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I'm failing miserably at finding tutorials or videos on this.

I've bought some adhesive backed sign-makers' vinyl for applying to shelving, so it has a nice, even, bright gloss finish. But it's an awful lot more difficult than I expected to apply it without bubbles and creases, not to mention having it aligned properly. It's like trying to put a screen protector on a phone, but harder, given the size.

Any tips for doing this? I've tried applying it while the shelf (bare plywood) is vertical, horizontal, or at angles. Starting from the top, bottom, and side. Long side first and short side first. By hand, with a squeegee, and aluminium rod. It doesn't have lettering or anything, it's just a simple sheet with backing that peels off to reveal the adhesive side.

I'm sure it needs practice, but pretty pointless if you're not using a good technique to start with. How should this be done?

Thanks

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What you can do by hand is fairly limited. Wallpaper is adhesive backed, but slightly repositionable. If what you have sticks strongly at first contact, your choices are limited. I would suggest the following,

  1. Use a roller, as wide as possible, and of rubber. This should eliminate most bubbles and creases.
  2. Go slow. This will allow you to catch and fix creases.
  3. Pull the adhesive sheet tight.
  4. You will probably still get bubbles, but they should be fairly small. Again, if it's a wet adhesive like wallpaper, you can usually push these out with a roller or straightedge. If it's an instant adhesive, you can prick them with a needle and collapse them.

In industries that do lamination, its done using rollers. Web tension is a primary parameter in helping prevent bubbles and creases. It's also common to use a bowed roll to help get tension in the transverse direction and prevent trapped air that causes bubbles.

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Peel of the backing at a corner a bit and position that in the corresponding corner.

Then peel off more as you go and rub with a straight edged tool from the start to the end in short strokes. This way you make a dividing line between the portion already glued and the portion that's not yet glued (and still has the backing on it).

Minimize the exposed adhesive at a time.

The backing should curl under the unfinished portion and lift it up. The tool will push down controlled portions of it to stick down while at the same time pushing air bubbles away. You should pull more backing away when it threatens to make a fold.

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