Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Dirty by choice

Well it looks like we're seeing a lot of folks falling in line with a lot of scale modelers by adding weathering to their creations. This is great, seeing models as an actual vehicle would appear is what it is all about for me. Replicating real life in miniature is of course what all of modeling is about. Of course viewing vehicles in a shiny, spiffed up condition happens and we all strive to own a good looking vehicle no matter what we drive. But let's face it folks, a vehicle that is driven on the highways and byways of the world just don't look as pristine as we would hope unless they are destined to be automotive show pieces. And even then there are indications that a car or truck have traveled in spite of it's owners desire for it to be perfect. It is then, that the worlds most renowned modelers use some kind of technique to give their models a real look by weathering. But "adding" weathering is not what the best of the modelers in any scale that I see do to get realistic results on their pieces. It has just recently been said by a pretty darn good modeler that he weathers his pieces to cover up flaws in castings and his own mistakes. I'm sorry but I don't aspire to that attitude. This isn't meant to be, nor are the techniques as effective as, a well planned model. Excellent weathering techniques start at the beginning of a build.  Above I show one of, what I consider to be, a weathering success in the chipping technique on the Mack FCSW.  Right from the start, I needed to provide a base coat that would show the haphazard loss of paint in the life of this truck. The next step would be to lay down a 'resist'. This is any type of product that will allow the modeler to remove the finish paint in a way that would reflect that loss of paint in a realistic fashion. The resist in this case was a coat of Future Floor Finish but many large scale modelers use an acrylic hairspray and in some instances rubber cement or salt. I'm not trying to dictate the process here but merely wish to point out that these techniques need to be contemplated before the model even gets it's first coat of finish paint. This can't be painted on later with rust colored paint, chalks or washes and would certainly not give the same look.

On the red Mack H63 you see every care has been taken to give the model as flawless as possible finish. The weathering that has been added after was not intended to cover mistakes or flaws in the casting. I purposely build the model and finish it so it can be displayed without weathering in this example to show that moderate or light weathering can be added to give a realistic look. This somewhat contradicts what I've just said above but remember that I'm not trying to make a beater here but simply a working truck with some road grime. Regardless, the weathering here is a combination of well thought out techniques here and not just adding stuff until it 'looks right'. Study trucks and cars and look at prototypes. Know what it is you're striving for prior to putting a brush to your models. And then of course is practice. I spend many hours fooling with washes, chalks and painting techniques to see just what the results will be so when it comes time to weather a piece, I know what will look right, and real. And of course, I'm not always as successful as I would like. But just guessing has never given me satisfactory results.

 I now cite a model that I hope will show the influence of some larger scale modelers on me. Simply stated, less is more. Very little change from the original paint with the 'addition' of a few paint chips on the bumper and a dusting of tires is seen here. It isn't necessary to make a God awful mess of a model to show some use. Another technique is that of a panel wash one might notice here. An acrylic wash with a darker color of the finish paint is applied to accent panel lines and small details. Especially in this small scale details are so small that they cast no significant shadow when trying to photograph them. a color that is slightly darker that the finish paint can give a much more realistic look and can turn an average model into a really great one. A word of caution when doing this to white and lighter colored models, this technique can ruin it if the panel wash is too dark and is virtually impossible to fix.  Weathering should not be all that obvious and again, look to the prototype. Does it have large black lines all over it? Less is more!

I refer back now to the beginning where I stated that some weathering needs to be planned from the start. On really old vehicles, paint fade is always an issue. You will notice on the Mack LT above that the finish coat has been removed in a way that imitates sun faded and rain washed paint. It was done with a method similar to the chipped paint on the FCSW but done a little more aggressively. Future Floor Finish is soluble in Windex and/or windshield washer fluid so the model was washed (literally) with Windex to achieve the look. You will also notice the chassis and wheels have been painted the same brownish color that the cab was before it got the red paint. And that the wheels were painted white in the second shot and the holes in the steel rim have been filled with black. Here is the perfect application for a black wash that I previously poo-pooed. 

