THERE is no prettier household ornament, nor is there any more serviceable article of household furniture, than a well-made fire-screen. Screens of every variety are to be found in the shops, and at prices ranging from a few dollars for the simple designs, to many hundreds for others more elaborate.
Young folk who have leisure can as well make as purchase them, and often the results of home work compare most favorably with the best specimens of shop manufacture. The foundation framework is easily made by a boy who has any skill in carpentering, and the girls can have that part of the task done for them at a tri- fling expense.
The most useful screen is made in three panels, each four feet and a half high by one and a half wide. The frames should be made of white pine, thoroughly seasoned, to avoid warping, mitered at the comers, and braced in the middle, as shown in Fig. i. Strips of inch pine, two inches wide, will secure the proper lightness and strength.
The frames are to be covered with brown sheeting or unbleached muslin, the coarser the better, which is to be stretched as tight as possible, and held by very small tacks driven in the edges, not on the faces of the frames. Having done this, carefully cut away all the surplus material; then prepare a sizing of thin flour paste, and with it wet thoroughly every portion of the muslin.
In stretching, the cloth will pull unequally, and along the tacked edges there will be slight unevenness’s, which can be smoothed down while wet, and which will be held in place as the paste dries. The drying takes but a little time, and when it is accomplished there will result a working surface as tight as a drum-head.
In the paper covering individual taste may be exercised without limit, and the beautiful varieties of paper-hangings render it almost impossible to make a poor selection. The little ones are most interested in the nursery screen. Its bright colors and quaint figures are an unending delight to them, and many an hour is spent in studying their curious antics.
The background of this screen should be a very dark — al- most black — cheap wall-paper of very indefinite pattern, slightly flecked with gilt. In cutting the paper for the front of a panel an inch and a half margin on all sides should be allowed, while the back piece is to be the exact size of the frame. The paste should contain a little starch, be free from lumps, and not thick. It is to be applied as evenly as possible, and care is needed to see that every part of the paper is covered by it.
Place the paper upon the frame, beginning at the top, and allowing the surplus inch margin to lap over. Put a piece of wrapping-paper under the hand, and slowly smooth the pasted part for about six inches down from the upper edge, thus pressing out all air bubbles and wrinkles.
When this is successfully done, continue the same process, always smoothing downward.
Should any creases or other irregularities fail to disappear under the slow rubbing, take the paper by the two lower comers and lift it from the muslin until past the rough- ness, and then press again. In this way you are certain to remove the imperfection, and get a perfectly plain surface.
The margin is next to be pasted, and will lap perhaps a quarter of an inch on the back. This will, however, be covered by the paper for the back of the panel, which is to be applied in the same way as the front piece. The Decoration is the really hard part of the work is now over, and the most interesting stage at hand. Get from a book or toy store several illustrated books of nursery rhymes and children’s stories.
Cut out every figure in the book, large and small alike. Select three of the largest and handsomest for the centerpieces, and about these arrange the others as fancy suggests, without regarding the stories which they illustrate, The result will be charming, and daily admired.
The back may be ornamented in like manner or left plain. Four brass hinges fastening the frame together, a line of brass-headed nails all around the edges, both for the protection of the paper and as a finish, two small brass handles on the top of the outer panels to lift by and avoid soiling, will complete one of the prettiest decorations of the house.
The second attempt may be made with a background of cardinal-red felt paper, on which paste cuttings from old Harper’s Magazines, one panel given up to flowers, one to birds, and one to animals. Our last venture is the simplest of all in its manufacture, but is very effective. It is made of small-figured wall-paper, with a great deal of gilt in the design.
On this are mounted three Japanese panels, such as are to be found on those hanging banners with which our Celestial friends love to deck their walls.
All three are black, with sprays of flowers and birds painted upon them in the brightest colors, and the effect of the gold, the black, and the gorgeous reds and delicate blues in combination is lovely.
Of course there are as many methods and patterns in making screens as there are minds to design and hands to do the work. The plan suggested above is simple, and has proved successful.