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Frame Materials: A Closer Look At Wood & Metal
There are several different factors that should be looked at before deciding which type of frame material to use for your screens. Many people simply go straight for the cheapest solution which is almost always wood in the short term. But there are pros and cons for each material and it is important to understand them. Learning about cons during the actual usage of the screen can be frustrating, annoying, time consuming and even costly.It is also important to remember that with each different type of frame, there may be different ways of stretching the mesh onto it. The need for different tools may also be required for certain stretching methods. Please read the article about Screens: Understanding Frame Choices And Stretching Options for more information about that. And don't forget that the frame size may dictate the material.
The most common material used for frames when starting out is wood. There are a few key benefits to using wood when you are on a low budget or working at home. With some basic carpentry skills and tools you can fashion your own custom size screens with wood. Using wood is inexpensive and allows for a lot of flexibility when screen printing at home. Wood frames are also somewhat easier to stretch by hand.
However, wood frames have the most problems associated with them. One of the most obvious is durability and rigidity. They can cause problems with registration due to multiple reasons. First wood frames loose tension much faster than metal. The wood frame is generally not sturdy enough to retain their structural integrity as time progresses. Wood frames often give and flex at the corners and may even bow due to initial tension from mesh stretching. Obviously wood is also absorbent. Therefore wood frames will not only absorb water which causes them to deform, misshape and warp, but they will absorb chemicals as well. Even the relative humidity of your geographical region may affect the shape and integrity of a wood frame. The wood may even swell and cause splintering which is not a great idea for your printer. Lacquered wood frames only delay the inevitable.
Many metal frames are hollow and light weight. There are metal frames for certain applications which are very heavy. For manual textile printing you want to choose a light weight frame. Aluminum frames are even lighter than wood frames. Heavy screens may cause premature armature wear on your textile press and also unnecessary fatigue for the printer during longer print runs. Aluminum and steel are the most common types of metal frames. Most often aluminum frames will be lighter.
Aluminum frames can be used to stretch all kinds of mesh. They are light weight, rigid, durable and corrosion resistant. They tend to be easier to clean but it is important to note that they may be less resistant to alkalis and acids. Smaller manual frames are low cost and available in a variety of cross sections.
Steel frames will have the absolute most rigidity for screen printing with very high tension situations. The biggest problem with steel is the weight. They will rust if they are not painted with enamel and often need to be re pained when being re-stretched. Strong adhesives or solvents may be damaging to their finish.
For most standard manual textile screen printing applications an aluminum frame will be the most practical solution. The drawback for home based printers is stretching but today these types of frames may be purchased easily with mesh already stretched on them. With a little care and knowledge, the mesh will last for long enough to pay for the entire screen and much more. A lot of beginner's troubles and problems may be eliminated or reduced simply by using an aluminum frame. They cost less to ship and you will have an easier time using them compared to wood.