How’d They Do That?- Hydro Graphics


Article By: Matt Reel

Photos By: Rebecca Schuessler

Originally Published In The March 2014 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine

Recently, while working at the fire dept., one of the crew I was working with asked, “Why isn’t Hydro Graphics more popular in the motorcycle industry?” I immediately responded with, ‘What the hell is Hydro Graphics?’ A quick computer search provided several YouTube videos on the process. I quickly learned how camouflage gun stocks get that way. After watching a few videos, I decided I had no idea what was going on. After a quick search for a shop somewhere close that I could check out in person, I found Shaffer Design in Grafton, WV (oddly my hometown). I called up Shaffer’s and spoke to Mike (owner/operator). I could tell immediately Mike was excited about what he was doing and had a lot of pride in his work. R Article By: Matt Reel Photos: Rebecca Schuessler After finding out where Shaffer’s was located, which happened to be about a mile from my dad’s house (small world), I pulled some parts off the engine of the Sportster I’m building and headed his way for some carbon fiber. Mike wasn’t able to do my parts when I could watch, but invited me back to see the whole process. When I returned, Mike and I were able to discuss the method while Rebecca snapped pictures. The way Mike described the design film to me was that it was ink trapped between an invisible layer on each side. One side dissolves in water and the other dissolves when a special product is applied. Because it is an ink transfer, a design can be laid out with masking tape and adds 0 mil. thickness, so you could lay out a flame design, go through the process and clear coat with no ridge line to buff out. The next time you’re looking for that touch that will set your bike, fire arm, knife, guitar, etc. apart from the rest, give Shaffer Design a yell. They stock around 180 designs with access to 8,000 others through their supplier and will ship back and forth with you. They will also be glad to answer the hundreds of questions this article will leave you asking.


On my visit, Mike asked if a gun stock would be good to do since he didn’t have any motorcycle parts at the time. I told him I was pretty sure the readers had an interest in guns and it still shows a good example of the process. This one is a Christmas present with the instructions: he likes green and zombies.” Mike insists


on a clean work area. This is one of the reasons why he is rated as one of the top 30 installers in the U.S. by his supplier.


The design film is laid out so it can be cut to size.


The perimeter of the film is taped down and then cut to size.


The film is then laid into a tank of water and the lower layer dissolves away.


Mike then checks over the design for wrinkles or air bubbles. If any are found they are removed by lightly blowing on them and working them to the edge.


The activator is then applied with a standard paint gun. This dissolves the top coating and prepares the design for transfer.


The gun stock was then lowered through the design into the water. It takes a lot of practice and skill to figure out how to maintain a steady movement while moving the item to allow full coverage.


Once completely submerged, the water is stirred to flow out the leftover design ink floating on top.


The gun stock was then removed and transferred to a rinse station to flush off any residue.


While being rinsed, the tape from the masked off areas is removed to expose the original color.


There you have it: a Synergy Green zombie rifle stock ready for clear coat and reassembly.

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