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Trim Graphics Made Easy

Using Trim Solvent, Frisket Film and Other Tools To Simplify Those Finishing Touches

by AnnMarie Cross

Main Article | Products Used | Photos | A Step By Step Example


When we were in California, Michael and I completed a lot of airplanes in a very short time (we owned a professional building service). Customer's kits had to go from start to finish quickly - a typical sport plane went from opening the box to flying in one week. We scrounged for every shortcut we could find, and learned tons of ways to speed up building, but when it came to covering, well, like cap stripping, Michael just couldn't find a faster way, so he usually gave the job to me!

Well, even in our current positions, this challenge followed us...but now Michael had to do his own covering. And usually the graphics are all done by hand from MonoKote, because decal sheets are not yet available. Positioning is one of the hardest parts of lettering, so he experimented with using various tapes. One day someone showed him Badger Foto/FrisketTM Film (often known as Photo Transfer Paper) as a low tack option. This, combined with MonoKote Trim Solvent, has made an all-day, frustrating task into an hour's work, with a great looking end-result!

Using a Printed "Stencil", Trim Solvent and Frisket

Let's walk through a basic graphic, such as AMA #s (we all do those, don't we?!) I like to use WordPerfect and my printer to make templates, so I recommend you do that first. When you have on paper exactly what you want to cut and the wing is already covered, ironed tight, and well cleaned, you're ready to get started. (Top Flite's Trim Solvent is made specifically for MonoKote, so test it with any other product before trying to apply to your work of art!) First, peel the backing off a piece of covering slightly larger than the overall size of your template, and iron it onto a sheet of clean glass. (The glass eliminates rough spots in your cuts and has a light surface tension that holds the covering in place.) Now tape the template onto this piece of covering. Be sure to pull the template tight and tape it down on all 4 corners and along any long edges to keep it in place.

Cut the template letters through the paper and your covering just like using a stencil, taking your time to get good, smooth cuts and be sure all corners are cut through. Remove the template paper and also remove all the excess MonoKote from the glass so all that is left is the perfectly sized and spaced text. Measure the distance from the bottom of your planned text location to the trailing edge of your wing, and draw a straight line that distance below the letters on your glass. (Before you apply the graphic, you must be sure the surface is clean. We use a ScotchBrite High Performance Cleaning Cloth to really get it clean.)

Now for the fun part! Open a bottle of MonoKote Trim Solvent and quickly dab across the top of the bottle with a folded paper towel. Do not use a lot. If your fingers got wet through the top of the sheet, then you applied too much, unfold the towel and refold the wettest part into the center. Wipe the damp paper towel over the entire area where the graphic will be applied. It should leave a slight haze like window cleaner on clean glass but not be beading. Allow the Trim Solvent to dry for approximately 1-3 minutes until the haze just clears.

While you're allowing the Trim Solvent to dry, peel the backing off a sheet of Frisket. Align the bottom edge of the sheet with the line you drew, and be careful to keep the sheet from wrinkling as you press it onto the letters you hand cut. The Frisket has more stick than the glass' surface tension, and so will easily lift the MonoKote from the glass.

Once the Trim Solvent's cleared, align the bottom edge of the Frisket with the trailing edge of your wing, and press the letters in place. Rub each letter down firmly onto the wing, but be careful not to be so heavy-handed as to damage the model. (Important note: Trim Solvent provides an instant and permanent bond. You get only one chance to position, so do it carefully. An extra set of hands can be helpful at this stage.)

Pull the Frisket paper off the wing and lettering, pressing from the center of each letter outward to firmly seat any corners which did not seal properly. On fine lines like the red in the CAP 232 logo, you may need to use a hobby knife to hold the fine lines down as you pull back the Frisket.

Once the Frisket is removed, iron down any loose edges and the damp spots on your paper towel to clean up any color bleed which may have occurred any place you used your iron.

Note: If you choose to use trim sheet instead of covering for the graphic, you no longer need the Trim Solvent. However, MonoKote and Trim Solvent provide a very secure bond, even better than that provided by trim sheets, so for longevity, I recommend using MonoKote.

Letting the Computer Do the Work: Thanks, Roland Digital Group, for the Stika!

Now the hand-cut approach works great, but the end result is directly dependent upon how sharp your hobby knife blade is and how patient you are at cutting tight places. But if you're going to use a computer to draw the graphic in the first place, why not let a computer printer do all the cutting, too? That's where the Roland Stika cutters come in. This is a vinyl cutter designed specifically for cutting vinyl based materials. You can use the Stika software which has a huge variety of fonts of its own (the racehorse in the photo is a character in the transportation fonts!), or you can print from a variety of other products, including AutoCAD and Corel Draw. The trick to printing with the Stika is to use self-adhesive trim sheet like the Coverite Graphics, or to use 3M77 Spray Adhesive to attach MonoKote (on its backing) to manilla file folder to feed the MonoKote through the cutter cleanly.

Let's Look at One That's Really Fun!

Checkerboard 1 Checkerboard 2 Has the checkerboard photo driven you bonkers yet? For those of you who haven't quite figured out what's in that checkerboard, that's my AMA#, 1 LDY PLT (one lady pilot). This is what happens at 2AM when you're having fun figuring out how to use Frisket! A covering task like this isn't hard, but it does take some planning.

1) Prepare the base color.
This graphic looks like it should have taken hours and hours (and perhaps too little sleep?), but we did this graphic together in under 2 hours. The wing had already been flown, so it was very carefully cleaned with a Scotch-Brite High Performance Cleaning Cloth to remove all fuel residue.

2) Prepare the 2nd color.
We chose to do the pink below the plum, and cut a piece 2" longer and 1" taller than the widest point of our planned graphic. We removed the backing from the pink, ironed it to a separate piece of glass and set it aside.

3) Prepare the 3rd color.
We cut a piece of metallic plum the same, debacked it, and ironed it to the glass. We measured and marked 1" increments down each side and across the top and bottom of the plum covering.

4) Cut the 4th color.
We taped our printed 1 LDY PILT template to the plum and cut it out of the plum, being careful not to pull up or remove any covering from the glass.

We cut a single random wave into a piece of plywood, then aligned it at each of the 1" increments down the sides and cut the plum, being careful to leave the covering in place on the glass. We then took a straight edge, angled it so the bottom edge was 1" to the right of the top edge, and cut lines every inch, again being careful to leave the plum secured to the glass.

5) Remove the pattern.
We removed every other piece of covering, resulting in a normal plum-to-blank checkerboard pattern, but not touching any cell the letters affect. We then removed or left the plum in each lettered cell to match the checkerboard, but made the letter alternate from the color of the square. (For example, the top of the 1 is plum, and was left inside of an otherwise removed square.)

6) Build the graphic.
We spread trim solvent over the pink. Using multiple pieces of Frisket, we lifted the plum off the glass and secured it to the pink, then ironed down any loose edges.

7) Install the graphic.
Using the plywood template, we trimmed the pink edges to match the plum. We then coated the appropriate area of the wing with Trim Solvent and allowed it to clear. Finally, we again used Frisket to lift the built graphic from the glass and attach it securely to the wing.

How Else Can I Use These Techniques:

Here's just a few other ideas:
Frisket works great for lifting and applying decals - just cut around the decal, lift it with the Frisket and apply it to your model - no fingerprints, no damaged edges!

Frisket can be cut and used as masking for water-based paint applications.

Stika-cut trim sheet makes great masking for perfect paint lines on canopies, cowls, and glassed/painted models.

Photos | A Step By Step Example


Reprinted with permission.
July, 2000 R/C Modeler Magazine
Editor: Dick Kidd


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