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Thread: Instrument Faces

  1. #1
    Yoda CJD's Avatar
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    Instrument Faces

    For the last restoration I was able to avoid this issue, but not so this time. I am not satisfied with the condition of my instrument faces. The black has differring shades, and the red rpm limit line is tan from sun exposure. The parts car has similar issues, but chiefly there are differences between the markings on a TR2 and a TR3 markings. So here goes:

    1) Does anybody know of a source for new or reconditioned instrument faces? I know Nisonger "says" they have them, but will not sell without using their gage rebuild service...like $2 grand. I farm nothing out but machine work, so I cannot bring myself to farm this out.

    2) Does anyone know how the original faces were painted? It is obvious the black went on first. The white looks like silk screen...however I have never seen a silk screen that works on a curved surface. I have a laser cutter, so I can cut silk screen or vinyl maskings...but some of the detail is even too small for any silk screen or masking I have ever seen. Their technique in those days baffles me, so anybody have insight how it was done?

    3) Anybody have an idea of what type paint these instrument faces were painted with? Black is easy, since I can etch the surface and bond it permanently. The white has to be very high density to cover over black with, presumably, one pass. The red on the tack looks substandard on the originals, so I'm not worried about that.

    Learning to paint instrument faces has been a goal of mine since my first restoration. With the laser I can cut masks accurate within .005", which is the width of the laser beam. But cutting any mask on a curved surface is shady at best. I can cut the mask from vinyl, and then stretch over the curves, but that will result in a distortion of the markings. They had to use a trick. There has to be a way to duplicate it...and once we do, instrument restoration will be a cinch!

    So, please, I welcome any ideas...!
    John

    1955 TR2

  2. #2

    Re: Instrument Faces

    Have you contacted http://westvalleyinstruments.com/ to see if they will just do the faces......
    JP TS 35123 L (Family Resto)
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  3. #3

    Re: Instrument Faces

    Irregular and curved surfaces are generally pad printed. Pad printing uses a etched plate for the image, and a curved foam pad to do the transfer.
    Just my guess how the dial face might be printed.
    Elliot
    Central PA
    1976 TR6 White/Biscuit interior SOLD
    1973 TR6 Damson Plum / Biscuit interior, HVDA 5-speed, Good Parts Hubs

  4. #4

    Re: Instrument Faces

    Some basic info here about pad printing...

    Elliot
    Central PA
    1976 TR6 White/Biscuit interior SOLD
    1973 TR6 Damson Plum / Biscuit interior, HVDA 5-speed, Good Parts Hubs

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    Yoda CJD's Avatar
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    Re: Instrument Faces

    Quote Originally Posted by Tr3aguy View Post
    Have you contacted http://westvalleyinstruments.com/ to see if they will just do the faces......
    They're on my list for tomorrow...thanks!
    John

    1955 TR2

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    Yoda CJD's Avatar
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    Re: Instrument Faces

    Pad printing...interesting! It appears they are silkcreening the pad and then transferring to the curved surface. It sounds doable...but would take some really decent white paint to cover black with one press.
    John

    1955 TR2

  7. #7

    Re: Instrument Faces

    Quote Originally Posted by CJD View Post
    Pad printing...interesting! It appears they are silkcreening the pad and then transferring to the curved surface. It sounds doable...but would take some really decent white paint to cover black with one press.
    No, not screening the pad.... the pad get the image from an etched plate.
    Elliot
    Central PA
    1976 TR6 White/Biscuit interior SOLD
    1973 TR6 Damson Plum / Biscuit interior, HVDA 5-speed, Good Parts Hubs

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    Yoda dklawson's Avatar
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    Re: Instrument Faces

    I have made a few custom gauges using a CAD package to lay out the gauge face, then laser printed the artwork onto decal paper. The results are acceptable but not as crisp and vibrant as the original factory printing. You are also limited in that color decals that most of us can make will be based on inkjet printing which will fade. Alps makes some form of high-end color printer that is better for this sort of work but I don't know anyone who has one.
    Doug L.
    '64 Morris Mini Cooper-S 1275
    '67 Triumph GT6 Mk1

  9. #9

    Re: Instrument Faces

    I had my gauges done by West Valley last summer... approximately $80/gauge but I was having them all converted to Magnolia. He uses an "artist" who does silk screening. Call and ask for Morris. He'll explain the process but may not share the details.

