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Creating Realistic License Plate Novelty Items

Viktor Liberty

Editors' note: This article is for entertainment purposes only. We don't think it'd be a good idea for you to browse airport long-term parking lots for similar-looking vehicles to yours, whose plates you can liberate overnight... or cruising your area for cars on blocks whose license plate might go unnoticed if it disappeared for a short while...

Materials needed:
--Glass microspheres, available from most fiberglass and plastic supply outlets (this is for the reflective finish--in most states, white pearl paint works instead of the glass microspheres, but only in daytime)
--Epoxy or other clear coat paint (Mop & Glo will work in a pinch, but gets cloudy)
--Epoxy or other white paint
--Epoxy or other transparent paint (candy colors) to imitate any translucent tint (this varies by state of issue of the plate)
--Paste wax
--Casting plaster
--Bondo automotive putty
--Sheet wax, available from candle-making shops
--*Your* license plate
--Good copies of the current stickers(scanned and color printed photo quality works)
The mold: 1] Place the sheet wax on a warm piece of plywood, heated to 250 f. in an oven for 10 minutes. This sticks the wax to the wood.
2] Firmly embed *your* license plate into the wax, face up.
3] Wax the license plate 4 times according to directions with the paste wax.
4] Mix your casting plaster according to the directions, and pour over the license plate and wax. For strength, you can put some cloth dipped in plaster over the back of the cast/mould.
OR] If you're in a hurry, use bondo for the mold, mixed according to directions and carefully spread over the waxed plate/sheetwax area.
5] Wait at least an hour, unless your brand of plaster allows a shorter time (bondo should be ready sooner), and carefully separate the mold from the plate/board/wax combo.

The reference copy of the plate:
1] Warm the mould in an oven at low temperature (250 F) for fifteen minutes, then remove and cool.
2] Paste wax the inside area 4 times according to directions.
3] Spray paint with clear paint in thin coats into the mould, letting each coat dry. Build up 3 to 5 coats, which should be a deep gloss.
4] Carefully hand paint the raised (numeral/letter) area of the mold with a brush--make sure to match the color used in the original. Let dry. Scanning to letters/numbers from the original, making decals, and pasting them in will work, but adds hours to the job. Masking the numbers works if you use commercial painter's masking tape (other brands may pull paint out of the mold). This takes practice, but hand-painting is the best option.
5] Spray clear paint onto the front of your sticker copies and use it to glue them into the correct places in the mold. If your state uses reflective stickers, do this step after Step 7 below--it may take some practice to make it look right.
6] Spray another clear coat, and while it is wet, dust it with the glass microspheres.
7] Shake off the excess and spray another coat of clear. Let dry.
8] Spray a coat of white or the pearl white and let dry.
9] Spray a coat of primer (you can skip this if you're in a hurry).
10] Let dry--a day is best.
11] Spread at least a quarter inch of bondo over the mold, and allow to dry.
12] Carefully pry the bondo plate out. A little heat might help soften the wax, but it can also soften the paint, depending on what you used, so don't try it if you're not sure it won't ruin the paint.

You may ruin a few plates in learning to master the technique, but, with a little practice it will be a perfect imitation!

(c) 2000


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