Stencil Decorating With Lacquers

Popular Mechanics, heinäkuu 1928

By Hobart N. Durham

Stenciling, while mechanical and so simple in its essentials that anyone can master it, nevertheless presents an opportunity for the exercise of one's artistic taste to beautify many of the plainer types of objects found in the home. Above all, the process is flexible, readily adapting itself to the decoration of any material in as simple or as ornate a manner as desired. With a view to showing the basic process and some of its more practical applications, this article describes well-tried methods, which can be readily carried out in the home at a very small outlay, leaving to the reader the choice of combining the essentials and adapting them to his own taste or using them as set forth.

For stenciling of the type to be described, one need purchase only a small quantity of spraying and brushing lacquers of various colors; stencils, which may be bought or easily made, and a stprayer of a type similar to those commonly employed with insecticides. In the commercial adaptation of these processes, air brushes are used, but their price, as a rule, is too hight for the amateur who has only a limited amound of the work to do. The sprayer should have a comparatively small reservoir and a well-made pump, as shown in Fig. 4. This size will make a better spray and waste less of the lacquer in cleaning. Such a sprayer can usually be bought for about 25 cents. As to the lacquers, any of the quick-drying nitrocellulose lacquers will be suitable and small cans of several colors should be on hand. For priming the surface of the material, if of wood, a can of priming lacquer will be found very useful. It is applied before the sprayed coatings.

The stencils can be bought quite cheaply and decorators' stencils will answer very well. If you wish to use your own designs, the stencils may easily be cut at home from either oiled paper or thin celluloid. The designs most suitable for stenciling are massive and should present but little detail, as this complicates the cutting and generally lessens the effect of the completed work. The various illustrations in this article show simple designs which can be artistically arranged, and represent a type best suited to reproduction by the stenciling process.

To cut the stencils from paper or celluloid, one may use either a sharp knife or a safety-razor blade to sever from the sheet those parts which are to be removed. The designs should first be drawn on the sheet. If you are a poor free-hand artist, use celluloid, place the sheet over a design and trace it. In cutting, care should be taken to avoid joining the two ends of a curved line, for if this happens, that portion included within the line will be left without support and will drop out. To avoid this, small "ties" should be left, as shown in Fig. 1, running from the outside of the design, to support the central portion of the stencil. It will also be well to leave these ties in case the design has unstenciled parts jutting into the areas to be stenciled.

Old photographic film, particularly the larger sizes, will be found a good substitute for new celluloid, the emulsion being first removed by soaking the film in hot water. After this cleaning, there still remains a thin coating of gelatin, which will readily take ink, so that the design can easily be drawn on it. One advantage of thin celluloid over paper, is that it need not be cut completely through. It is sufficient to scratch the surface deeply and then bend the celluloid sharply at the scratched line, when it will crack along the line just as if the cut had been made completely through the sheet.

If the ties are accidentally omitted or cut by mistake, a small narrow piece of celluloid or paper, cemented across the gaps, will serve equally well. The cementing can be done with some of the clear lacquer.

For complicated work, which would necessitate an extraordinary number of ties, it is better to use a different type of stencil, which may be made in the following manner: A piece of rather coarse organdie, or other open-mesh fabric, is stretched taut in an embroidery frame of a size considerably larger than the design to be stenciled, and the parts which correspon to the unpainted parts of the design are stopped out with a rather thick solution of glue or gelatin. This may be done with a brush, being careful to apply it only to those parts which are not to allow the color to pass. The glue should be sufficiently thick to fill the meshes, as any pinholes left in the coating will cause undesirable spots of color in the finished work. By holding the stencils to the light after they have been coated and dried, these pinholes may be detected. If any are found, they can be filled in with drops of glue. When the glue has dried, the stencils are ready for use in the same manner as the paper or celluloid stencils, except that, after use, they must be cleaned of the lacquer, which otherwise would remain in the unglued part of the fabric and make the stencil unfit for duplications of the same design.

Having the stencils, the object to be decorated should be given a coat of primer, or undercoat, followed with a coat of lacquer of the color desired for the article as a whole. Thus, if it is desired to produce a gray table with designs of blue, the table should first be given a coating of primer, then a coating of gray lacquer, after which the stencil should be placed on the surface and the blue lacquer applied through the openings in it.

