Friday, July 22, 2011

Not Retiring Enamels After All

Real life has been in the way bigtime, it’s been three months, to the day, since I had a chance to post, but finally I have the time and something important to look at.

Last year I posted a speculative point that acrylic paint technology had almost reached the point that it was worth retiring enamels altogether, for their toxicity and stink. How many of us spray outside to keep the fumes from offending the family? And mortgage our health in any case, as unless we can afford a proper industrial respirator, we’re going to breathe in at least something of the atomised hydrocarbons or whatever other noxious fumes our airbrushes emit.

I have spent most of the last year studiously avoiding enamels, my last enamel job is awaiting completion, and that last camo shade will probably go on with acrylic anyway, just like the topcoat. But where metallics are concerned, acrylics are just not up to snuff yet.

Reviews of the original Tamiya range many years ago reported a granular effect from their silver, and though their paints are now better made, more finely ground or whatever, that granularity is still with us. Add in difficult conditions of temperature and humidity and you can have a mess.

I recently set out to do the natural metal parts of a whole line of Phantoms, and Tamiya acrylics only wanted to spatter and dry like pebbledash paving. Next I gave the Talon brand another go, but I don’t think I’ve encountered a more unfriendly and delicate formulation. I ended up with five sets of tail fins to sand clean for the second time, as the ‘gradual build up of mist coats’ technique was gradually building up little more than … pebbledash pavements.

In frustration (and as I had an hour with the family out) I pulled out an ancient bottle of Model Master Chrome Silver. There was a tiny bit of sludge at the bottom and I was about to bin it, but decided to give it a go anyway. Tamiya X-20 enamel thinner reconstituted it perfectly and it went onto the engine areas of five Phantoms without a hitch, and without the spatter effect that has had me convinced lately my airbrush’s #3 needle needs replacing.

I should have just sprayed everything in enamel and given the Talon a miss, then the whole job would be done. After masking I can do the darker shade in acrylic, Tamiya Aluminium and Gunmetal are far less temperamental than their Chrome Silver, but for the bright base it turns out there really was no alternative. I’m not saying the Talon paints aren’t excellent, but they’re a technique that takes practice, and a patient hand, and I hope one day to have the chance to find my feet with it.

For now, I find myself thinking again about that fumehood setup and respirator for the hobby workshop ("mancave," is a common term for it, but that's sexist, there are plenty of great female talents in the hobby) that's out there on the horizon. Enamels really do flow on so beautifully… It’s a pity they’re poison.