Finishing Over a Decal

A customer wants a company logo on a custom table top. But how to keep the finish from peeling? Pros supply ideas. July 24, 2005

I am building dining room buffets for a specific company, and the company wants to put their business logo/decal on the top of the furniture piece. I am wondering, what is the best way to finish the buffet and hold the decal safely in place without any chance of it peeling off? Any help is appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Finishing Forum)
From contributor J:
I have done several pieces with decals under the finish for one of my long time clients. His main concern was that he did not want to feel the decal, so I had to bury it in the finish. For my first attempt I used polyester over a vinyl decal, and the table looked great for about two months. Then the polyester clear coat started pulling away from the decal. For my second attempt, I did a little more research into the decals.

I talked to the guy that does all of our graphics on our company trucks. He suggested using an automotive clear coat (urethane) over the decal. This is what he sprays over vinyl on custom cars, and he has never had an adhesion problem, so I figured it was worth a shot. I did the first one on maple so there was no need to fill the grain. I stained the table and applied one coat of the auto clear, and then block sanded with 400 grit and applied an additional coat, and block sanded flat.

I then had the vinyl decal cut and applied by our graphics guy. I then applied several coats of the auto clear block sanded flat in between coats to 600 grit. After about seven coats, the decal was buried in the finish and you could no longer feel it. I then let the finish cure for several days and then wet sanded with a block to 1500 grit followed by several different 3m rubbing compounds with the buffer.

I then followed by hand buffing with 3m imperial hand glaze. This is by far the nicest looking finish I have ever done. It was crystal clear and when you stand back and look at the table it looks wet. There is a fair amount of hours involved to accomplish this look, but it is well worth it. My client is ecstatic with his table, and six months later, there have been no adhesion problems.

From contributor M:
I am finishing guitar necks with a decal. It appears that you can get different thicknesses for the decals. I have been finishing with lacquer. I apply a good base coat and sand, and then apply the decal and let it dry. My next coat is a light, mist coat. When this is dry I apply another wet coat and let it dry. Then I continue until I get a good fill. When I spray lacquer, I like to put wet-on-wet coats. I found that when I did this with the decal, it shrunk under the finish. Also, there was a halo around the decal (we are using a tinted lacquer).

The comments below were added after this Forum discussion was archived as a Knowledge Base article (add your comment).

Comment from contributor S:
I build wood kayaks and canoes using the cedar strip method. I frequently print pictures, names, logos, drawings, etc. on rice paper using my ink jet printer. I am sure there are several ways to do this. Then I just sand the wood to 200 grit, lay the paper on the wood and apply two coats of epoxy resin. Finish with a nice marine grade varnish with 400 grit sanding between 2 or 3 coats and it looks great. I have used this method for years with no problems.