Headstock decal

Discussion in 'Finely Finished' started by JuneauMike, Sep 23, 2020.

  1. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    I applied this waterslide decal on a headstock last night and after it had dried I shot it with two coats of nitrocellulose clear (Gracey's) an hour apart. This is somewhat new territory for me here so would love to hear about other experiences.

    logo.jpg

    Having read a little about this process (really good information in the model building forums, that was a surprise), I used a 2:1 mix of water and white vinegar solution to dislodge the decal. The white vinegar is supposed to degrade and soften the waterslide decal film making a smoother transition between the wood surface and the decal film. Theoretically, this should help bury the decal in a layer of clear a bit more quickly, and thus using less expensive lacquer to achieve the finish I'm looking for. I did some decals earlier and to me they do seem like they were thicker than the stuff soaking in vinegar, or at least stood proud of the test piece more noticeably than this one. You can't really see the outline of this decal, but it is there.

    Not having a lot of experience with nitrocellulose I am going to work on the test piece tonight. I applied two decals to the test piece and then shot it with one good coat of nitrocellulose. And I'm going to attack one section of it with probably 800 grit sandpaper and naptha with the objective to burn through the clear and destroy the decal. I'll keep track of the time and approximate effort I put into it, just to give me a better sense for how delicate this stuff is. May do the same with wet sanding some 600 grit or 400 on another decal.

    I applied a few decals to the test piece earlier and shot it with eventually 8 coats of clear Deft, sanding the decal area after every 2 coats. It was surprisingly resilient. Last night I attacked it pretty aggressively with some 400 wet and it flattened out so I stopped rather than burn through. Not being very experienced with nitrocellulose lacquer, I assume the stuff is microscopically thin and so sand through can happen with just a few strokes. But I'm beginning to think maybe the stuff is tougher than I assume, but still not an armor plating.

    I've got two sanding blocks that I'm using. One is a small piece of 1/2 inch acrylic with some 1/8th inch cork sheet glued to the bottom of it. Another is a 1/4 inch felt drink coaster that I cut up into strips and stacked and glued. Really wish I had a nice strip of leather.

    Anyway, that's the plan. Anyone have any experience with this method? Anyone see any problems with my approach, or maybe tips on a better way?
     
  2. teletimetx

    teletimetx Doctor of Teleocity

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    The only problem I detect so far is that you have sensibly been working with test pieces, thereby depriving the most knowledgeable folks of the opportunity of shaking their fingers at you for not doing so. Has there been a recent wave of common sense afflicting your premises or what?
     
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  3. tubegeek

    tubegeek Friend of Leo's

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    'Tis a pity.
     
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  4. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yep sorry guys. However, if its any consolation, I don't have 35 years paint experience nor am I absolutely sure about the chemical composition of the lacquer I'm using. And furthermore, I am not real particular about the specific brand of sandpaper I buy.

    Hopefully that is enough to get the ball rolling. I'll sign off and patiently wait for someone to tell me that what I'm doing is impossible and my project will end in failure. And tears. :lol::lol:
     
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  5. fasteddie42

    fasteddie42 Tele-Afflicted

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    that's the only reason I came!
     
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  6. Ghostdriver

    Ghostdriver Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    All I have ever done with great results is apply decal then follow with enough coats of clear until the outline of said decal disappears. Leave it for at least a week if not more then go through the grits of wet and dry starting at around 800 to 3000 then buff. 1DAA6479-904E-46A5-BEF8-50A9BC1FACD0.png
     
  7. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    Do you recall how many coats of clear it took to bury the decal? And did you sand between coats, or just pile it on and scrub it back?
     
  8. kingvox

    kingvox Tele-Meister

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    I never tried the vinegar method but that sounds interesting. I've always just used water. Toilet tissue works great for rolling the decal onto the headstock, no joke. It's soft and absorbs excess water very well and if you're careful with it you should be able to get it to go on perfectly. You just use your finger and roll the tissue carefully over the decal. It takes a delicate touch but works great.

    I always use a 50/50 mix of lacquer to thinner, and do exactly that: multiple dry coats to protect the decal, then start with the wet coats. There is no real need to wet sand between coats of lacquer, just build it up to the thickness and gloss you want, then wet sand and buff. I have had times where I sanded between coats if the orange peel was particularly bad, but I'm not even sure if that makes much of a difference compared to just spraying the entire finish to the final thickness and sanding afterwards.

