I planned on getting a single retensionable frame and just swapping the screens on it, but I've got some doubts about that now :/. So I was wondering, once you've exposed a screen, used it, and taken it off the frame can you put it back on and use it again? I've heard that there may be some image distortion but would it really noticibally affect anything?
My other question is with roller frames/retensionable frames. I haven't been able to really find out how they are specifically used, and I mainly was looking at getting one of them because the wooden rope in groove frames are just a pain to stretch screens with. So what are the differences between a newmans, diamond chase, and a hix reten, and which ones do you need special tools for? I was looking at a hix reten since I know it has square bars which would make things easier but just found out that I'd need to pay $120 just for a toolkit so I could use it. I'd like to know what extras I'd need for that other frames too.
Removing the fabric with a stencil in it from a retensionable frame is not worth trying to do. You can experiment with it, but once you start using retensionable frames you are going to find that it is not going to work well and will be a lot of effort for the poor results. Stretching a piece of fabric with a stencil in it is completely different from strecthing clean fabric - where the clean fabric will accept tension evenly in both directions (the woof and the warp) and all along its width and length, a fabric with a stencil in it will not - the areas with stencil will be much less "stretchable" then the clear image and other areas. Anyway - this will be more trouble than it is worth.
Regarding retensionable frames:
I have used all three you have mentioned, and have had a great deal of experience with each.
First: It is my experience that having nicely stretched and very high tension screens solves 80% of all screenprinting problems. Sharp squeegees of the appropriate density, correct ink consistency, and sufficient distance between the image area and the frame solve most of the rest of the problems. So using retensionable screens or professionally stretched wooden or aluminum frames using frame adhesive rather than staples or cords is the most critical factor in making screenprinting a joy. I am serioius.
So where are my thoughts:
My overwhelming recommendation is Hix Reten. They are light weight, and very quick and easy to stretch and to retension (once you get the knack - you'll have a little learning curve). I have about 20 of these frames and would not want to be without them. If you are serious about screenprinting and do a lot of work I recommend these above any other system, including prestretched wooden or aluminum frames. You do need to buy the tool kit, and there is a different toolkit for each frame system - I think there are three. I know I have two of them - the "smaller" and the "medium", and I might have the larger one but I am not sure.
In the "old days" the only retensionable was the Diamond Chase, and I have had about 20 of these - and still have a half dozen of them. But they are extremely heavy and big hassel to print with as well as handle in general because of the weight. Inserting and stretching the fabric is much more difficult and troublesome than with the Hix Reten. One potential advantage over the other systems is that you can tension specific areas of the screen when needed - but I have never found this to be an advantage in my own work. These are also very expensive. They are clunky, and they don't work in typical hinges very well. Overall - I do not recommend Diamond Chase unless you have a very specific need that you think they can fulfill. I would not buy one of these, but if someone gives you one, they do work. There are no special tools other than typical wrenches, hex keys, or screwdrivers depending on the brand and particular frame.
Newman Roller frames - I have had a few of these over the years, and found them to be light weight but otherwise a bit to goofy for my tastes. The roller frames are harder to tape off and work with to keep the ink out of the area where the fabric contacts the rollers, and you have to clamp the frames on the square bar side. I used these for a year or too but they just always annoyed me in day to day use. As soon as I had tried a Hix Reten I switched completely. I don't remember now, but I seem to recall having a special spanner to use on these. Again, I would not buy one of these, but if someone gives you one, they do work.
However - no matter which retensionable system you use, you are gonig to want a Screen Tension Meter. I have bought several used over the years, but they are hard to come by. They are NOT CHEAP. They can be in the range of $300 - $400 US for a new one. You don't absolutely need to have one, but unless you are extremely experienced it is going to be very hard to do a good job tensioning your screens.
I hope that was helpful