Screen printing is great fun. But it can be so expensive! When we saw the price of frames and screens, we were kind of shocked. Our makerspace is young and money is tight. So we looked for a cheaper option, creating our own screens from what we already had. These screens were created from scrap timber by a member with zero woodworking experience, showing just how easy it can be to do it yourself! The resulting screens work just great, screen printing has become a popular activity here now... so if you happen to be in Coventry, you know where to come!
Step 1: Cut Some Wood
We made our screens from scrap timber - 2x4 pine that was a previous tenant had left in a room that we took over. Because it was scrap, it wasn't ideal and we did have to cut it carefully to avoid the odd eye, notch or damaged part.
The size of the screens was dictated partly by the materials we had to work with, but mainly by the size of the materials we wished to print. Once we had decided, we cut our wood to size.
Step 2: Pocket Holes
We used a pocket hole jointer to put the frames together. Pocket hole jointers are great if you want to build things but don't have much experience woodworking, as they are simple and easy to use but producestrong, good-looking joints. We are lucky enough to have access to a Kreg jointer but there are other systems available that are inexpensive.
To make the pocket holes, you set up the jig to the size of timber you are using. You then clamp your wood in place and screw through the jig to creat holes at an angle. Once you have done that, you can screw through the pocket hole into the second piece of timber to secure it. We used a framing clamp for this part because we happened to have one - but you could easily manage without. Just make sure that everything is secured tightly and completely straight.
Once you have done that, carefully sand down all parts of the frame, to ensure that it is completely smooth and flat - this will ensure good results when screen printing later, and make sure that there are no splinters that could damage the mesh (or fingers).
Step 3: Attach the Mesh
The mesh was the one thing we bought from scratch - we had heard of people having success with mesh or with net curtains, but we had none available and were in any case unsure of their durability. We found screen printing mesh very inexpensively on ebay, so opted for the real thing.
First, we cut the mesh to very roughly the correct size, with a generous allowance all round of about six inches. The mesh needs to be absolutely smooth and taut over the screen, so it is really a two-man job! Start by fixing the centre of the two longest sides, then the centre of the two shorter sides, then gradually work your way out from each, smoothing carefully as you go. We fixed our mesh with staples. Once we had fixed the mesh into place, we cut away the excess.
Step 4: Tada!
Once we had done that, our screens were finished and ready to use!
Initially we used vinyl and a Silhouette cutter to create screens. Now, though, we have got some photoemulsion and hope to experiment with it soon. Screen printing is a lot of fun, and we would recommend that anyone have a go - as you can see, it really doesn't have to be expensive!