FAST AND EASY WAY FOR MAKING SEXY PANELS
I use this basic process for the front panels of my L/C Meter IIB.
Transparency film directly onto plastic. I have some over two years old that show no signs
of deterioration. The example is for my version of the "poor man's spectrum analyzer" which I
will use to test a new Digital Center Frequency Display and Marker Generator designed for
- Computer with graphics program.
- high resolution laser or ink jet printer.
- One of these must be capable of flipping the image horizontally
- Colored shelf paper (from local hardware store) OPTIONAL
- Mine had red, green, lite blue, dark blue, yellow and white
- wood tones are also available (flowered prints too, if you're into
flowered print front panels).
- Shelf paper is mearly to give a colored front panel. The process is
applicable to plastic and painted surfaces without the shelf paper.
- Laser or ink jet transparency film
- Elmers spray adhesive (from local hardware store)
Figure 1, Begin by laying out the panels physical dimensions.
- Locate the centerlines of all controls and cutouts.
- Put circles to represent the actual size of the knobs
- Print out a copy of this.
- Use it to center punch the locations on the actual panel.
Figure 2, Add the desired labels
- I have not tried this with ink jet printer and ink jet transparency film
but assuming it works and you have a color printer you could really go wild.
Figure 3, Delete the dimensional data
Figure 4, Flip the panel horizontally (this puts the ink on the back
- Most graphics programs have a "Flip Horizontal" or
"Mirror Horizontal" function to do this. (I use Corel Draw)
- If your's doesn't then several image processing packages do have.
- Print it out on Laser Transparency Film (or ink jet transparency film)
- if you can't print on transparency film, xerox a copy onto the film.
- Trim it to the dimension of the colored pane.
Assemblying the panel
- Clean surfaces are necessary for best results
- As I say, I have not tried ink jet but I suspect that it would be best
to let the ink dry throughly before proceeding.
- Using the template of figure 1, drill and machine all holes.
- Using hobby knife and metal ruler
- Trim some colored shelf paper to the size of the colored pane
- locate the colored pane on the panel and stick it down
- buff down with a soft cloth.
- Using a sharp hobby knife, cut holes in the shelf paper to match the
holes in the panel.
- Using hobby knife and metal ruler
- Trim the transparency film to match the colored pane or entire panel
- Spray Elmers Spray Adhesive on the BACK of the transparent film (side
with the ink on it) .
- Spray a UNIFORM amount. Don't have to overdo it.
- If you have a WINDOW in the panel (as in the example) don't spray the
film, spray the panel.
- If you are covering the entire panel, or mask the panel, you can spray
the adhesive on the panel instead of the film.
- Stick it down to the colored pane.
- Buff it down with a soft cloth.
- Using a sharp hobby knife, trim holes in the film to match the holes in
- Allow the panel to dry a few hours before mounting controls.
- ALWAY USE FLAT WASHERS UNDER NUTS THAT HOLD THE CONTROLS
- This will help prevent wrinkling the film when tightening the nuts.
- NEVER SPRAY WINDOW CLEANER DIRECTLY ON THE PANEL.
- This can seep under the edges of the transparency and stain the glue an
- Spray the cleaner on the cloth or paper towel and use it to wipe the
Figure 5, The finished panel
( picture is a bit fuzzy, limited by the resolution of my camcorder)
Removing the panel label
- You can remove the panel, in case you screw up or change your mind, by
lifting a corner of the transparency with a hobby knife and pealing it off.
- This will leave most of the ink and most of the glue on your panel.
- Use a product similar to "goo-gone" (available at your
hardware store) to remove the glue.
- I've heard that WD-40 will do this although I have not tried it.
- Wash the panel using liquid dish detergent and rinse throughly. Dry with
- This could ruin the shelf paper so you may have to remove it and clean
its glue off as well.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS FROM A USER OF THIS TECHNIQUE. Hi Neil,
Just a comment on your technique for front panels. I've worked with
acetate-based front panels and found that some adhesives can dissolve the
toner (ink). Also, some adhesives can dissolve mylar sheets, so be sure to
use acetate (overhead-projector film). The advantage to using acetate is
that it's pretty durable. The disadvantage is that you can see the bubbles
from the spray adhesives.
Now, I use a product called Sticky Back. It used to be made by 3M, but is
still available (although it's getting harder to find) Look for it in
stores that carry graphic art supplies, but don't even bother going to the
stationary or office supply stores. Sometimes, Kinko's carries it, but ask
to speak to a manager (because most of the dweebs working there haven't
heard of it and will tell you they don't carry it.) It's a mylar sheet with
a peel-off backing. It's laser-printable and reasonably easy to apply.
Supposedly, it comes in colors, but I only use the "ice" color. For
your layouts, a paper version (just like a big address label, only it peels
off the panels easily) is also available. You CAN get THAT at Kinko's.
What I usually do is:
First, I print out my "drilling guide" and attach it to the panel. I
out all my holes, and if there are any square holes, I use my nibbler tool.
I then finish up by filing down any rough edges.
Then, I'll remove the drilling guide, and clean the panel removing all burrs
and scratches. I use a green Scotch-Brite pad, Ajax, and some elbow grease.
I use a circular motion to give it a uniform finish.
Then I'll print out and apply the final layout. Lastly, using an X-acto
knife, I'll cut out the openings for the holes.
The only problem with my technique is that I sometimes get little tiny
bubbles between the panel and the sheet. You can pop these with a needle,
but it still leaves a visible mark where the bubble was.
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