Rusty Hopper’s Modeler’s Corner

By Staff

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

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!’

Gas Engine Magazine
Gas Engine Magazine
Preserving the History of Internal Combustion Engines