CURRENT STATE OF DECALS AND DRY TRANSFERS
Over the past decade(s), more and more high quality models in a large variety of highly detailed painted road names has resulted in a decrease in available decals and dry transfers and many modelers no longer need to go the custom lettering route to create the models they want. The printing of decals and dry transfers has slowed significantly. Various sets have been discontinued, sets are not reprinted in a timely manner as well as a number of manufacturers having closed their doors for good. A lot of sets still available are from older print runs.
The various decal manufacturers did not include a ‘printed on’ date on their decals. Therefore, it is impossible to determine exactly how old a set may actually be. Obvious clues such as old packaging or the company that made them went out of business years ago ( just as Accucals, Islington Station, Walthers, Champ and Herald King among others for example ). Less obvious, older sets in new style packaging such as occurs with some Microscale decals. There is no way to determine age and it may not be known how long a set may have been sitting on the shelf at the manufacturer before being shipped to out. I am still receiving older Microscale sets, both from my supplier and Microscale. Of course, these are generally slower moving sets, not the larger demand common sets that turn over quickly.
Therefore, I would recommend that ANY decal or dry transfer set that you plan on using on a prized model you have worked hard on, you use a small portion of the set that will not be used on the model and test it to make sure that it will work properly. Please note that there are cases of brand new decals following apart, so age is not always a factor.
If you believe there may be a problem with the set ( either by testing a small portiong or just be knowing the approximate age of the decal ), I would recommend before using the decal that you apply a dullcoat or Microscale’s Liquid Decal Film to the decal first and let it dry. This will help prevent the set from breaking up when you place it in water. If you are unsure if you need to do this, you could try cutting out a portion of the set that you do not intend to use and see how it reacts when placed in water. Most of the older Walthers and Champ sets usually work fine despite their age, but this is just a recommendation to help prevent any problems using the decals.
In the case of dry transfers, things are a little different. The older the set gets, the tougher it might be to apply as the glue dries out. If the set has been stored in a cool environment and unopened, there may not be any issues at all. I can say that I have recently used a 40+ year old CDS dry transfer set without any problems, but that doesn’t mean any set may not have issues. An problem that has come up more recently with dry transfers is the paint on the model. The changes in formulations in paint over the past decade MAY cause dry transfers not to transfer properly as the glue can’t get a grip on the model paint. Always apply dry transfers on dull paint so the transfer can grip the paint on the model. If in doubt, you can transfer the sheet to a waterslide blank decal sheet ( like Microscale Trim Film TF-0 ) - then apply as a regular decal. Many dry transfers will transfer with little problems to the Trim Film sheets that otherwise may not have worked properly on the model due to the paint issues. Applying the set to a blank decal sheet also allows you to apply more force to get the lettering to stick to the decal sheet. A set that doesn’t want to apply to either may be dried out too far, however, one last suggestion may help. Hold the decal sheet against a warm incandescent light bulb for a minute or so to warm it up ( make sure you put the back side towards the light - not the side with the lettering !! ). This will sometimes reactivate the glue enough to apply the set.
Hopefully these recommendations will allow you to use older decals and dry transfers with little or no problems.