ImagesMagUK_June_2021 JUNE 2021 images 51 TIPS & TECHNIQUES Keep your edge Industry expert Tony Palmer shares a top tip that will help you achieve prints that are crisp and clean, every time A t a recent visit to a large printing customer, I was asked if there was anything I could advise to achieve constant colour and quality throughout the print shop. The print shop was well organised and had good procedures in place, so I was left wondering what they meant: the machinery was all the same brand, the screens were constant and even the usual culprits of air pressure and electricity voltage were similarly constant. When looking round a print shop it can be mixture of hide and seek and taking on the persona of Sherlock Holmes! Often the machine operators will not give away their hard-earned secrets of how they achieve that popping white with crisp, clean edges. The very idea of sharing tips with the new, ‘still has plastisol behind the ears’ press operator strikes a fear in them very similar to the words ‘discharge on royal t\s’. Secret weapon After much silent observation using skills that may or not be illegal in certain countries, I was able to discern that the more experienced press operators had a secret weapon that was kept hidden from view, was never publicly spoken about and wasn’t a dark art sacrifice to the stencil deities or a muttered prayer to the creature that lives in the corner of the dark room – it was, quite simply, a new, 65 shore, 50mm x 9mm, clean, shiny squeegee. A squeegee blade is a piece of equipment that we all take for granted. Most of us know the difference between the hardness (shore), and some of us prefer the sandwich of a composite and some operators still even use a bull nose, fully rounded blade for special effects. This gifted, if somewhat tight-lipped, press operator had sequestered a three-metre roll of the stuff as it got delivered, and the ‘secret’ to his success was keeping his blades fresh and crisp; the polyurethane blade would sweep across the screen with a satisfying squeal, leaving behind a stencil that looked like it had been lovingly cleaned by the odd- looking guy in the washout booth. The humble squeegee blade is an important consumable, and is often the key difference between a sharp print and a print that is a little out of focus. Top tip: Change them often and keep them in good condition, and they will repay you with crisp, consistent prints that you can share with your family as you pass through the department store, touching all the prints on display and proudly declaring, “I did that!” to the loud tuts and disapproving looks of the store staff. Tony Palmer has been in the garment decoration industry for over 30 years and is now an independent print consultant working closely with print shops to get the most from existing processes and techniques. Tony is passionate about keeping and enhancing production skill levels within the industry. He is the owner and consultant at Palmprint Consultants, offering practical help and assistance to garment decorators all over the globe. A squeegee blade kept in good condition will reward you with consistently crisp prints Perfect prints are difficult to achieve if blades aren’t cleaned and replaced regularly