Homemade Screen Printing Machines

Written by wendy strain
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Homemade Screen Printing Machines
Print multiple fabrics consistently by making your own screen printing machine. (fabrics with print image by GeoM from Fotolia.com)

You can do screen printing in your home using several different techniques, but when you decide to go for volume printing or want to attempt more detailed designs, you'll benefit from getting your own screen printing machine. You can find some affordable products on the market (see the Yudu, for example), but if you want more flexibility or prefer to use materials you already have around the house, building a homemade screen printing machine may be the best option.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Jigsaw or other saw
  • Drill
  • 3 boards, 2-by-4, cut to 7-inch lengths
  • 3 boards, 2-by-4, cut to 22-inch lengths
  • (all 2x4 boards can be obtained from a standard 8-foot 2-by-4 board)
  • 1 piece of plywood, 17-inch by 15-inch by 3/4-inch (shirtboard)
  • 1 piece of plywood, 24-inch by 20-inch by 3/4-inch (workboard)
  • 1 piece of plywood, 24-inch by 7-inch by 3/4-inch (clamp board)
  • 2 pieces of plywood 24-inch by 2-1/2″ by 3/4-inch(clamps)
  • 6 pieces of plywood, 6-inch by 2-inch x 3/4-inch (stabilisers)
  • (all plywood pieces can be cut from less than half a standard piece of plywood)
  • 2 carriage bolts, 3/8-inch by 3 1/2-inch
  • 4 washers, 3/8-inch
  • 2 hex nuts, 3/8-inch with shallow depth (less than the depth of your screens)
  • 2 wing nuts, 3/8-inch
  • 2 strip hinges
  • Wood screws
  • 2 eye screws large enough to accommodate small bungie cord
  • 1 mini bungee cord
  • 5/8-inch drill bit
  • 3 sections of 1/-inch dowel rod, 7 inches long

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Cut the shirt board on one of the short ends so that the board comes to a gentle point in the centre of the short width as shown at the Screen Printing T-shirts website. Cut one end on each of the longer 2-by-4s at a 45-degree angle. Make this cut along the 4-inch face. Sand the edges smooth.

  2. 2

    Mount the shirt board to one of the long 2-by-4s. Center the 2-by-4 on the shirt board so that the longer, 4-inch face is flush to the shirt board and the mitre cut made earlier softens the added depth. Allow the point of the shirt board to extend beyond the end of the 2-by-4 by about 2 inches. Secure in place with wood screws.

  3. 3

    Mount the work board to the remaining long 2-by-4s. Place one board on each 20-inch side of the workboard. Position these similarly to that used with the shirtboard. Only allow about 1 inch of the workboard to overlap the mitred ends of the beams (2-1/2 to 3 inches of beam should extend past the back edge of the workboard for at least the width of your clamp boards). Secure in place with wood screws.

  4. 4

    Sand the 6-inch plywood pieces smooth and slightly round the edges on the outside face. Leaving a 3-inch overlap, attach one of these pieces to the end of one of the short 2-by-4s (3 inches will be attached to the end of the 2-by-4; the remaining 3 inches will extend out from the end of the 2-by-4). Attach a matching plywood piece to the other side of the 2-by-4 to create a wooden tab for the working boards of the press. Repeat this process with the other short 2-by-4s.

  5. 5

    Attach the shorter 2-by-4s to the bottom of the clamp base. You should place one 2-by-4 on each outside edge and one centred in the middle of the clamp base. Ends should be flush with the long edge of the clamp base piece with the wooden tabs created earlier, all facing the same direction. Secure in place with wood screws.

  6. 6

    Position the shirt board on the clamp base by sliding the 2-by-4 beam into the wooden tabs at the centre of the clamp base. Square the beam to the clamp base then drill a 5/8-inch hole through wooden tab, shirt-board beam and second wooden tab. Insert a dowel rod through this hole to ensure your shirt board remains securely in place while screen printing. Remove the shirt board from the machine for the next step.

  7. 7

    Position the work board on the clamp base using the same techniques used for the shirt board. This time, the beams will fit into the end tabs and the workboard will sit closer to the clamp board's top edge. Again, drill a 5/8-inch hole through the tabs and work-board beam for greater stability while working.

  8. 8

    Drill a 3/8-inch hole through the clamp boards about 1 inch from each end. Place one of the boards on top of the wood tabs in front of the clamp base. Lay a strip hinge to one side of the centre tabs along the seam between the clamp board and the clamp base. Make sure the clamp board's top edge remains flush with the top edge of the clamp base. Repeat with the other strip hinge. Make sure the clamp board can move up and away from the wooden tabs.

  9. 9

    Push the carriage bolts through the attached clamp board and secure in place using the hex bolts. Slide the second clamp board onto the carriage bolts, slide the washers onto the bolts and screw on the wing nuts to keep in place. If you wish, you can place some rubber stripping on the inside edges of these clamp pieces to offer a tighter clamp on your screen.

  10. 10

    Screw an eye screw into the front centre of the upper clamp piece and another into the center back of the clamp base. Adjust your mini bungee cord so that when it is hooked into the eye screws, it holds the clamp assembly (and a clamped screen) up and away from your work surface but still has enough play in it to enable you to easily push the screen down while printing. You can adjust the bungee cord several ways. For one of the easiest methods, tie a knot in front of one of the hooks to decrease the working length.

Tips and warnings

  • To use your adjustable screen printing machine, decide which work surface you want to use and attach to the clamp assembly with dowel rods. (For larger, 3D objects, you can turn the work board upside down to accommodate.) Slide your frame between the clamp boards and tighten the wing nuts. You've built the machine correctly if you can lower the screen to sit flat on your work surface.
  • For greater stability, consider bolting your machine into an old table or wood bench. Place these bolts toward the back corners of the clamp base to retain full functionality.
  • Be careful when drilling the 5/8-inch holes as the wood pegs are easy to break. For best results, temporarily attach a scrap piece of wood to the outside tab before drilling and drill into it as a means of stabilising the peg.

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