Saturday, March 29, 2008

29 Model A Kitbash--Pure Fun Project

I am gearing up for the most challenging project of my early experience in this odd hobby. I will get into more details as the project unfolds, but, it involves a replica, close as I can get, to a car that was important to my car-nut dad when he was in his teens. It's an old-skool hot rod--32 chassis, 31 Model A body, 49 Merc Flathead engine, etc. etc., that my dad owned when he was growing up; I am going to attempt to copy it best I can in 1:25 and give it to him, finished, as a gift.

It's turning out to be quite a big project, with a complex history and some tricky and subtle modeling challenges. For one, finding the right parts is proving difficult. I mean, how hard can it be to find a stock 32 ford chassis and frame? Well, turns out, it's really hard. The AMT stock 32 ford kit I bought has an awful one piece molded chassis/frame with metal axles, and it turns out to be useless to recreate the dropped suspension I need, and besides, to me doesn't look too much like a stock 32 frame even if I could fix the molded in-axle issues. And the 32 rod kits I bought (3 of them to date) all have "aftermarket" frames that look nothing like stock.

I have ordered some resin parts for it (I couldn't find a lot of examples of the parts needed in plastic) and am told by the vendor that they are backordered. I have very little experience working with resin so I was trying to avoid this, but, at this point unless I want to scratchbuild a whole lot of this (which I don't) it seems to be the best bet.

I also ordered a bunch of plastic kits, hoping to find parts that would be useful for the retro-rod project, but a lot of them haven't panned out as I just mentioned, so now I'm stuck with them.

Well, what the heck, I have some rod models that probably won't see the light of day for the retro rod project, and the parts for the retro rod are at least a month out, so, let's use all these kits for something else....kitbash time!

I learned early on that I need to mock up what I am doing on a kitbash and then start detailing/finishing/painting. Since rediscovering modeling my first kitbash was a Corvette Gasser and I started painting and detailing right away--bad idea--I ended up with a glue and paint bomb and pitched the whole mess!

So here are the kits I've used so far:

Revell Willys Gasser (Tires/wheels)
Revell 32 Ford Rod (Frame, front Axle, rear axle)
AMT Boyd 57 Chevy (Engine block)
AMT 29 Model A (body/interior shell)
Revell 37 Ford Pickup (leaf spring, radius arms for front)

Laying out the parts, you can see I did a quick "Z" on the chassis to make the body sit lower to the ground--the original chassis was almost flat as a board. I have had to drill out the interior to accommodate the tranny, modify the engine mounts, and glue the whole thing together with white "sticky glue" so I can check the stance and basic fit.

The stance so far. I like where this is going, and so far it's been a lot of fun to mock up. What's here in the picture is held together with white "sticky glue" and scotch tape.

It looks to me like the rod needs a big engine, or else the body will look too big for the chassis and tires, so I am going to use (I think anyway) the 409 Chevy from the Boyd Chevy Kit in its entirety. It's a cool engine, with a very nice supercharger, quad 2 barrel carbs, and a decent (not great) Vertex Magneto, big and retro looking, but, it has one of those stupid axle holes in the block that AMT is so fond of, but, some sprue and Gap filling CA has filled that hole up.

Still need to "engineer" the steering column/pitman arm/linkage, windshield, rear shocks, driveshaft, fix the big hole I created in the interior, and a few other bits, then I am ready to start sanding and prepping for paint. Compared to what's in store for the retro rod project that looms about a month away, this will be a walk in the park.

Finishing Up the Jacquard 64 Impala

Last time I went gaa-gaa over some new acrylic paint I used for the first time on a project: Jacquard. Read the last post if you want to hear more about what I did, but, here's the end result.

In retrospect, I should have spent more time polishing then I did. By the time I was done doing the detail painting, applying the photoetch trim bits, and cutting up and pasting down the BareMetalFoil, I was ready to move on, and I seriously didn't feel like spending another 3 evenings polishing. I ended up polishing the whole thing in about 3 hours, and it shows....the finish is a bit orange-peely and doesn't show off the beautiful Jacquard color as much as it should, but, there you go.

