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T: Fuel Tank Advice on applying VOC petrol tank transfers please.


New Website User
Non-VOC Member
Classic transfers instructions (which i was reading today for my Douglas transfers )water slide (the same type as Vincent) say
"Do not flat surface before applying transfer"
they also say if you lacquer use 2K ( as you say) "no extra thinners" but add "do a light coat followed by a full coat 30 mins later"
BUT they say "not all 2K lacquers are the same" and offer no guarantees!
so if anyone have success with 2K tell us what 2K you used
I've also read the do not flat - the problem i see is that if you dont flat the surface, the surface will be slightly orange peely and therefore higher potential for air to be trapped as the surface will technically uneven. I think they state to not flat the surface prior to application due to and clear elements of the transfer having dulled lacquer underneath. I've had water transfers work but only on the odd occasion and due to it causing problems i've had to stop using that type of transfer.


Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Hi, Sorry, only just read this thread but I've done quite a few of these now (I'm not a professional painter) and I learned the hard way what a few people above have said, which is that you must never flat the paint (or lacquer) before applying the water slide transfer. If you do, it makes the paint surface slightly porous so there's a very high chance that the lacquer seeps underneath the edges and causes slight wrinkling at best or, at worst, it gets completely raised and then you can't flat down the lacquer for final polishing without damaging the transfer. Either way, it's not good.

The other reason that you don't want to put the transfers on flatted paint or lacquer is because, for some reason, it highlights the clear edges of the transfer, whereas all you should see is the coloured parts so they look like they are painted on and not transfers. The edges should 'disappear'. You need the transfer to be on a gloss backgound to achieve this so maybe it's something to do with the way the light reflects through?.

The way I have learned to do it is to paint the entire tank with the base coat ie black in the Vincent's case. This can be whatever paint type you like, cellulose, two-pack etc. When it is dry and hardened (whatever time the manufacturers recommend) I flat it back, ending up at 600 or 800 grit wet n dry, and then apply the gold leaf pinstripe (a whole different technique that I won't go through here but it's not difficult once you get the hang).

Now you need to lacquer the tank before applying the water transfers. I actually put several coats on here, as if I'm finishing the tank. The reason for this is that the gold leaf is a pain to redo so I don't want any chance of sanding through it later when polishing and having to redo it, so I make sure it is well sealed in with a minimum of three good coats of two-pack lacquer. You need two-pack to ensure that your work is ethanol- proof otherwise the first time you fill up and drip, your hard work will start to dissolve - but make sure you understand the dangers of two-pack paint and make sure you have suitable clothing and breathing apparatus.

When the lacquer has hardened, I then flat it with 1200 or 1500 grade wet and dry (depending how orange peely it is). I then clean/panel wipe and spray a couple more light coats of lacquer. I say light coats because I want to minimise orange peel here and it is purely to seal the tank and make a gloss base for the transfers.

Let the lacquer dry completely, I allow 2-3 days but, again, it depends on the manufacturers instructions and then you can apply the water slide decals. Give them several days to completely dry.

Now you can do one of two things:

1. If you're happy with the surface ie the lacquer you applied it is perfect and flat and has no dust nibs which, in my experience, never happens, then you can can just go ahead and lacquer it (see below).

2. If you are not happy with the finish, which is the more likely scenario, flat it down with 1200-1500 wet and dry BEING VERY CAREFUL not to touch the water transfers. Sand very close to the edges of them but you can leave a border of up to say 5mm that you don't sand. I would always recommend using a rubber or sponge sanding block.

When you are happy with the surface, you are ready to apply the lacquer so prepare as you normally would, ie panel wipe/tack rag but be careful with the transfers.

Then apply a very, very light mist coat of lacquer, I stand maybe twice the distance away that I normally would and literally spray just a light dusting. Then leave it for 20 mins to half an hour. Touch a masked area to check that it is hardly tacky and very nearly dry then I do exactly the same again, maybe a tiny bit more and leave the same time. It should just about be starting to have a slight gloss.

If the transfers haven't wrinkled by now then you should be okay.
I then apply a slightly thicker coat but not a full one and let it dry 20 mins and then I spray another two or three coats as normal. (If you're scared, wait longer between coats).

Yes, it's a bit of a kerfuffle, but it's worth it when you have a beautiful tank at the end of it.

After the whole thing has dried for another 3 days or so, I flat back again and then cut and machine polish.

Jim Bush

Active Website User
VOC Member
Thanks CLAY for the detailed and thorough post. I beleive this information should be made more readily available in Whitikerpedia or published in MPH..

In my case, I beleive having flattened the clear with 1500 it was enough to cause the adhesion issue. Yes, indeed let it all properly dry, thin coats and lots of patience.

Chris Launders

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
A problem which Clay seems not to have had but I have is using anything other than 2 pack even for priming can lead to problems with petrol.
I have had the paint blister due to microscopic holes in the tank and lifting the non 2 pack primer/base coat and also around the filler neck, petrol creeping down under the 2 pack lacquer in the non 2 pack layers underneath when the seal is broken by using the filler cap and lifting the paint, I asked a professional paint sprayer friend about this he told me never to use anything but 2 pack on a tank.


Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Tell me about it...... (look at the finish on the rest of the tank)
"luckily" it was my Velocette:oops:


Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
I have had that exact same problem on my Series A tank two years ago which is soldered rather than welded. I painted it and refitted it and, three months later, the paint bubbled all around the seam at the top of the tank as there must've been some microscopic holes in the join. The solution (I hope!) was to line the tank and then respray, which I have only recently done so fingers crossed.

I would always recommend two-pack for the tank, from etch primer through to lacquer. In fact all the hardware (unless you are stove enamelling of powder coating, neither of which I have tried) as fuel can and will run down the tank onto other painted areas. However, there are dangers with two-pack so not everyone likes to use it, so the slightly less hazardous-to-health solution is cellulose with a few coats of two-pack clear lacquer applied on top as per the method described in my earlier post, and hand brush some around the filler neck, though this will always be susceptible to fuel ingress.

Lastly, I should have said in my earlier post that, when spraying the final lacquer coat over the transfers, do not use any thinners in the lacquer. Only use lacquer and hardener, otherwise the thinner will bubble the transfers. It doesn't matter if these final coats are a bit thicker or have a bit of orange peel as you are going to flatten down and polish afterwards to get a perfect finish.

Chris Launders

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Tell me about it...... (look at the finish on the rest of the tank)
"luckily" it was my Velocette:oops:
Mine was a couple of black Brough tanks, just had to seal and re-do them, successfully, so far. Luckily it's only paint and time.

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