General Question

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Can you varnish over a decal?

Asked by Skaggfacemutt (9785points) January 17th, 2012

I am refinishing a 1950’s Storkline high chair, and was lucky enough to find a company on line who had the exact same decal as the original. I am afraid to varnish over the decal in case the chemicals ruin it. Is there anyone who has done this before who can tell me if it’s safe? Do I need to use something else other than varnish?

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18 Answers

rebbel's avatar

I would say it can’t hurt, but I don’t know for sure, it is just a hunch.
What you can consider is this: Assuming that the decal is not that expensive (I don’t know if they are or not) you can maybe order two.
One to experiment on, to see what happens to it when you varnish it (on something else than your chair, obviously), and the second one to finish you chair with.

judochop's avatar

depends on what kind of Varnish. Some marine varnishes are so harsh if applied wrong they will light wood on fire.

Judi's avatar

In the 1970’s it was a real trend to decoupage .
It was basically doing exactly as you describe, although sometimes it was just pictures glued to the item then varnished over, not stickers.

jca's avatar

I do decoupage. If I were you I would color-copy the decal. If you stick the decal on (the “sticker” way) it might peel over time. Also, a decal is thicker than a color copy, so it will appear smoother and closer to the wood than an actual decal. Your goal is to have it last forever.

Color copy it, use Elmer’s glue, watered down to a milk-like consistency – about half water and half glue. Brush it on the wood, lay the color copy down, smooth it out, smooth out all air bubbles and make sure all edges are down. Let it dry completely, varnish. I use a water base poly, dries faster and is just as good as oil base. Oil base might make an oily mark on the paper (the paper of the color copy). Water base won’t. Which ever you choose, put about 5 layers of poly over the image. Let each coat dry before applying new coat.

What you’re doing sounds like a great project. Please post a photo when you’re done.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

@jca I vaguely remember experimenting with decoupage in the 70’s. Thanks for the detailed instructions. I will try it on a test board first and see how it goes.

I am really excited about this project. It is one of the few old high chairs that still has it’s tray. I have been keeping it to refinish for decades, but the big hold-up was the decal and also hardware to hold the tray onto the chair. I found a company that sells the hardware at the same time I found the decal.

jca's avatar

After responding to your question, @Skaggfacemutt, I googled Storkline high chairs and my mom has a very similar one from when she was little. Next time I go there I am going to look for identifying marks on it! It’s a high chair that sits atop a table, and then converts to a regular chair and table. It has a similar sticker on it – will look at it more carefully now! I would love to see a photo of yours. Hers has a plastic tray, like the ones I googled have. She never refinished it – the finish on hers is fine. Does yours not have a decal on it now?

jca's avatar

@Skaggfacemutt: buy a wooden item (unfinished) from a crafts store, such as a plaque, or a small wooden box (or take a cigar box and sand it down smooth). Use that to practice on. I use foam brushes to do the poly-ing. Just drag it slowly, one pass and try not to let the rows overlap each other. Then do a little touch up around the edges to catch any drips. If you are finishing a multi sided item, like a box, then you have to let each side dry before turning it to another side, and finishing that side (and be diligent about the drips on a multi sided item). It’s fun and you can decoupage anything (any image onto anything smooth).

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

My high chair is a conventional one with a wooden tray, kind of kidney-shaped. It does have its original decal, which is how I know the one I found is identical. But the one on the chair is faded, and has come off in places. I could post a picture, but I don’t know how (I’m not that computer-savvy). The decals I ordered has the one big one and two smaller ones on the sheet, so I could experiment with the smaller ones to see what kind of result I would get.

Can you give me the name of the poly-stuff that you would recommend?

jca's avatar

It’s at Walmart, it’s like $16 for a quart. It’s a blue can – will google it and let you know.

jca's avatar

It’s by Minwax and it’s called Polycrylic. They also have an oil based one, but I like the water based one. The oil based one has a different name. If you go to the Minwax site you can see the choices so you know what to look for. Oil based goes on thicker, smoother. Smells more, messy cleanup, can make an oil mark on the paper, finish has a slight yellow color (rich color). Takes longer to dry. Water based one has no smell, cleans up with water, dries clear and true to the original color of whatever you’re finishing. Dries within about a half hour. Oil based you need about a day for drying each coat.

I recommend you try decoupaging something – it just may become a hobby!

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Thanks, @ica . I am going to try the actual decal and a color print-out of the decal and see how it goes. Thanks to you, now I feel like I know what I’m doing.

Bumsky2's avatar

Where did you find the decal? I am redoing my high chair and need a replacement decal also. Would you share the info please?

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Hi, I am back after a few-month hiatus. I got my high chair done, and I am so pleased with it. I got the decal from . I put minwax clear coat over it, and it worked just fine. Check it out…

Judi's avatar


Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Thanks, @jca , I used minwax Polycrylic, as you suggested. It worked perfectly.

jca's avatar

Glad it worked out, @Skaggfacemutt! It looks incredible and like something you’ll have around as an heirloom!

wilma's avatar

It’s lovely.

Skaggfacemutt's avatar

Thanks, everyone. I don’t know why I love this chair so much – I guess it is one of my first memories. I was able to save the Storkline brand logo on the back, so I am very happy.

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