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Repainting - Decals above or Below Clear Coat?

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Repainting - Decals above or Below Clear Coat?

Old 08-08-17, 12:10 PM
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Repainting - Decals above or Below Clear Coat?

Hi folks

Just wondering about your take on this. So I want to repaint two bikes. I notice the few repainted bikes I've come across, ALL of them have the decals under the clear coat. Although I think I understand the reasoning for the choice (they "last longer" that way), the bikes are however immediately identified as being repaints due to that fact.

Both bikes I want to repaint I probably will not ride much. One isn't in my exact size, so I intend it as wall art (a Merckx I hope to do in 7-11) and the other is a De Rosa I plan to build up with Deltas etc. so not exactly something i intend to ride hard. I'd personally want the bikes to look as original as possible. So does that mean I put the decals on top of the clear coat? What are the pros/cons of this decision? Thanks.
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Old 08-08-17, 12:47 PM
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Ideally, below, to protect the decals from scratching, but you need to be careful that the clear coat is compatible with your decal material.....Otherwise, the clear coat can attack the decals and make them shrivel up.
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Old 08-08-17, 01:02 PM
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...a lot of this depends on the source of your new decals, whether they are stickers or transfers, and what they are printed on.

Several of the guys I order this stuff from have options for thickness of the vinyl stock upon which they are printed, and for originality, I think you want thinner stuff. If it's wall art, not sure it makes much of a difference, but the more complex cut out patterns in vinyl will lift at the edges if not overcoated with clear. I'm in the process of repairing one of those right now, and I just gave up and stripped the bike so I could clear coat the whole thing.

The waterslide decal option is a good one, if you can find the deals you require in that format. A lot of the older stuff was originally waterslide decals....but it varies from bike to bike. Gitane used a lot of foil stickers that were somewhat fragile, but there is now good access to accurate replacements from Cyclo Mundo. I only have experience with him (Greg Softley), Velocals, and H Lloyd in the UK.

There are many other suppliers now that show up on a Google search, but those guys have all been around a while and have good selections and reputations for accuracy.
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Old 08-08-17, 01:42 PM
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Most vintage bikes were not clear coated because two stage paints were not yet commonly used at the time the bikes were manufactured.
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Old 08-08-17, 02:54 PM
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^ +1

So decals on top of your color coat, not in-between a basecoat/clearcoat system. Now you can use a catalyzed paint, if you're looking for some added durability.

Now some painters, when using a 2-stage system, put down one coat of clear before decalling, then clear over everything.
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Old 08-10-17, 11:59 AM
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With no topcoat at all your decals would just fall off. They would look odd. Even for a wall hanger there would be no way to clean the bike.

Modern bike painters, the good ones, achieve final finish by wetsanding and buffing the whole frame. The last thing they want to do is buff into the edge of a decal. So they bury the decals and graphics in a lot of clearcoat. The 'no edges here' look is also more "perfect" and guys who pay top dollar for custom paint mostly want perfect.

Nearly all De Rosas and Merckx will have clearcoat. You can see edges because for production work, even De Rosa level production work, it would be too costly to do it the way repainters do it. Just one or two light passes, easy on the buffing. Early De Rosa would have done something else. I do not have a rack of pre 1970 De Rosas to examine for clues.

Imron was introduced 1970. Good enough and easy enough it changed how bikes were painted pretty quick. Before then there were other ways to do it. Probably more ways than I would know. Most basic was to varnish the decals. On some bikes you can see that varnish or what is left of it. The simple way to make varnish that was very thin, very durable, and amazingly easy to brush was to use lead. No brush marks with lead. Lead was legal everywhere for this sort of application well past beginning of clearcoat era.

It is only new once. It is only original once.

You could try asking your painter to do it the factory way, light on the clear. To be much good as a painter requires a lot of obsessive-compulsive behavior so don't expect them to be eager to do it your way.
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Old 08-10-17, 02:26 PM
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Ok thanks for your the replies. Some of them are a bit more technical than I was expecting so I'll have to re-read a few times and digest. It seems putting the clear coat over the decals, however, is unanimous.

I plan on buying cyclomondo decals. Anything in specific I should look out for?
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Old 08-10-17, 04:34 PM
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I'm going to mask off the decals when I lay a "fresh up" coat on it. I may remask it when I get to the clear coat stage. Matched the paint color as close to exact as you can get, thanks to help from the fellow at the auto supply shop. A little worried about the Reynolds decals and clear coat. PITA if they shrivel. Wouldn't mind laying clear coat over them for protection. Anybody have bad experiences with old Reynolds 531 stickers?
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Old 08-10-17, 04:34 PM
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I plan on buying cyclomondo decals. Anything in specific I should look out for?

Cyclomondo sells vinyl stickers, not decals. Personally, I prefer stickers and have used their product several times. Excellent quality and fairly easy to apply...

Decals are soaked in water then slipped off of the backing paper onto the target surface. You have to let them dry into place before touching and that takes a little while, unlike the sticker that sticks right away. The decal must be buried in clear coat as I recently learned regarding some decals I intend to purchase for my Rabeneick
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