This post makes up the first part of making a silkscreen frame. Remember that silkscreen and print screen refer to the same printing technique. Silkscreen is the term applied to the time when the silkscreen mesh was actually silk, between the 18th century and the first half of the 20th century. Print screen is the term applied from the time when the mesh ceased to be made of silk and started to be synthetically manufactured with the discovery of nylon, at the end of the 19th century. But both terms are still used, regardless of its mesh origin, perhaps the silkscreen is more used in manual technique and the print screen in mechanized model like the industrial screen printing. But to differentiate the artistic from the non-artistic there is still the term serigraphy, created by the American National Serigraphy Society, in 1940. You can read more about it in the History of Screen Printing post.
The silkscreen frame, usually made of aluminium or wood, is one of the most important silkscreen printing process pieces, as it holds the stretched mesh, where the matrix corresponding to what you want to print is developed.
Nowadays, the frame is not an expensive piece, costing from around $25.00 (plus shipping) for a model in aluminium and 120T mesh, measuring 50×60 cm, for example, but also depending very much on the brands, manufacturers and countries of origin. Apart from the convenience of coming perfect from the factory, aluminium avoids the maintenance required by wood. However, it is possible to build the frame at home and, in this case, wood becomes more viable, with the advantage of being able to make it in customised sizes, different to the standard sizes supplied by the shops, as well as being able to replace the mesh easily when necessary.
However, making the frame by hand only pays off for those who have access to the right tools to produce perfect frames, otherwise the cost of the material will turn out to be more expensive than buying the frame already made, although the investment can be quickly recovered if there is continuity in the silk-screening experience as more frames are produced.
If you buy the profile or the frame already made, it is natural to find reference to hardwoods and Swedish redwood, for example, for a high quality product, but in this context of home production it is feasible to choose untreated pine wood, well dried, in small strips to the desired size, 2 to 3 centimetres thick. Either for fixing the joints or for the posterior fixation of the mesh, the most practical tool is the stapler used by upholsterers, but hammer and nails or even waterproof contact glue may be applied.
One of the most economical and simple processes for constructing the silkscreen frame is to use a half square box for cutting the slats and 90º clamps for squaring and gluing. The application of the staples or nails should be done at the end, already after the gluing and period of the frame in clamps tension.
To begin with, choose a small frame size, 30×40 or 30×30 or even smaller (in centimetres).
Other superior clamp options
Any frame joint option is effective as long as it is well elaborated, that is, the final result must present squareness precision without warping, and solidity in the joint, since such aspects substantially interfere in the printing quality, affecting the homogeneity of the stain, definition and register.
In the case of using nails or screws instead of staples, opt for galvanised material, but the protective effect of galvanisation is ineffective on cedar and treated wood, which is why rough pine is the appropriate choice for making the frame.
Most Common Silkscreen Frame Joints
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