Saturday, November 27th, 2010

image of my choo-choo trains

Paint for scale models used to cover in just one coat when I built plastic model airplanes by the dozen many, many moons ago. Now it doesn’t. What the hell’s up with that?

I’ll grant you, a few other things have changed since then: Not all of the models I build now are plastic. Some of the locomotives in my roster are very old-school models made of a metal alloy called zamac, unnaturally heavy, probably toxic as hell or even radioactive. There’s no telling when it comes to things they made back in the 50s and 60s. I had no idea painting metal like this might require some special consideration, but it turns out all the books and bloggers say it has to be washed clean before I could so much as dream about painting it. Without a good cleaning, apparently not even napalm would stick to it.

And the paint I use now is not the same trusty Testor’s enamel I used to get at the dime store, either, but an acrylic paint instead. I learned about acrylics in an art class I took in college. Those student loans might have been worth taking out after all. The acrylics I painted with then came in a tube and I could mix the colors myself, but what I really liked about them was they weren’t runny and were absolutely opaque, or at least they were the way I used them. You could mix them with water to thin them, but I didn’t like that approach. When it comes to painting I’m very much a big-brush, straight out of the tube kind of guy.

Or, in the case of paints made for model choo-choo trains, straight out of the bottle. Paints for scale models come in teensy-tiny little bottles they make you pay through the nose for. At five bucks for a one-ounce bottle, I’m paying $640.00 a gallon for this paint, although it’s not like I could buy a gallon of it in a pail if I wanted to. I’d have to buy one-hundred twenty-eight of those little bottles, which is probably what’s jacking up the price at least a little bit. Overhead’s a bitch.

Where the hell was I going with this? Oh yeah, one-coat coverage. I just can’t get it to happen. Using it straight out of the bottle, no thinning at all, I have to apply at least three coats. I didn’t have to do that when I was making models of fighter planes back in high school, and a good thing, too, because I would have dropped the hobby like a paper cup full of hot coffee. Painting a model just one time called on me to use up every inch of my attention span. Painting it twice just wouldn’t have happened. I was, and still am, that lazy.

That’s why I don’t use an airbrush. I have several, and if I could have gotten them to work right I just might have learned to use them, but every time I loaded one up and tried to use it, it spattered, it clogged, it did everything but apply an even coat of paint, and every one of them is a royal pain in the ass to clean up. Brushes are small and don’t apply the gorgeously smooth coat of paint (some) airbrushes do, but I already know how to use a brush and I can clean one in about ten seconds. Maybe some day I’ll meet a sensei who can enlighten me in the way of the airbrush, but until that time they’re packed away in a box while the stick brushes are in a beer stein on my work bench.

After all these years I thought I might need a sensei to show me how to use a brush again, but no, it came back to me pretty quickly. I tried several different ways to load up the brush and different strokes to apply the paint, but what it comes down to is, this paint just doesn’t cover in one coat. I have to paint the choo-choo three or four times. That’s just the way it has to be. But that’s okay. I’m not in a huge freaking hurry to finish a model any more, the way I used to be.

And a good thing, too. I started putting together a loco I bought at an auction last spring, got to the point where I had to paint it, applied several coats and then along came summer and I had to spend many months painting the house (is that ironic? I’m still trying to figure that out). Now that it’s too cold to paint the house I’m trying to finish painting the loco so I can get back to putting it together and get it running. Eventually everything comes full circle.

And while I’m doing that, I’m also applying a few coats to other locos I’ve had standing by for some time, just to see what the livery looks like when several of them are standing together in the same yard. So far it’s a flattering look, but a photo of them together, each at the head of its own rake of passenger cars, is still quite a few weeks away.

Old Paint | 2:16 pm CST
Category: hobby | Tags: ,
Comments Off on Old Paint

Comments are closed.