I tried using Krylon Crystal Clear over the Bare Metal Foil this time, since on the 63 Ford Galaxie the BMF is quite fragile and some of it lifted off once when I picked up the model to put it into the display. I read on the Scale Auto Magazine Forum that putting clear coat over BMF makes it a bit less shiny (which is fine by me--it looks better dulled down a bit) and a bit less smooth (true). Overall I am not sure it was the best thing to do, but I think you could go either way.

It certainly took me a lot less time to apply the BMF--maybe an hour for the whole thing--which means I am getting better at it I guess, this being the third application of brightwork chrome I've tried on a serious project, or maybe I'm just less patient.

I may have made the stance a bit low as well, but overall I am happy with how this came out, and more important, it was fun to do it while I was building it, and as I see it that's the main reason to do any of this stuff at all.

Friday, March 21, 2008

64 Impala--Jacquard paint RULES! It RULES!

Still working on the 64 Impala. I have a really cool project to do next but I'm trying not to rush through this one.

As I said earlier, the 63 Ford came out pretty well, so I am doing a Chevy Equivalent. This is the AMT/ERTL 64 Chevy Impala that's been around forever. Last time I built the interior and finished it with Acrylic Pearl White from Jacquard.

Since I liked that paint so much I went to my favorite art supply website,, and ordered up some PearlEX and Acrylic Transparents.

OK, here's how I painted the body. The model got the usual water and dish soap and toothbrush treatment followed by 2 coats of Duplicolor Sandable Primer. For the basecoat, I copied pretty much what I did last time on the Ford: 50% Acrylic Chrome silver from Tamiya, with 50% alcohol, but this time I put a pinch of Jacquard PearlEX MicroPearl in there. This didn't come out as I expected; in inside light the pearl looked more like white dust then pearl. No worries; I sanded it out a bit with 2000 grit sandpaper and thinned out the basecoat to about 30% color and 70% thinner and resprayed. The pearl was still there but now didn't look so "dusty".

After a quick dry, I poured Jacquard Transparent Airbrush Red right into the cup of a Badger 200 airbrush and started spraying. As advertised, the paint covered quickly and evenly and required no thinning or messing around to get it to flow perfectly with the airbrush. About 3 coats, about 10 minutes apart, were all I needed to cover the undercoat. It came out beautifully--rich and even, not too see-through, but still a bit "candy" looking if held to the right sort of light. I am sold on this Jacquard stuff--for what we do these guys rule the school!!

Unlike the 63 ford the flakes from the basecoat didn't show through as much as I wanted so I mixed up some Gold PearlEX (just a tad), some Tamiya clear (50%), and some Tamiya thinner (50%). I misted a few light coats of this over the whole thing using the same Badger 200 airbrush I am using for a lot of things lately (because it's simple, it works, and it's easy to take apart and clean).

I am finding the PearlEX gold flakes show up best in outdoor light, so I took 2 pix for this posting--one inside in my paintbooth and one outside. You might be able to see a bit of difference between the two--I am not a good enough photographer to reveal what it looks like with different lighting in a dramatic way....but in the real world it seems to me to look remarkably different in whatever light you see it --sometimes very metal-flakey, sometimes very candy, sometimes a brick red sort of pastel look. It's impressive and yet subtle at the same time. I am anxious to mess around with Jacquard's most excellent paints a lot more.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

64 Impala Interior with Jacquard Lumiere Acrylic

I always admire the great looking pearl interiors made by modelers who get their pictures in magazines and whatnot, but, to date my attempts at this have looked pretty bad.

Not one to give up right away, I checked out some new paints at the art store by Jacquard. I read a lot about folks putting the Jacquard product "PearlEX" into their clears and whatnot--here's a great link from Scale Auto Mag about just that.

But a trip to the art store or the Jacquard site reveals that these guys make a ton of paints and other products besides PearlEX. My local art store had some Jacquard "Exciter Packs" for 20% off--there are samplers of many of their different paints in 14ml itty bitty bottles--so I figured what the heck and bought some.

