Call me a glutton for punishment,
but 1/72 ranks right up there with 1/48 as my favorite scale to
build. There are attractions and there are challenges. The
attraction is that I can actually finish a project in a couple
of weeks without getting bogged down in superdetailing every
rivet and cockpit instrument face. There is a wide variety of
kits available in this scale, and like 1/48, the quality of the
products are getting better and better.
But then, it's so-o-o little. How
could one ever get that German mottle camouflage on a 5-inch
long BF109 to look even close to decent? And heaven forbid if
your tastes run into French WWII 3- or 4-color camo schemes.
Here are a few pointers for those
of you wanting to take the plunge. I make no pretence about
being a master modeler, or these steps being THE way to achieve
modeling fame. Indeed, I am continually looking for ways to
improve my skills.
1. When working in 1/72, I'm
always thinking about how things look in scale. For example, my
1/4-inch overspray which wasn't supposed to go on the adjacent
panel is would actually be a 1½ foot overspray on the real
thing. Hardly acceptable. The same goes for unfilled seams and
slips of the hobby knife, as well as any items you may want to
add on to the model (e.g., antenna wiring).
2. When I paint
1/72, especially aircraft having intricate camo schemes, I try
to use a device to hold the model. For example, there are
Helping Hands. You know this tool- it consists of a base, a bar
mounted on the base, and either two or three alligator clips
attached to the bar. This allows me to mount the model and
position it at just about any angle. While building the Aoshima
Ta 152, for example, I firmly planted a small diameter wooden
dowel at front end of the fuselage where the spinner shaft was
to be inserted. I then clipped to the dowel to one of the
alligator clips. A second clip was attached to the kit's tail
wheel, which was molded as part of the fuselage. For larger
models, I've found the PanaVise Jr. to be a great tool for
holding models. I picked up a couple of these at Big Lots
discount store about a year ago for a ridiculously cheap price
of about $12.00 each. The bottom line is that using a tool to
hold the model frees up both hands and allows me to concentrate
on where I'm putting my paint spray, rather than having to
concentrate on painting AND holding the model. I've found that
it's just about impossible to get the kind of control you need
to airbrush in 1/72 scale if you have to hold the model in one
hand and the airbrush in the other.
equipment helps. I own two Iwata airbrushes, the HPc and HPb,
both of which I love. Having gone through a Badger 150, Pasche
VL, and Testors (Aztek), I can say undoubtedly that the Iwata is
the finest airbrush I have used. It allows for airbrushing of
very fine detail in the hand of a skilled modeler.
painting fine details and outlining camouflage demarcation
lines, thin the paint down more than usual. I usually use
Testors Model Master enamels and mix them about 50/50 with
thinner. And speaking of thinner, I highly recommend a product
called Oil Painting Medium 1 (OPM) if you are airbrushing enamel
paints. It's made by Grumbacher and
is a combination of several ingredients including D-Limonene,
turpentine, and poppy seed oil. It significantly slows down
paint drying time which means that you can work longer without
the paint drying on your airbrush needle and clogging things up.
Although described as producing a matte finish, I've found that
it produces a somewhat glossy appearance. Expect drying time to
be substantially increased over paint mixed with regular mineral
spirits. When painting broader areas where fine detail is not so
critical, I will mix OPM 50/50 with regular paint thinner. This
speeds up drying time but still results in improved paint flow.
Acrylic paints are tougher to work with when airbrushing fine
lines, because the paint tends to dry quicker on the tip of the
needle. While working on my Promodeler Bf110, I experimented
with several different paint/thinner combinations. I finally
found one that produced a very fine, consistent line: Tamiya
paint, heavily thinned with Gunze Mr. Color Thinner. That's
right, an acrylic paint, thinned with an acrylic lacquer
thinner. Hey, it works.
Because your paint will be
thinned more than usual, you should gradually build up the
paint, rather than trying to achieve the final result in one
pass. For example, if you are shooting a camouflage demarcation
line, go over the line with multiple light coats until you
achieve the density you're after. Then you can switch to a
higher paint-to-thinner ratio to fill in the interior section of
the camouflage band. The same logic applies for creating
mottling- gradually build up the mottle, rather than trying to
do it in one action.
5. When airbrushing very fine
detail, I work very close to the model, usually between ¼ and
½ inch. On my Iwata, I usually remove the airbrush tip so that
the needle is exposed (watch out, it's very sharp!), or replace
the regular nozzle head with a crown cap. That way I can get
really close to the surface if I need to. Having the tip of the
needle exposed also makes it easy to periodically wipe the off
built up paint on the exposed part of the needle with a Q-tip or
old brush moistened in thinner. Keeping the tip of the needle
clean is critical for smooth, consistent paint flow.
6. The right air pressure is
another important ingredient. With the paint thinned more than
usual, I find that I can airbrush at about 10psi, perhaps a
little less. One nice thing about brushing at such a low
pressure is that it really limits overspray.
7. Lighting, too, is important. I
use a combination light/magnifier on an adjustable arm which can
be positioned within about a foot of the model's surface. Try to
adjust the light so that it's reflecting directly on the part of
the model you're painting. That way you can tell if you're
getting enough (or too much) paint where you want it.
8. Last but not least, BE
PATIENT. This kind of detail work is not something that should
be done when you are tired, hungry, anxious or frustrated. Of
course that's good advice for just about any modeling project!