Sunday, July 3, 2016

What's in my Spray Booth

As a variation on "What's On My Workbench," I figured I'd share - or at least memorialize - the fact that - YES! I actually did use my airbrush today. This is officially a Big Deal because I have historically been scared stiff of using an airbrush. I started out well enough - I got my airbrush when I was 16 or 17, painted an undec Atlas S-2 body in New Haven green and orange (green cab, orange hood), and promptly put it away. Where it sat for, oh, about 30 years.

I took it out a few years ago to use it - under my friend Pieter's guidance and direction (he got a kick out of the fact I still had the original Propel can and promotional materials in the box: "Badger - Choice of the '80s!") - and did pretty good. I even "flew solo" a couple other times after that. But along with the distractions of layout construction, &etc I haven't airbrushed in a while. And like most things, if you don't use it you lose it - or at least the confidence you once had (or maybe that's just me).

I used it today though, and All Went Well, mostly. I started with the low-hanging fruit of shooting the underbody of my GTW boxcar with acrylic Grimy Black (figuring even if I screwed up, nobody would see it). Then proceeded to shoot the East Berlin Bridge (I had grimy black left, and it's a bridge so I couldn't really screw that up), then used up the grimy black on the truck sideframes (using a hand-held cardboard to mask the inside of the journal bearing boxes). So far so good . . .

Next I needed to paint the carbody itself - a bit more intimidating. And I decided to use Tru-Color #93 Oxide Brown acetone-based paint. But what I had on-hand had gelled a bit (it's a bit old). So I thinned it about 2:1 with acetone and it sprayed fine. Mostly. A couple times it wouldn't come through the nozzle, so I stopped the nozzle and back-pumped the air into the cup. That always loosened things up enough to cause the paint to flow.

Thinned so much, it took a while to get full, even coverage over the whole car, but at least the brush didn't clog. And, better yet, I'm pleased with the result so far.

As per usual, it took me as long or longer to clean up than it did to paint. I'd done a "quickie" clean (didn't disassemble the airbrush) with Windex after finishing with the acrylic. And I used acetone, then lacquer thinner to fully clean the airbrush after I was all done.

Once I put the brush back together though, I figured I'd shoot one more pass of lacquer thinner through to be extra clean. And the brush started pulsating. Did the same thing with Windex. And with distilled water.

So I'm glad I got these things painted while things were still working- cuz I dunno whether I've somehow messed up the airbrush now or not. Can't imagine that I did, but I know enough to know a pulsating airbrush is Not A Good Thing. If you have any ideas/suggestions for what I should try, please let me know.

In the meantime, at least I've taken another step toward Being Comfortable with airbrushing. Hope this pulsing doesn't kill my mojo.

Hope you're able to get to some RR stuff this weekend - Happy 4th of July!


  1. OOOPS! I should have read this first - from the TruColor FAQ: "Tru-Color Paint is an acrylic solvent based paint that is designed to be airbrushed directly from the bottle without thinning. Tru-Color Paint can be blended to produce a variety of shades and hues for your specific product needs. Although Tru-Color Paint contains a small percentage of acetone we DO NOT RECOMMEND that acetone be used to thin (dilute) the Tru-Color Paint. Adding just acetone to thin Tru-Color Paint may harm the intended gloss or semi-gloss finish our paint is intended to give as it will dry too fast. Also, too much acetone will cause the solvent system to evaporate too quickly during air brushing causing the painted surface to appear rough and/or may blush." So THAT would be why I have a flat finish on my boxcar...

  2. Another Teachable Moment: I must've lost the "teflon washer" from my airbrush when I was cleaning it. That would explain the pulsating (no air seal). Guess I need to get some extra teflon washers.