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Polishing models with decals

Q: I've been having trouble polishing models with decals. It seems that every time I polish, the sanding goes through the finish and chips the decal.

I realize that a few things could be at fault: wrinkled/loose decals, using too much pressure while sanding, or not enough clear coat. I usually put on four coats of clear over decals.

Is there a better way, or something I should do to prep the decals before clear coating and polishing?

- Mike Hoekstra
via E-mail

Ken: A decal can add to the thickness of the model, and leave an edge. Imagine, in microscopic terms, the edge of the decal as a curb, where the sidewalk meets the street. When covered with a clear coat, that edge can be sanded into - even if you're being supercareful.

This is not an uncommon problem, which is why many modelers don't like to apply clearcoat over decals.

They'll polish out the car first, then apply decals that are carefully trimmed so there's no decal film showing at the edge of the printed edge of the decal.

Decals "like" to be applied to polished surfaces; they stick much better, and you don't get the "silvering" that you get when a decal is applied to a dull surface. (Silvering is caused by light diffusing through the air spaces between a decal and a rough surface).

If you prefer to clearcoat, just make sure you have enough clear over the edges of the decal so you don't rub through. That's a double-edged sword, though.

If you apply too much clear, it starts to fill in door lines and crevices that shouldn't be filled - and the car starts to look hand-dipped (an exaggeration, but you know what I mean).

I'd recommend polishing the paint first, then adding the decals. Try it; you may like the results.

More: Another method deserves mention here, too:

After the decals have been applied, brush or spray on a top coat of Future floor finish, which is thin and self-leveling, and creates a good, glossy finish. There are pros and cons associated with this stuff, so try it on a test model to see if you like the results.

One more thing: Don't leave the decals in water any longer than you have to; just leave them in long enough so they slide off the paper. Any longer and the glue starts to dissolve, and the decal won't stick as well, which could result in the "silvering" I mentioned earlier.


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