The attaching of the stencil to the surface may be done by means of pins, weights around the edge (if the stencil is to be used in a horizontal position) or in some other way. One very convenient method of fastening stencils is to punch small holes, about &14frac; in. in diameter, around the edges, as well as in the large interior parts, and stick small squares of adhesive tape over those holes on the upper side of the stencil. After a stencil has been applied tot he object in the proper position, it may be fastened firmly by pressing the tape through the holes into contact with the surface of the object. This in no way interferes with the work, and the stencil can be removed readily without marring the finished surface. Enough of these holes and adhesive patches should be provided to insure that all parts of the stencil will lie flat against the work. Should it happen, on removing the stencil, that any of the adhesive remains, it can be wiped off with a cloth moistened with a small amount of lacquer thinner, or carbona.

Of course, the design should be appropriate to the object to be decorated, and equally important, its position should be carefully determined so it will be symmetrical and occupy the proper space, as in Fig. 2. Worngly placed, a deisgn will mar the general appearance as much as it will enchange it if properly placed.

With the stencil firmly secured to the work, the sprayer should be filled with lacquer and pumped a few times to insure a ready, even flow from the nozzle. It is better to have the work in a vertical or tilted position, as in this way the sprayer can be pointed directly at the open parts of the stencil without spoiling the result by any lacquer which might collect on and drip from the nozzle. If the sprayer is held so as to direct the spray perpendicularly to the surface, as shown in Fig. 4, and then moved about while spraying, an even coating will be easily obtained, while, if held at an angle, the spray will diminish in intensity as the distance from the nozzle becomes greater, resulting in an uneven coating. Advantage can easily be taken of this usually undesirable feature, and by intentionally spraying at an angle, the color may be shaded from full strength to a faint suggestion, producing highly decorative effects.

Beautiful blended color effects may be obtained by directing the spray at an angle to produce the greatest intensity at one side of the design and then repeating the process with a different, but harmonious, color from the opposite side. Both colors should be sprayed before the stencil is removed and, if carefully done, the colors will merge into each other in the central portions of the design, enhancing the appearance greatly.

After the spraying has been completed, the stencil is removed. Unless the lacquer has dried thoroughly, this should be done without sliding the stencil over the surface, to avoid smudging the surface and spoling the work. In any case, the best practice is to dorm the habit of lifting the stencil at one corner and pulling it up and away from the surface of the object.

If the stencil has not been held tightly against the surface, it will probably be noticed that the design will have a fuzzy or blurred edge extending slightly beyond the parts which were intended to be colored during the stenciling. The farther the stencil is spaced from the surface, the greater will be this softened edge and the more indistinct the design. If the stencil is spaced only a slight distance from the work, however, this may be put to good advantage in producing soft, pleasing designs of indistinct outline. The effects of various spacings are shown in Fig. 3. The most distinct of these designs was produced by having the stencil in close contact with the surface to be decorated, while the most diffuse was made with the stencil separated from it about 3/8 in. The design at the upper right shows the proper spacing, about 1/8 in., which gives a desirable degree of diffusion.

Where comparatively small stencils are used, some means should be provided to keep the parts of the work outside the area of the stencil from receiving any of the mist which always envelops the spray. This may be effected by cutting a hole, slightly smaller than the stencil, in a sheet of wrapping or newspaper and placing this over the object before the stencil is attached. The stencil is then fastened over the hole and the sheet forms a mask that protects the finished parts of the work. (See Fig. 4.)

In addition to the stencils already mentioned, ferns and other leaves can often be used with good results for certain typesof work. They are either held flat against the surface to be stenciled or merely laid on it. In the latter case certain parts will be close to and other parts slightly away from the surface, and this will produce a combination of sharp and blended designs whose irregularity will be unusual but pleasing. Stenciled designs of this type as well as some of the other larger designs, may be improved by spraying a touch of appropriate color in the centers of the bold parts of the design, slightly relieving the expanse of the single color. Some designs can be more conveniently reproduced by using a stencil made of several small parts, which are applied to the surface to serve as masks, as for example, where a stripe or line border is desired. In these cases, the surface is first sprayed with the color desired for the border. The entire surface need not be covered and the spray may well be limited to an area slightly greater than that which is to form the border. Over this area is then pasted a narrow strip of paper of exactly the same width as the stripe or border to be produced and the remainder of the surface is sprayed with the desired color of lacquer. When the second coat has fully dried, the paper strip is removed from the surface, revealing the even stripe, of the same color as the underlying first coating of lacquer. This process avoids cutting a long slit in a stencil, which could bot be as readily secured to the surface, and, when used for designs other than stripes, eliminates much of the work.

Silhouettes may also be used as masks by lightly attaching them to the surface to be decorated and spraying the color on them and around the design. If desired, the color may be shaded off around the silhouette by directing the spray principally at the mask and allowing only the edge of the spray to fall on the background surrounding the mask. Either silhouette or reversed effects may be obtained in this manner, depending on whether the surface is dark or light relative to the color of the lacquer. Such designs may be effectively used for decorating lamp shades, spraying the lacquer on a sheet of parchment either before or after it has been made into a shade. A cut-out silhouette design on this type, with the lacquer sprayed aroud the design, is shown in Fig. 5. Only one coating of lacquer should be used in this case, in order to leave the light portions of the parchment transparent.

