Online Community of Zenith Builders and Flyers
I've already bought the 3M 1080 vinyl wrap - Metallic Blue, Metallic Black and Dark Metallic Grey (accent only).
I've been planning to do this for some time but didn't have the money until now. The vinyl comes in 5 foot wide rolls and I ended up buying 40 feet of blue, 25 feet of black and 5 feet of grey. The cost for the above was $611. I've also ordered about $50 worth of supplies and knifeless tape.
I've attached a pic of my design. Since my day job has me working in AutoCad it was easy for me to develop my design with this software. The downside is you can't get any real sense of the actual colors.
I spent hours and hours scouring the web for design ideas. I knew I wanted something that would accentuate the elegant lines of the fuse. I played around with a lot of different ideas and designs. In the end my wife (and wonderful co-pilot) really helped me get to the final decisions.
The nice part of this design, I discovered today, is that there are very few long pieces of vinyl (longer pieces can be a lot harder to work with). The natural breaks in the 601 canopy and at the rudder result in pieces being shorter and more manageable. This should help me do a better job. The only vinyl I've done before is what I covered my panel with (3M Di Nock Carbon Fiber).
The panel was was amazingly easy to do. This new tech. vinyl is not at all like the vinyl form back in the day. This stuff breathes, doesn't create air pockets or creases, is re-positionable , and stretches up to 30%. It's also very durable and can be removed easily in the future.
I'm really looking forward to getting started and will post pics and vids as I go.
I'm not sure why but the attached pic doesn't show the dark colors correctly. The curved dark stripe down the side is metallic black, not grey. Likewise the flaps are mostly black with grey just on the outer edges. The dark accent lines on the curve of the wings are also black. The wing tips themselves will be grey as will the the curved stripes at the top of the fuse near the canopy.
Thanks. Ordered one this am. Will see how well it works.
It looks great.
For the wingtips I finally put a longitudinal seam just below the center line. This made is much easier than trying to wrap in a single piece. I still ended up with some small wrinkles but it's not bad. Having the seam below the centerline makes it invisible from a standing position.
I think every vinyl is different, including different colors of the same vinyl. So far I have been getting the vinyl to stay down on the rivet heads. I have my Harbor Freight heat gun set to low and hold it just about 2"-3" from the rivet for about half a second. One full second is too long. Then using a cloth glove I just use two fingers to circle the head and it's been holding so far.
I look forward to seeing your completed finish,
Made some more progress today. Finally managed to wrap around the wing tip strobe. The trick is to use just one fingertip, and a little bit of heat and very slowly work you way around the strobe. I still ended up with a few wrinkles on the underside but I'm confident now that I can do the other side perfectly.
The grey color on the wing tip is also vinyl and was able to do a near perfect butt joint using the two strips of knifeless tape.
I laid the vinyl down on the aileron perfectly the first time. It's pretty easy because its all flat. It will have a black highlight stripe butt jointed up against the blue edge. Only problem with the first attempt was I put the second strip of tape on the wrong side of the final cut line. I pulled the first tape cut and immediately realized I had made the cut on the wrong side!
So, I ripped off my perfect laid and trimmed blue trim and re-did it. This time I put the second tape on the right side and it came out perfect. You can see the final cut tape under the edge of the blue vinyl. When I lay the black trim stripe along this edge tomorrow, I will use this tape to cut the final butt joint by cutting thru both layers of vinyl with this tape.
Got the tail done on the weekend and and the top of one wing today. Starting to get a feel for this stuff!
You guys are doing a great job. I was going to do limited paint on my cowl and tail but am strongly considering vinyl after seeing your results. Please keep the info coming, I have learned a lot from this thread. Thanks
I laid down the longest single piece of vinyl today - about 12 feet if my memory is correct. I created my design in AutoCad and have the plotter at work that allowed me to print out the template full size. After cleaning ALL the wax from around the rivets and seams, I taped the template onto the plane.
It was then a simple task of laying the knifeless tape along the edge of the template. Then came the stressful part - trying to apply a 12 foot single piece of vinyl by myself. This is one of those things that when it goes right, it seem stupid simple. However, for a rookie like me I've learned there are many ways this can go sideways and end up wasting the entire piece.
This time I got lucky and it went on very quickly. NO wrinkles, no bubbles and the vinyl is tightly wrapped around all rivets and seams.
Of course since this side went on so easy, the other side will likely turn into a massive ball of vinyl - and with me swearing my head off....
One of the tricks in getting the vinyl started correctly is securing one end properly. You peel back 6 inches, or more, from the backing paper and stick that section down on the plane in a temporary holding position. When you watch the pro's do it it seems like nothing.
As an amateur, I can tell you this is a critical step and it is not always as simple as it seems.
Why is this temporary hold position important? Because it sets up where and how the vinyl is going to naturally lay down. The more naturally you can lay it down (without stretching or pulling), the easier it will be to "glass in".
I had some horrible experiences with this yesterday, just when I thought I was getting good. I was doing the top wing section which required a piece of vinyl about 6 feet long and 3 feet wide. It was very hot in the hanger (95+) which means the vinyl was soft, by which I mean too soft.
At these temperatures the vinyl becomes very flexible and easily folds over on itself and sticks to itself. When the vinyl is this soft and it sticks glue side to glue side it is very hard to unstick it. And it will tear easily if you pull too hard.
