Decal Pen Tutorial

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Blog entry by Kerux posted 03-11-2008 09:24 PM 36181 reads 59 times favorited 20 comments Add to Favorites Watch

Here is what I basically do with my Decal pens. As you can see I use Testors Decal paper. This can be found at Hobby stores. I purchased mine at “Hobby Lobby.”

Just follow the directions for printing out your logo, name…etc. One thing I have found using this material is that you MUST use a light colored blank for the background. This is transparent film, but the inkjet inks are not solid enough for darker colors. That type of decal must be purchased through professional modeler companies.

After printing out your decal you must spray this setting compound. It to can be purchased at the same place you buy the decal paper. These go hand in hand and one cannot be used without the other. But becareful not to over spray. Overspraying can stiffen the decal up so it won’t bend around your pen.

Now, lets assume to this point that you have turned your blank. For prepping the barrel for decal I follow these simple steps:

1) sand down to 1000 grit
2) Use two thin coats of CA. I use an accelerate after each coat.
3) Micro Mesh the barrel 1500—12000 grit

The barrel should be nice a smooth at this point.

Now is the time to cut out your decals. Keep the trim close but not to close that you can’t handle the piece. Size it up to where you would like it on the barrel.

Take your decal and let is soak in some cool water (you can read the direction on package for this step).

Now be gentle as you slide the decal off the backing and place it on your barrel. Be very gentle rubbing out any creases and bubbles. THIS A MUST!

Now let the decal dry over night or 12 hours. You may see the outline of where you cut the decal out. That is okay and there is no need for any special decal over cover liquids. We will be applying enough heat when we put our finish on that the line will melt into the CA finish.

Here you can see the two barrels I’ve prepared to this point.

Now that the decal has completely dried be careful mounting it back onto the lathe. The decal can be easily be ripped at this point.

Now you need to take some thin CA and apply it with a shop towel. Quickly going over the blank as it is turning on the lathe. I then apply an accelerate. This seals a nice little top coat over the decal and protects it for the next applications of CA Glue.

I put on 3 coats of thick CA with accelerate after each coat. Some may think this is over kill but I like to be sure I don’t go through and sand the decal off… starting another over night wait.

After the CA Coats are applied I then Micro Mesh the barrel, 1500 – 12000 grits. I then use my beall buffing system. I only use the White Diamond skipping the Tripoli. Then finish off with a couple coats of Renascence Wax.

Now just put your pen together.


20 comments so far

View Grant Davis's profile

Grant Davis

840 posts in 4881 days

#1 posted 03-11-2008 10:00 PM

Very nice write up and a very nice pen.

-- Grant...."GO BUCKEYES"

View teenagewoodworker's profile


2727 posts in 4741 days

#2 posted 03-11-2008 10:51 PM

very good job. i think I’m ready to tackle a decaled pen when i get my lathe this summer. great job!

View cajunpen's profile


14578 posts in 5039 days

#3 posted 03-11-2008 11:24 PM

Very clever. Wish I had know about this when I was turning and selling a lot of pens. I’m wondering how the decals would work on larger projects, like box tops, etc. Ever try it? See lots of possibilities here. Good write up on the process – Thanks for sharing the information.

-- Bill - "Suit yourself and let the rest be pleased."

View Kerux's profile


812 posts in 4857 days

#4 posted 03-11-2008 11:43 PM


Ive not done anything larger. I know that some of this stuff was developed for Pine Wood Derby cars. I think heat is important in getting the decal edges to disappear, which happens during the sanding process. They do make some kind of liquid topper that is suppose to “melt” the edges gone, but I dont really know how that works.


View ND2ELK's profile


13494 posts in 4747 days

#5 posted 03-12-2008 12:18 AM

Teach Old Dog New Tricks

I am not a pen guy but the first thing I thought of when seeing this was using it to mark your cabinets.