The first paint I ripped out of the blister-pack was the #568 Pearl White. (Here's my big chance to do a pearl interior that doesn't look like enamel dog poo!) I primed the 64 Impala interior with Duplicolor sandable white and away I went. Next I sprayed some Tamiya white acrylic (#X2) 50% with 50% isopropyl alcohol over the primer as a basecoat. Finally I mixed up the Jacquard pearl white with alcohol (which works with Tamiya acrylics) and man, what a mess. The paint totally clogged my airbrush! I figured I had used the wrong thinner....time to read the directions!

Turns out you thin Lumiere paints with water, so I washed out the airbrush and started over. This time I squirted some of the paint into the cup of my Badger #200 airbrush and poured a thimble of water in there (the ratio is supposed to be 3/4 paint to 1/4 water--which after some experimentation turns out to be about right). I got some clogging again so got a tiny paint stick and stirred up the cup and it worked! (next time--mental note--mix the paint OUTSIDE the cup! Doh!!!)

The result is gorgeous pearl--I mean, totally pearl like, a bit grey/silver, very smooth, beautiful. Someone at Jacquard knows what he or she is doing--this is really nice looking paint!

I wanted to paint the insides of the seat (the "tuck and roll") yellow to offset it from white the but at first I made a bit of a mess at first--I used Tamiya yellow clear and some blue "The Detailer" fluid to bring out the "grooves" and tried to stay within the lines of the center of the seats....but that didn't work, as some of the "detailer" ran over the boundries no matter how careful I was.

So I masked off the area I wanted to stay painted and tried covering up with more of the pearl. Sort of like I'd do with flames.....

Here's what I found:

--It's really hard to cover yellow and blue with white pearl. It took a few coats, and the Lumiere doesn't cover that well. Best to try to make it as much paint and as little water as you can and not have it clog the airbrush.
--The boundry between the yellow and white looked crappy, so I took a yellow art pencil and after outlining the edges of the yellow with yellow pencil covered the whole thing with Tamiya acrylic clear.
--Don't brush the lumiere on if you can help it--it dries clumpy.
--The Lumiere sands out well (I used 600 and 2000 grit to fix a few problems and it worked--some of the lumps and bumps disappeared).
--Liquid mask pulls the Lumiere off (did for me anyway) leaving the basecoat intact. I probably should have sanded the primer and basecoat better before laying down the Lumiere.
--The Lumiere was hard to clean out of the airbrush. I had to do a lot of scrubbing with a toothbrush to get it out. I ended up using a paint sprayer at the end (you just hook the mixing bottle up to the bottom and spray) as I got tired of cleaning out the Badger after each coat.
--Lumiere has no fumes or smell I can tell--to me it seems safe compared to say, Krylon Crystal Clear or Duplicolor lacquer, in terms of gag-n-fumes type things. I am not saying you should use it without a respirator, but, it won't stink up the house.

Well, it was a fair amount of work here's what I came up with. Yes, this could be "cleaner" but I am not one of the modelers who takes forever on a single project--it has to remain fun....also, I never retouch photos, so what you see here is how it really looks.

For the dash I masked all but the lower part with Tamiya masking tape, sprayed on Black Testors enamel, let it dry, and put on a thin coat Alclad II sprayed through an airbrush. I then went through with a toothpick and added some details here and there. The blue detailer enhanced the glovebox lines....I am finding enhancing (deepening/blackening) lines like this makes a huge different in the overall look of the finished model.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

32 Highboy--With Airbrushed Flames--From MPC "Switchers" Kit

This is something I wasn't going to build but ended up getting built anyway.... between my other projects I decided to learn about painting flames, and this is what I came up with.....This isn't my first flame job; it's actually the 3rd I've tried, but the first two results were so bad that I pitched them.

Flames are tricky I am finding, especially at 1/25th scale. I have never liked flame decals (they look really fake) but working in a tiny scale like this with nothing but an airbrush and my poor, far sighted eyes is one of the harder things I've tried to do so far.

I read somewhere that to do flame jobs you need a mask, and the mask that's affordable is called "Frisket Film" at a few bucks for several sheets. To me it seems like clear plastic that's tacky on one side.

