Just completing the wrap on my -7 this week.
Following are some thoughts and observations that may help someone get started or make the plunge... no vinyl wars intended, just the facts. You choose for yourself.
I've used about 125' of Avery Dennison Supreme to do the base colors, and it'll take another 25 or so to do the accents. The overall time spent was about 40 hours (so far) and I'll say it's about 95% right. There are a few spots (elevator horns and the like) where the film is not laying as well as it could, so those will be redone in time. Gonna let it age to see how it does in the field.
I chose Avery, but there are films by 3M, Vivvid and others. The Avery is a 3.2mil film, 3M is 3.5. Colors are available in gloss, mat, color changing, carbon fiber etc. Lots to choose from. I plan to use on 3M film as an accent since Avery doesn't have the right shade in their lineup.
I used Fellers as my supplier, there is a local outlet in Seattle or they ship for free over $100. Fast, usually two day shipping. There are others and most ship free over a $ amount. Fellers has treated me well so far.
Every technique I used was taken from the Internet. CW Wraps and the The Wrap Institute are two good YouTube references. The manufacturer has their own instruction sheets online, and combined with the videos provide a lot of technique examples to copy if you watch closely. A warm, clean work area is a must. Cold vinyl isn't friendly and dust under your wrap looks like rocks under a carpet. Keep it clean!
Planning ahead for sequence of application and seam orientation is a must!
All of the vinyl seams are aligned with a panel seam and overlapped so the lap edge is either down or aft, then seam sealed with 3M 3950 edge sealer. The overlap is not required (there are methods that produce almost no overlap) and it does detract from the "seamless" look, but I prefer the solid bond between layers that it creates (vinyl stick to vinyl very well). The seam sealing likewise may not be required, but it was recommended as a bulletproof insurance policy by a local wrapper, and is used on all of his boat wraps. You can barely see the sealer line as I used a 3/16" wide brush to minimize the excess and took my time doing the applying (don't use the applicator in the can! ... huge)
All cuts in the finish vinyl were done with 3m Finish line knifeless tape. This stuff is expensive, as is the sealer, but the quality is excellent and the tape keeps the knife off the aluminum skin. There are many videos out there about how to use this product, and it really works well.
All aluminum surfaces were cleaned of any adhesive or oils with lacquer thinner, then two cleanings with 70% IPA (isopropyl alcohol) in a spray bottle, wiping with micro fiber towels. I chose not to use any primer on the aluminum, and after some discussion with others, have decided to do an inspection in the future by pulling a small section to see how it is holding up. Adhesion is not an issue on clean shiny aluminum. I did a test to see if scuffing with Scotchbrite would improve performance, but it appears to stick less well.
When applying the film, it's important to "lock in down" with firm pressure from you squeegee as you go. Light pressure will likely allow bubbles to stay behind and cause headaches later. You'll learn to keep the correct tension on the free film and work the edges of the unlocked film along as you go along. Speed is not important. Also pay attention to "adhesive printing" where the vinyl is pulled hard over an edge, causing the adhesive to roll up, and then laid down again. This will print through the finish.
I have applied the vinyl to fiberglass that was primed and prepped for paint. The vinyl adheres just fine with no issues. Be sure you primer is sanded smooth as defects will print through.
All seams and field areas in the wrap were post heated. The seams and any areas where there was much stretching were heated to the full 90 degrees +C (90 - 105 is recommended by Avery) and the fields were heated to a lower temperature to check for entrapped air bubbles. This process is vital. Where the film has not been post heated, it retains its memory and will try to return to its original flat shape. Once the film is heated to over 90 degress, it looses all memory and stays in place. The heating also activates the adhesive.
During application, any folds or wrinkles in the film can be removed with a quick shot of heat. Also, before stretching, adding heat will relax the film and it will stretch easier. Most wraps recommend not stretching more than 10% to prevent gloss or color changes.
When heating be careful of any rivet or gap that may have a bubble. It is critical that all wrap be adhered well before post heating, as the bubble with "burn" because it doesn't have the heat sink of the aluminum to temper the hot air.
Tools are pretty simple. A good heat gun (mine is a Dewalt that goes to 1100 degrees F), hard and medium squeegees, a couple more with felt edges, extra felt edges, a good break blade knife, microfiber towels, spray bottle, small brushes, IR thermometer, work apron and a Snitter (slitting hook knife). I also used a soft rubber roller (RollerPro Heat Resistant Vinyl Application Tool, $50) and a rivet brush, both to smooth rivets. Build yourself a vinyl cutting station that allows the film to be rolled out and cut to length.
All of the work I did on the fuse was done on the rotisserie. Doing this job on a flying aircraft would be a whole 'nuther challenge. With the roto, gravity can help hold the vinyl and I could work at the best body angle possible. Just be prepared to need more help when you're doing the bottom of anything. I have a new found respect for the "skinny kids" doing these wraps online, it's hard work no matter how you do it!
A second set of hands will occasionally be helpful. I did the top of the wings solo, and the sheet was 60" x 10'. It can be done but would have gone faster with help..
As far as advice goes, be prepared for some frustration and a steep learning curve. Now that the project is almost done, I've found a few places where I could do better. That's what I expected.
Overall I'm very happy with the result. Cost will be around $1300 all in, no spray booth, minimal solvent exposure, and done in a week. Just what I was looking for!