This section is from the book "Cassell's Cyclopaedia Of Mechanics", by Paul N. Hasluck. Also available from Amazon: Cassell's Cyclopaedia Of Mechanics.
Transfers afford an easy method of decorating wood or iron; for wood they are generally printed in colours, often in imitation of inlays, though flowers, foliage, etc., maybe shown if they give a pleasing finish. Gold decorations are chiefly used on iron bedsteads, japanned goods, and cycle and pianoforte makers' name labels. Generally speaking, transfers printed on stout paper are fixed with the minimum of trouble, but imitation gold transfers are mostly printed on thin tissue paper, which requires some practice to yield good results; therefore, those who desire a few transfers for trade or club purposes are advised to have real gold printed on stout paper. For cycles and japanned goods the use of a stove, though not necessary, is advised, as the clear varnish with which the design is finally coated will dry out harder than when finished cold. The transfers are printed on sheets and must be cut out, leaving a margin of white paper around the edge; if printed on stout paper, the transfer should be held up in a strong light and tally marks pencilled on the back as guides to ensure its being fixed true. Flare the paper, lace upwards, on a sheet of newspaper and cover it with an even coat of varnish. Then cut in around the design to form a thick edge.
Work from right to left several times without recharging the brush, which should be of camel hair. Dip it in the varnish, and to work out the surplus press it over a piece of string stretched over the varnish jar, or work it over a smooth piece of wood. Any good quick-drying clear varnish will do. It should stand sufficientlylongtohavea good "tack " - that is, it should, when lightly touched with the knuckle, feel sticky without being wet. With gold or metal transfers, to be on the safe side, have them a trifle too dry; if wet, loss of burnish or brightness will result. The place on which the design is to be fixed having been wiped quite clean, place the varnished transfer in position and press the thumb down the centre, working outwards to remove air bubbles; for a cycle frame, press well down with the palm of the hand or with a soft cloth. Allow the transfer to stand a few minutes, then damp the paper with a sponge moistened with warm water. Press down again evenly, and apply water more liberally with the sponge. The paper should now readily lift if held by one corner, leaving every line of the design perfect. With thin paper the same procedure should be followed, the chief point to be observed being to avoid swimming the varnish on.
In some cases better results are gained by applying the varnish where the design is to be fixed instead of varnishing the design. The paper being removed, the frame should be hung in the stove at a temperature of about 150" F. for ten minutes or so, the surplus moisture being first removed by a gentle dabbing with a clean moist washleather. Remove the frame from the stove, and whilst it is still slightly warm, apply a thin even coat of good clear varnish and stove again for twenty or thirty minutes or even longer: excess of heat will cause the gold to amalgamate with the asphaltuni of the japan, and thus to turn brown. When there is no stove at hand, coat the design with a good spirit varnish or "transfer" varnish, which acquires the requisite tack in a few seconds. The design is then placed in position and pressed well home. Allow it to stand ten minutes and then damp with warm water; press home again and moisten more liberally; remove the paper and surplus moisture and set aside in warmth for at least an hour. Should the result have a scaly or whitish appearance only, wipe over with a trace of raw linseed oil; rub free from oil and apply a coat of varnish over the design. Several coats may be given, at intervals of half an hour.
Better results may be gained if, instead of successive coats of spirit or transfer varnish, one only is given to fix the design and kill any trace of oil; then finish with a coat of best copal or coach varnish. Colour transfers are fixed in the same manner. In the case of wood decoration, the same general principle is employed, the design being fixed after the work is bodied up and the surface freed from grease, the subsequent coat of varnish used for protection being ofttimes discarded. White or transparent polish is applied by means of a pad and a lac surface built up that will give the appearance of inlay. I designs require a rubber roller to press them well home. Transfers, when not required for immediate use, should be kept flat between the leaves of a book in a dry place.