Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to Make Wood Window Screens 9: Choosing and installing fasteners for wood window screens

So, the screens are in. It's about 6 a.m., a Saturday morning in early May, and still a little too dark to take photos, but its supposed to rain all day, so gardening is out, and I finally cannot procrastinate any further on writing about screen fasteners. I'm not even quite sure how to start.

When I was growing up, in Ohio, there was a park in our small steel town of McDonald, Ohio, and in that park, there was a --what do you call it-- a shelter. Yes. This was an old shelter, probably built when the town was built, which was in the twenties. It was built of fieldstone, with green wooden trim, open on three sides, and on the fourth, a fabulously old-fashioned kitchen with a great, great wood stove, a giant thing. Truly giant. I've never seen anything else like it.

We'd hold our annual church picnic there, every year, and every year, that stove would get fired up.  The women would cook and the men would play horseshoes, some one would throw hamburgers and hotdogs on the grills, and us kids would run about screaming at the tops of our lungs--me and my three little sisters, girls. But this is all beside the point. What I remember, vaguely, is that the windows in this shelter had screens, giant green wooden things, and in my mind's eye (who knows if it's accurate), looking at them from the outside, underneath the overhanging eaves, I can see that they were fastened with turnbuttons.

I guess the window in a park shelter wouldn't need storms, so maybe that's why there were screens. I don't know. Or maybe my memory is false. Why would there be screens when the shelter is open? Got me. Maybe there was another room, beside the kitchen, like a park office, closed off, with windows, and thus, screens.

In any case, there is also, in Philipse Manor, not far from here, a dutch colonial house, with beautiful old storms that are fastened in with turnbuttons. I used to walk to the train, right past that house, every day, before we bought this house.

So, this is a long way of saying that I feel pretty certain -- without any paper to show for it -- that wooden storms and screens used to be fastened in with turnbuttons. Wood originally -- for photos of  wooden turnbuttons, see my own post, here -- and then metal.

I cannot find any good, clear close-up photos of windows fastened with turnbuttons on the web. However, one can purchase turnbuttons at House of Antique Hardware here, and at Vintage Woodworks in BC, Canada, here. The Vintage Woodworks website also includes a photo portfolio of storms, and if you look closely, some of their storm windows are fastened with turnbuttons.

My own storms are hung with storm window hangers. There is a long, good blog post on making and installing storms along these lines on the This Old Farmhouse blog, here.

All of which is a very long preamble to the real topic: fasteners for new window screens.

Twice now, I've pretty exhaustively searched local hardware stores and the web for fastener options for wooden screens. There's nothing that I can find except the one page at House of Antique Hardware here. Since my screens cover half the window, not the full window, I can't hang them from the top with the same hangers used for storms. So, that leaves me with three options, as far as I can tell: retaining clips, snap fasteners or turnbuttons.

Last summer, when we made our first two screens, I purchased one of each of these options, to see which might work best.

I kept worrying over the turnbutton idea, because with original windows, some of which are now approaching 175 years old, I really don't want to put anything into the exterior wood that may create moisture penetration. Snap fasteners, too, as far as I can make out, are installed in the exterior casing of the original window frame.

In the end, while none was perfect, I decided to go with the retaining clips shown here.

They're designed to hold in the bottom of a full-window-sized screen or storm that is hanging from storm hangers. They come in packages of two. But, in a pinch, they work fine in groups of four, one at each corner, to hold in the half-size screens I've got.

Now it's light enough to take photos, so here we go ...

One of our new screens in the window:

A slightly closer view. You can see the heads of the four fasteners in the four corners.

There is a fastener in each corner. Here is a close-up of the bottom right fastener, from the outside:

Here is a  close-up of the same fastener, from the inside:

And, for a second example, here is one of our original screens, installed.

And, in somewhat closer up view ...

Again, the bottom right fastener, seen from the inside, showing how it attaches to the frame of the screen and tightens up against the blind stop. This fastener is designed for stops at least 5/8" thick. Mine are a full 1" thick, so the fastener doesn't fit around the stop. The smaller edge of the loop butts up against it, as you can see.  But it works fine. The screen is tight and stays tight all summer, even when put to the test by our two restless cats.

Demonstration:  Phantom, the full-grown monster kitten, desperately seeking a way out ...

... foiled ... I missed the shot of him, totally splayed out across the entire screen ... but still. It's no go. Phantom, stay home.

For the entire series on making wooden window screens, click on the category "How to Make Wood Window Screens Series", in the category list along the right-hand side of the home page. There is also now an index tab at the top of my home page, listing all the posts in sequential order, with a link to each post.


  1. Great tips Sherry! It’s a been a while since following your wood window screen guide and I really want to applause you for such a great and complete walkthrough.

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