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:
- Clear inkjet waterslide decal paper
- Krylon Crystal Clear Acrylic Spray – Satin
- Carl Professional Rotary Trimmer
- Canon Pro9000 Mark II Inkjet Photo Printer
- General Finishes PolyAcrylic Water Based Top Coat – Satin
- Razor Blade
- Norton Very Fine Sanding Sponge
- 400 grit wet/dry sand paper
- Foam brush
- Minwax Paste Wax
- Stainless Steel Mixing Bowl or other suitable dust cover