Decisions you make during the screenmaking stage can have a major impact on the success of the printing process. Learn about the choices you face in frame selection and in securing your mesh to the frame.
By Eric Klein
Mechanical stretching systems can be as simple as canvas pliers or as complex as individual clamps attached to a moving bar. Normally these systems are used for low-volume stretching or where a tight budget is involved. The more elaborate mechanical stretchers are used for wire-mesh tensioning because of their ability to stretch with little deformation of the fabric during the stretching process. Extremely large mechanical units also are offered for large-format screenmaking. Mechanical systems are highly effective in getting the job done, but generally they lack the finesse of a quality pneumatic system.
After the mesh is stretched, it’s time to adhere it to the frame. With wood frames you can use adhesives. Some people even use staples, but I’m too nervous about putting sharp pieces of metal through a fabric at high tension. With metal frames, adhesive is the only option (unless you have some really tough staples). On the adhesive side, you have a few options, including two-part epoxies, two-part urethanes, and cyanoacrylates. All three systems can be called two-part; two feature a base material and a catalyst and the other comes with an adhesive and an activator that is used to make the adhesive cure instantly.
Both urethane and epoxy adhesives consist of a base adhesive that requires a catalyst. The catalyst accelerates the curing and improves the hardness of the adhesive. The mixed adhesive and catalyst has a pot life, which will vary depending on the formulation and manufacturer. In general, pot life ranges from a few hours to a few days. Be careful to not go past the pot life—old adhesive may appear to work properly, but its solvent resistance will be greatly diminished.
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