Striping can give your projects and equipment a professional look and highlight important areas. Sure, you could use a stencil and spray paint, but that can get messy very fast. Paint, especially solvent-based ones, have a nasty tendency of "creeping" under stencils, depriving you of nice clean lines. A much cleaner and effective method is to use colored tape. On most surfaces electrical tape works extremely well. It's not as tedious as you might think - here's how to do it right the first time!
The striping in this instructable was applied to the cabinet enclosure for a laser cutter. The enclosure was made of high quality plywood.
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Step 1: MATERIALS AND TOOLS
This does not involve any super exotic materials or tools. I can do everything with just:
1. Electrical tape
2. Metal straight-edge
3. Your sharpest knife or razor blade
5. Card stock or manila folder
6. Modge-Podge or other water based glue/sealer
7. Oil-based urethane
Step 2: PREP YOUR SURFACES
In this case, the pieces to be striped were plywood. To get them ready, the rough edges were sealed with some spackle, sanded down to be as smooth as possible, and then painted. All surfaces were given a layer of primer, then white paint, then finished with oil-based urethane. This resulted in a smooth, hard, non-porous surface. If striping on metal or surfaces that are already painted, make sure the surfaces to be striped are clean of anything dirty or greasy.
Step 3: MAKE a GUIDE AND MARK THE LINES
This will be how to mark the application line on the surface. Cut a guide from a manila folder, with a tab at the desired angle, and the tab as wide as the tape. The guide also has a mark that will indicate where to place the guide at the next line. As you mark each line, also mark the next position of the guide on the piece.
Step 4: START LAYING TAPE!
Lay tape along the guide lines, leaving enough tape overhang to fold down as far as you want on each side. Cut each piece of tape with a razor blade or hobby knife. As for the type of tape, I have found that electrical tape is perfect for this application. Electrical tape is available in many colors at most hardware stores and is inexpensive. Office supply stores also sell chart tape in a variety of colors and widths, but they tend to be thinner widths. I prefer electrical or chart tape because those are plastic backed tapes; cloth or paper tapes may work visually, but they tend to wrinkle when liquid is applied during the sealing process.
Step 5: CUT TAPE
Lay a metal straight-edge along the cut line. Clamp the straight edge or otherwise secure it well, you don't want it slipping while cutting! You also don't want to be trying to hold the straight edge in place while cutting; its best to have both hands free when working with sharp blades.
Using a very sharp hobby knife or single edge razor blade, cut each tape stripe by running the knife along the straight edge. If striping wood or other soft material, make sure to cut only the tape and not let the blade cut deeper than the tape.
Step 6: FINISH UP
Electrical tape doesn't have exceptionally strong adhesive strength, therefor to securely seal the stripes and prevent them from coming detached over time, cover them with a layer of Modge-Podge or other water based sealer. Modge-Podge will dry completely clear, as it is basically white glue. After the Modge-Podge dries, a layer of oil-based urethane can be applied over it to make it waterproof and abrasion-proof. This creates a two layer seal, first the water based sealer, then an oil-based top coat. This way is recommended because the solvent in oil-based sealers will attack and weaken the adhesive in most tapes, and the tape will become detached before the urethane dries. Modge-Podge is water based and won't affect the tape. The urethane will protect the Modge-Podge from water, because even after drying, it will soften if it gets wet again. The result of this process is a very tough finish that can be cleaned with Windex, alcohol or other household cleaners.