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#1987963 - 11/17/12 08:49 PM Varnish Piano Decals
woodfab Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/05
Posts: 412
Loc: Stoneham, MA
Any advice on using varnish applied decals.

The soundboard I'm attempting to put it on has lacquer on it.

I found that if I use lacquer as an adhesive it blurs or dissolves the decal.

I tried varnish witch seemed to work until I put lacquer over it and the decal wrinkled to the max.

Any tips would be appreciate!
Dan (Piano Tinkerer)

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#1988007 - 11/18/12 12:29 AM Re: Varnish Piano Decals [Re: woodfab]
Dale Fox Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/17/04
Posts: 1193
Loc: Nor California Sacramento area
Let it dry thoroughly before top-coating. Apply seal coats of clear shellac before lacquer. Very light coats with plenty of drying time. Light coats. Let dry thoroughly and then apply the first extremely light seal coat of lacquer. Build slowly.

Personally, I prefer the rub on decals from 'decals unlimited'. Work the first time. First seal coats should always be VERY light no matter what when using lacquer over decals.
Dale Fox
Registered Piano Technician

#1988139 - 11/18/12 12:09 PM Re: Varnish Piano Decals [Re: woodfab]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4263
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada

Yep. That is what happens when using incompatible products. The decal wrinkled because of the wax in the lacquer or you are using cat lacquer and the catalyst is much stronger than the varnish ever will be.

So you ripped the base away from the surface while drying the top coat. This will also happen using shellac with the wrong lacquer.

If you steel wool overtop and then recoat the wrinkles will eventually disappear as the lacquer % rises but you have to flood the whole area so much it looks like you are having spray gun flow problems when finished because one area is flooded so much thicker.

With the old varnish decals, these decals are made using the original inks from the 1800’s, so you have to find the products that are compatible for that process.

Try to find an older can of actual rubbing varnish in it’s a raw state. I was lucky to find an old can at the Mohawk dealer here sitting in a shelf way in the back forgotten.

You might have luck at an art supply house as oil paintings must have a protective coat of varnish….

The product supply houses want to sell you today is an oil based varathane or what some call spirit varnish (meaning minerals spirits varnish).

Raw varnish is thicker than a jar of molasses. Mix slowly minerals spirits until you get the consistency you want.
The procedure I use is a camel hair brush, dip into mineral spirits and then wipe across the varnish.

I then mix this together right on the bench as I have an old table with an arborite top where I can wipe the surface with Methyl absolutely clean.

Make a little puddle about the size of a silver dollar. Then apply the mixture and apply the decal in the usual way. Use white gas (Naptha) when dry to clean off the edges and prep for top coat in the usual way.

Use dust coats of Mohawk water white 35% sheen or some other type of nitro cellulose only. A couple of dust coats should lightly seal the decal. Then wait one full day. Top coat with a heavier coat the following day and you should have success.

Sure we can all go the Decals Unlimited or some other such place and use the modern replacements. This does not help to develop the talent or skills the technicians who came before us had.

Like many other processes with piano restoration it is the repeat process that develops the skill. Remember that decals are fragile and easy to damage or destroy when applying even for experienced cabinet finishers.

I always purchase two of every decal.
Dan Silverwood
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."

#1988657 - 11/19/12 07:11 PM Re: Varnish Piano Decals [Re: woodfab]
woodfab Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/06/05
Posts: 412
Loc: Stoneham, MA
Thanks guys for the info.

I purchased the decals last year. I liked the idea that they have a much longer shelf life than the rub on type, and cost much less.

The dealer was very nice to send me about ten various other decals to practice with.

After some failed attempts I tried one using SOBO fabric glue proceeded with an over cote of lacquer, seemed to work fairly well.

"Dan" I am unfamiliar with (Mohawk water white) sounds interesting. Right now I have a cabinet with so many different products I've tried. I am trying to avoid buying more.

Well maybe another attempt tonight.
Dan (Piano Tinkerer)

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#1988686 - 11/19/12 08:23 PM Re: Varnish Piano Decals [Re: woodfab]
msks Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/24/08
Posts: 234
Loc: lawrence,KS
Why did you put lacquer on the soundboard? It is not a good idea to put some other finish on top of lacquer. Generally,on a varnished soundboard you can put on the decal and then varnish over it lightly,

#1989065 - 11/20/12 07:24 PM Re: Varnish Piano Decals [Re: woodfab]
Silverwood Pianos Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/10/08
Posts: 4263
Loc: Vancouver B. C. Canada
Water white is the name of one of Mohawks lacquer without any hardening additives such as catalyst.It is nitrocellulose only.

Most of the finishing suppliers would have a mix of nitro only. I know ML Campbell does along with Cloverdale Paint which may be in Canada only. You also have Target Coatings there I believe.

Spray cans are nitro only but they have such a high content of solvent that you will melt the inks of the decal. That is one of the other problems; too much solvent causes problems with decal setting.

I like the Mohawk nitro because it is low solids and can be sprayed right out of the can without mixing in solvent.

The wrinkling problem is not what you stick the decal with but what you spray over top. It is the catalyst or the wax in the brand of lacquer that is incompatible. Not likely to be any of the vinyl polymers….
Dan Silverwood
"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur."


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