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How-to: Apply destination stickers on N gauge cars

JR East

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Hello Fans


Let me share with you my experience in sticking this *!$&# stickers on my Kato rolling stock. As I heard from @disturbman  the result is frequently poor, I've decided to make an end-to-end depiction on how to apply those stickers


Keep in mind that Kato is using dry stickers, so no water transfer!!!!


01 - As it's N gauge, you'll need some tools / accessories


  • A headband magnifier (better with led like mine) - Can be purchased out of (e.g.) Amazon for 20 euros. Any fixed magnifier can be used but without magnifier ... no way!
  • Your wife’s tweezers or your very fine tweezers
  • Scotch tape, not too sticky, the one I use is "Scotch Magic Tape"
  • A precise scissors, at least scissors cutting correctly (cutter is not recommended)
  • Time ... time .... time ... don't rush in any case!!!




Such a good scissors is enough as long as it's cutting straight (no mechanical clearance between the two blades) and clean. It's what was used to cut my first labels




Otherwise small like those ones can be purchased out of (e.g.) Amazon for something like 15 euros







02 - First make a rough cut of the sticker


  • Don't try to make a precise cut directly out of the card, you'll have to do it later on with the right tools





03 - Pinch and cut the sticker


  • Pinching the sticker in the tweezers will help you to cut it properly
  • With the scissors, cut it exactly at the size, following the border ... you know now why you'll need a fixed or headband magnifier ... you need your two hands




There is a very good reason why you must make a fine cut … just look at picture below. I let you imagine the result on your Kato trainset. Moreover, not cutting properly will result in a nightmare later on, at the final adjustment. Believe me, if you don't do it properly, you'll have a poor result. 





04 - The proper cutting


  • Doing a good job will result in having the label itself, all the label but just the label. 





05 - Sticking the transfer to the Scotch tape


  • The idea behind that is to ease the handling of the sticker (it's a small 1 x 2 mm piece), the overall manipulation without killing the adhesive side of the sticker as well as making the transfer easier to the rolling stock
  • Pick a long piece of scotch tape, fold the ends of the scotch tape
  • Tip & Tricks #1: With your finger, touch 1 time only the sticky side of the tape so that the "dirt" of you fingers will stick to the scotch tape ... reducing slightly its sticky power, but not too much (we need the scotch remains sticky for the step 06)
  • Place the scotch strip on your label where you've touch the strip





06 - Removing the protection paper


  • I let you imagine how boring it can be to peal the protection paper of such a small sticker. Thus ...
  • Tip & Tricks #2: Stick another piece of scotch tape on the opposite side of the label, crossing tapes like that




  • Turn it the opposite side and gently press with something hard such as the tweezers to let the paper stick firmly to the scotch tape




  • Once this is done, separate the two scotch strips




Another example to illustrate the way it works




  • Now, you've one stip with the transfer on it, ready to be applied and easy to handle, the sticky side of the transfer has never been touched with your fingers and it's properly separated from the paper support ... isn't that great ? 



07 - Adjust and apply


  • Now, you'll understand why I've asked you to do all these steps before. I recommend to do it using your magnifier to make sure it's perfectly fitting to the window




  • Of course, if it's not correctly applied, you can do and redo as long as the sticker is not stuck... believe me, this scotch strip, you'll love it !




  • Once in the right position, it's time to make the transfer stick to the plastic window. With the tweezers (or a Q-tip), gently press through the strip to stick the transfer to the window




  • Pull the tape with a 90° angle, slowly, ...up to the moment the transfer appears. You can use the tweezers to maintain it in place the time the strip is fully removed. Do it slowly ... it'll really help. If it's not working fine, redo the previous step. You know now why I asked you to put a bit of dirt to make the stcoch tape a bit less sticky on the transfer printed side.




08 - Final adjustments


  • Once the strip is removed, firmly (not too much ... it's Kato N) press in the sticker with the end of the tweezers in the four corners and on the surface to push it into the hollow and adjust it to the window (hollow form)




  • And here is the result !!! I let you double-click on the picture to notice how adjusted it is




An now with inner leds ... (sorry it's a bit blurry ...)






 @disturbmanAre you convinced now?



I hope it'll help you. 





Edited by JR East
correct mistyping, adding pictures of scissors as example
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Nice! Thanks for doing that up so nicely! 

ive used the scotch tape to locate small ones, but I usually just pop off the paper with very sharp forceps and works well on tiny pieces as not much surface area and is pretty quick. The tomytec stickers for buildings come apart easy enough I can also just use two pairs of sharp forceps to pop the backing off easily and hold the sticker in forceps for placement as well when needed, especially in places where it’s not nice and clear to get tape into for placement. but I’ve done tons of manipulation of tiny things with very tiny tip forceps so it’s just engraved in my head. But tape is definitely easier to line up on the car stickers.

I’ve used scotch tape to pull off backing of big stickers, but going to have to give it a whirl on the tiny ones now.





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  • JR East changed the title to How-to: Apply destination stickers on N gauge cars

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