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Old 08-25-2007, 04:20 AM   #1
Sky Sharkster
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Default Making Letters, Numbers, Trim From Iron-On Film

One of the tricks to having a nicely-covered model is to have lettering, AMA number, multi-color designs, pinstripes and patterns over the base color. There are graphic sheets, decals and press-on letters that may be used, but often they don't match the hue and density of the original color. Generally, the best match is another color film from the same manufacturer or brand.
I've been making my own "trim" for years, dating back to Japanese tissue and dope. Many of the same techniques can be applied to iron-on film, and a few newer ones have been adopted over time.
For letters and numbers, a sheet of stencils from an art store work fine. A typical "speed 400" model with 200-300 square inches of wing area will use about 2" lettering. Pick a font/letter style that suits the plane (or your personal taste). While you're at the art store, buy a couple of sheets of plain white poster board, the cheap stuff is OK. This is for one of the "tricks" I mentioned.
Lay the poster board flat on your bench, and make sure you have a good light source close by, one with an adjustable neck.
Say you have a name of 6 letters for one wing, and a 7 digit AMA number for the other. The wing is already covered (and shrunk) in red film and you want black letters.
2" letters (tall) are generally 1-1/2" wide. 7 (letters) X 1-1/2" (wide)= 10.5". Cut two strips off the black film, each about 2-1/4" high, 12" long. Now, the important part; Peel the backing off FIRST. Make sure there's no dust on the board, then press the strip of film flat onto the board. Try doing one layer for now, later you can try cutting multiple letters at the same time, it's a little trickier.
Place the stencil for the first letter or number at the far left-hand edge of the strip and trace the outline with a brand-new # 11 blade. Go slowly, use a firm but not hard pressure, you're not cutting the board, just the film. You may have to turn the board slightly to get a better wrist angle on certain angles of cut, and you can adjust the light source as you go to see the stencil better. When the first letter is done, don't remove it, just move the stencil to the right and go to the next letter.
When you are done, carefully lift the strip off the board. The letters should stay down, in some cases there will be a corner that isn't quite cut, just snip it with the blade and keep removing the strip. Eventually you'll be left with a full set of letters on the board.
When both sets are done, wipe down the wing with "windex" and a soft cloth. Warm up your iron to the normal application temperature. Use an erasable marker and ruler to line a top + bottom "border" on the wing, a way to align the letters spanwise. Obviously the border will be 2" tall, about a foot long.
Spray a mist of windex on the area that will have the lettering and begin putting the letters in place. Get them all aligned before beginning to iron. Use the tip of the iron and don't just flatten them down, you will get air bubbles for sure. Slowly trace the letter with the tip, and chase or bleed the air out as you go. The iron will make a hissing sound because of the liquid but it's OK.
Once they're all stuck down flat, go over the area with the edge of the iron to seal the edges. Done!
Pinstripes are done the same way. Cut off a strip as wide as the roll and a couple of inches tall. Remove backing and press onto the board. Use a metal straightedge to slice off 1/8" strips, a few extra is always a good idea. Tack one end down and stretch it gently towards the other end. Follow along with the iron, bleeding the air bubbles out as you go.
After it's all done, a quick wipe with the windex and rag will remove the fingerprints and you will have a great finish!
Good Luck!
Ron
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Old 08-25-2007, 01:35 PM   #2
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Excellent tutorial.
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Old 08-25-2007, 10:22 PM   #3
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Hey Ron, thanks!! You should have a video series ...seriously.
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Old 08-25-2007, 10:31 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by alienx View Post
Hey Ron, thanks!! You should have a video series ...seriously.

I agree. Your posts are always very informative and helpful. I wish I had half the building experience you do.

Thanks for all your posts on Wattflyer.

Tom
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Old 08-25-2007, 10:32 PM   #5
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Ditto! Very nice info Ron... Very helpful

President - Smoky Mountain Aero Club, Sevierville Tennessee
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Old 08-26-2007, 12:21 AM   #6
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Default Thanks for the tips

I think removing the backing is one of the better tips, I've messed around with it, leaving the backing on only to have the film slide around on me. Also, I gotta add, with the tecnique of applying them, I found going that route with water decals works well too, the difference being the iron is on a very low heat setting and only used to get the air bubbles out while making a very smooth finish.
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Old 08-26-2007, 01:01 AM   #7
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Default Thanks, Guys!

To Pd 1, Andy, Tom, Bill, SaucerGuy, thanks for the kind words. I like to "Spruce up" my models a bit, and while it may sound like a lot of work, after you've cut out letters a couple of times it goes pretty fast.
Over time I've collected several styles of "type face" stencils, and will say it is much easier to cut out straight-line letters with a font like Gothic or Helvetica than one of the cursive or script styles. Yeah, the fancy ones look great but, boy, are they hard to cut!
So I guess we can expect to see some award-winning finishes from everyone now? Photos, we want photos!
Ron
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Old 08-26-2007, 11:15 PM   #8
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Default Photo's

Show us some of your more elaborate ones, we all would like to see, condensed in one spot.

I have a Guillow's 172 that's going to be getting some extensive stripes on it to make scale looking, I'll be using your technique. I haven't started the build yet, so it may be a while. The jigs are going to be the time consuming element, especially when making insignias and emblems.
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Old 08-26-2007, 11:30 PM   #9
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Default Photos?

