Rusty Hopper's Modeler's Corner

The Perils of Painting

| May/June 2004

Hello again. I'm putting the finishing touches on a few models before taking them to model shows, and I got to thinking whether model engines should be finished with all the paint and glitter of a new toy out of a box? I think they should, and I think we should be proud of what we build -I want my models to catch a person's eye as they walk by it. But, of all things, a painter I am not. My paint work is best viewed from 40 feet away and in a very dark room! But what are the best methods for painting a model? I use rattle cans of primer and paint, and my models look it. But recently, I have received pictures of models that belong in show rooms, and I have seen many looking this way. Now, I have tried the stuff called 'icing,' fiberglass, body filler and spot putty, but there has to be a secret to getting that perfect paint job on a model.

Further, paint can interfere with governor systems, valves, push rods - even carburetors - and can cause parts to stick, which means I must scrape the paint off those parts. Hmmm. Why paint them if all I am going to do is take the paint off? I have even tried painting a model with a paintbrush (with little to no success), and on one model I asked a friend about having it painted at his body shop. After his laughter died down (followed by a discussion of why it could not be done -along with the estimated price tag) I gave that idea up quickly.

I have mixed and sprayed using a paint gun, but that gun must have been designed 'for runs only,' as I watched in horror as the paint dripped off the model.

I have read the labels on every spray can of paint, following the directions and holding the can 6 to 18 inches away and watching my shop turn the color of the paint I'm using. I built an enclosure to set my models in while painting, and I've watched the paint stick to everything but the model. On one model, I applied a light coat of paint (no runs this way), waited and then applied another coat only to watch the paint peel and wrinkle.

The thought has crossed my mind to get paint in gallon buckets and dip my parts, but there again I am sure I'll end up dealing with paint runs.

Is one type or brand of paint better than another? Is the secret in the primer that's used? The finish is the fist thing most people see when they look at a model. They don't always notice the beautiful sound it makes while running and that it runs like a sewing machine - or that it is balanced to run sitting on top of soda bottles - they notice the paint and how it catches the eye.

Fortunately, most of my models are from very good castings, and this makes my paint work look somewhat better as I can claim the real thing came out of the shop doors looking the same way. But deep down, I would like to know how to apply paint and get it to look great. Is this hobby great or what?

This month's tip for model and scale parts source:

Iowa Miniature Engines has engine kits of the Wyvern. Call (515) 648-4117. Meyers Model Engine Works has Rider-Ericsson engine kits. Call (419) 878-6051.

These tips are for your thoughts only, and your fuel lines may vary. - Rusty Hopper

Have a tip you think other model makers should know? Send it to Rusty Hopper in care of Gas Engine Magazine, 1503 S.W. 42nd St., Topeka, KS 66609-1265;

'My paint work is best viewed from 40 feet away and in a very dark room!'


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