I was so happy with that Santa Monica Beach Sign that I rushed a bit getting the post up and created, I think, a pretty un-useful “tutorial.
So please allow me to revisit it with a slightly more detailed approach.
This will also give me a chance to provide a more in-depth explanation of the Lenk tool and how (and why) I use it.
Warning: This is gonna be a pretty lengthy and detailed post/tutorial so if you never plan to do a transfer using a Lenk tool you might want to sit this one out.
Here is what I used for this project:
- 1/2 Inch Plywood measuring 18×18 inches for the backer
- Five (5) strips of MDF wood 18″ x 2.75″
- 1/2 inch plywood 18″ x 4″ for the shelf
- White, flat-finish, latex paint
- Blue, flat-finish, latex paint
- White spray paint
- wood stain
- Spray-on Polycrylic
Tools and Sundries:
- wax (just an old candle)
- Lenk tool
- 3 coat hooks
- wood glue
- wood screws
- jig-saw (for rounding the corners of the shelf)
To age the scrap MDF here is what I did:
1) stained the edges with gel stain.
2) After the stain dried I rubbed a chunk of wax along the edges
3) painted the slat with flat, white latex paint and let it dry.
4) went back in and sanded the edges. The paint won’t stick to the wax so you end up with a nice, distressed, edge.
I repeated this process with the remaining strips painting them alternating blue and white.For the plywood shelf I used a jigsaw to round off the corners, sanded the whole thing and used the same wax/paint/sand process on the edges for an authentic, worn look.
I also painted the backer board blue and sanded it’s edges.
When everything was dry I glued all the strips into place (I didn’t attach the shelf till the very, very end).
- I think it produces results very much on par with the various transfer mediums I’ve tried.
- It’s quicker (you don’t have to let it dry overnight or anything).
- It gives a very authentic “aged” appearance.
- Because only the graphic is transferred you don’t have to cut out the image right along it’s edges nor do you end up with any lingering edges or visible outlines where the paper ended.
- It’s pretty inexpensive (I got mine from Amazon) and, of course, if you do a lot of transferring, you’ll only have to buy it once.
- It takes some trial and error to get the hang of it.
- The results are a bit unpredictable but really no more so than using any other method (and I’ve found that it’s easy, as I did on this sign, to go back in and re-transfer if needed).
- It has no heat-control mechanism so I will inevitably set something on fire one of these days.
I’ve found it’s very important, if you your using the Lenk with a painted surface, to let the paint cure as much as possible. If I can, I let it dry for 48 hours – even longer is better (although for this project I think I over-did it waiting 6 months).
Flat paint works better than satin or semi-gloss and if I want a shiny finished product then I just use a glossy sealer at the end.
I also like to give the painted surface a light sanding with a 220 grit sandpaper before I begin.
OK, the Actual Image Transfer Process
(I’m mixing and matching new and old photos here so don’t be thrown by the lettering changing colors)
For this sign I gathered my graphics (the woman is just an image isolated from an old matchbook) and printed them, in reverse using plain, legal size copy paper on my laser printer (I don’t know if ink jet prints will work)
I let the tool heat up for 8 minutes as the manufacturer instructs.
It actually gets a bit too hot initially and if pressed into the paper right then it will just burn it.So, I “burn off” some of the heat by pressing it to a wood block. There is no set time or amount of heat or any way to check the temperature so I just do it until the wood quits smoking.
I then rub the lenk over the graphic. Again there is no “set” amount of time for this. The more you rub the more image will transfer so it depends on how “aged” you want it to look. I went over this line of text for about 4 minutes and then paused to let the Lenk heat up again a bit (it loses heat as you go) and then rubbed for another 4 minutes.
I just go back and forth sort of slowly, keeping the tool in motion. If you stay in one spot too long you risk either burning the paper or getting paint so heated up that it bubbles and melts (not good).
This is the real “learning-curve” part. There is no way to tell how well the transfer has worked at this stage. I’ve taken to peeling away just a little bit of the corner of the paper just to get a sense of how it’s going and to determine if I should go over it a few more times or not.
I find that I have to do this process a few times. I’ll do it once, it will look awesome but then it dries and there is a light, white, film of left-over paper visible, so I just go back in with the damp cloth and give it another round.
I’ve also found that it’s pretty easy, if I decide the transfer wasn’t good enough, to go back in and do it again. I wasn’t thrilled with my first go on this sign so I just reprinted and tried again. Here is the “A” in Santa Monica (I’ve got to be honest, I’m a bit stunned that it’s possible to successfully line the images to re-do them but I’ve done it with graphics large and small and had no problem.)
Once I’m satisfied with the results I seal it with a spray on polycrylic
I hope this helps with any questions about the tool or how to use it. But feel free to fire away if I’ve left out some step or been vague about some process.