Questions : 1. Can you explain a little more how the decal or logo is made? 2. Do you know of any professional modeler we could go to? 3. Do they make the logo or is this where you get the ink? Any information would be greatly appreciated.


-- Mc Bridge Cabinets, Iowa

View Kerux's profile


812 posts in 4857 days

#6 posted 03-12-2008 03:29 AM

The only thing I can think of to tell you is that they can be printed out of your computer using an inkjet printer. Using appropriate software. After you have it, it is much like your old fashion model decals you did as a kid, or your kids did, or your grand kids.

I’d have to check on the professionals.


View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27249 posts in 4795 days

#7 posted 03-12-2008 04:44 AM

This is a nice blog and the pen is gorgeous.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View rikkor's profile


11295 posts in 4847 days

#8 posted 03-12-2008 10:44 AM

Thanks for the write up. Finishing has been my biggest disappointment in pen turning. Your description of your process may help me out.

View Mario's profile


902 posts in 5024 days

#9 posted 03-12-2008 02:12 PM

That is awesome. Thank you for the post!

-- Hope Never fails

View Phil Clark's profile

Phil Clark

358 posts in 4768 days

#10 posted 03-12-2008 04:43 PM

Like cajunpen, this excellent blog is a little late for me as I close out my pen making but I’ve kept the reference for theperson who takes it over. Great way for a personal signature applied to other works – I’m going to try it.

-- Legacy Woodcraft

View TedM's profile


2002 posts in 4705 days

#11 posted 03-15-2008 12:41 AM

A great idea! Thanks for sharing. A great looking pen too!

-- I'm a wood magician... I can turn fine lumber into firewood before your very eyes! - Please visit and sign up for my project updates!

View toyguy's profile


1745 posts in 4810 days

#12 posted 03-18-2008 11:50 AM

Very Good Blog on the use of ink jet decals. And your end result turned out very nice.

I am not a turner, but I have been using decal paper for some of my models for a long time. The Testors product is one I have not tried but looks to be just fine. And you certainly have figured out the application part of the decals. ( I love the way you turners use cyano).

Just a note: For application to darker woods, decal paper is available in white as well as transparent. As ink jets don’t print white this can sometimes be used to your advantage.
For a clear coat to be used over the decal once it has been printed, I use clear spray Krylon from walmart. This seals the ink very nicely and is fairly flexible.
A good paper source can be found here at this address:

OR TRy this one:

Thanks for the blog, well done, and I love your pen.

-- Brian, Ontario Canada,

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

4073 posts in 5036 days

#13 posted 04-04-2008 03:58 PM

Beautiful pen and write up. The decal looks great.

I hesitate to mention this, as it does involve a commercial endorsement, but since many people are not aware that the service is available I will overcome my squeamishness about it and just put it out there. I work for FedEx-Kinko’s as a sign and graphics specialist. FK has dedicated sign and banner centers in some (products and services vary by location) larger urban markets. One of the abilities is the ability to print on adhesive vinyl with water resistant foils, and to cut these out with a CNC driven router/cutter (it’s so fun to watch – I’ve been doing this part of my job for about two months and it’s a gas to fiddle with this machine). Prices start at 10 bucks per square foot for one color work, and 15 for multi-color output. Some set up fee maybe forthcoming if design work is needed but generally much can be done with your own PDF or vector based art work. They also make bumper stickers too, and there are volume discounts available as well.

I made up a set of labels for Dorje to try out, and will do some home solvent tests as soon as the weather warms.
Perhaps I will post on this as I know more about durability etc.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over two decades.

View Halling51's profile


55 posts in 4448 days

#14 posted 05-03-2009 09:43 PM

Very impressive. Thanks for the nice written info.

-- Steinar, Norway - - Nothing is impossible! Just the impossible takes longer time! Hegner SE

View a1Jim's profile


118153 posts in 4550 days

#15 posted 05-04-2009 12:03 AM

Nice blog good looking pen. I could use those decals on my shoes LEFT and RIGHT yeah that would be a big help LOL


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