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Squeegee Blade Sharpness And Stencil Drag
The condition of the squeegee and what is known as the squeegee blade are important factors in getting sharp, clear prints. A sharp squeegee blade will also shear the ink better during the stroke action and result in a better, more controlled ink deposit.
A sharp squeegee blade will control ink flow through fine, detailed stencils increasing resolution and overall print quality. A blunt or rounded blade edge will cause the ink to smear because it generally pushes more ink through the mesh. Some squeegee blades are actually made round or "ball nosed". For most standard textile screen printing applications a rectangular cut edge squeegee is best.
Squeegee blade edges that are rough or have cuts in them will produce inferior prints. Streaking, smearing, and irregular ink deposits can result from a poorly sharpened blade edge. Misuse or bad management of your squeegees can damage them.
Squeegees should always be cleaned well after each use and any excess ink wash should be removed. Leaving your squeegees covered in solvents or plastisol ink will degrade and ruin them over time.
There are several different ways to sharpen a squeegee. Blade cutters, emery belts, and polishing cloths can be used to sharpen blade edges. Many screen printing supply companies make squeegee blade cutting machines or emery belt type units to maintain your squeegees.
Excessive squeegee pressures can cause registration problems as well as poor resolution. There is a certain amount of drag between the squeegee and the screen itself that pulls the stencil in the direction of the stroke. In manual printing this often makes it necessary to compensate for things like wood frames with inadequate tension or an old sloppy press by flooding and stroking in such a way as to eliminate the effect of the excessive drag.
- Squeegees should be positioned in the center of the stencil so that they are 1/2 to no more than 1 inch wider than the stencil on each side.
- Using too wide of a squeegee on a smaller stencil may also cause distortion.
- Harder squeegees tend to exhibit more drag and wear stencils down faster.
Many printers overlook the condition of their squeegees. However, much like everything else in screen printing, having good tools can help you create high quality prints easily and consistently. Take care of your investment in squeegee material by storing and cleaning them properly. Having your selection of squeegees clean and ready to go before you start any print run makes things go easier and faster too.