By James Morikawa
NOTE: I orgininally wrote this article thinking I had found a "unique way to apply water-transfer decals". A recent visit by a framebuilder who built and painted in England, made me realize there was nothing unique about it. Similiar methods of using water-transfer decals, and applying them using varnish, or even poly-urethane paint has been done for years. There seems to be lost technology in the field of the various methods of applying water-transfer decals . . . and the use for them. I need to up-grade, and edit this article. I've since improved upon my application of decals. I now use either polyurethane, or acrylics for superior decal adhesion.
These are not your modern vinyl type decals with pressure-sensitive adhesives. These are decals printed on water-tranfer paper, using a water-soluable adhesive for bonding — a non-pressure sensitive adhesive.
I will attempt to describe the decal application.
The transfer paper is too thick, to make the decal-application successfully on round frame tubes. Yet, the paper needs to be that thickness for the the process of screen printing. I need to thin the paper out after I screen-print the decals — not neccesary for applications on flat surfaces. Again, because I'm applying them to the round tubes of the frame, I need to thin the paper out
Thinning the paper — that's the key, the "secret".
Picture 1: Using clear packing tape (3M Scott brand is the best), I've taped the back (the non-transfer side) of the decal paper.
Picture 2: Using a razor knife, I cut a slit "halfway" through the paper's thickest. I don't want to cut completely through the paper.
Picture 3: At the razor slit, I've started splitting the paper's thickness in half.
Picture 4: Pictured here, I'm pulling the transfer-paper apart, splitting it down the middle. Takes a little practice, but easy after
awhile. The taped side is discarded.
Picture 5: The decal paper tends to become "curly" after thinning.
Picture 6: You can "un-curly" the decal-paper, if you want, by pressing them between the pages of a thick book, for a couple of hours.
Picture 7: Putting alignment lines on the back-side of the decal paper, to aid in decal-alignment on the frame.
Picture 8: Using masking tape, a length of angle aluminum, and pen — marking-out alignment marks on pieces of masking tape.
Picture 9: The container on the left is the water-soluable decal adhesive. I will be brushing the stuff on. NOTE: One can get superior adhesion using poly-urethane,
or Acyrlic Laquer, or Enamel. I no longer use the water-soluable adhesive. I need to up-date this webpage with the improvements. From this point of
article, my present method of application has changled a little . . . but in the principle of application is still the same.
Picture 10: Using a fine bristle artist brush, I brush-on the adhesive at the decal-application site. It
should be applied wet — not to little, not too much, but just enough.
Picture 11: The decalpaper/decal is applied over the wet adhesive, and excessive adhesive is squeegeed out. I want a thin
layer of adhesive under the decal, so I squeegee with firm pressure. I then allow the adhesive and decal to dry
about 12 hours.
Pictuer 12: Example of an applied decal, with tranfer paper — allowing it to dry.
Picture 13: Applied chain-stay decal, with transfer-paper still not removed.
Picture 14: Applied seat-tube decal, with tranfer-paper still not removed.
Picture 15: After the adhesive and decal dries, I spray water to re-wet and un-dry the adhesive.
Picture 16: Re-wetting will soften the adhesive, and the transfer paper can be gently pulled away. The decal itself will act as a barrier,
which prevents "re-wetting" of adhesive under the decal. Done right, the decal stays bonded to the frame.
Picture 17: The excessive adhesive is gently removed with a soft wet towel. This has to be done slowly, and gently.
Picture 18 & 19: Pictured here is the frame with all decals applied. The frame now is ready for the finally 2 to 3 coats of urethane clear.
Well, that's it. Nothing more to write. End of decal story.
Have a good day.