Readers may remember me mentioning David Vaughan in last month’s article and my comments that he might be persuaded into doing an article on his techniques for obtaining a weathered finish. Well, I’m pleased to say that he agreed, so without any more ado, over to David . . .
Ageing and Weathering
Having, like me, followed all of Roy Yates’s advice, you have now achieved that flawless paint finish on your model and you now wish to `dirty it up’. I must say, right at the beginning, that a good finish is as essential for an ‘aged’ effect as for a brand new one; all the dirtying and ageing in the world will not disguise a poor finish. Roy has asked me to tell you how I use the oil pastel effect to reduce that beautiful surface to that of a war weary veteran. Well, the first thing you will need is information—lots of it. If you can go to see an example of the actual aircraft your job is much more simple, though air museums these days so often ‘bull’ their exhibits up until they gleam. Science museums, being hard up perhaps, tend to leave their exhibits in their original dirty state. I like to sketch as well as photograph, for much of the detail I can cover best with a pencil and lots of written notes. If you cannot see the actual rc aircraft, then you will have to get hold of your information the hard way, from books, magazines, postcards, etc. Real photographs are a must; I spend hours studying them through a lens. (Half-tone reproductions will merely drive you “dotty!”). I like to get right into my subject, really get the feel of it. I have been known to fall asleep at night with the book balanced on my nose. A trance-like state may eventually be reached as you pore over your pictures, but you do reach a stage where you can really ‘see’ the finished model. It is this excitement that gets me through the dull building bits. So there she is, satin smooth and ready to go.
Now you need two things: courage and restraint. The first time I did a dirtying up job I was horrified at what I was about to do. Restraint must be in your mind the whole time for there is a natural tendency to overdo each move. Remember it is the cumulative effect that you are after, so deliberately underplay each stage ; you can always add to it later. The oil pastels I use are not the children’s hard crayons, but a soft oil-pastel, almost as soft as lipstick. Two of the most well known names are ‘Cray-Pas’ made by a Japanese firm, Sakura, and ‘Filia’, imported by one of our own artists’ colour manufacturers, of which the most well known names are Reeves, Winsor and Newton, and Rowney. They all market these pastels and they are easily obtainable from any art shop and sometimes from W. H. Smith. You only need a few colours : black, yellows, blues, olives, earth colours. I was going to say you could give the rest to the children, but perhaps you had better keep the box after all.
A little colour is smeared onto a finger tip and you lightly drag your finger over the surface to be treated. Real infant school finger painting. Camouflage colours can be aged and faded and subtly tinted with the appropriate greens and browns, for these are never ‘flat’ colours on an old radio controlled aircraft. Red and blue on roundels fade and discolour, the white goes chalky and the under colour shades show through—use pale blues and yellows, stain and blotch, but only a little here and there. The till now almost in-visible rivets, panel lines and rib tapes leap into focus (assuming the rivets are bumps and the panel lines grooves). A touch of black now—the merest trace drawn down a line of rivets to give them a shadow of grime and you will not believe how realistic they will look. I find the finger-tip an ideal natural applicator. I am sure a spray will give a more perfect job—perhaps too perfect, too neat. How-ever I find myself more at home with the finger method. Also, a spray will not make those rivets live. All protruding surface details can now have a whisper of shadow where the slip-stream would cause it to be, but oh so little. If it does look too much a gentle wipe with a turps dampened rag will remove it, but be careful not to take the paint off with it. Sharp edges, leading edges of wings, cowls and cockpit frames, all gain an immediate three-dimensional appearance with just a touch of grime. Do not forget the areas that will have been handled by oily-fingered mechanics, but do not make black splodges, only the merest shadow. Oil stains can be made by dragging that turpy rag across a smear of black or dark brown pastel; runs can be made by rubbing the pastel into a tin lid with turps in it and dribbling the result down from panel edges or filler caps; remember slip-stream will have an effect on them. If you want the runs to look wet, use a little gloss varnish mixed in and apply after the matt fuel proof is put on. Exciting runs can be made by blowing the run down from the filler cap, either by huffing and puffing at it or by using a heat-shrink gun (turned on to cold of course), using the narrow nozzle. Whatever you do, do it with restraint; never too dark or too much, enough to show what happens, that’s all. I cannot recall ever really planning what to do first; the pro-cess grows on you and each successful area inspires the next move. It can be most exciting. If you are feeling very brave, try using a toothbrush (your wife’s) to “spatter” oil stains under the nose—only a little; it can look good. Use a very light stain. This oil pastel method does demand that you should spray the fuelproof on for, apart from there being no other way of applying a matt finish without leaving brush marks, the drag of the brush would play havoc with the pastel. A side benefit is that, if the matt varnish is thinned enough with white spirit, you do in fact cause to be formed a very fine texture that can be most pleasing on close inspection. Thinking of rivets, try this: put some PVA in a tin lid and stir in some silver paint. Continue to stir while playing a hair dryer over it until it has thickened. Now load up your syringe. If you have the con-consistency right you get a perfect little dome as the glue dries, and what is more you can see it, for instead of the PVA going trans-parent it is now silver, and if the camouflage does wear off with repeated cleaning, then it looks as though you had done it on purpose! Putting the rivets on is not such a tedious job as some would think. With the glue of the correct consistency—too thin, and you get a pan-cake: too thick, and you get a cake decoration—one press of the plunger and enough pressure builds up to last for quite a long time. At first the glue will come too fast; wipe off with a rag. Then when the pace slows down, away you go down the pencil line, “dotting” away merrily. When the flow falters, a touch of the plunger and off you go again. Any duff or out-of-line rivets are simply wiped off and re-applied. A word on inspection hatches and other removable panels. I used to make them from thin card or paper doped into position. Much much better, giving a sharp, crisp edge and looking as though they could be removed instead of having the appearance of being welded on, as does card, is litho plate. All you have to do is go and see your local printer; they throw them away!
