I have a number of working qrp rigs, both homebrew and made from kits.
They could do with the finishing touches to their aluminium (aluminum)
panels and cases. My question is, does anyone on the list have a pet way
to make 'em look beautiful? Maybe there's a method which does not use
paint or other special treatment.

I'm sure this must be a much asked question, and information on how best
to do this will likely be of use to others reading this. Hope someone
can suggest something really neat! I'm all ears.


Regards to all.....72/73 Brian g3mbn

From: "Peter Vaughan" 

The following is the way I finish my front panels thought it may be of some

1. Try to make the front panel detachable if possible, this makes any
artwork easier to apply.

2. Apply spray paint primer, white primer for a white finish or grey if a
dark finish is required. Apply sparingly repeating coats at fifteen minute
intervals. When the panel is covered allow to dry thoroughly rub down with
fine wet and dry paper and wash with soapy water.

3 Apply finished colour as above, if the finished panel is to be black or
white matt spray paints are available from car accessory shops. When
finished use cutting polish 'Tcut', 'Brasso' etc to provide a smooth surface
to apply artwork

4. Apply rub down lettering is available at all good art shops, I use 2.5mm
high 'Decadry' lettering which is available in both black and white for
about 1.50 a sheet. I have also used 'Lettraset' lettering but this is
expensive as the sheet size is larger. Be patient when applying lettering
any mistakes can be removed using a sharp scalpel. To ensure lettering is
straight fine pencil lines can be used these can be removed following

5. If lines are required on the panel, e.g. RIT and Vol indication I use a
'Rotring' lining pen 0.7mm dia. Rotring ink is available in both black and

6. When artwork is complete it can be sealed using clear lacquer, again
available car accessory shops. Again be patient applying several thin coats.
A word of warning, test the lacquer with the lettering I once used some
lettering that reacted with the lacquer turning the lettering to liquid!

7. When complete the lacquer can be polished to a gloss finish using cutting

What you will end up with is a hard wearing panel and although time
consuming it is well worth it giving a professional finish providing the
process is not rushed.


Peter G4TCQ

Hi Brian:

With regard to lettering of the panels I have had a good deal of success with
the Brother P-Touch labelling system (not sure if you have them in the UK).
Here in the USA the basic machine can be gotten for about $50 with a couple of
tape cassettes. I use the clear tape for the lettering, which puts black
letters against the panel surface. There is a choice of fonts and font sizes,
so you can be a little creative. Perhaps the price for the machine is a little
high for some, but I use it for other things too in my home office so that
handles the expense side for me.


David Gwillim

RE: Front Panes

You would think someone out there would have made, perhaps they have, a
clear sticky backed film for use with computer printers. For a long while
A4 sheets of acetate have been available for use with Overhead Projectors
(OHP's) and marker pens. They also come in versions which are heat
tollerant for putting through photocopiers and laser printers, and there's
a variant for inkjet printers (so the liquid ink doesn't run off!). Vinyl
cutter printers attached to Pee Cee's use stock which is like sticky
backed plastic. 

Perhaps someone knows of a source of this material which is clear and
suits the range of printers out there?

73 All
G0SBN / Glen / G-QRP 9024

I use a wire brush in an electric drill. This gives the soft aluminium
surface a texture that does not show subsequent scraches.

As to labelling the controls - this is still a problem. Dymo tape is OK for
some things (but not tuning scales for example), but looks pretty naff!

If you have the patience (and you'll need it) and have access to a PC with
a simple drawing software package (or maybe even 'Word'), then the entire
front panel can be designed and labled and printed out on to thin card. The
tricky bit is getting the holes in the chassis to match up with the scales
on the card if you do it in the wrong order!

A few coats of varnish wil protetct it from dirt and damage, and then stick
it onto the aluminium front face. If the surface was already treated as
described above, Pritt Stick type glue is sufficiently strong to stick it
on. If you then need to change it, it can be peeled off and any bits still
adhereing can be removed with warm soapy water.

Ian Liston-Smith


The materials and technique for making VuGraphs, (Overhead projection
transparencies) may be adapted to Panel labels for rigs. This worked well for
me with the small front and rear panels of the SST rig. I just made a vugraph
on clear film, that makes the control words and symbols a colored ink, and
then cut the vugraph panel to fit. The SST and Wilderness rigs use the
Control hardware to hold the connectors and pots to the panel, thus you punch
out holes for those shafts and connectors, and use the control and connector
nuts to keep the plastic overlay against the metal.

72, Stuart K5KVH
GQRP 4943

MS Paint, Word etc. will all produce the required text on coloured paper
from a Laser or photo copier.

This can be laminated with a clear and very tough plastic film by using
overhead transparency sheets. Coat the transparency with white pva wood
glue and apply to the printed sheet. The PVA dries clear, a little more
applied to the laminated panel can also be used to glue it on.

The sheet should glued on WITHOUT any holes cut. Once dry a scalpel will
pierce any pot/mic hole etc. and allow a very clean cut to made around
the circumference.

Injets are not suitable for this application as both varnish and glue
will cause the text to bleed.

To give alloy cases a nice finish, with out the hassle of paint, use
Fablon from your local DIY outlet. Fablon is a coloured plastic sheet
(paper thickness) with a sticky back. Do not attempt to remove the
carrier completely, instead just start a strip about 10-15mm wide and
then place and peel.


Hi All,
In my apprenticeship we used the following high tech method, to get that
once popular circular effect on aluminium.
Depending on the size of the circle you need, cut off a piece of dowel
about two inches long, into one end cut a fine slit about one quarter of
an inch deep, across the diameter, into this slit goes a flap of emery
paper, use the grade of emery to suit the finish, the flap is folded
across the dowel (rough outermost). The dowel is held in the chuck and
lowered onto the panel. Experimentation on an offcut may be useful. 
Our panels were fixed to the bed of the machine and we could wind them
across with the vernier adjustment for an even, accurate placing of the
Hope this helps.

NC Allison

When I visited the Grass Valley Group factory, in the days when they made
video equipment with ''brushed aluminum'' panels, they simply fed the aluminum
under a huge drum sander to get that 'brushed' look. Seems to me they made
two passes, then they anodized the panels. Maybe for QRP you could just spray
the sanded panel with clear flat Krylon. 

Another lo tech approach that gives a nice finish to take the finished panel
to a shop that cleans spark plugs and use the glass-bead sand blasting machine
they use for cleaning the insulators. Many operators will let you drop in
during off hours and use the machine. This technique gives a very fine
grained velvety look that takes rub down letters well. Overcoat with flat
lacquer for durability.

Bob Bruner

Thanks for the above ideas to those who contributed.

Frank, G3YCC

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