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Acetone Toner Xfer


Every time I use acetone to label a project in a video I get a few comments asking me about it. It's really simple, so let me show you how I do this.

And by the way, if you look over my shoulder in this photo at the large wooden sign that reads "Words N", that was made using this method.

First, you need a printout, which has the words or design that you want to transfer to the wood.

There are two things to keep in mind: You need to print the image reversed, so that the words will be legible when transferred to the wood. Also the printout must come from a laser printer or photocopier, because what you are doing is moving the toner from the paper to the wood.

This method will NOT work with printouts from an inkjet printer. Now, you CAN transfer inkjet printouts to wood also, but that requires a different method. Steve Ramsay of Woodworking For Mere Mortals has an excellent short video that explain that: here is the link.

Second, you need some Acetone. This is pure acetone. I've tried nail polish remover which has some acetone in it, but it failed completely. I've since been browsing Amazon and I see that some nail polish remover is supposedly 100% pure acetone, so those should work, provided it is 100% acetone.


I've also heard that lacquer thinner will work, but I have no personal experience with that.

I cut out the section of the printout containing the words or image that I want transferred and lay it down on the wood. I put some tape on one side to help hold it in place.

I then dampen a rag with the Acetone, and wipe that across the back of the paper several times, pressing firmly. I have seen one source where they suggest using a spoon to burnish the back of the printout, but again, I have not tried that, as I find that a rag works quite well for my purposes.

The Acetone will turn the paper translucent so you can see all the areas with toner on them. (see the next two photos for an example of this.) Much like rubbing alcohol, the Acetone evaporates very quickly, and then you can peel back the paper, revealling how the image has been transferred to the wood.

Here is a closeup of the end result, this is on maple. I never get a 100% perfect transfer. It is usually around the 90-95% mark, but that is fine by me, as I usually am just using this to label a project with my name and the year. If you watch the video above, I demonstrate on several different types of wood and get good results on all. Obviously, the smoother and flatter the surface the better the result, so a porous wood like oak or ash is usually going to get a fractionally worse transfer.

I can then move on to the finishing stage. I regularly use spray lacquer or waterbased polyurethane and that covers and protects the trasnfer well. I am carefuly and work with a light touch for the first coat of finish over the toner, but after that I just proceed as per normal.

Some of the Tools/Supplies Used In This Project: (Affiliate Links)


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See Also:

Dice Tower

Making a CNC carving from a Pin