    P1080324.jpg
    Bob Danielson
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  10. #10
    Yoda CJD's Avatar
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    Re: Instrument Faces

    The laser can cut white vinyl to stick on the face. It would look perfect, but it would have the small ridge....003" where the vinyl sticks on. I think that would be an option about equivelant to the decals. The vinyl is "guaranteed" for 20 years. I would like to use paint if I can, just to be as original.

    Still waiting for West Valley to open. $500 for new faces is a hefty tag...but yours look beautiful, Bob!


    Edit:

    Just talked to MOMA instruments in Albequerque. They prefer the total restoration of the instruments for about $1400, but will do the faces for $6-700. They said they use a silk screen...but also that some of the small part number lettering will be omitted. Hmmm. 6-8 month turn around.

    Nisonger says rebuild only, which is $275 for the large 2 and $200-210 for the small 4. Plus any parts the gages need. They say the tiny part numbers etc. will be retained. It seems silk screen IS the method used for the faces. 8 - 10 week turn around. It goes a bit against my grain to pay for a complete instrument rebuild, when all I need is a face. The charges above include $100 for each face (not sold separately).

    I have a message in to W Valley.
    Last edited by CJD; 02-03-2014 at 02:46 PM.
    John

    1955 TR2

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    Re: Instrument Faces

    Since you have access to a laser, What about cutting vinyl stencils. Its the same as making the numbers, just use the "other half" as a stencil, Then paint the color of your choice. That would be way easier than making a silkscreen setup for each one. also holding the face of the gauge while screening is a challenge. then if miultple colors are needed the challenge of alignment would be large. My 2cents for the day. George (PS I silkscreen on glass everyday, I don't think I would try it on a gauge)

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    Yoda CJD's Avatar
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    Re: Instrument Faces

    Quote Originally Posted by George_H View Post
    Since you have access to a laser, What about cutting vinyl stencils. Its the same as making the numbers, just use the "other half" as a stencil, Then paint the color of your choice. That would be way easier than making a silkscreen setup for each one. also holding the face of the gauge while screening is a challenge. then if miultple colors are needed the challenge of alignment would be large. My 2cents for the day. George (PS I silkscreen on glass everyday, I don't think I would try it on a gauge)
    You hit on my current first choice, George. The stencil, made of laser cut vinyl will be a cinch. The trouble is the curvature of the metal face. It is flat in the center, and then has a concave dish around the outside. It is enough of a dish that the vinyl will stretch...but will distort the lettering as it gets stretched, assuming I cut the stencil before stretching it over the face.

    Another option is to fully cover the face with vinyl, then cut the stencil in place. The down side of that is the focal point of the laser is rather sensitive to distance. The 3/8" depth of the dish will make a difference, so may cause a problem. But, it may not.

    Luckily I have the gages from Marv's parts car to play with. Right now I am gathering options and techniques...then I'll move to the experimentation. Pictures will follow once I get going!

    Just heard from West Valley:

    Speedo $270
    Tach $260
    Oil $160
    Amm $140
    Temp $180
    fuel $180

    Face painting alone is $450-500

    Again, silkscreen is the method they use. There will be an extra charge for extra detail on the face...like periods after the M.P.H., and the like.
    John

    1955 TR2

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    Re: Instrument Faces

    I'm not sure what you mean about "stretching" the vinyl. The vinyl I am thinking about would not stretch. Use the stuff they make signs out of. If the shape is too concave, cut some slits into it to get it to lay smooth on the face. Also cutting the vinyl in place would etch the face? We also use a laser and yes 3/8 would give you some focusing problems. I would love to know how they silkscreen that kind of shape.

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    Re: Instrument Faces

    Elliot, spent a lot of time studying pad printing. I see what you are saying. The pad is loaded from an etched steel plate. Ink is squeegeed into the etch. And the pad picks up the ink. Normally the steel plate is optically etched using a many step process. The steel is needed for low wear when printing thousands of parts.

