diy screen cabinet/press cart

when i first started screen printing, i was just using wooden frame speedball screens and just placing them over the shirt. i had no idea about off contact, registration or flooding… i just plopped some dye down and scraped. none of my multi-color stuff lined up at all. finally i found a very cheap 6 color, 2 station ryonet silver press on craig’s list, but where would i put such a monstrosity. of course, i needed a cart. i evaluated several on the market, but i also wanted a light-tight screen cabinet and drying rack as well, so i decided to build.

screen cabinet/press cart

screen cabinet/press cart

i started off with these plans but made some slight modifications along the way to include the cabinet. since you can find the plans above, i won’t elaborate on what i did other than the mods i made to create a light tight cabinet.

goopy mess of silicon around the doors

goopy mess of silicon around the doors

i wanted to use 20×24 screens (i think that is the max size my press can handle) and so i wanted the cabinet to fit two screens laying in the drying position. this means the inside of the cabinet would have to be at least 24″ deep and 40″ wide. i had to account for the upright supports on either side and the middle support to hold the screens so i made the top surface 48″ wide. i wanted to make the cabinet tall enough to hold 7 screens per side or 14 all together so i figured 2″ per screen (the frame is 1 5/8″ thick and i figure the other 3/8 for spacers or “shelves”). you can calculate all the dimensions from there if you’d like. i made the sides out of sheets of plywood and the doors out of a sheet of plywood that i cut in half at a 45ª angle so there would be some overlap for light tightness. i used piano hinges for the doors and built a frame around them (again, for light tightness). once built, i filled all the gaps in the doors and the other joints with dark silicon calk. to get the silicon calk not to stick to the doors, i wrapped them in cling wrap. i used a clasp to hold the doors shut. to test the light-tightness, i put a very bright lantern in the cabinet and, in my very dark garage, looked all around the seems for any light escaping. after several iterations of “check for light”/”seal up leaks” i was finally satisfied i had something light tight.

exhaust vent

exhaust vent

now, light-tight doesn’t necessarily mean air-tight, but it does mean that there won’t be much air flow which would be bad for drying screens. for this, i added two circular vents (on the top back right, one the bottom front left) that attached to flexible dryer vent ducts. the exhaust duct i just wrapped around to serve as a light baffle. the intake duct i created a collar made of plastic tarp and attached to a carpet blower i had sitting around. the carpet blower provides air circulation, but i think, even on the lowest setting, that it may be too forceful. one time i dried a screen right under the intake vent and the emulsion ended up with a very strange pattern and was mostly unusable.

dowels in front and back hold up and separate the screens

dowels in front and back hold up and separate the screens

for the “shelves” i used small 1/4″ dowels sticking out about 1 5/8″ from the sides and from a center support. this means the emulsion part of the screen doesn’t rest on anything and give plenty of circulation.
screens in the cabinet

screens in the cabinet

to get the dowels in there mostly straight, i used a doweling jig from lowe’s (i usually shop at the depot, but lowe’s was more helpful in this case). i have found many uses for this since then as well (though, really, i likely just need a drill press). these dowels make it easy to slide the screens in and out of the cabinet.

power strip and tool holders

power strip and tool holders

all over the cabinet i have attached various tools. i installed a power strip which i plug into a retractable extension cord when i’m using it. i’ve also installed a ton of various hooks. the best thing i installed was a magnetic tool bar. this thing is perfect for scissors, pliers and, especially a socket wrench for adjusting “off-contact”.

the cart and cabinet work great. my only complaint is that when i made the cabinet hold 7 screens per side, i also wanted a small shelf above the cabinet, so the thing is really way too tall for printing. to get my registration dialed in, i have to climb up on a step stool in order to look straight down on my registration marks. other than that, the monster is great. when i need it, i wheel it into place and when i don’t, i shove the whole thing nice and neatly out of my way.

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