I've finally plucked up the courage to apply the tank census number. I found as many original images as I could of Royal Navy WNG's. They all had a much larger font size than those on 'Army' and RAF tanks and had a distinctive font type. I determined the character height (1.75") by importing a few images of tanks into Autocad and comparing the font size with the tank badge (which is a known dimension).
There was no way I was going to attempt to hand paint the number. Looking at the images of the RN WNG tanks I had found the characters looked very uniform and fairly 'crisp', although not always in a straight line. I suspect individual character stencils may have been used and the paint stippled on with a brush. Who knows? I decided that my OCD would not cope with anything producing an irregular format and I didn't want to use vinyl stick on letters so a stencil seemed to be the way to go.
Having decided on what my census number would be (and no, its not based on any calculation from the frame or contract number) I emailed the image of an original census number to Axholme stencils https://www.axholmesigns.co.uk/
who were able to identify the correct font and character spacing.
Here is an example of an original number
This post is a bit long winded, but if you have never attempted this sort of thing before it should give a few insights into a method which worked very well for me.
The vinyl 'one use' stencils come with a thick paper backing (removed after positioning but before applying) and a thinner paper protective cover on the top (removed after application) so they are quite stiff. The WNG tank has quite a pronounced double curvature above the Ariel badge and, having copied the stencil onto a piece of paper, and trying to position this onto the tank, made it clear that there would be a few creases produced when applying the stencil.
Having sought some advice on the WD motorcycle forum ( http://pub37.bravenet.com/forum/static/ ... 2&cmd=show
) it appeared that careful alignment, and a few slits where the creases formed, seemed to be the way to go.
I trimmed off some of the excess stencil, top and bottom, so that it would be easier to form it to the curves of the tank. I left about 8mm so the edges could still be stuck down firmly.
To make sure the stencil stayed in correct alignment when the backing paper was removed I cut vertically through the backing paper only, in the centre of the stencil, so that I could peel the backing off / apply the stencil in two half's. The idea being that, with one half still held in position, the overall alignment should be maintained.
I set the tank up with its base horizontal and the badges and knee rubbers in-place. I then lined the bottom edge of the stencil up by eye and also by using reference measurements to the bottom edge of the tank. When it looked OK I fixed it in place a length of low tack masking tape across the bottom of each half the stencil. I then stuck a piece of masking tape alongside each end of the stencil as a guide to show where the ends should be aligned when stuck down. Finally a piece of tape was stuck vertically across the centre with one edge lined up with the cut in the backing paper.
Next stage was to remove the backing paper from one half of the stencil (the one without the central strip of tape attached) achieved by un-sticking the masking tape from one half of the bottom and lifting the stencil. I had now reached the point of no return. With the edge of a credit card I smoothed the stencil down, starting at the bottom to make sure it remained aligned and level. I worked my way upwards in small sections, slowly trying to ease it down without producing creases. The stencil will not stretch because of the paper top layer, so planning where you are smoothing and small steps are required.
A few 'crinkles' appeared, but if you try to pull it back up to re position it tends to separate the paper top cover from the stencil. The main creases I had began forming at the top. I just cut through the 'peak' of any creases as they formed with a new Stanley knife blade and overlapped the cut edges.
Once the first side was done I removed the central strip of tape and repeated the process on the other side. Finally I went over the whole stencil with the edge of the credit card making sure it was all stuck down.
It was then a case of removing the top layer of paper. Again care was needed to prevent the stencil lifting. If it did lift I held it down with a corner of the credit card.
Once the paper was off I was pleased to see that the small crinkles that had been produced had not effected the crisp outline / edges of the cut out characters. I did have to make a few small adjustments in alignment of the character outline where I had made the cuts and overlapped the creases but the stencil lifted OK with the point of the Stanley knife blade and stuck back down again OK.
I then checked over the outlines of the characters to make sure the edges were fully stuck down (so paint could not get underneath) and used the credit card carefully to smooth any suspect areas. In the main the stencil was fully stuck down all around the characters.
It is then a case of masking off before painting. I chose to spray as I wanted as thin a coat of paint as possible. I used Plasticote Fast Dry project Enamel spray paint, flat white. Although its name says Fast Dry it takes at least 45 mins to get touch dry and at least 3 hours to dry (but days to actually go hard). This suggests it does not have an aggressive solvent and tests showed it was safe to use over the paint I had used on the tank.
I gave it an initial light coat, waited 45 mins and then a second slightly heavier coat which I let dry for an hour. Spraying was done in the living room where it was nice and warm.
The stencil instructions say remove the stencil when the paint is touch dry, probably to reduce any risk of the paint lifting at the edges. I removed the masking and, starting at a corner, carefully peeled the stencil off. As when unmasking tank pinstripes it is best to pull the stencil off by bending it back on itself and pulling so that the peeling edge acts like a knife cutting through the paint film. As I peeled I cut the stencil at various points where it was narrow so it could be removed in sections rather than try and peel the whole stencil off in one go. The sections in the centre of 8's 0's etc can be lifted with the point of the knife blade and then peeled away.
I was very pleased with the result. The outline of the characters was crisp and no paint had crept under the edges, even at the points where the creases had been cut and overlapped.