A type of work which lends itself very readily to some objects is done by using a piece of lace as a stencil. The lace preferably should be rather coarse and need not be new. First, it should be given a thorough coating of lacquer to render it stiffer and less absorbent, and, when dry, it may be tightly held to the work by pinning or sewing. When the lace stencil is applied, the color is sprayed to strike the surface perpendicularly and thus avoid creeping under the threads of the lace.

A relief effect can be produced by stencils used for other designs with a slight change in manipulation. After the design has been finished by spraying, the stencil is removed and replaced in a position slightly shifted, in a single direction only. With the stencil thus displaced, a very light spray, or, better, a spray slightly different in color, is directed on the parts not previously colored by the first stenciling operation. Too much lacquer should not be sprayed in this second step, if the color is used, and the best effects are produced by spraying only a light cloud of color in these unstenciled parts. If too much lacquer is sprayed, the effect will be totally lost and the design will appear as though the stencil had been incorrectly cut. This is avoided by using lacquer of a different color. Properly done, the stenciled design will appear as if in relief, casting a shadow to one side, as may be seen in Fig. 6.

Stenciling in more than a single color presents a few complications in the cutting of the stencils, but with simple designs the cutting does not involve extraordinarily difficult work. One of the easiest ways is to cut the stencil as if the design were to be done in one color, that is, so all the parts of the design will appear on a single stencil, and then cover certain parts with small pieces of paper. Attach this stencil to the object, stencil the first color, remove the paper and cover the remaining openinigs with paper so that the uncolored parts alone will receive the color on the second spraying. An example is shown in Fig. 7. In this, the leaf and stem portions, which are to be stenciled in green, are covered with a paper mask, while the red is applied through the fruit parts. When dry, the stem and leaf portions are uncovered and sprayed with green. In doing multicolor work, it will be found convenient to leave the stencil on the work while the paper masks are changed, as in this manner the question of register will be avoided. If it is necessary to remove the stencil from the surface of the object, or if more than a single stencil is being used, some marks should be made on the surface to insure that the following stencils will be properly placed with respect to the parts which have already been sprayed. One way of doing this is to mark lightly on the object the outline of the opposite corners of the first stencil.

Instead of pasting small pieces of paper over the opening in the stencil, it may be better for the particular design to use masking sheets over the stencil, each masking sheet being so made as to block out the proper portions of the stencil. To make these masks, lay the stencil successively on top of several sheets of rather heavy paper, cut to the same size as the stencil, and trace the design on each of these sheets by passing a pencil around the edges of all the openings in the stencil. The parts of the design to be in a particular color, say, red, are then removed from a single sheet; the parts for another color are removed from a second sheet, and so on. This need not be done as accurately as teh stencil cutting, the only requirement being that the removed parts should be at least as large as the stencil openings, but not so large as to cover a portion of the stencil intended to pass another color. In use, the stencil is first attached to the object and one of the masking sheets is laid over and in register with the stencil, blocking for all but the color to be sprayed. After spraying the first color, the surface should appear as in the upper-left part of Fig.7. Then the second mask may be put in place and sprayed with the proper color, the process being repeated until the entire design has been stenciled in the several colors. If the colors of a multicolored design are to be placed close together, it may require a separate stencil for each. These should be made on sheets of the same size, to insure that they will properly register, and the portions for each color may be cut after tracing the design on each of the sheets in exactly the same position.

All of the stenciling processes may be used equally well on furniture and other woodwork or even on draperies and walls. The latter have generally been decorated by stenciling with brushed paint, but by spraying paint or lacquer in the manner described, many unusual effects are obtained that can be produced as well by no other method.

After using the spray gun, or when a different-colored lacquer is to be applied, it should be thoroughly cleaned by draining the reservoir, pumping until all the lacquer has been removed that can be sprayed out and then washing the can with a small quantity of lacquer thinner, some of which should be sprayed to clean the nozzle. If the sprayer is to be left unused for only a short time, the cleaning may be avoided by dropping into the pipe leading to the reservoir a small-headed nail, to keep the lacquer from drying and clogging the nozzle. In using the sprayer with lacquers, there is only one precaution which need be observed: work in a well-ventiled place away from open flames. The solvents employed for the lacquers are inflammable and have an objectionable odor which will sometimes, and with some people, cause slight headache. Otherwise, there are no dangerous or disagreeable effects.

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