Finishing Over a Decal
I talked to the guy that does all of our graphics on our company trucks. He suggested using an automotive clear coat (urethane) over the decal. This is what he sprays over vinyl on custom cars, and he has never had an adhesion problem, so I figured it was worth a shot. I did the first one on maple so there was no need to fill the grain. I stained the table and applied one coat of the auto clear, and then block sanded with 400 grit and applied an additional coat, and block sanded flat.
I then had the vinyl decal cut and applied by our graphics guy. I then applied several coats of the auto clear block sanded flat in between coats to 600 grit. After about seven coats, the decal was buried in the finish and you could no longer feel it. I then let the finish cure for several days and then wet sanded with a block to 1500 grit followed by several different 3m rubbing compounds with the buffer.
I then followed by hand buffing with 3m imperial hand glaze. This is by far the nicest looking finish I have ever done. It was crystal clear and when you stand back and look at the table it looks wet. There is a fair amount of hours involved to accomplish this look, but it is well worth it. My client is ecstatic with his table, and six months later, there have been no adhesion problems.
From contributor M:
I am finishing guitar necks with a decal. It appears that you can get different thicknesses for the decals. I have been finishing with lacquer. I apply a good base coat and sand, and then apply the decal and let it dry. My next coat is a light, mist coat. When this is dry I apply another wet coat and let it dry. Then I continue until I get a good fill. When I spray lacquer, I like to put wet-on-wet coats. I found that when I did this with the decal, it shrunk under the finish. Also, there was a halo around the decal (we are using a tinted lacquer).
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