Saturday, April 9, 2011

Screenprinting Start-up :
An Effective Way to Remove Clogs
form Screens

I was supposed to do the next batch of printing this afternoon. But seeing that my stencil is all stained and clogged up, I decided to clean it with lacquer thinner (I don't have a screen opener yet) and risk damaging it. My deadline's on April 15 anyway so that gives me enough time to make a new stencil.

I once damaged a perfectly good stencil because of thinner (I tried to declog it with an old toothbrush), but that stencil was not applied with hardener. I thought maybe this new stencil with hardener could withstand the bond-breaking powers of lacquer thinner.

First I tried using cotton buds dipped on thinner and carefully rubbed it on clogged corners. It did loosen up the dried ink. But the thing about lacquer thinner is that it evaporates quickly. So if you didn't pick up the loosened ink fast enough it will just harden again in another area, and cotton buds are too small for this job.

Then I tried using cloth - rubbed both sides of the stencil at the same time with thinner. This only loosened and spread the ink, creating a very thin coat of dried ink on the stencil openings. The same thing happened when I used paper towels.

Lastly, before giving up, I used pieces of cotton. Again rubbed both sides at the same time. Well it worked! No more clogs and stains, and most importantly, no wiped-off emulsion. I should have thought of it before. Cotton is highly absorbent - it holds the thinner longer and absorbs the loosened ink, and it is not abrasive, thus does not damage emulsions treated with hardener. Hooray for cotton!

But this discovery took most of my printing time. So I spent the rest of the day doing other chores.

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