    The only exception is if you sprayed too wet a coat by mistake, then sanded that out, and then did a better, much more even job on the subsequent coats. If you're constantly getting orange peel then sanding between coats makes no sense.

    Using more coats will make sure you don't wet sand through the clear. I'd say to err on the side of caution and build it up fairly thick. Not sure exactly how many coats that is. Off the top of my head I'd say maybe 8 to 10 coats. That might sound extreme to some people but I would usually get a fair amount of orange peel I'd need to sand out. If you spray a very even and nice finish that requires very little wet sanding with fine grit paper you could probably get away with 5 coats.

    However, I wouldn't get hung up on that. My preference is to err on the side of caution when spraying over decals as the risk of sanding through is fairly high. The more orange peel you have, the more you're gonna have to sand. If it's nice and even and your technique/lacquer mixture is good, again, you can get away with less, but I would not spray any less than 4 coats minimum.

    Minimizing orange peel is equally important to the thickness of the coat, as it'll minimize the wet sanding you need to do. One of my friends doesn't even wet sand or buff his headstock finishes and they come out looking amazing. If you go too wet/thick with any of your coats you'll start building up orange peel and then you do run the risk of sanding through the finish, as you'll need to sand very aggressively to get everything level.

    Blush eraser is great, like the Behlen's blush eraser aerosol stuff, but I'm not sure how that would react with a decal. You just mist it very lightly and it extends the drying time of the lacquer and helps it level a little better, if you're struggling to get really clean and even coats with your spray technique. You can also use lacquer retarder in your mix but then things can start getting more complicated than they need to be.

    Your experience will build up very quickly. You also have nothing to fear. The absolute worst thing that can possibly happen is the decal is ruined. You can always strip the finish and start over. It's a pain but also a great way to learn if that happens. Don't ever be discouraged no matter what happens with this stuff. It's all skill building.

    Though I would wager that it will come out just about near perfect on your first attempt on the actual guitar. Care and patience goes a long way. I've had many times years ago when my spraying technique was fairly awful, and it was nothing that wet sanding and buffing couldn't take care of. It will come out great.

    EDIT: Agreed about spraying until the outline of the decal disappears. That would be the safest way, and doesn't rely on arbitrary counting of coats, the thickness of which is going to vary based on your spray technique.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
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  9. Ghostdriver

    Ghostdriver Tele-Meister Silver Supporter

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    probably five or six good wet coats, no sanding in between, then sand until no scratches in the clearcoat, then polish, whether this is right or not I don’t know, all I do know is I am a fussy sod and if it didn’t look right I would have tried another method !
     
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  10. RiversQC

    RiversQC Tele-Meister

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    Lemme just add: super cool decal!
     
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  11. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    Thanks, man. Its a logo I slapped together a long time ago for a lap steel that I built. It's sort of a riff on the original K&F Electric Stringed Instrument & Amplifier Co. icon that Leo and Doc Kaufman used on some of their early amps and instruments, with a bit of a modern update. I don't know why I like it, but I do.

    leo.jpg
     
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  12. Collin D Plonker

    Collin D Plonker Tele-Afflicted

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    That looks great.
     
  13. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    Wow, neat idea. I'd not heard about this stuff being used that way. So you shoot a coat of lacquer and then shoot some of this right on top of it (before its dry)? If that's the case, then you are using it as essentially a retarder. A retarder for a rattle can finish? Cool idea.
     
    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
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  14. kingvox

    kingvox Tele-Meister

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    Yep, that's it. Especially helpful in higher humidity where water can get trapped under the lacquer if the lacquer dries too quickly.

    I like it more than retarder because you can just carefully mist a little over freshly sprayed lacquer, vs. messing around with retarder to lacquer ratios when you're mixing it up.
     
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  15. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    Well, this could not have worked out any better. And the stress level was way less than it would be otherwise. Previously I had stuck two waterslide decals to my test piece and then shot a single coat of clear over it, using the technique I'd normally use. Let it dry overnight. The next night I used 600 grit paper and Naptha and a sanding block with cork on it, set a timer on my phone and started sanding the way I normally would. I burned through to the decal in about a minute 20 seconds, give or take, for each.

    So I shot two coats of clear on the headstock. Let it dry overnight and sanded only the decal for about a minute, then stopped. I used the same grit of sandpaper and sanding block.

    Sprayed three coats of clear on the headstock and after it dried, sanded. In about a minute, roughly, it was flat. Two more coats of clear for insurance and I'm satisfied that its done.

