When I began screen printing, I started with a cheap screen printing kit from Michaels. The kit only cost $50, and of course didn’t coming with a screen printing press. When I printed the t-shirts, I just laid the screen on then, and swiped the ink onto them. If I didn’t get complete coverage, I was out of luck. I couldn’t lay the screen down exactly where it had been. I found plans for a 4 color screen printing press for sale on eBay. I bought them and built it. I ended up modifying it heavily, but the plans got me started. Using the homemade screen printing press improved my screenprinting to a high degree!
Having a 4 color screen printing press is great, but to tell you the truth, I have never actually used it to print more than a single color. I use cheap wooden frames, and if I want to do anything more than the most basic multicolor print, I would need better screens (probably aluminum frames). But screen printing a single color is fine for most things anyway.
I wrote up these plans based on my press, and modified them to be a single color screen printing press. These plans tell you how to build a screen printing press yourself. It is very cheap to build, and you can make it from scrap wood.
17″ x 15″ x 3/4″ plywood (shirtboard)
24″ x 7″ x 3/4″ plywood (clamp board)
29″ long piece of 2×4 (beam)
(2) 24″ x 2 1/2″ x 3/4″ pine (clamps)
(2) eye screws
(2) carriage bolts 3/8″ x 3 1/2″
(2) washers 3/8″
(2) wing nuts 3/8″
plastic zip tie
First, cut out the shirt board. Start with a 15″ x 17″ piece of plywood. Cut the board so the one side is angled as picture in the plans. Make the beam by cutting a piece of 2×4 to 29″ long. Miter cut one end so that it is angled 45 degrees (see plans). Cut a piece of plywood to 24″x 7″ for clamp base. Next make the clamp pieces by cutting 2 pieces of 3/4″ pine to 2 1/2″ wide and 24″ long.
Mount the shirt board on the beam using wood screws with the tip of the shirt board extending past the mitered end of the beam by 2″ (see picture). Next screw the clamp base to the other end of the beam. It should be flush with the end.
Take the two clamp pieces, and drill a 3/8″ hole about an inch from each end. The holes need to line up so the carriage bolts will pass through both boards. Lay one of the clamp pieces on the beam next to the clamp base. Lay the strip hinge across the seam, and screw the hinge to both the clamp piece and the clamp base. The clamp piece should be able to flip up away from the beam. Lay the second clamp piece on top of the mounted clamp piece. Slide the carriage bolts up from the bottom, through both boards. Slide the washers onto the bolts, and screw the wing nuts onto the bolts.
Screw an eye screw in to the middle of the top clamp piece towards the front side. Screw the other eye screw into the middle of the clamp base towards the back side. Attach some rubberbands to the eye screw on the clamp base. Attach these rubber bands to the other eye screw using a plastic zip tie. You will need to pay with the number and size of rubber bands. You need to have enough tension to hold up the screen when it is mounted in the clamps, but not too much that you can’t easily pull the screen down to the shirt when printing.
The screens I use have 18″ by 22″ frames. You might want to mount the screen printing press on the a bench. You would bolt down the clamp base side, leaving the shirt board side hanging out. Just slide the frame in between the clamp pieces, and tighten the wing nuts. You should be able to pull the screen down so it lays flat on the shirt board.
Have fun with your screen printer as you screenprint tons of t-shirts!