After some trial and error, I found this technique worked for me:

a) paint the undercoats of the flames. For me, I used Duplicolor primer, followed by duplicolor yellow and red, starting with yellow (it came out more orange) drifting to orange and then red, front to back. I sprayed the lacquer right into the cup of my Badger #200 airbrush. Not pretty but it worked.

b) Draw the flame style you want on the Frisket. I used a sharpee (fine point) and used decals and photos as a guide to draw the flames on the frisket. This was harder than I thought--not all flames look good and there was some trial and error to get a realistic looking flame drawing on the frisket, in the right size and all. One thing I noticed is that good looking flames look like they're being blown by the wind--seems obvious right?--so the "tips" of the flames have to line up with the ground, as if wind is sweeping over the body. Also, it's important to stick a few "orphan flames" in there--ones that aren't hooked to the main body of flames--this is a trick used often on 1:1 cars and looks good. Let it dry--it's lacquer and it should dry fast.

b.5) stick the frisket to the body.

c) Take a **very** sharp #11 exacto and carefully cut out the flames. You want to leave the flames masked and the rest of the body unmasked. No, you can't cut the flames first and then put them down, and yes, if you press too hard you will nick/scratch the body. For me it took some practice to get this.

d) I rebasecoated the non-flames and then laid down the color coat. Now, I read somewhere (no link--sorry) that you should shoot some paint or clear into the frisket seams to seal the frisket down, but, that didn't work for me--on failures #1 and #2I ended up with lumpy garbage under the Frisket. What I found is that by shooting away from the frisket film--angling the paint stream in the opposite direction as the mask--nothing leaked under. And at least on this body the Frisket film stuck a lot better than I thought. However, the 32 ford is very flat, body panel wise, so this relatively easy. On the first failed attempt I used a 58 caddie, which had a pretty complex shape to the front end, and it was much harder to stick the frisket down so paint didn't get under it and I ended up with some leaks and runs. I don't have an answer for this yet.....

e) Remove the Frisket as soon as you can. If you wait too long the paint will chip (Duplicolor Lacquer to me seems very brittle).

f) Coat with Krylon Crystal Clear, about 3 thick coats. It levels well. Then I polished/waxed with 2000 Sandpaper and some Meguilar's #7 and #24.

The flames came out pretty well, not bad for a 3rd attempt I think. I want to figure out a way to put an outline around the flames, to resemble a 1:1 pinstripe, but I haven't figured that one out yet. If anyone knows comment or email me. I will send you a motor or something from my junk box.

For the interior I used Bare Metal Foil on the entire dash and them some Tamiya Blue Clear acrylic in the gauge faces. It doesn't look bad from far away, but I should have worked harder on this. The carpeting is Softflock laid down the "normal" way--with white glue--it had to look top notch since the interior is exposed on this model.

Here is the kit this is based upon. The "switchers" kits are an odd hybrid of snap kit and glue kit. I had no desire to be taking stuff on and off a finished model so I glued down everything. I understand the tooling is based on an old MPC design. Overall, it's not a bad kit--in fact, it's a darn good kit--but there are some problems. The hood didn't fit at all--it was unusable really--so I left it off. The tires were somewhat tractor-like, not the right size/shape at all so I got rid of the fronts and used junk box tires instead. I used the kit back tires but that probably was a mistake--they are a bit small IMO. As with a lot of other AMT/MPC kits you do get a lot of extra parts--including an extra body in this case--but to my surprise not much "bling" like rear view mirrors, gas filler caps, windshield wipers, license plate holders, or whatever. Those along with all the other accessories came out of the junk box, which I had thankfully sorted previously, so I had a whole baggie of body accessory bling to choose from when finishing this kit. And adding the bling made a huge difference as to how the finished model looked--it made it a lot more realistic and fun looking.

I couldn't find the right windshield wipers so I scratch built them from styrene rod....and painted with Tamiya chrome silver acrylic--they didn't come out too bad.

I used the block and tranny out of the "Switchers" kit but the blower/intakes etc seemed pretty out of place for an "Old Skool" highboy (it seems to me that every 60's/70's AMT/MPC type kit had a blower!), so I stole some Chevy intake manifold parts/carbs/aircleaners, as well as the belt/pulleys and fan, off a small block Chevy Revell Parts Pack I bought on ebay. The pipes--and I really like the headers/pipes on this Switchers kit, were treated to Alclad II (See Jan 08 posts on Alclad II--you will see the pipes/headers from this kit in those posts).

