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Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com
Asher Guitars WD Music Products Amplified Parts Mod Kits DIY Nordstarnd Pickups Warmoth.com

Headstock waterslide technique: which to choose?

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by stale facet, May 21, 2017.

  1. stale facet

    stale facet TDPRI Member

    10
    Aug 7, 2014
    Massachusetts
    Hey there...

    Having previously broken a forum guideline and resurrected an old thread (sorry), I hope to fix any bad karma with this post.

    I'm on my first headstock waterslide adventure. The project's guidelines are:
    • have no lines showing
    • can't use a spray gun

    Read a lot on here about waterslide techniques, and I feel like there's a lot of competing options.

    I've tried water-based poly->label->poly technique (w/sanding in-between poly layers) that didn't hide the white lines. Sanded it off, and tried an ink-transfer technique with a blending pen and photocopy. Not clean enough, sanded it down, and started again.

    Sanded to bare wood, and soaked it in turpentine, and put on Lazertran labels. Let it dry. Dabbed white vinegar over it.

    The question: what is the best next step to hide white lines?

    I see one thread (http://www.tdpri.com/threads/how-to-make-headstock-decals.264248/page-4) recommending Microsol to melt the label. Others rely on the lacquer melting the label. Some, on the right combination of sanding and spraying (which I won't be doing, nor using nitro).

    Is there a definitive "definitive" technique? Reading any of the existing threads turns up many options. I want to follow the best option next, and not have to start again (if possible).
     

  2. eallen

    eallen Tele-Meister

    237
    Jul 30, 2013
    Greenwood, Indiana
    I don't have an answer for definitive but I put on one coat to seal the wood and level the grain before I out on my water slide. I just use water and sprinkle a few drops on where I am putting it to allow it to slide. Then blot excess water off with a paper towel. After letting it dry thoroughly I start layering on whatever finish I am using. The key is getting enough layers of finish so that when you wet sand it the finish will be flush without getting to the label depth. I sometimes gently sand after a few coats to lessen any edges before adding the additional coats needed.

    Not sure if that is what you are asking. You may be over thinking it as I have done.
     

  3. stale facet

    stale facet TDPRI Member

    10
    Aug 7, 2014
    Massachusetts
    TL;DR:
    The goals:
    - no transparent background visible on final product
    - a finish that works without spraying
    - preferably a non-toxic/environmentally safe solution, too


    Full post:
    I appreciate the answer!

    What I'm most concerned with is making sure the clear part of the waterslide & its edges won't be visible when done. The threads I've read place importance on what type of seal one uses to cover the waterslide/headstock. A lot of the advice relies on sprayed finishes, which is something I can't really do since I live in an apartment.

    I don't want to waste money on products that are the wrong thing. I don't mind investing time in learning, but I don't want to waste time on things that won't work—I've already tried a few things that don't work!

    Neck: a Warmoth maple/rosewood fretboard unfinished standard.
    Decal: Laser-printed on Lazertran stock.
    Applied turpentine to sanded-bare headstock, and applied decals. Dabbed in white vinegar.
     
    Last edited: Jun 3, 2017

  4. flyingbanana

    flyingbanana Poster Extraordinaire

    Whatever finish you use, put like 10 to 15 coats. Be patient and allow to dry thoroughly....in between coats also, and then just sand back til you get a level surface...then wet sand lightly and polish.
     

  5. stale facet

    stale facet TDPRI Member

    10
    Aug 7, 2014
    Massachusetts
    That includes Minwax wipe-on poly? I thought poly was an issue, but maybe that was because previously I put the poly on first, then the waterslide.

    Thanks!
     

  6. flyingbanana

    flyingbanana Poster Extraordinaire

    I'd lay something down on the wood first. This seals the wood under the decal, and also allows you to "bury" the decal between finish layers. Just makes for a cleaner look.

    But you don't have to do it that way. There are easy ways, and better ways of doing things.
     

  7. eallen

    eallen Tele-Meister

    237
    Jul 30, 2013
    Greenwood, Indiana
    Spray or brush really doesn't matter as long as it is thick enough to sand smooth without getting into the water slide.

    You lay a layer down and sand flush first before the sticker or you can have air pockets you will see from the low grain areas where the sticker isn't touching.
    Make sure the water born dries sufficiently like over night before coating with finish or moisture will get trapped under making it milky.
     

  8. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Dec 29, 2010
    Illinois
    The deal is this: If you want to bury a decal enough that the edges don't show, you have to pile on a thick finish. Lacquer is the do-it-yourselfer's choice because you can build a thick finish by layering a bunch of thin coats. Each new layer melts itself into the preceding layers. That means when it comes time to sand it flat and polish it will yield a clear, glossy surface that won't have witness lines from all those layers.

    Witness lines are the problem with poly. Also, if you build too thick a finish with poly you run the risk of it never hardening.

    You can bury decals with aerosol lacquer. If you spray it outside and let it hang for a minute or two, you can bring it inside to cure. Almost all the odor from lacquer happens during spraying. After a minute or two, you can smell it up close, but you won't even notice it five feet away. I do a lot of painting this way during the winter.
     
    MWROBBIN and NilsZippo like this.

  9. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Age:
    65
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    Not only would you have to lay on very thick finish - you would also have to put together some kind of sanding template to enable sanding the clear over the decal but not around it.

    That's next to impossible. "decals" that show no lines or evidence of decal use are not decals, they are screen printing. A decal - no matter how thin the material - will always be thick enough that any DIY material you apply will show edges and/or a difference in thickness, which can also create differences in reflectance around it. Even if you melt the edges there will be a difference in thickness over the rest of the decal, and the "edge" will still show in certain light.
     
    nojazzhere likes this.