So when you have a large, and expensive piece of vinyl, the problem becomes exacerbated. As I started to remove the backing paper and try to stick down an edge, the softened materiel immediately started sticking to itself along the edges. As I tried to unstick the edges, a portion of the center part stuck together. Arghh!!@@&!1
I started to panic a bit as I was stressed that I was going to ruin this large, expensive piece. I took a deep breath and slowly starting working on the stuck areas one section at a time. Once I got one section unstuck I would stick it onto the plane to hold it in place while I worked on the next section. Eventually I got the darn thing untangled and laying down flat on top of the wing.
It is amazing how much stretching, twisting and wrinkling you can subject this material to - and then lay it down and have it look perfect.
I have a few take-away's from yesterday's experience. One, try to do the vinyl work when the temps are 70 to 85 degrees.
Another is to cut a much larger piece than you need. Trying to lay down a piece that just barely fits the area you need to cover can create issues during the initial placement. This was part of my problem yesterday. The piece I cut was just barely larger than the required cut-out and I had to screw around way too much to get it into position. The re-attempts to place the piece into position was what led to the sticking together.
On large pieces leave a good 12" all around when you rough cut your piece. The added material will allow you to lay down the large section easier without having to be too precise. Just get it laying more or less flat on the surface.
The same applies to long pieces, like stripes. Cut extra width and length so laying down precisely does not become an issue. It seems wasteful at first, but the first time you screw up one large or long piece you will realize the economy of making the rough cuts extra large.
More progress today - the dreaded cowl. I was very nervous about this as the I had previously rattle-can painted the cowl. I knew this would be a problem. When I tried to wrap the lower cowl and lifted the wrap up to re-position - a layer of paint came up stuck to the back of the vinyl. I then had to go back and re-paint the lifted part and re-apply the vinyl with a single lay-down.
So when it came to the top of the cowl I was worried I would have one try to get it right. A big part of wrapping with vinyl is the need to repeatedly lift up the vinyl to remove wrinkles or stretch in a different direction. I should have known I was setting myself up for failure. And I did fail. I got it almost down, after an hour and a half - and then melted a hole right thru it when i got the heat gun a little too close - Arghh!#**!!.
The only good thing was the paint did not come up when I pulled the wrecked vinyl off. Learning my lesson, I added a seam down the side of the top part of the cowl to minimize the number of compound curves to deal with. This change made the process so much easier. I had both sides of the top cowl done in an hour and a half. Only a couple of small wrinkles.
The first pic is the wrapped curve at the front of the fuse. Since this was a flat piece of metal it went on very easy. The knifeless tape made cutting the curve easy.
I knew the spinner was going to be a pita and it didn't disappoint.
I realized that there was no way to do this in one piece and since I have a 3 blade prop I decided to do it in three sections. Initially I was going to do butt joints. This did not work out well for me so decided to do an overlap joint.
I first laid out the knifeless tape on the center of the prop blades and ran to the point of the spinner.
Here's an important tip I learned the hard way - tape the ends of the knifeless tape down. There are few things more frustrating than spending an hour getting a small piece of vinyl to lay down, only to discover the tape has gotten all balled up in the vinyl! Arghh!!***! Rip off the perfect, wrinkle-free section and start over. Frustrating!
It took the best part of an hour to get the first third of the spinner done (and this is a very small piece). This took more patience than I had in me, but after a couple of breaks and deep breaths I got it done with only the smallest of wrinkles.
I spent another hour making two more attempts to do the next section and screwed up both of them - arghh!!!**! Did I mention it was 100 degrees in Cloverdale today?
The one thing the spinner is teaching me is the art of stretching the vinyl - with or without heat. I think this really is an art because there is no way to explain how to do it. In some situations stretching without heat works best.
In other situations using heat before stretching can solve a major problem. Don't be afraid to stretch it quite a bit if you aren't using heat. If using heat you need to be more careful as it will tear easier when softened by the heat gun.
The other part of stretching which is also impossible to explain is which direction to stretch in. This is not at all obvious in many cases. My takeaway is to always try to stretch without heat first. Try pulling it a number of ways, either with one hand or if that doesn't work, try a two hand pull.
This detail work takes patience. Try and work one small area at a time. If it's just not working out, lift it up and start over. If you get part of it laying down right, take a breath and walk away. Then go back and work very small sections at a time going slowly to minimize "zippers" (wrinkles). If the vinyl gets too wrinkled and stretched out, reheat it to shrink it back to its original shape. You have to go slow and have the patience of a sloth.
The pros use the heat guns on High setting. Don't do it! Every time I've tried this I've ended up burning thru a nearly complete section. You can do the same thing with low heat, it just takes a little longer. Use the low heat setting for everything.
There are two important steps to completing the vinyl section.
One is to push down on all areas of the piece with a felt covered squeegee. You need to go over the entire piece, after you've gotten all the bubbles out. You need to push down fairly hard to ensure good contact with the adhesive.
Lastly you need to go over the entire piece with the heat gun. You need to get the vinyl quite hot (without burning it). I keep the heat gun moving, about 2" from the vinyl, and go over the piece in both directions as well as along the edges. The pros use an infrared thermometer to ensure they are getting the vinyl hot enough.
Here's the one section of spinner I managed to get done today. You can see the end of the knifeless tape for the next section has been taped down.
Finally got her done. Not perfect, but a lot better than my rattle can accent paint job.
Everything looks pretty good except the spinner. It looks like crap. I did it in three sections but it still was a pita and ended up with a bunch of wrinkles.
Here's a pic and a link to the video. Looking forward to not having a chore to work on the plane.
Very nice, Gary!
Thanks for providing so much detailed information and pictures. Don't sweat the areas that aren't "perfect!" If you're anything like most of us, we obsess about slight imperfections that 99% of the rest of people won't even notice since 99% of the rest of the project looks great! ;>)