The Little World – Thick And Sticky

I have revisited my childhood and I’m thinking that things has changed down the ol’ hobby shop.

As a kid in Canada I had access to basically four brands of model paint – Revell at first, then Humbrol, Testors, and Pactra. Enamels all, with different characteristics and markedly different vehicles.

The smell of the paints was a clue to which they were – you could tell a puddle of Pactra from a similar amount of Humbrol with your nose. Revell was lousy paint but it had a particular odour – probably sourced from Love Canal. Just as well I graduated to Humbrol early.

But earlier in the year I tried Humbrol 22 – gloss white enamel from the familiar little tin. I was flabbergasted at the thickness of it. Admittedly it was a cold day here in Perth, but it was a cold in Calgary too and the paint was never like this. Fortunately I was not going to brush it on – it was destined for airbrush use and I had purchased a bottle of the recommended Humbrol thinner for it.

Thinning is a sometimes art – more akin to alchemy than science. I use a souvenir teaspoon as the basic measure of quantity and dilution, and am getting pretty good at estimating the amount of paint needed for any particular job. This is a doddle with the acrylics as they flow so readily. But this Humbrol needed two scoops and three dollops before it even approached the consistency of milk. It did go through the gun successfully and it did coat the job, but I made sure that I flooded out the mechanism with about 5000 gallons of mineral turps afterwards to clean the nozzle.

I was undecided about whether I wanted to move back to enamels or not. Next coat on the job was a matt brown – I still used Humbrol and see if it was any better. I was not prepared to reject a useful tool that others seem to employ based on just one experience. If it allowed for multi-layer effects that were less prone to dissolution than acrylic, I decided to continue to pursue it. I still had that much affection for dear old Humbrol and I had always thought their tins the cutest thing in the world.

Addendum: Next day analysis showed that the sprayed 22 Humbrol had done as well as could be expected – given that it was covering a dark plastic with no undercoat. The test wasn’t as fair as it might have been, and should not be taken as gospel. I thinned the tin mix slightly and used a brush to re-coat the job, and it came out splendidly. I was wary of touching it for a week, however, as this was not good drying weather.

I’ll suspend judgement now that warm weather has returned – time will come to try another colour or consistency.

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The Little World – The Thin Coat Revisited

I have bemoaned the price of good-quality modelling paints before here in this column, and extolled the virtue of using 1:1 scale paints from the hardware store as a substitute. This is valid and viable to a certain extent, but the range of spray cans in the local DIY or Bunnings is surprisingly limited. Oh, not if you want to paint wooden decks or bicycles or lawn furnture…perfect for that…but dismal if you want authenticity.

So we turn to the Humbrol, Tamiya, Pactra, Testors, or Mr Color racks at the hobby shop and more little glass jars. One day I am going to have my own weight in empty little glass jars…as opposed to having my weight in money. But after yesterday I think I am going to stop complaining – you see I finally looked at what I was actually doing with the airbrush.

Up until now I loaded up the medium cup of the brush with whatever thinned paint I was spraying and then did the classic sweep-and-trigger like I did in the Pactra spray can days. I got a good coverage eventually but a great deal of that medium cup went on either side of the work and out through the exhaust fan.

Today I screwed on the small cup – the one with the open top – and shot green for some truck wheels. No big deal, but the small size of the reservoir made me concentrate the spray more over what I was doing and there was minimal overspray. Consistency must have been good because the coats went on with no pooling or streaks. And the amount of paint used was very much less – so economical that the higher per ml cost of the hobby product was no burden.

The joy of being able to go back to the big paint racks is wonderful. I can apportion the cheap greys, whites, and greens for building sides and these can be Bunnings supplies, but I can feel better about spending a bit more on the tiny bits.

Note: Full marks to the people in Hobbytech for their advice re. thinners and paint brands. There is a confusion of systems out there and I made a few bad choices off the rack – the counter staff realised that I was headed for trouble and gently steered me back to get the right combination. This sort of help is always appreciated.