  10. eallen

    eallen Tele-Meister

    237
    Jul 30, 2013
    Greenwood, Indiana
    I use nothing but watershed decals, as a mass # of custom builders do, and sand flat with no lines left. It isn't difficult. Just put on enough coating that when it is flat there is still a thin film over the decal. I don't use a sanding template of any sort. Just the flat block I use on the rest of the guitar.

    Here is one I started spraying today and a previous one recently sold. The couple I have at home of mine are 4 years old and still no lines visible. I wouldn't be surprised if that changes some day but still good today.

    1496615473610.jpg
    1496615498875.jpg
     
    MWROBBIN likes this.

  11. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Dec 29, 2010
    Illinois
    Nah, it's not at all difficult. What you do is pile on a thick coating of finish. The finish over the decal will be a little higher than the rest of the headstock, but once you sand it flat you won't see the edges.

    You can see the decal at some angles sometimes, but if the decal was nice and clear, most of the time you really can't see it. Since even Fender, who does dozens of them an hour has some variability in how their logs look, I've been very pleased with the results I've been able to achieve.
     
    El Tele Lobo likes this.

  12. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Age:
    65
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    I'm sure you do. I wasn't addressing production situations - Please see "DIY" in my post.

    Most try to avoid that, and when just a headstock face is being done...specifically for decal coating...a very thick finish will have a different look than the rest of the neck.

    I was also specifically addressing the OP, who it appears is doing a first installation/coating. In my experience achieving "no lines" isn't achievable on a first try without a ton of luck. After numerous installations, possibly - but that does not appear to be the situation here. I didn't post info for someone experienced in doing it.
     

  13. eallen

    eallen Tele-Meister

    237
    Jul 30, 2013
    Greenwood, Indiana
    Sorry, I should have mentioned I am a hobby 2-3 per year hobby builder rather than production, aka, DIY.

    The first guitar I ever did resulted in invisible line watershed decal. Now that doesn't mean I didn't have to go thru a couple decals to get it there and learn as I went though. the name of the game is experiment, fail, learn, do it again.

    As a matter of fact I wasn't paying attention and had to remove and put s new decal on one I started finishing last night. The joy of gentle reminders.
     

  14. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Age:
    65
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    That's a fairly lucky version - not everyone manages that.

    And my concern wasn't just the OP, it was newbies who may stumble on the thread after paying $10 (or more) for *one* decal. These threads don't go away. If they read comments and think :"oh, great - I can do it" they'd likely either 1) not get the desired results or 2) be out their $10, plus have to figure out how to strip only the new coating from the headstock.
     
    eallen likes this.

  15. McCart

    McCart TDPRI Member

    Age:
    72
    70
    Mar 12, 2016
    California
    I have found that all water slides are not created equal. I don't know the brands that people send me, but some disappear completely and fast. Others just seem to be there if you look for the edge. Even if the surface was sanded flat, there's a hint of it as if it has distorted the light.
     

  16. cabra velha

    cabra velha Tele-Holic Platinum Supporter

    780
    Jan 21, 2016
    sub arctic
    I used to turn my bathroom into a spray-booth when I was living in an apartment. . .but that was before I was married.
     

  17. trouserpress

    trouserpress Tele-Meister

    211
    May 4, 2015
    Leipzig
    Seal your headstock with shellaq using a very soft quality brush. If you're lucky just one (not too thin) coat settles itself to a perfect finish. Most likely you'll have to let that first thick coat dry for five days and then apply about 12 more thin coats using the 3-3-L method: 3 coats in one day - 3 days for drying - one very careful/half heartedly levelling process (300 grid sandpaper, maybe use fingers, no block). Repeat 4 times - all of your goals fulfilled. The shellaq has to be fresh and free of resin. Furthermore work swiftly: You've got but 10 seconds for one coat.
     
    eallen likes this.

  18. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Age:
    65
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    That's a"pass" - not a "coat". A coat is normally 3 passes.
     
    trouserpress likes this.

  19. dsutton24

    dsutton24 Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Dec 29, 2010
    Illinois
    There's no doubt you've done a very thorough job of pointing out what you perceive as flaws in others' responses, but what you haven't done is given the OP anything positive to work with. What, in your estimation, should he do to achieve the result he's after?

    I can tell you with complete confidence that my method of burying headstock decals works. There's nothing mysterious or hard to achieve about the process. Lay down the decal, bury it under lacquer, sand it flat, and polish.
     
    El Tele Lobo likes this.

  20. Silverface

    Silverface Poster Extraordinaire Ad Free Member

    Age:
    65
    Mar 2, 2003
    Lawndale CA
    I didn't point out any "flaws". As I stated clearly already, my point is that those doing a first (or who do very few) decal installation will find it very difficult (if not impossible) to eliminate lines. IMO there is no method that works consistently without experience and/or a lot of practice. Some members here buy *one* decal to install on a guitar and trying to eliminate lines may ruin the decal itself. Others print their own on cardstock that is very thick and makes line elimination even more difficult.

    And again, I was not just posting for the OP - these threads never go away and a newbie could search for this info 2 years from now and mistakenly think he will easily eliminate lines when installing his $15 decal.

    I've been installing and finishing over (in some cases) decals for decades and have advised local DIY'ers how to do it. Hundreds (at least) of them later I have a pretty good idea of what to expect based on experience and type of decal.

    IMO posting cautionary information so people don't expect too much is more positive than posting "sure it works - here's how I do it" without explaining one's depth of experience.
     
    McCart likes this.

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