lights and turn on the enlarger. Get used to the dark. Fully extend the bellows and look carefully for any pinholes. Put an empty negative carrier in and focus the image on the baseboard. Make sure the image of the empty holder (a big white rectangle of light) looks square, so you know that the enlarger hasn't been dropped and knocked out of alignment. Look for any rust. Make sure all the knobs turn. Check for frayed electrical cords. But overall, this is a pretty solid piece of gear. Unless it's been dropped off a table (which could throw off the alignment or break some of the glass) it's pretty hard to hurt. Most little things like cords can be replaced easily. Alignment can even be corrected. Price is good -- the Nikkor lens alone sold for over $100 and the enlarger was several hundred new.

Michael Weiner , Jan 08, 2013; 01:39 p.m.

Just wanted to post back that I picked up the enlarger, and it is in fabulous condition...looks virtually brand new. Thanks for the input on this.
Now that we're getting closer to actually using the enlarger, what's the ideal "recipe" book for beginning darkrooom work?

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