Making T-Shirts with DIY Silk Screening Press

I have always wanted to silk screen my own t-shirts. I wont go into the nitty gritty of silk screen printing because there are hundreds of blog posts and YouTube videos on how to do it, and I am in no way, shape, or form an expert. First, we needed a press.

This is an example of one from eBay, but after reading reviews, these presses sound like they are rather low quality and are cheaply made. I found this video for a homemade 4 color press. The press was made from plans found at https://printingplans.com/ where the plans can be downloaded for free. This is what I decided to do, and it only cost a bit more than the cheap eBay presses.

Press under construction

Overall I was very happy with how the press turned out. It is much better than anything I could have bought for under $150. Next up was to make a few homemade screens. This seemed like a good idea, but was a huge pain. Just buy the 6 or 12 packs from eBay.

Homemade silk screen after exposure

After learning lessons such as the importance of mesh size and how to properly align shirts, the results began to look very professional. I’m extremely happy with what I’ve made so far, and will continue to improve, eventually working my way up to some 4 color designs.

Adventures in Making a DIY Supreme Lighter

Supreme is a street wear brand that makes little to no sense to me. They give people the illusion that they are buying something exclusive, and it works really well. They slap their name on just about anything, and sell it for 10x what the product would normally retail for. For example, a brand new red Zippo lighter can be purchased online for under $13 shipped, while Supreme branded Zippos sell for upwards of $100 on Ebay. This begs the question, how hard would it be to for us to add that white text ourselves?

I started out by replicating both sides of the lighter in CorelDraw. The font in the supreme logo is Futura Bold Italic. Recreating the graphic was extremely simple. I used the crop tool in Corel to crop the r in both text boxes to split the logo in two, and that was about it.

The next step was to test the sizing and alignment on the lighter. To do this, I put a piece of tape over the lighter, and ran the laser at a low power setting that was just powerful enough to leave a mark on the tape. We can use this non-permanent marking to see the size and position of the graphic on the lighter. Once we have a product we are happy with, we can cover the lighter in tape, and raster our graphic on full power, removing both the masking tape and the red powder coat. After the powder coat is burned away by the laser, a sticky residue is left behind, however, it is easy to remove with isopropyl alcohol and cotton swabs, exposing the brass

Laser marking tape to check position

Spray Paint

I now had a very high quality stencil on the lighter, and it was time to add the white. My first idea was to use white spray paint.

Masked and painted
Spray Paint Lighter

The result looks decent. It looks real, and would make a great display piece, but the white paint isn’t durable enough to withstand daily use. After just a few days, the paint began to wear off. We need a more durable coating to hold up to the wear and tear.

Powder Coating

Powder coating adds a strong and durable plastic coating on metal parts. It is applied with a specialized gun that charges the particles of the powder electrically and they stick to the part. Then, the part is then put in an oven and allowed to cure.

The process for powder coating is extremely similar to that of the spray paint lighter except for the masking tape. Standard blue painters tape will not withstand the curing temperatures upwards of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, a specialty masking tape for powder coating is used. This was rastered away on the laser and I was left with an extremely similar scenario to that of the painted lighter. An Eastwood Powder Coating Gun was used with gloss white powder to coat the lighter

After the coat had been applied and baked, it was time to remove the mask. My initial reaction was not good. The lines were far from crisp, and powder coat was bleeding over onto the red. I initially wrote powder coating off as a failure, but after playing with it a bit, the coat had not stuck to the red powder coat below it, and the white was easily removed from the red with Scotch-Brite.

Before Scotch-Brite, lines not clean
After cleaning it up

I am quite happy with the lighter, It looks great, and has a long-lasting durable logo on it. It would be hard for someone to identify this as a fake. How could anyone fake something like this anyway??? Its not like somebody used a laser engraver to etch away high temperature masking tape and powder coated it themselves, right?