    This has potential! I will only be doing a couple, so I can skip the steel plate and directly etch a plastic plate using the laser. The difficult part will be lining the instrument face up to the pad. I see on utube that it takes the pros a long time, and several bad presses, to get it lined up. I have some more thinking to do...

    George, the vinyl I would use is stretchy, adhesive backed, sign vinyl. The laser can be turned down to go through the vinyl, but not completely through the underlying paint. It will etch the black paint a bit, but the following paint coat should fill it in.
    John

    1955 TR2

  15. #15

    Re: Instrument Faces

    John-
    Trying to get "location" of the pad without the proper equipment is just a shot in the dark.... I only brought up pad printing as a possible method of printing if you have the equipment to do it.
    Elliot
    Central PA
    1976 TR6 White/Biscuit interior SOLD
    1973 TR6 Damson Plum / Biscuit interior, HVDA 5-speed, Good Parts Hubs

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    Yoda CJD's Avatar
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    Re: Instrument Faces

    Hey Elliot. I have a decent drill press with a precision 3 axis vise. There is no way I'd try a thousand faces...but 6 one offs? I think the technicals can be worked out. I'm studying the pads right now. Of course, this is still in the brainstorming phase...so I am far from putting ink to instruments.

    I am still curious how the gage pros are using "screen" printing on a concave surface. I have not found any info as to how that is even possible. Convex surface...looks easy. But inside a cup, not so much.
    John

    1955 TR2

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    Re: Instrument Faces

    Alright, here's where I am so far. These are the faces I am working with:



    The one on the left is the TR2 face, and the right is the donor. If you look closely, you can see the black background has turned chalky on both faces. The red on the TR2 is no longer red. The plan is to strip the right gage and make it a new version of the left gage. After studying the technics available for more than a week...I will opt for the laser-cut mask. I will cover the gage face with a vinyl covering, and then laser cut the parts that will be white. I decided that the silkscreen method is 1000 years old, and it would be a major step backward to get up to speed on it.

    Here is a screen pic of the Tach after 2 days mapping it on autocad. It looks simple, but it is actually a whole lotta work! Each mark was mapped with a protractor and then built in the computer. The original face looks very precise...but I learned it is not. Silkscreen is a "that's about right" kind of printing. The laser puts the marks exactly where you want them. I have had to "dumb down" the CAD drawing so as not to look better than the original printing.



    Now I'm into the paint. Acryilic, enamal, laquer. The studying goes on...
    John

    1955 TR2

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    Re: Instrument Faces

    OK, now you have me interested
    Don
    "Stick a Wedge in it!"
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    Re: Instrument Faces

    I'm pretty lost with the paint options...any thoughts will be greatly appreciated.

    First, I have to paint the base color satin black, this has to be a durable paint for 2 reasons...I don't want it to lift or peal while masking, then and I need longevity in sunlight. My first choice is PPG DP90L satin urethane primer. My only worry there is bonding with the white paint that will go over it. Option 2 is enamel. Good stuff, but not great in sunlight. Finally, acrylic. My only experience with acrylic is poster paint...so I don't know much. It is now the most produced paint, though.

    Then, I have to add the white over the base color. It has to be flat, with exceptional coverage over black. There are special flourescent whites. Does anyone have experience with these? Then there is just, white. I know the fluorescents are used to touch up the needles, but are they necessary for the face markings? Fluorescents are almost solely sold as acrylics. Plain white is available in any type.
    John

    1955 TR2

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    Yoda dklawson's Avatar
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    Re: Instrument Faces

    John, did you find a font that worked or did you create the numbers in ACad? That Jaeger text looks GREAT!

    The last time I worked on matching the fonts I gave up using commercial typefaces. I made careful photographs of each number which I then put in my CAD package as a background. I constructed lines on top of the photograph to outline each number then solid filled (hatched) the interior. Each number was then made into a block so I could manipulate them.

    Regardless, I feel your pain. Laying out a gauge face is an awful lot of work. The nice thing is that with today's software and a quality inkjet or laser printer you can get nearly perfect 1:1 printouts to examine how your artwork will look on the actual gauge face.

    Do keep us posted on your progress.
    Doug L.
    '64 Morris Mini Cooper-S 1275
    '67 Triumph GT6 Mk1

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