Cynthia St. Charles Store

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Thermo Fax Machines for Screen Printing

When we were driving home from Coffee Creek a few weeks back, we got stuck in the middle of a cattle truck convoy. They were bringing a bunch of cattle down from Alberta, Canada. Apparently, Canadian cattle are being allowed back in the US after the mad cow disease scare has settled down. Anyway, I liked the circular grid pattern created by the vent holes on the side of the truck.

Several people have written to ask about the process I use for obtaining screen prints from photographs. Here is a brief explanation, starting with a photo of a stock truck:The photo has been manipulated in photoshop to convert it to a black and white image with clean lines. This image has been converted into a screen for printing, seen below with some fabric that has been printed using the screen.

A closer look:

This is the machine that does the magic. It is a Thermo Fax machine - an ancient piece of office equipment once used by schools for making ditto masters and transparencies. I used one of these on a daily basis back when I began my teaching career in the early 80's. Photocopy machines have made it much easier and quicker to make duplicate images, so 3M stopped making theThermo Fax machine, and many of them have been discarded by school systems all over the country. I have picked up several of them at school surplus sales. They are a hot commodity on eBay and we have resold them on eBay for up to $800.

I thought I would post this image so interested people could be on the lookout at garage sales, etc. They are also available on eBay and Welsh Products sells reconditioned ones.

Thermo Fax machines are very popular with tatoo artists because they can quickly convert a black and white image to an transfer medium that can be applied directly to the skin as a guide for the needle.

I use my Thermo Fax machine with a RISO screen (available from Welsh Products). The screen is a plastic sheet embedded in a fine nylon grid. The plastic sheet (RISO) is placed over the black and white image and when it feeds through the machine, the special light creates intense heat that melts the plastic where ever there is carbon on the paper, leaving the fine mesh through which the paint will pass when applied with a squeegy Does that make sense? Anyway, the result is a delicate screen of the image. The screen can be used about 100 times, with proper care.

This is an image of my shrubbery screen prints on hand dyed cotton.

I made stock truck printed fabric in several colorways.


Anonymous said...

I love industrial/machine images like your stock truck screen. Very cool! Thanks for the post about the thermofax!

Anonymous said...

the industrial imagery is really interesting. I think I took similar pictures but of the vent of a truck while stalled in traffic in Houston.

Thanks for the explanation of the Thermofax machine and it's possibilities.

Sylvia at work in foggy Weimar Texas

Anonymous said...

I love your explanation of how to make a screen print using a Thermofax machine. I and a few friends have been trying to figure out a way to make our own screens to use on fabric for clothing. I finally get the picture (pun!) Now we just have to find a Thermofax machine that we can buy.

Jacque Davis said...

Ahhh yes Coffee Creek!

I am experiencing pangs of longing for Montana.

Lucky you living in the Big Sky Country. I'll be in Great Falls in July for a family reunion. I can't wait!

Jacque Davis who now resides in flat corn country.

Squeegees said...

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