Building A Silkscreen Frame from Scratch.

January 13, 2009

Get Handy! Make you Own Screen Print Frame for $10.00.

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To make your own screen print frame from scratch you’ll first need wood- hardwood is the best option. You should use wood at least 1 inch thick, and about 1 1/2 inches wide with no major knots and it should be very straight without warps or bows.

Cut the pieces to the size of the frame you want to make. If you want a 22″ x 18″ frame, cut two pieces to 22″ long, and two pieces to 18″ long.

Now you want to make the half-lap joints. Using a table saw or a router table, set the cutting height to half the thickness of the wood. If the wood is 1″ thick, set the cutting height to 1/2″. Now set the fence to cut to the width of the wood. If the wood you are using 1 1/2″ wide, set the fence to 1 1/2″. Now lay one of the boards with the end against the fence. Make repeated cuts in the board until you have completely cut away the wood 1/2″ deep from 1 1/2″ in to to the end of the board. Flip the board around, and do the same thing on the other end of the board on the same side. Do this with all of the boards.

When all of the boards are notched take one of the of the long boards, and one of the short boards. First fit the two boards together at a right angle. The boards should fit together relatively flush. Spread some wood glue in the notch, and fit the two pieces together again. Using a square, make sure the pieces are square. Clamp the pieces together using one or two c-clamps. Put together the rest of the the frame in the same way. Put the frame aside for the glue to cure. Later when the glue has cured, remove the clamps. Clean up the joints with some sandpaper if needed.

Position the mesh over the wooden frame, and with a staple gun, staple the screen to the frame in the middle of one edge. Then go to the opposite edge, pull the screen taut, and staple the screen to the frame in the center of that edge. Now go to one of the sides that hasn’t been stapled yet. Pull the screen half-taut, and staple in the middle there. Go to the opposite side, pull the screen taut and staple.

You should have staples in the center of all four sides of the frame. Go to a side, pull the screen taut, and place staples a half inch on either side of the staple that is there. Go to another side and repeat. Keep pulling the screen taut and stapling until you have staples every half inch around the frame. You can trim the excess screen fabric off. Don’t get too close to the staples though. If you have some staples that are a bit raised from the frame it’s a good idea to hammer then down gently to make them flush with the edge.

(Do you need further instruction on how to stretch you screen mesh? Follow this link to see how you properly apply mesh step by step).

Paint an acrylic sealant around the entire edge of the frame on top of the staples. Be mindful not to get any onto the printing area of your screen- it will act as a resist for the inks and you may have to redo your screen. If you do get some on your printing area you can try to wash it off right away with some soap and water- since it’s a water-based varnish. If that happens let you screen dry completely and then finish the sealing. Once you finish let the frame dry for at least 30 minutes.
Now you want to tape off the underside of the frame- which is often referred to as the substrate side. The tape will help to keep ink from squishing out onto your work as you print and will also act as a way of protecting your work from the staples and raw edges of the fabric which become hard with the sealant.
The wood, the mesh and the staples and a bit of sealant will cost you about $10.00. 
Now you’re done.
Happy Printing!
(or see here to make a screen print frame from an old picture frame).
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{ 1 trackback }

Screen Printing 101- Part 1- Getting Started at Print Cut Sew!
01.21.09 at 3:03 pm

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

abd 01.21.09 at 7:21 am

how to fix the mesh on aluminum fram?
thnk u

admin 01.21.09 at 8:01 am

You should be able to repair a small hole with a piece of tape. See my tutorial on repairing ripped screens.
Otherwise if the damage is so bad it is no longer usable the only way to repair or replace the mesh on an aluminum screen is by bringing it to a screen print supply shop and they should be able to repair it.

Brian-23HS109 01.17.11 at 12:30 am

Hi, How do I attach the mesh to an Aluminum Frame?

admin 01.17.11 at 5:33 am

You can’t do it yourself. You need to bring it to a shop.

Lauren 10.22.11 at 7:25 pm

Hello. Thanks for all the helpful information. My question is: Where can I buy the mesh? It would be great if I could find it at an arts and crafts store such as Michael’s? Or maybe at Lowes? And what type of mesh would be good for printing t-shirts? Thanks again!

admin 10.23.11 at 10:21 am

You have to buy the mesh at a screen print supply store.

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