Overall a fun build, and I had lots of leftover parts that will undoubtably see the light of day on future hot rod builds, if you are into hot rods this is a good kit to buy.

63 Ford Galaxie--Where the Interior Went

I had some much fun with the quickee carpet interior (see previous posts) that I whipped up the rest of the kit to put the interior in. This is based on AMT's 63 Galaxie 3 in one kit:

This kit has all the warts and issues with a lot of older AMT kits: Box art that looks nothing like the kit; metal axles that go through the engine, instructions that don't show things that clearly, etc. etc. I read a lot of AMT bashing on the kit forums, their kits suck and they should be taken off the market etc., but, I really like AMT/MPC, warts and all--this 63 Galaxie is a cool subject and I'm glad I could find it in an inexpensive plastic kit and not have to deal with resin aftermarket to build it.

Another big AMT issue is hoods that don't fit right and this kit was one of them. I mean, the hood was warped and didn't fit for beans. To get around that I glued the hood shut, using styrene runners underneath and superglue/accelerator, so it's a "curbside", no engine and nothing to look at underneath, and tossed the (very nice) valve covers and air cleaner into the parts box for later use. Whatever.

For paint I whipped up a nifty kandy green based on Tamiya acrylics. Here's what I used:

After the usual 600 grit sanding I washed it with dishsoap and water and a toothbrush and let it dry. The primer is standard Duplicolor. I sprayed it inside and out, a couple of coats. After a quick dry I loaded up the airbrush (Badger 200 single action) with 50% chrome silver and 50% thinner (rubbing alcohol) and did 2 pretty heavy basecoats. Now, chome silver Tamiya acrylic is really a metalflake so it makes a good candy basecoat.

Then I mixed up about 1/2 yellow clear, 1/2 blue clear, and 50% alcohol as thinner, and put on several color coats about 5 minutes apart. This is a lot of thinner, and it looked blotchy going on at times, but this color has an amazing self-levelling and self-healing quality; it looked better dry than wet, and some of the blotches and runs magically "fixed" themselves in the coarse of drying. Amazing! As far as getting the color/thinner mix right, I sprayed it on some unwanted parts to make sure it wasn't runny, but I made it as thin as I could otherwise. About 1/2 though I switched to just yellow clear 50% and thin 50% and then went back to my green mix. It took about 10 coats to get it the shade I wanted.

I then went to do the detail trim (logos etc) with a toothpick dipped in silver paint. This was a mistake! I blew it and some of the silver got onto the kandy, and then to make matters worse I used a bit of thinner to remove my work and it removed everything down to the basecoat. Bad Idea! Really bad!!! Next time I put on a few coats of clear before doing any detailing at all--the kandy is fragile and needs to be handled very carefully until protected by the clearcoat. Even a single coat would have worked I figure. Oh well, I had to start over on one side of the model--I masked it at the trim line and reapplied the base and color coats. This was frustrating but after I did this it was pretty much OK.

Next came several coats of the Krylon Crystal Clear. I like this stuff--it covers anything almost and self-levels very well. The downside it that it's a bit pricey, but you can get big cans of it. A quick 2000 grit sand followed by Tamiya fine and finish polish, and then it's time for Bare metal foil.

I'm still not that good with BMF but I guess I'm getting better. The key seems to be to use a very sharp #11 knife, and when you think it's the slightest bit dull get rid of it and get another blade. You absolutely can't do this with a dull blade--no way.

The tires are from the junk box (the ones from the kit looked like something off a tractor) and the rear view mirror is out of the parts box as well. The stance (again, pretty bad on the box-stock kit) was done by drilling holes higher up in the one-piece chassis and putting the annoying but useful metal axle through in the new holes. I like the wheels--they are the non-stock ones from the kit. Otherwise it's pretty much box-stock and was a fun build.

I am starting on a companion 64 Impala, so I can do a "Chevies Eat Fords" type display. I plan to refine the budget-Kandy method above, so I can get things a bit more evenly coated, and also I will be experimenting with Joquard "Luminere" acrylic metallics, which should be hours of fun. That will be the topic of a future post I am sure.