Introduction: Manually Replacing a Silk Screen for Printing.
I was just sitting down to make a new screen to print some shirts for christmas. Then it donned on me, I first started replacing screens as an experiment but through trial and error I've figured out my method and have had great results so far. So I thought I'd pass it along. If you enjoy printing but lack the money for new screens, or lack the equipment to mechanically stretch screens- frett not! Making your own screens is easy and cheap.
Art supply stores will sometimes carry screen fabric, you can also buy online.
For this method you will need a frame with a groove and cord.
Silk screen fabric (I'm using 12xx polyester)
Cord and channel frame (I'm using speedball)
Thick screwdriver or some kind of pusher for the cord (I'm using an old chisel which I sanded down to blunt the edge. You can use anything that is blunt and hammer-able that will fit into the groove)
Lighter/soldering iron/ hot knife (optional)
Step 1: Removing the Old Screen.
Locate the ends of the cord (usually at a corner).
Firmly pull on the screen to pop the cord out a bit. You may need to grab pliers or a screwdriver if it is very deep.
When you have the end of the cord, pull the whole sucker out and set it aside.
Now you can pull the old screen off. It may stick if you were messy with emulsion or ink.
I have found that my emulsion screens keep pretty well. If I want to hold on to them I hang them up in the closet with pants hangers, where they can chill without crinkling until I reinstall them into a frame. It's a little difficult but very doable- and instructables for another day.
Set aside (keep or toss) old screen.
Step 2: Cut New Screen
Lay your textile over the frame.
I have found that the perimeter of the frame is all you need when all is said and done, some of the extra will go into the groove, but it will mostly be the interior of the screen expanding when stretched. You can leave yourself extra if you are worried.
Step 3: Stretch It!
Lay your fabric over the frame, making sure to square up the fibers top-down and right-left. It doesnt have to be perfect, but will make an easier exposure and better print. Place your cord over the groove, matching the corners.
Start with the middle of one side, tap the cord down into the groove. Dont try to drive it all the way home, because the goal is to lower the cord evenly all the way around.
Go to the middle of the opposite side and repeat. Now do this on the adjacent side, then the side opposite that.
You should now have a loose screen with a slightly taught cross in it.
Repeat this same method on either side of the taps your have already made, being sure to do the opposite sides as you go.
This ensures that you are not doing too much of one area at a time, and you are pulling the screen evenly down.
Do this, around and around, until all of the cord is pressed into the channel. The last portion you should be sinking is the very corners. You will know when you are done because it will be even everywhere. You should be able to run your finger around the outer edge of the pulled screen (just inside the frame) without feeling any differences in tension. If you do feel some, just tap the cord beyond the slack to tighten it in.
Take it slow and easy.
The cord should be sunk -at least- below the surface of the channel all the way around. If any is bumped up your screen will not lay flat and you are liable to pull the screen out if you try to print with it.
A properly taught screen will make an audible noise as you run your finger tip along it. It sounds something like a finger sliding down an electric guitar string.
Step 4: Finishing.
Now that the screen is properly pulled, it is a good idea to manage the fringe on the other side of the cord.
Trim any excess off to get it out of the way.
While not imperative, keeping stray fibers from coming loose will potentially save you some frustration. You don't want a tiny string sneaking into your emulsion, hiding under a print, or smearing ink around the underside on the screen.
I have used tape in the past to hold the fringe out of the way, but It felt messy and made it hard to rinse out without inky water settling underneath.
I would reccomend using a soldering iron to singe the edges of the fabric. I have busted mine so I use a lighter (*with great caution*).
Whatever you choose, pat yourself on the back because your screen is ready to go!