Not too long ago Chrissy and I purchased a hand silk screen stretcher online. I think we were both in agreement that shipping ripped screens to Toronto to have another company re-stretch and ship them back to us was becoming a hassle and too expensive. We purchased our stretcher from a company call ASC365. I’ve recently gone through the process of re-stretching 20 silkscreen frames and wanted to take a moment to share my experience. Even before we begin I’d like to mention that this tool is fantastic and I recommend it.
How to re-stretch mesh onto an aluminum frame:
1. First, take the broken screen and cut a ‘plus’ sign into the mesh. I found that this gave me a good starting point to ripping the mesh off. When I tried using a X cut from corner to corner, it left a lot of remaining screen debris towards the corners. Rip the mesh along one edge towards the corner, then rip the other edge towards the same corner, now rip the corner section off. Repeat this for all the edges.
2. You may see that there are bits of mesh still remaining glued down near the corner, try to remove what you can by picking at it and hopefully you can pull it off. I found that using a utility knife helped in removing the last bits. Don’t worry too much if there is some remaining, when we grind the frame it’ll come off.
3. If you can, go outside and set-up a work table. You will be grinding aluminum and thus creating dust, so doing this process inside the studio was a big ‘no go’. You will need several tools. A metal grinder with a grinding disk, palm sander with 80-120 grid sand paper, particle respirator (not a dust mask, a real respirator, protect your lungs), gloves, clamps, and safety goggles.
4. I clamped the screen down to the table, and begun lightly grinding the frame. The idea is to remove all the glue off the frame and at the same time give the frame tooth to accept a new layer of glue. When you’re grinding the frame you’ll want to be careful not to spend too much time in one spot otherwise you may grind a pit into the frame, and that’s not good.
5. Afterward I used the palm sander to quickly run around the whole frame, this cleaned up some (not all) ink stains, hardened emulsions, or weird glue deposits from tape. When finished rub the frame clean with a rag.
6. Set-up a large station inside, I had to push to a couple desks together. I recommend that you avoid using the floor as a work surface, the mesh is oddly charged with static electricity and will pick up all the dirt off the floor. The stretcher we bought came disassembled in 8 pieces and was really easy to build following the manufacturers instruction.
7. Once the system is set-up and the frame in place, coat the frame with a layer of glue. We purchased the glue from the same company that sold us the stretcher, it is clearly an extremely strong contact cement. I recommend that you open a window and wear a vapor rated respirator mask.
8. It takes 8-10 minutes for the glue to become ‘dry to the touch’. At this point lock into the stretcher your desired new mesh. Crank all the clamps down onto the mesh and begin stretching each side a little bit at a time. You can buy a tension meter which will tell you exactly what tension of the screen is or I compared the tension to another commercially stretched screen we had in the studio.
9. When you’re happy with the tension cut a piece of cardboard slightly smaller than the interior of the frame and place it on the screen. Now apply a second layer of glue to the frame. The cardboard prevents any stringy bits of glue from falling onto the middle of the screen. Like I mentioned earlier the screen has a lot of static electricity and so it tends to attract the stingy glue. Once done let the frame sit for 25 minutes.
10. When you loosen all the clamps and remove your newly stretched frame cut off the excess screen mesh. Finally, use metal foil tape (purchased from a hardware store in the duct working aisle ) to cover the glued side of the screen. That’s it, finished.
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