Hello SaucerGuy, Sorry to say I don't own a digital camera, must be one of the few! The few photos I have on the site were taken by others.
Good Luck with the 172!
Ron
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Old 08-26-2007, 11:42 PM   #10
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Default If you get one

I found my Cannon to serve me well, I have a Kodak CRX that takes barely passable photo's, but not consistantly so it never gets used. Anything over 2 megapixles, for web based applications is a waste, everybody keeps upgrading theirs so I'm sure you can find a used one on the cheap.
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Old 08-28-2007, 01:50 AM   #11
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I only have one thing to disagree with your Excellent tutorial. Some Windex contains an alcohol that can inhibit the glue on the Graphic to the sub straight material. A better choice would be several drops of liquid dish detergent mixed with water and you will have more time to align things with out upsetting the bonding material. Also, Ron, after you lift the weed from the surface, place a piece of masking tap across the top of the letters and then left. This way they all stay aligned and it will make it easier to position on the sub straight. I've been dying to try a piece of monocote in my vinyl cutter but just haven't had the time.
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Old 08-28-2007, 02:04 AM   #12
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Default More Tips?

Hello Starcad, Welcome to the Builders Forum!
I haven't experienced any problem with the window cleaner, but you're right that it contains alcohol. It may have more of an effect on the self-adhesive (i.e. "Press Apply") trim than the heat-activated ones? Or the heat from the iron evaporates the alcohol before it can damage the adhesive.
Thanks for the tip about soap + water, I'll try that next time.
Good idea about the masking tape, hadn't thought of that.
Nice trim job on the model in your avatar!
Ron
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Old 01-14-2008, 03:03 AM   #13
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Ron,

I came across this and was wondering; you use poster board. My teacher has a piece of glass (like glass shelving, 1/4" to 1/2" thick) that he uses for cutting heat-shrink covering. The glass enables him to get crisp, sharp edges and super-clean cuts. Any thoughts?

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Old 01-14-2008, 03:30 AM   #14
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Well done Ron!

Here are some photos of two of my planes I used film lettering on.

Frank
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Old 01-14-2008, 11:58 AM   #15
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Default Glass For Cuttting?

Hello Kev,
I've heard of folks using glass as a cutting board, but never tried it myself. I'll bet it makes a very clean edge since it's such a hard surface. If you try it, let us know how it works out.
Ron
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Old 01-14-2008, 12:00 PM   #16
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Default New Planes!

Hi Frank, great job on the lettering! That "Tyro" looks very good, you've got the hang of it.
Keep up the great work!
Ron
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Old 01-14-2008, 01:09 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by Sky Sharkster View Post
Hello Kev,
I've heard of folks using glass as a cutting board, but never tried it myself. I'll bet it makes a very clean edge since it's such a hard surface. If you try it, let us know how it works out.
Ron
Ron,

Will do. I saw Steve (mu buddy teaching me to build) use it on one of his during a covering lesson he was giving me, and it worked very well. Make sure you have a new blade, of course, and it gives him some impressive precision for cutting.

When I get ready to cover Missy I will let you know how it goes. Right now I am enjoying reading your threads compiled for building. Thanks for those.

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Old 01-14-2008, 01:19 PM   #18
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New, sharp exacto blades are the biggest factor in making good cutouts. Nothings seems to dull the blades faster than this covering. Don't know why and wish I could find something that didn't dull so quickly. Plan on buying a lot of 100 if you do a lot of covering work/detail. Cheaper that way.

Frank
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Old 01-16-2008, 01:36 AM   #19
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Default Ok guys, here's my all time favorite building trick!

Here's how I do letters and shapes from covering material, which is a slight variation of Sky's method:

1) make a drawing, either with computer/printer, or freehand.

2)make a copy for each individual piece you need and roughly cut out each shape at least 1/4" bigger than the shape. Don't cut along the line!

3)using few tiny bits of double sided tape, stick a drawing on covering material. On melamine or glass surface, cut along each line through BOTH pattern and covering. You can only use each drawing once.

I use this same method to transfer parts from plans to balsa when scratchbuilding.

-Steve


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Old 01-16-2008, 10:13 AM   #20
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Default More Letters?

Hello Griffin,
Thanks for the tip, I especially like the fact that you can use other media to create fonts, or draw them free-hand. I guess you could also size them in a copier.
Good ideas!
Ron
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Old 01-16-2008, 12:11 PM   #21
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Default cool

Griffin, I like that way better, it looks much more simple to do it that way. Thanks for sharing.

Brian
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Old 01-16-2008, 02:14 PM   #22
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Thanks guys,
Here's an example of a plan built plane in which every balsa part was cut out with that method, plus the Navy lettering. One roll of double sided tape is enough for several planes.
One other trick is to use a straight edge as much as you can instead of freehanding it.

-Steve


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Old 01-16-2008, 02:23 PM   #23
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Steve,

Excellent work. I am glad I bumped this thread up the other day.

- Kev
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Old 01-16-2008, 02:39 PM   #24
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Default I love it

So a blending of techniques, we have the makings of an old timer must go route wise. I'm feeling much more confidence with this gig on cutting the film for graphics, now you got me thinking making more jigs and investing in a French curve!!!

Excellent work on your navy bird, you are talented.

I learned something here, thanks buddy!
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Old 01-16-2008, 02:40 PM   #25
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Originally Posted by SaucerGuy View Post
So a blending of techniques, we have the makings of an old timer must go route wise. I'm feeling much more confidence with this gig on cutting the film for graphics, now you got me thinking making more jigs and investing in a French curve!!!

I learned something here, thanks buddy!
SG,

What is a French Curve?

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