Waterslide Decals

Here’s the table of contents for the whole DIY pedal building series:

  1. Intro to DIY Pedal Building
  2. Beginner’s Course in Sketchup, Modeling a 125B Guitar Pedal Enclosure
  3. Drilling a 125B Guitar Effects Pedal Enclosure
  4. Pedal Enclosure Finishing: Surface Prep, Priming and Painting
  5. Using GIMP to Create Pedal Artwork
  6. Printing and Applying Waterslide Decal to Pedal Enclosure

In this final installment on finishing your own guitar effects pedals, I demonstrate how to print and apply the waterslide decal to the pedal, and apply a durable clear finish.   In previous videos, I showed how to model, drill, and paint the enclosure, and design and prepare the artwork and labels in GIMP.

I use clear waterslide decal paper, and print on my inkjet Canon Pro9000mkII.  After printing, and waiting a while to ensure the ink is dry, I spray on a few coats of Krylon Acrylic Crystal Clear acrylic to protect the ink during the soak.  Then, after the clearcoat dries for 30 minutes or so, I trim the paper to final dimensions and soak the paper in warm water.  When the decal starts to move freely from its backing, I wet the surface of the enclosure and slide the decal directly onto it.   I iron out the bubbles with wet fingers, and adjust the decal into its final position, being careful not to stretch the decal.

After drying for a few hours, I use a sharp razor to cut out the holes for the pots, switches, etc.  Then, I apply 4 clear top-coats of polyacrylic to protect the finish, waiting a few hours between each coat.

I like water-based polyacrylic because it’s very easy to use and clean up, and is low-odor so it can be applied indoors. This stuff looks a bit milky when wet, but dries clear. You may also see some tiny bubbles in the wet finish, but these disappear while drying and the finish self-levels well. I find a foam brush to be easiest and very inexpensive- make sure your foam is reasonably dense – the very porous ones are harder to work with.

While the polyacrylic is wet and curing, I cover the project with a mixing bowl to prevent dust from settling in the finish – propping up an edge of the bowl to allow oxygen to circulate.  After every coat but the final one, I do a light sanding with 400-grit wet/dry paper, to provide some tooth for the next coat.  If you get finish pooling at the bottom edges, you can sand it down with a sanding sponge.  After the last coat, as a final optional step, I buff on a coat of paste wax for extra shine and durability.

As a side note, this video took a lot longer to complete than I had planned – I wasn’t happy with my first version of the video, so I started over from scratch.  And in the process, I finally started to pay more attention to my lighting and backgrounds, and I started using my DSLR for video instead of my camcorder.  I’ll write more about that in another post.

Here are some of the resources shown in this video: