Friday, July 5, 2013

View from the barn

Lots of what I model looks like it belongs out in a field rusting away rather than powering down the highways. I've tried to find a reason why I'm so enchanted with the dilapidated and broken down but all I can come up with is because it's so inevitable. My knees remind me of that every morning on rising. Be that as it may, I'm again asked to do a weathering tutorial by several folks. I always believed that if one is good at something he is asked for his advice. It would be much more gratifying to be asked my opinion on world hunger or fixing the economy, but for now I'll settle for how I make tiny models look old. I'll go into detail on a technique or two here since it allows me to show a new piece as well as an older one.

Let me start by saying that I almost always have my camera with me. I can't tell you how many shots of vehicles, equipment, houses and barns I have because they were in some state of disrepair that I thought could be modeled. One can only imitate real life, if they are familiar with it. Study a photo (or several) that has a particular effect that you want to replicate. Then start to experiment. Broaden your concepts of what you think it is you will need to model and weather a piece. I did not have any weathering powders when I first attempted a weathered build  but I realized that I had a bag of cement out in the barn that might fit the bill. It did and there are lots of other things out there that can be of help.  Actually just using some of what you already have on hand can work. Once a model has been dull coated, brushing some alcohol over the finish in discriminating places gives a great look of faded paint or water stains. So experiment!

A close look at the coal delivery truck below will reveal several different colors of rust. The metal used on the fenders had been painted once and was not the same composition steel that was used for the frame or the wheels. So the rust would not be the same on all three. An indentation was made on the running boards of this Jordan Model AA just by scratching the plastic a few times. The entire piece was painted Floquil RR Tie brown. The fenders then were painted with dirty brush solvent with a little black mixed in. That's right, the solvent container that I clean my brushes in. Before it had a chance to dry, I used my airbrush with no paint in it to blow this mixture around on the fender. While it was still a bit wet, I used real rust powder and sprinkled around making sure to fill the indentation with a bunch. Some colored chalk powders that had been ground up were dusted on once everything was dry.

So where do I get this rust powder? I place a piece of steel wool in a jar and soak it with water. When completely dry, crush it up and remove the larger and unoxidized pieces. I wave a magnet over what's left to get a very fine powder the consistency of talc almost. About that frame now. Acrylic washes will not react to the solvent base brown paint and are somewhat more forgiving than solvent washes although there are some that are highly proficient in their use. So I mix a heavy wash (more color) with Windex and one of the darker rust colors like burnt sienna. You can use just water but add a drop of liquid dish wash soap. On our little models the water will bead up with just water and that hydrostatic tension needs to be cut. Because consecutive acrylic washes would 'wash' the previous color away or actually combine with it, I suggest a very thin coat of flat clear lacquer between these washes. On the Ford, I used another wash of raw sienna, a bit lighter in color. This all followed with some ground chalk powders just like the fenders. The wheel treatment is very similar but with a few different colors for the washes and a yellow ocre chalk is applied to the wheels and tires. In some instances a thicker yet wash may be needed as on the stake pockets you see on this model and sometimes a weaker wash as on the overall paint of the rest of the model.

These techniques were played with until I got what I was looking for and had seen on a real truck. And played with is exactly what was done. Here is where experimenting on cheap models can pay off in knowing what the results of a certain procedure will be when you use them on a favorite or perhaps expensive one.


OK, let me move on to another question I've had posed to me. How do you do canvas? Easy, start with toilet or tissue paper that has no patterns embossed on it. Tear apart the layers until you have a single ply of paper. I mix regular wood glue 50/50 with water and cut the tissue to a size slightly larger than necessary and drape it over the area I want covered. Placing drops on the tissue where it sits will make it lay down. Using a wetted brush, manipulate carefully until it looks like it's sitting the way you want. Tears and droops/sags should be done while it is still wet. Let the paper dry well. With a sharp new blade, trim away what you don't want and paint. I used a tan on the Chevy cab over but grey looks good and I suppose any color you want will do. It can be weathered with dark washes and chalks now but don't play with it too much or you will dissolve the glue and tear it.

Since I brought up the rust powder, I'll show another use for it. The Chevy cab over has rusting areas on the fenders and doors and to a lesser extent on the roof and hood. This is done after the dark brown base coat by wetting the model just on the areas you want the rust to show with water. Sprinkle the rust powder onto the wet areas and let dry. If you think there's too much, flick it away before you apply the finish coat of paint. After the finish coat of paint is dry to touch, gently rub the areas with a stiff bristle paint brush and some of the paint as well as flecks of rust will come off. Follow with the washes as above and you should get a similar look. I looked at a lot of real mid 40's Chevy trucks to see just where the rust was popping out. This truck is a favorite since it is like so many trucks I grew up with.

OK so I only got to cover just a few techniques but they ought to be enough to make you want to dirty something up and put it in a field. Oh, tell your kids they are great sometime today.