What you see immediately above is the  results of having darkened the chassis, fuel tanks etc. with an India ink and alcohol wash. I wanted some rusting effect of the base coat to show through without having to do any paint removal. Some acrylic washes of raw umber and burnt umber accentuate the collection of rust in specific areas. And finally below, you see the finished model complete with a coat of clear flat lacquer and some dusting with ground up artists chalks and touching of high wear spots with graphite. It is important to give the model some tooth for the chalks to adhere hence the flat clear coat. Stains on the gas tank were made by wetting the whole tank with washer fluid and streaking with some acrylic 'oily black' (PolyScale color) after the chalk application.

I know this has not been a comprehensive step by step on weathering. But I wanted to make the point that this weathering thing isn't something one should attempt to cover a bad modeling job. On the contrary, it is intended to enhance a well made model and if you wish to do it, should be a well planned sequence of procedures. Because I plan to broadcast this writing to attract readers I suppose I should add this 'disclaimer'. If you believe I am addressing you personally, perhaps I am. However it is not a condemnation of your work. It is merely a hope that I may be able to improve your endeavors into the realm of weathering in this scale. If not for the constructive criticism of others, I certainly would not be the modeler that I hope to be. And remember to kiss and hug your loved ones at every chance.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Some thoughts from the past

Several years ago I wrote an article that has appeared on the web in a few places that I would like to include here. It speaks about the influence every day life has on my modeling as well as the relationship we as modelers share in our thought process. Included are some of my most recent endeavors but I won't be focusing on them and include them merely as eye candy as one reads this rant. So here are my thoughts as viewed only part way in the course of my journey into the hobby of 1/87 scale modeling.

So what is it that intrigues us so much about rust and decay? What is the attraction and why do we model it?
   To do my Christmas shopping today (yes, it’s Dec. 24th) I rode into Rockland . On the way there is a garage that seems to have a knack for hot rodding as there is always some spiffy rig out front. Today there was a restored Ford Vicky and a ‘65 Chevy Malibu all decked out in good taste. Around back there is 8 to 10 old wrecks in varying stages of decay. The first word that came to mind was “potential”. Perhaps because I had just seen the nice rehabs out front or because I thought of what I might want to do to them (a ‘40 Ford coupe stood out) So is it the potential in those rusting bodies that is the allure?  I envision what those cars might have been like when they were in their prime. What made the dark stain on the backseat of the ‘49 Woody? Maybe it was Sally spilling her grape juice on the long vacation drive to the northern lake. And what put the splintered dent in the bed of the old flatbed? I picture workmen loading materials before the days of the forklift truck.  I also see the uniformed driver lunching on the running board enjoying his waxed paper wrapped sandwich and insulated tin of coffee.

   I often look at the beams of my barn that was built in the early 1800’s. The adz marks on the beams show the final cuts of the woodworker squaring the timber. Did he know that almost two centuries later I would be thinking of him? The terribly weathered original cedar shake siding loses a few shakes every windstorm to leave showing the tiny cut nails that held them on. We that work on houses often leave something to indicate our presence there. I mark my name and the date on the back side of planks that will never be seen until a future someone tears them from their place. And I have found coins and postal markings from envelopes under thresholds marking the dates that the doors were hung. Always, I am reminded that there was a person much like me that put them there, or drove those nails for the siding.

   These aren’t just rusting machines and old dilapidated structures. They represent personal experience. The family car, the truck driven daily to make the driver his wages and the barn that the farmer milked his cows in, can even today be related to real people. I almost hate to see the rusty old car turned back into a viable means of transportation. In today’s state of neglect, it says so much more about how long it’s been around and what it’s been through.

   And why do we want to model these old things that have seen better days? Are we making the concession to the real world that we must accept all that is in it? Or is this the way we would like the world to be? I haven’t made my mind up on this one. I often feel it’s the way it was before these things took a down turn that we would most like to see. And that modeling them in their present condition is our tribute to what they were and what they represented to the folks of the time.

I suppose I should give some information about these models shown starting with the first photo of the Mack R model that is pulling the lowboy. The load is the Cat No. 12 grader from Norscot as is the Trail King lowboy and the Mack is from Athearn. All have been stripped and repainted, the lowboy has a new wood deck and the Mack has a shortened chassis with a bunch of extras added. The red IH KB12 is one of those cheap Imex pieces with a change to the windshield area and the location of the headlamps along with the additions of fuel tanks, wheels, mud flaps and a fifth wheel.

Well thanks for taking the time to put up with another of my long winded rants on the subject of modeling in miniature. Please take the time to tell all your loved ones how much they mean to you today.