Working with Methfix Transfers

For more than 40 years, like most modellers, I have been applying transfers (decals) to models that I build. In the early days, this was using 'Waterslide' on Airfix kits. Waterslide is still commonly used, particularly on Dapol and Airfix kits, but from the early 1990's, 'Pressfix' transfers became common. In recent years, I have mostly used Pressfix unless Waterslide has been supplied with a kit.

With my recent return to building 7mm scale rolling stock, I had a number of wagons which needed numbering. Parkside 7mm kits come with transfers, but Slaters do not and most of my 'numberless' wagons were Slaters.

I have been using HMRS Pressfix transfers on 4mm scale models for many years, so by default, I figured that I would use the same product in 7mm scale, however, HMRS transfers are sometimes in short supply and when I approached Tower Models, the only transfers they had were HMRS 'Methfix'.

I had never used 'Methfix', however, everyone I know who has, swears by them, so I thought 'let's give Methfix a go'.

What are 'Methfix' transfers ?

Conventional transfers such as 'Waterslide' and 'Pressfix' use water to activate glue which attaches transfers to a model.
'Methfix' transfers use methylated spirit (denatured ethanol) to activate the glue.

Another principal difference, and the reason why professional modellers swear by 'Methfix' is that unlike 'Waterslide' and 'Pressfix', 'Methfix' transfers do not have a 'carrier film'. This means that the letters are individual and not part of a transparent 'panel' which can be seen stuck on the side of a model. The lack of a carrier film gives a much better visual appearance, but it does mean that 'Methfix' are more fiddly to apply because individual letters have to be positioned.
Methfix transfers are reportedly much more reliable at remaining fixed on.

Getting Started

HMRS Methfix transfers require the use of a 3-parts-Meths-to-one-part-water mixture. Because Meths is highly evaporative, I presume that the water is necessary to maintain moisture.
To that end, I made up a small jar of mixture and decanted some onto a jar lid. I followed the instructions supplied on the sheet with the transfers and attempted to apply letters to a Slaters BR High Goods open wagon. Fairly quickly, it became apparent that this was going to be a very time consuming process when compared to my previous 'Pressfix experience', but I decided to 'soldier on'.

Right from my first attempt, I was having problems getting the transfers to 'stick' and I was having a very high failure rate, however, I persisted and managed to get one side of the High Goods wagon numbered. The following morning, several of the transfers had simply dropped off.


Once transfers were dropping off it had become very obvious that these things were not working. I had always understood that Methfix was way better at staying fixed than any of the water-based alternatives but it seemed that I was experiencing the very opposite - the 'glue' simply wasn't activating and if it was, it certainly wasn't sticking.
At this point, I decided to investigate different methods of applying the transfers, such as my tried-and-tested approach for Pressfix. It made no difference. I tried different concentrations of water and Methylated Spirit and that made no difference either.

I posed questions on a number of online fora and found that I wasn't the only person having problems.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the Methylated spirit available here in Australia (known as 'Denatured Alcohol') is not the same thing as the Methylated Spririt available in the UK. In fact, I should have realised this from the start because the Meths I was using here had a very light pleasant smell which is very different from the pungent smell I remember when my grandfather used to stoke up his Mamod traction engine with meths in the UK.

It was also noticeable that those complaining on online fora about Methfix not working all seemd to be in Australia or the US.

I had friendly communications with HMRS which basically came to the conclusion that the meths available outside the UK is not the same as that available in the UK, and therefore, users outside the UK would probably not have any success with Methfix. HMRS also suggested that modern paint chemical formulations were different. I suggested that it was probable that the HMRS Methfix product was good at one time, but due to the changes ('elf and safety reasons) in formulations of meths and paints available these days, it was in need of a 'tech update' to work with modern materials.

Final Conclusions

The upshot of my short venture into Methfix turned out to be a complete waste of time.
I duly ordered a sheet of Pressfix transfers from Tower Models who had now received some Pressfix transfers. These have now arrived and many have now been applied with complete success.

Conclusion: If you are not in the UK, stick with Pressfix and don't bother with Methfix because they don't work with non-UK meths.

Graham Plowman (24/05/2020)

HMRS Transfers supplied by: Tower Models Logo

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