Stencils open up an infinite world of design possibilities, camouflage, and artwork with air applied coatings such as Cerakote and DuraCoat. With this great freedom and powerful tool also comes a new set of complications. Here are some tools and tricks that can make working with stencils much more pleasurable, timely, and lead to higher profits & professional results!
One of the first things that needs to be done when working with stencils is weeding out the design. Stencils most often come un-weeded as every project is different and some are better suited to using the male portion of the stencils while other projects are better suited for the female stencil. Their are a couple tools that come in handy for weeding out the unwanted portions of your stencil, and this awesome Stencil Weeding Tool Kit comes with nearly all of them. Sure, there are a couple things we will add to this below, but this kit comes with everything you need to make the weeding process simple, fast, and minimize the chance of ruining the stencils right out of the box.
The Stencil Weeding Kit comes with 23 pieces including: Spatulas, Hooks, Tweezers, Utility Knife, Hobby Mat, Small Scissors and more.
A Magnivisor is one of those underrated tools that goes unnoticed most of the time but really deserves some more love. A lot of art design involves small stencils or complex stencil designs that have a lot of fine detail. A good Magnivisor like this one is a welcome friend when weeding out or placing stencils with small intricate details. This Magnivisor has variable magnification options as well as built in illumination which is great for casting shadows along the surface of the stencils to aide in seeing the cut lines and identifying which parts you want to weed or retain.
Picks are great for poking out unwanted portions of a stencil. The previously mentioned Wedding Kit comes with a Pick Tool, but it never hurts to have extras as these come in very handy for other uses such as disassembly and reassembly of projects. We use these more than most other tools in our shop.
Transfer Tape, also called "Pre Mask" is great for transferring vinyl stencils from their release liner to the substrate. Transfer tape comes in different shapes and sizes. Our transfer tape comes 1 inch red grid pattern printed on it to help in aligning the stencil when transferring it. The tape can be reused multiple times. The way it works is by removing the backing, and placing it firmly over the weeded stencil. When the Transfer Tape is lifted, the stencil adheres to the tape and releases from its liner backing. The stencil is then free to be placed where desired while retaining its form. Once placed, the Transfer Tape can be delicately removed from the stencil leaving it in proper position on the surface of the project.
Quality stencil products rarely leave behind adhesive residue especially if baked off (see below), but for the rare circumstances that they do, Mineral Spirits is the perfect solution. Mineral Spirits dampened on a light rag will wipe away stencil residue swiftly and smell nice while doing it! We actually prefer doing a full wipe down of our projects lightly with Mineral Spirits after reassembly as well, to clean off any dust and oils or grease that may still be on the project and give it one final clean and professional appearance. Doing this minimizes the chance of any missed stencil residue and gives you one last opportunity to catch any stencils or parts that were missed during removal. Mineral Spirits is perfect for these tasks and harmless on today's most popular coating products like Cerakote, DuraCoat, and KG.
"Bake Off" is the term used to describe the removal of stencils by heat. Many of today's popular coatings such as Cerakote and DuraCoat are cured with heat by baking in an oven enclosure. When stencils are used in combination with heat curing, we recommend short bake cycles or "Flash Curing". Short bake cycles between coats and/or stencil application cures the coating products enough to allow continued work without compromising the integrity of the stencils. A full or longer duration cure cycle can be done once the coating and stenciling work is complete. We call the early part of the final "full" bake cycle the "Bake Off". As the project heats up, the stencils will become pliable and the adhesive will start to break down making removal very easy. We like to start pulling our parts after about 10 minutes of baking and remove the stencils while they are still hot. (Disclaimer: The project will be hot. Wear gloves) The stencils should roll right off and leave little to no adhesive residue. The parts can then be placed back in the oven for continued baking as needed.
The bake off of the stencils is a quick, effective, and clean way to remove stencils while limiting the chances of damaging the new finish!