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I'm refinishing an old Bausch and Lomb Stereo Microscope and I am trying to recreate the graphics and text on the body, but I am not sure of the method used during manufacture. I would like a method I can apply myself, but I am open to using outside services for the materials or printing.

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I initially looked into water slide decals, but they look obviously tacked on, revealing a transparent background. I also looked into decals, but I am assuming it is unsuitable given the small size of the graphics.

Any suggestions?

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You can use dry transfer lettering like Chartpak, or Letraset. Basically it is sheets of lettering (the full alphabet with multiples of common letters, plus numbers and symbols) that you can apply via rubbing the plastic sheet on one side, depositing the letter on the surface below the other. They come in a many fonts so you should be able to find one that matches.

Transfer lettering was pretty common before the digital age and is still used in places like art galleries to put titles on the walls next to an art work. It is an easy way to get professional custom lettering on objects, though it takes some practice to keep things lined up.

Alternately, for a much more complex but professional solution, you could make a screen print of the whole design. Probably over the top in terms of expense but then you could match the type exactly. Process would be to capture the design to computer, clean up and reproduce with digital tools like illustrator or photoshop, print on masking, then use that to generate the screen. Unless you have experience with doing this you would probably want to farm this out to a screen printer familiar with printing on objects other than tee shirts or paper, at least the last part of the process.

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  • This is precisely what I was looking for. There are services that will print them for you online. My cursory search yielded a few places, but the pricing was quite expensive for what it is. Do you know of a reasonably priced service I can upload my files to? – ATL_DEV May 25 '19 at 5:45
  • Sorry, have only used the old school letter sets. Impressed that you can get custom versions. Maybe there is blank material that can be printed on like in Henry Taylors' answer? The existing font looks pretty familiar, like a Helvetica, so there should be sheets out there you can use. It may be a little more work, but there is no special graphics so totally doable, and cheaper. – rebusB May 26 '19 at 15:49
  • Actually, the font was very hard to ID. After much searching, it appears to be a form of Univers. – ATL_DEV May 28 '19 at 16:36
  • Ha! etsy.com/listing/548722076/… – rebusB May 28 '19 at 20:07
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There is blank decal media which you can print on with an ink jet printer. It is sold online and at hobby shops which cater to plastic model builders. Apply them to your clean plastic surface using a wet-on-wet technique. Then clear coat the entire surface to blend in the decal edges.

Here are some more tips on using decals.

Also, practice repeatedly on a similar piece of plastic before trying this on your restoration.

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  • Thanks. I've tried this method in the past on front panel, but I used a printable clear label. The visible edges weren't an issue, since the label covered the entire panel. The raised edges were slightly visible and could be felt on the edges of the panel and cutouts. Are water decals significantly thinner and less visible? Thanks. – ATL_DEV May 14 '19 at 15:30
  • If the clear labels you used are like the Avery clear mailing labels, then yes, the water decals are thinner. The only problem I have had with water decals is that inkjet printed content can smear during the wet on wet process. Spraying some clear coat only on the top of the decal after printing but before wetting helps. – Henry Taylor May 14 '19 at 15:42

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