Saturday, May 13, 2017

Decal Gripe!

A comment from Elsa (Directed to Estes):
Estes, I make your rockets, because I made them as a kid, but - DECALS, Decals decals. You always seem to be messing up in the decal department. My MIRV, Estes Reflector, This one and more.
You know in a lot of ways Decals can make the rocket... So (Estes) please stop screwing us with too few decals, because your lazy or cheap.
Grumble grumble...

My Response:
Hi Elsa,
I AGREE! When I buy a kit I want the same decals that are shown in the catalog and face card picture.
I haven't built the MIRV but I did read about the decals. They were much smaller than what was advertised. The Reflector decals were short and only enough for one side of the fins.
One of the worst was the Big Daddy (Shown at the right). They imply very detailed fin decals but only supply enough for two facing fins on only one side.
My other gripe - Don't call "peel and stick" a decal! Peel and Stick is a Sticker!
The Quest Aerospace One was a beautiful design. LARGE stickers were supplied. I re-drew the entire decal sheet and printed water slide decals at home.

Estes is not the only guilty vendor, other manufacturers have called stickers - decals. Some vendors try to sneak them into a kit by calling them "Pressure Sensitive D├ęcor!"
I recently opened two Estes Black Brant kits each kit was from a different year and run. One kit had water slide decals, the other had peel and stick!

If I had my "druthers", a suggestion to the manufacturers -
Reserve the stickers for RTF and ARTF models.
On anything more challenging than a Level 2 (or whatever skill level they've decided on this week) supply water slide decals! No stickers in a scale kit!
If you consider yourself a model builder you should know how to apply water slide decals. We're big kids now and can handle warm water and a slippery decal.


  1. Hear, hear! (I don't know if that's how it's spelled, but you get my gist.)

    I *hate* stickers. I haven't tried making my own waterslides, because most of the rockets I build have come with them. But some nice rockets get the sticker treatment.

    One I'm working on right now is an Estes Crossfire ISX, which I've built with a tail cone. I'm tempted to make waterslides for that one, except that the fin stickers are part silver, and I'm not sure how that would turn out. Still, might be worth a try.

    Man, I hate stickers on rockets!

  2. I never liked "peel and stuck" and it sounds like I am not the only one.

  3. As for my feelings on "peel-and-stick" markings
    Got into model rocketry far too late to have seen the original issues of SkyDart and Trident. The instructions mention "decal" but wording seem to imply that they weren't waterslide type. The Trident instructions does mention using adhesive tape for the markings (so it appears decals weren't included). The instructions on the Sky Dart mention cutting out the "decal" from the sheet -- the bit about the canopy marking for the nosecone suggests heating it to help it conform to the curvature (which certainly doesn't sound like waterslide decal).
    Didn't the Space Shuttle model use a peel-and-stick type material for the elevon hinges? Yes they served a structural purpose much like the tape hinge material on models like the Scissor Wing Transport and Gyroc, but the ones for the Space Shuttle also served purpose as markings too.
    I also remember the peel-and-stick hinge material being used on the wing (to act as bearing surface).
    And of course, most of the time you had "aluminized" or metallic markings, it was generally "peel-and-stick" variety. These would've been tricky for typical beginner, since you needed to peel the backing sheet away from the marking (and not the other way around) -- otherwise the ends will tend to peel away after you stuck it down.

    1. Hi Naoto,
      I remember the Trident having Scotch tape DIY decals. I didn't have much luck trying to make them. On the Skydart canopy decal I was able to get it to conform pretty easily without heat.
      Estes used their "PRM" (Paper Reinforcement Material) for hinges in the Gyroc and some boost gliders.
      Centuri used some peel and stick metal decor pieces in a few models. It added just enough "flash".

  4. I've seen some relatively recent plastic model kits from Bandai for some aircraft that appear in an anime. The markings were *all* the self-adhesive sticker type. On some you literally "wallpaper" the entire model, and have seen some articles (in some Japanese hobby magazines) showing techniques (such as some extra relief cuts, or where you should separate some of them into parts and how to disguise the joints) to help the stickers to conform better to the surfaces. If look at the completed model, you're apt to assume it was all waterslide decal with judicious application of decal solvent -- however the photos of the work in progress would show you that's not the case (i.e. the included sticker sheet was being used). The techniques were definitely beyond the scope for a beginner, but certainly appears to be doable for someone with some experience.

    1. Hi Naoto,
      I wasn't aware of the Bandai completely covered models. I have seen the Accur8 printed vinyl made for the Interceptor and recent Estes scale kits. That sounds like a lot of extra work to me.

    2. Here are some links to three variants of a particular kit that has stickers for markings *(okay, these aren't 100% covered in sticker). The first is a "normal" marking type and the latter two are "special marking" type.
      * the completed model is around 7.37" in length
      * model is of "snap fit" type
      * parts are molded in colour, meaning painting isn't required, you'll likely want to paint anyway (at least some of the details) for best results you'll want to use paint (the instructions tell you which colors you need, and the ratios for mixing some of the custom colors required)
      * The term "seal" is used in describing the markings -- typically this means the markings are of the sticker type (otherwise the term decal is used if waterslide decals are included).
      * the instructions mention that you will need to cut/trim some of the markings to fit. It is also implied some markings should be applied as part of the assembly sequence (rather than applying them after you've completed assembly).