My Thermofax Machine is SO Mid-century

Standard

Thermofax technology was developed by 3M in the 1950’s as a way to make a copy of a document using heat and carbon. Artists use them today to make stencils for screen printing and tattoo art. This works by inserting a filmy plastic sheet and a toner photocopy together into a feeder slot which grabs the materials and passes them through a heated area causing the toner to “burn” the image into the plastic sheet.  I bought my thermofax for around $300 in 2001, back when eBay was still an auction-only site. Due to their popularity with artists, and the difficulty in locating one, a reconditioned thermofax machine like mine can sell for around $1,000, or more!

Vintage Copy Machine

Classic advertising showing the original use for the Thermofax circa 1960’s. You can see more vintage ads at Adsausage.

Picture of thermofax machine

Top: A beauty shot of my Secretary thermofax. Bottom: Photocopy and resulting screen used for printing.

Making screens and transferring an image is magical. You can easily reproduce the exact image onto almost anything from the same screen. Though, screens do wear down or occasionally tear, they are easy to replace, and you can get awesome results. Once the image is burned into the screen, ink is forced through the stencil leaving the image transferred onto your surface.

Hands screen printing with helicopter image

Left: My friend carefully crafting the multi-colored helicopter t-shirt for his son. Right: Finished helicopters in a row.

Recently, some friends came over for a combination dinner and print-your-own shirt party. (The delicious meal was prepared by my friend, Wendy, who blogs at In Other People’s Kitchens.)  One friend has a toddler who is obsessed with helicopters, so he dedicated his printing time to meticulously making a multi-colored image. Our physics teacher friend and my math teacher husband like nerdy math references, hence the speed of light sign. The rest of us preferred decorative birds, and, of course, the Attack Cat Studio cats, Bean, Vera, and Lucy.

Birds, cats, and speed limit sign

Results from the super-fun dinner party and screen printing night.

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