By John Lester - images & text © 1999
^One half of the McDaniel sheet.
^ Kit, McDaniel & Thomas Models decals for the Yamaguchi/Enterprise-C compared. Note the Thomas pennants are smaller and have a silver arrowhead; McDaniel's follow the ERTL markings in size and color. The fuzziness of the letters on all three examples is a result of the scanner settings (72 dpi). Click for a larger (1:1) view.
^ Before (top) and after application of setting solvent, in this case Micro-Sol. It took two applications to get the decals to conform to the surface - purposely chosen because of the raised surface detail. That's about normal for most decals. Note there was no bleeding of the ink, bubbling or melting.
Aftermarket decals for Star Trek models are nothing new, but for some reason, they're hard to find. Webgames and Thomas Models both produced excellent sets, but Webgames is no longer in business, and Thomas Models has seemingly not had much output in the past year. With the technology making printing costs lower every day, several smaller (usually one man shop) companies are stepping in to fill the gaps.
One of these is McDaniel Models, a relative newcomer to the field who also markets OOP Star Trek kits and is producing a line of resin Trek-inspired starships. He offers several decal options: standard markings for various ship kits, custom decals based on templates for readily available Trek models (you provide the name and registry), and custom scales and markings based on your artwork. The decals are printed in high resolution using an inkjet printer, and special paper and coatings developed for inkjets.
Being in the market for custom markings for my ERTL Enterprise-C, I took Cory up on his offer to show me what he could do. His standard Enterprise-C sheet comes with enough markings for two models, and includes not only ship name and registry letters/numbers, but pennants and various stripes and nacelle markings as well. On my sample, the lettering was sharp - especially on the smaller markings. Registry on some of the larger letters and numbers, such as the NCC- that graces the top of the saucer, was not perfect, but useable (the red outline touched the black in a few places). Comparing these markings with those on a Thomas Model's sheet for the same kit, McDaniel are not as crisp as Thomas'. Moreover, I'm a little leery of the thin stripes on the McDaniel sheet, which tend more toward orange, while those on the Thomas are a bright red. However, McDaniel decals do not show the tiny dots that ALPS-printed decals (like Thomas Models') almost always have. This is not much of an issue on red and black lettering, but it is very noticeable on things such as life boat markings, shuttle bay doors - anything that is not a solid, primary color.
Even the best looking decals may be too thin to be useable, or shatter or bleed uf setting solution is applied, so I tested the McDaniel decals under "real life" conditions. I did not apply liquid decal film over them before using, as I will on decals that are otherwise thin enough to shatter when moved, or fold up on themselves. I just dipped these in water and slid them onto a primed and glossed surface, without any setting aids.
I had no troubles. They were thin enough to conform to the surface details -- at least as well as more "mainstream" decals. They were easy to get into position, did not tear, shatter or curl, and did not bleed when I applied MicroSol decal solvent. In fact, they performed just as well as anything that comes in any ERTL kit. I was concerned tht they would be transparent, but despite the lack of a white background (as most silk screened and ALPS decals have), they were adequately opaque. I wouldn't use them across two contrasting colors (like white and blue, for instance) but for the greys and off-whites of Starfleet, they'll do.Conclusion
Despite a few problems, McDaniel Models do have a good, useable product. Used in conjunction with kit decals, they are an excellent source for customizing your models..... and when I get through the pile to the corner of the closet where all my Trek models are, I'll be buying more decals from them.
This page copyright © 1997-9 Starship Modeler. Last updated on 11 November 1999.