Mean screen scene:   Pictures to follow...

If you’re a River-Delta kind of boater, you’ll agree that the mosquitoes out there grow as large as… well they’re just big. I personally have fought hundreds of them armed only with a badminton racquet. And lost horribly… When the summer breeze dies at dusk late in the season, beware my friends. They will find you and suck your blood. Best to take shelter.

The screens in my poor old boat appear to be as old as my boat itself, and that is over thirty years!  There odd colored and splotched with paint, as well as tares and overly large holes patched over with tape. Some not. Screens like this don’t work very well, as well as being an “eye sore” to the overall look of the boat.

Screens do an important job, especially on a boat. They keep the outside out, and let the outside in at the same time. They need to be invisible so we can see easily without hindrance and clean so we can smell all the wonderful flora and fauna. A flaw, cut, or tear on it and your eyes will track right to it. Not to mention the loss of integrity to our safety barriers, to which evil could fly in and feed on our flesh. So good screens are a must.

Screen replacement. (In the perfect world)

Again I must insert the perfect world scenario to make my point. You call up the “Screen Guy, ” he comes down to the boat and de-installs all the frames…takes them away to his shop somewhere….and does his magic….then returns with the same frames, all shinny and new looking with all new shinny screens installed….pop’s them into place…. “Please sigh here…” (Hundreds of dollars) or (Two or three boat dollars to you and me.)…thank you very much….job done.

My world. 

Let’s be real. I don’t have the cash for that course of action. We’ll just have to do it all  ourselves.  Can’t be all that bad? If I can learn to do engine work, body work and electrical work then why the hell can’t I do a little re-screening. I've got a pretty good idea on how to do it. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” So off to the local hardware store I go to stand in ahhh and wonder at the variety of “Re-screening stuff” offered up in the “re-screening section.”  “Do I even know what I want?” “How do I want my screens to look?” There are a number of different types of screen you can buy. I’ll describe a few for you. First is the regular aluminum (silver) metal kind. Probably the easiest to see through and last the longest, but will dent and scratch and is painful to work with. (Blood factor involved here).  There is the plastic or fiberglass kind which comes in gray or dark black double weave to act as a sun screen. (that’s nice) Lastly, is the “pet” screen, Built even stronger to withstand the family pet or tot. “Hmmm…decisions decisions.”  I like the dark shade screen. However all my windows are only screened on the one side. The side that slides opens of course. If I were to use the dark, it would look lopsided. So no dark for now. Later down the road, I might make a new frame that fits over the whole window with the “dark” to block out unwanted sun.

 I decided to go with the “aluminum” screen. Long lasting, nice and shinny. Besides, it’s what was installed in the boat originally.

 Standing in line at OSH with two rolls of screen and two packages of spline, a screening roller and razor blades in my arms. The guy with a shopping cart full of “honey do’s” standing ahead of me, speaks to me… “That all you got? Why don’t you go ahead of me. I’m retired and got all the time in the world.” “Why thank you very much!” I said. What a nice guy. We still had two or three people ahead of us in line so we had time to chat a bit. He says “Doing some screening I see. Ever do it before?” “No, never” I said. “Got any advice for me?” He said “Don’t worry. The first one you do is kind of hard, and you will  make a mistake or two. But it’ll look ok. The second one you do is a lot better, and by the third you’re an expert.” Makes sense to me. Then he adds “By the time you finish all the windows in the house, you’re a whiz at it! That very first frame you did will bug the crap out of you and you’ll end up re-screening it for sure.”  Good advice I thought. We talked a bit more and of course I had to mention the boat and the refit project and all. It got to be my turn in line. I thanked him for the good advice and was on my way…  

 “Honey! I’m home, look what I bought!”

 The man at the store was right. Every new project has it’s own set of skills that need to be learned. The instructions on the packages of the screen tool, screen, and spline all seem to say the same thing, very little!” But with their little bits of information, plus my flair for doing things my own way, I managed to become quite adept at this screen thing and, as the man said, after ten or more completed re-screenings “I am the re-screen king!”

As my thanks to you for making it this far into this story I will share with you my rescreening  technique.

 Work area:

The work area needs to be well lighted and large enough to hold the size of the frame you’re working on,  laid out flat of course. The surface should be smooth and flat like a piece of plywood, yet ridged so as not to flex when little pressure is applied. I used an old drafting table I keep in the garage. It’s been pre-dented and damaged long ago so I was not worried about the possibility of marring it up with the aluminum frames to be worked on. A piece of short knap carpet would work well to protect any surface you may want to protect. This project involves the cutting and trimming of wire screen. Little bits of wire will end up getting everywhere so don’t do it over carpet that gets walked upon. Do it outside or in the garage and not in bare feet….or naked…. Preferably some place where you can sweep up easily. Keep a trash can nearby for trimmings. I did my best work standing up so a chair isn’t necessarily needed. Music helps. Beer too. However more then three can be a hindrance or safety factor


 1.I used a good tough pair of scissors for cutting the screen. The longer the better, but don’t use mom’s good hair scissors or good sewing scissors unless you want big trouble. I made that mistake only once…

 2. A mat knife with a fresh new blade for trimming.

 3. A screen tool (roller). You may have to borrow or buy one. They’re cheap, like under $3.00  The screen tool I bought was a bit floppy with regard to the roller to the shaft so I gave it a tune up in the shop vise, tightening the rivet a bit and added a dab of lithium grease for good measure.

 4. A piece of flat board, at or about the length of your frame.  3/8 or ¼ inch thick  and 3” or 4” wide will do, and smooth, free of splinters, for holding down screen while working.

