In the workshop with... Tactical 74!

March 17, 2020

In the workshop with... Tactical 74!

In this series of blog posts, we go into the workshop of one of Ottawa Artisans' vendors to learn more about them and how they create their products. Our first vendor is Tactical 74!



What year did you start your small business?  2016

Tell us about your business:

Tactical 74’s mission is to help veteran businesses through meaningful partnerships and increased exposure while giving back to the veteran community.

Tactical 74 is a veteran marketplace.  A proud collection of veteran-owned and veteran supported businesses.

Starting your own business while transitioning to civilian life is hard.  And Tactical 74 knows that first hand. Taking a lesson learned from battle, “there is strength in numbers”.  Together we can all succeed.

By shopping from our collection of veteran own businesses you help make their passion come to life.  In addition, for every item purchased through Tactical 74, a donation to a veteran charity is made.

Do you have any goals that you wish to reach, a funny story about your business or any other anecdote you would like to share with the readers?

What is a socially responsible company?  It's a commitment to act for the benefit of society at large.  For Tactical 74, this commitment is to the veteran community. Each year, Tactical 74 makes a commitment to how much we can donate to a veterans charity.  We challenge ourselves to meet and exceed our goal from the year before.

When you purchase an item from Tactical 74, a portion of the sale will be donated to a veterans charity.  In addition to charity, your sale supports a veteran business owner. Tactical 74's commitment extends to helping fellow veteran business owners through meaningful partnerships and increased exposure.

Why should I buy something from Tactical 74?  Tactical 74 is a collection of great veteran business owners. Each is a master of their own craft who provides superior products.

Some of our veteran sellers often use the manufacturing of their products as a way for them to cope with PTSD.

By purchasing a product from Tactical 74, you are:

  • helping them realize their dream of being a business owner,
  • helping them cope with mental illness,
  • and with every purchase, a donation to a veteran charity is made.

A win for everyone.

In the workshop...

Jay’s Great Shirt Making Adventure

In addition to hosting various products from veteran businesses, Tactical 74 also produces a series of shirts to help finance the veteran marketplace website and to raise money for veteran charities.

The following is a guide of how Jay, the owner of Tactical 74 makes his famous brand of Till Valhalla Brotherhood shirts.

Step 1: The Idea!

Every great product must start with an idea.  And that’s when it’s time to “unleash the Kraken!”  Now, after the hangover, it’s time to decipher the drunken scribbles and try to make sense of your “enhanced” thoughts.

Step 2: The Design.

Every idea needs to be worked into a design that will fit a shirt.  Most full front logos are on average 8” x 8”. Having the right design software that works with a cutter, helps to make your idea into a workable design.

Now, there are many different ways to make a graphic shirt.  For us, we like the vinyl graphic tee instead of screen printing.  It is less messy, and great for one-offs and custom shirts.

When designing,always remember to reverse the image before cutting! When the image is placed on the shirt, it will be right side up.  But the cutter will cut the vinyl from the back. I don’t know how many times I've cut it wrong (and to this day, it still catches me).

Step 3: Cutting

Once the design is finalized, it’s time to cut vinyl.  Now every vinyl cutter is different, but ours uses rolls of vinyl and moves the material back and forth as the cutting head moves side to side.  It's very accurate and makes quick work of the design.

Of course, with every tool, there is a learning curve.  Speed and blade force are crucial settings to get right.  Too much and the blade will cut too deep. Not enough and the blade won’t cut deep enough.  Once you are set up, it will take some time for trial and error to find just the right setting for your machine and vinyl.

Once you are set, you’ll find the cutter’s dance to be mesmerizing as it glides back and forth across the vinyl, cutting your pattern as it travels along.

Step 4: Weeding

Once you’ve removed the scored vinyl from the cutter, it’s time to weed.  This is where you remove anything that is not the pattern. No one likes weeding.  Not the garden, nor the pattern. But with a careful eye and a lot of patience, you’ll get to see your pattern slowly emerge.  I like to work from the outside in. 

Using a pick (or a small razor blade), catch the corner of the unwanted vinyl, then slowly and carefully peel it back at an angle.  When you are close to the pattern, watch to see if the cut line has scored the vinyl all the way through. If not, you will peel away your pattern.

 Now there is no easy way here.  You just have to slowly pick away at each unwanted vinyl piece until your pattern is fully exposed.

Once you have your pattern fully exposed, flip it right side up and carefully check it.  Pay close attention to the centers of letters. Nothing worse than pressing the image, only to find that you missed the small triangle of the inside of a letter “A”.  The extra time spent here in quality control will save you so much in “miss prints”.

Step 5: First Pressing

Some vinyls need different temperatures and pressures in order for the vinyl to stick to the shirt correctly.  Check with your supplier for the right settings. If you get this wrong, your pattern may crack or peel off on the first wash. 

Center the shirt on the press and place the pattern in the desired position.  There are many tools to help you with placement, but if you look carefully at a “fresh” shirt, you will notice a small line down the very center of the shirt.  I use that faint line to center the pattern.

Once you are satisfied with the pattern placement, carefully cover it with a Teflon sheet (to protect the shirt) and press.  Pay close attention to the requirements of the vinyl. Do not use the wrong temperature, pressure and set times or you risk a burnt shirt or peeling vinyl.

Now, let me let you in on a little secret.  All shirts have some small amount of moisture in them.  If you are pressing a colored shirt (mostly red shirts), after the first press, it will look like it’s burnt.  If you follow the recommended temperatures and times, it’s not. The moisture has been cooked away and the shirt will appear darker.  Rest assured, the color will change back as the shirt slowly gathers moisture from the air. This may take a few hours, but it will turn back.

The first time I pressed a red shirt, I swore I burnt it.  I had the temperatures correct and the time was perfect but my heart sank when I removed the Teflon sheet and saw a dark red square on my beautiful light red shirt.  But in about an hour, the shirt turned back.

You will find that certain colors like grey, black and navy blue do not turn color during a press as much as red or sapphire does.

Step 6: Peeling

After the suggested time, carefully remove the shirt with the pattern from the press.  Some vinyl requires a hot peel, while others require a cold or warm peel. It’s important to read the details of your supplier.  If it’s a hot peel (and our red vinyl requires it), you can remove the plastic backing immediately while everything is still hot (careful not to burn yourself).

Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for the shirt and pattern to cool.  If the vinyl requires a cool peel, removing the plastic backing now will pull the pattern away from the shirt, distorting the image.  And yes, waiting for it to cool is like watching paint dry.

Step 7: Second Pressing

Now, most people skip this step.  But for us, it’s what makes our shirts last forever and sets us apart from the rest.  So don’t tell anyone about our secret!

After the backing has been removed, we always go back in the press for a second time.  This second pressing (with the Teflon sheet) forces the vinyl into the fabric, making a permanent bond.  In addition, the texture of the Teflon sheet creates a texture in the vinyl pattern, removing the typical shiny surface.  Once the set time is up, remove the Teflon sheet and your new shirt is ready!





Click here to visit Tactical 74's shop and supportour veterans!*

*For any sale made through Tactical 74's shop on Ottawa Artisans, we are giving back our proceeds to them so they can continue giving to their preferred charities!