HOW TO MAKE DECALS (Waterslide Wet Transfers)

Ray Robinson

There are many methods of labeling controls on a front panel or chassis. One method consists of thin a transparent film with a printed legend, and this is applied to the panel. These are called "decals" or waterslide wet "transfers". As a kid, I used to make model aeroplanes, and each kit had a set of transfers for the aircraft markings. Now you can make your own, using your computer, a drawing program, and a laser printer.

I had 4 ORMOND dials that were in poor shape. They are 1930s slow motion tuning dials with graduations in degrees. The dial graduations were silk screened black lines and numbers onto a gold painted scale. On my dials, the aluminium dial scale was corroded and the markings hardly legible. I disassembled each dial into parts, until I had the scale separate.

Disassembled Dial

I sanded the dials scales smooth, and painted them gold, with a spray can. I made a new dial scale on the computer, adjusted it to the correct physical size, and then laser printed it onto "Waterslide Decal" paper. I cut these out with scissors, and soaked them in water, until they separated from the back sheet and slid around freely. This takes about 5 minutes. I slid them off the backing sheet and on to the dial, and positioned them in the correct place. They had to be semicircular in this particular application, not an annulus, as the scale is convex, not flat, so the decal needs to bend a little. I padded the excess water off with a clean rag, and left them to dry overnight. The decals are almost invisible, but if you angle the light properly, you can just see the change in reflected light, from the difference between the paint surface and the clear transfer.

Assembly Process

I then sprayed a thin coat of lacquer (clear Estapol) to protect them from scratches. Do not apply the lacquer too thickly, or it will attempt to dissolve and wrinkle the decal. Two thin coats may be required. I reassembled the dials and they look as good as new.

Dial Scale

My home made power supply had some crude DYMO labels on it, so I decided to make the front panel look better. I made up the switch legends on the computer, printed them, applied the transfers, then sprayed a protective lacquer coating. It looks much better.

Power Supply

The Decal paper is available by mail order from:
BELL INC. 10319 N.W. 30 Street, Suite 103, Miami, Florida, 33172, U.S.A.
The cost is US$36 for 50 sheets, which is about $1.30 a sheet.

Ray Robinson VK2NO

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