 5. Small wallpaper roller. (My trick. You’ll see)

 6. Clamps or weights. (???)

 7. A stout ice pick or scribe.

 8. I did mention music right? Music can be a good tool. The FBI uses it all the time. But not in the same way… (I play it louder and with more repetition.)

 9. And Beer. Did I mention beer? One or two cans per frame as needed. (Caution) Never substitute whiskey or any other hard liquors for beer. This can lead to distraction. Then disaster. Just stick to the beer for now. Save the torpedo juice for when it’s all done.

 Frame tear down, inspection, tune up:

 So okay. You got all the tools on side board, ready to go? A nice flat well lighted work space? Beer? Got it? Good. Here we go… Start by finding the old spline end. With the frame laying flat use the scribe or sharp thingy and pry up the end of the spline and do what comes natural. Of course now the old screen can be removed. “Looking better already!”

 Now, use your best cleaning technique on said frame. I myself will give it a good scrubbing with hot soapy water and bristle brush. This may be all you need to do if your screen frame is in good shape. But not me of course. My frame corners are pointed too sharp for my liking. I snagged a good shirt on one once and tore a hole. (Could have been somebody’s skin!)  So with a fine mill file I rounded and blunted the corners. Also with a block sander (fine paper) I ran along the all the edges removing ticks, nicks and burrs…oh, my. (“Ticks, Nicks, and Burrs” sounds like a rock band don’t it?) With the razor blade I’ll shave off any paint drops or goobers that remain.

Now I’m not sure how to bring back that wonderful factory finish and luster from an old scratched aluminum frame. The first frame I did I used three different grits of sand paper then steel wool, then polishing compound. “Man” “Too hard of work!” Too many steps. Long time. Sore fingers! “No likey”  My short cut? Of course I found a short cut!  Just pop it in the old “Glass bead blaster,” (if ya got one.) A light dusting with the blaster and they look brand new! File marks, scratches and the chalky  white stuff…gone. A nice satin finish remains.  (I love my blaster.) I just wish I could fit my larger frames inside it. “Oh well” “Bloody Fingers…” Of course make sure the screws in the corners are tight and the overall frame is sound and stiff. If you think it looks good now, just wait till you get a fresh tight screen job down on it…

Screen Job:

Lay out the screen frame and lay the new screen out over the frame. The instructions that come with the new screen say to cut the screen 1/8 inch wider than spline channels. I think they would like you to mess up and have to buy more screen. By the time I was on my 3rd screen I was a lot more comfortable with an ½ inch or more beyond the spline channel. You have to trim off the excess anyway, might as well have something trim off?

The thing that is important when trimming screen is to be sure that the screen grid pattern is square to the frame and that you cut precise 45 degree angles to meet the edge spline channel  in the corners.

Clamping helps a lot. Before I cut the 45’s, I square up the screen and frame just the way I want it. Being careful not to bump the screen out of place I place a thin piece of wood over one end of the frame and clamp it down. This levees both hands free to trim the corners accurately on  the one end and start rolling down the screen down into the channel on the one side. When rolling in the screen with the “convex” end of the roller, start with the tool perpendicular to the frame using long light easy strokes starting in the middle. Once a good dent is started you may then angle the tool outward at a 45 degrees. Caution. This is the  place where I mess up a lot. It is easy to “jump track” and send the tool across the screen surface and permantly dent or tear it. (Bad words to follow.) The trick here is a good grip, an easy hand, and not to much beer. Take your time. The end that stands up when you roll in the channel gets trimmed off later but needs to be laid back down so as not to interfere  with the clamping board. This is where I use the “wallpaper roller.” I just lightly roll the tool over the standing portion of the screen. This is just to get the screen out of your way so you may continue to work the spline. The trick when trimming off the excess material is to use a “new” blade in your mat knife. Don’t push to hard and try to make long and uninterrupted cuts as possible. This is a danger zone as well. A person can receive “long uninterrupted scars” if caution and thought is not applied.

Once everything is trimmed neat and clean, and you have fresh new band aids on your fingers go ahead and pick up the screen with both hands and give it a tap agenst the work bench. It should resonate a bit like the head of a drum. Look across the surface… Nice and flat and shinny. Looks factory fresh doesn't it? At this point you should be smiling from ear to ear! Job well done? Well, no, not quite yet. You still need to transport them all safely to the boat and install them. (without denting, scratching or marring the new screens.) Nothing well test you reserve faster then damaging the surface of  a nice new screen. I took my time and did all my screens two at a time. When reinstalling the finished new screens I took the time to hot soapy the windows and razorblade the glass clean. (always use a new clean blade!)  Also rinsing out the window runners and drains as well. I still need to do a bit more work on the window frames themselves, but that another story soon to be told I’m sure. Of course all the hard where that holds the window screens in place has been cleaned up and inspected for flaws. Any screw with buggerd up threads or tool slots was replaced with new. So in my case that meant almost all new hard weir.

Well now, was it all worth it? You bet you ass. It looks great! The whole boat has a fresh crisp new look. And from the inside, the new screens are all but invisible. What an eyesore they were, and now; Perfection!  The over all screening project was easy and it went pretty fast. Doing at least one screen a day, at night after work. The cost was very reasonable. Plus now, I have a new found skill.

The small aft view window screen lasted all of a day before my son unknowingly and accidentally kicked it with his heal. Big dent. I started to get mad, then stopped. We’ll just take it home with us and fix it together. I know how now, and so well he…

Once you’ve seen the difference in appearance between the tired old and discolored screens and new tight shinny screens you’ll wonder why you didn’t rescreen sooner. Good luck...   mnw : )

Mike Wolfe  "The River Queen Refit"  2002