    I had much more confidence that I wasn't going to burn through and I didn't waste a ton of lacquer buryin the decal under 10-12 coats. Success.
     
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2020
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  16. jrblue

    jrblue Friend of Leo's

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    A few observations. It is not a good idea to spray "one good coat" over decals. Much better to do some light misting first, which is what is almost always advised, and then thin coats after that. Some decal inks will melt under nitro if given enough time in contact with the solvent. You don't want to trap moisture by laying on substantial coats over each other. Sanding before nitro has set pretty hard is really just working against a good result. You can usually get away with it, but it feels better and works better to sand when the stuff is actually hard. I never use sanding blocks on small areas like a headstock because they give me no feel whatsoever. I've used Deft a few times and it goes on thick and feels soft. I wouldn't use that on a body, but for quick buildup on a headstock, it's probably useful, and it sees to have worked really well for you. Hobby shops seel a bottle of some kind of stuff -- I don't even know what mine is anymore, sonce the label fell off! -- that goes on after you slide the decal and helps it sink onto the wood nicely. And yes, your logo decal is fantastic, and looks great, which is the whole point!
     
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  17. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    Thanks for the input. The "one good coat" reference was me applying what I thought was a representative sample of a single coat of nitro to a test piece. A single coat to me is one mist pass, followed by a slightly heavier coat. Some people do three mist coats, but this is my process. Everyone says nitro is very thin and to be careful not to sand through. But in my inexperience, I don't know what "thin" really means. The test piece gave me a frame of reference to help avoid sand through without feeling like I was playing Russian Roulette with my expensive guitar neck. Make sense?

    If you review the first post you will see that I'm not using Deft for the headstock. Nitrocellulose lacquer flashes off in about an hour and is dry enough to sand with caution if left overnight. In this example, my objective was to bury the decal in nitro then add a couple of finish coats so that I could leave it for several weeks to dry and then wet sand and polish.

    I agree with you about Deft. It is soft and cheap (I can get it locally for less than the shipping costs alone of the good stuff) and probably the perfect product for a headstock. In my case, I used Deft on a test piece earlier to acquaint myself with nitro. I don't think it would be ideal for a neck though, because it may finish sticky. I consider the headstock a high profile but low-traffic part of the guitar. It gets seen but not really handled very often. In retrospect, I would have been fine doing the headstock only in Deft. It would look just as nice and no one would know the difference.

    If I was really curious about Deft, I'd probably look into hardners of some kind that could be sprayed into the wet surface. Deft is cheap and easy to get. The stuff we buy from guitar retailers (Gracey's, in my case. Probably StewMac or Reranch for others) is expensive and difficult to ship to my location. Any ideas?

    Lastly, you raise a good point about the ink that I don't think I covered. So I reversed the image on the decal and printed the black with an ink-jet printer. Then I painted the silver using a more vibrant craft paint. After letting it dry overnight, I fixed it with a couple passes of nitro and let it dry longer then a day. That theoretically seals the ink, and it tells me how the ink reacts to the lacquer. In this case, it had no adverse reaction.

    I applied it to the headstock upside down, then when it was dry and clean, fixed it to the surface with two coats of nitro. That seemed to protect the ink pretty well since the ink is under the decal film and not on top of it. I also noticed that on my test piece I could scuff the decal (the sanding block seemed to travel over the decal film differently then it did on the lacquer, it felt sticky) without harming the image. In this way, its possible to detect that I had sanded all the nitro off, stop immediately and do an emergency repair before I ruined the decal. Theoretically, that is.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
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  18. jrblue

    jrblue Friend of Leo's

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    I agree. It's all about the weather and thinness of your coat. I find the "cure" times often published about nitro to be much exaggerated, though of course it's better to wait than to work on a soft coat! But I have been able to move right along, as you suggest, as long as the humidity is not high and my spraying is well-executed. Since guitars are really vulnerable when being worked on, I don't like to let it drag on. And I'll often do more work on a finish after months have passed.
     
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  19. JuneauMike

    JuneauMike Poster Extraordinaire

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    Yep, I just don't see a downside to waiting longer than you think you should.
     
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  20. Boreas

    Boreas Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

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    This is the stuff many modelers use. When used correctly in can sink the decal into the grain itself and it looks painted on. But if used too aggressively, it can melt and distort the decal.

    https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01LXZ03W9/?tag=tdpri-20

    I get pretty much the same results as the blue bottle with dilute white vinegar. That is all it is anyway. The red bottle is more aggressive and needs to be used carefully. It is a different solution.
     
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