A most useful material; I have just started to find out all its possibilities. Domed rivets on these hatches are marked by punching in from the back and then going over the dome on the right side with a tube of slightly larger diameter. Dzus fasteners can be simulated by using a piece of suitable diameter brass tube, pressed into position with a rolling motion of the wrist. The slot in the Dzus head can be pressed in with a jeweller’s screwdriver. It may help to anneal the plate first. Roy has mentioned the use of silver paint under a matt paint for scratching through effects. I first used this when making seats from thin card or stiff cartridge paper. To my delight I found that if I used cellulose silver with matt oil paint over, they separated beautifully when scraped or sanded, instead of frustratingly mingling and bonding as happens when two similar paints are used. I first gave the card seat a coat of clear cellulose or banana oil, then silver cellulose, followed by matt colour—I use Humbrol. Chip edges; sand with quite a “scratchy” sandpaper the larger areas where the pilot and his ‘chute would cause wear. Follow with a touch of grime and an oil stain or two and you have to all appearances a metal seat, weighing nothing. If the card seems too floppy, double up at the edges. I have carried this technique to its logical conclusion with the rest of the model, painting with cellulose silver at all the strategic points and then trying to find them when scratching through. Sometimes I miss! In fact, I have found that the old method of applying the silver paint over the finished top coat with a chopped-down brush (not your best sable) with dryish silver paint on it, gives an almost identical effect. You soon learn the nervous twitch necessary; you’ll get one anyway. That 00-size sable brush is just the job for touching the edge of a panel line here and there, wing tips and trailing edges and so on. I once used tin-plate to make a canopy frame. The matt paint peeled off most satisfyingly of course. When touching up the model a year or two later, I found myself trying to touch up the tin-plate, having quite forgotten that I had used actual metal here. It looked no more realistic than the rest that I had faked with paint. Still, the silver underpaint method is great fun. Give it a try. Silver finishes can also be treated with oil pastels very well indeed. When I painted my Mustang I wanted to get that differing tonal effect that is to be seen on the panels.
I bought all kinds of silver in spray cans—Humbrol, car engine silver, Silver Wheels polyurethane, even Christmas decoration silver. By masking out sections with thin, poor quality cartridge paper, cut to size, moistened and stuck to the model while damp, I did get a pleasing variety of silver finishes. I used the polyurethane around the nose section and under the centre section where its natural fuel-proof qualities would do most good—also because it contrasted well with the real aluminium panels I used to simulate the stainless steel panels around the exhaust stacks on the real plane. The tonal difference was similar to the stainless steel and aluminium of the original. The rest of the silver had a clear, two-mix polyurethane gloss varnish sprayed over. It looked good but it broke the piggy bank. So when I painted the Wirraway I used the oil pastel method. Using Christmas decoration silver, which is very bright indeed, I sprayed the whole of the bottom of the model. It looked like a new-minted bar of silver; I was almost afraid to touch it. Now this is where, if you like and have the courage born of fool-hardiness, you can really go to town. Have a look at the picture of the underside of the Boomerang in the Kookaburra Publication. No one would dare make such a mess as that—would he? Well . . . Using dry cartridge this time as a mask held along panel lines, I rubbed black, blues, greys and greens with my finger to shade the panels. Very little colour is used; remember it should only be enough to make a difference you can just see. Then the dirtying took place; long light smears towards the trailing edge from all protruding details, along rivet lines, round wing tips where they are handled, slip-stream smears from such things as navigation lights and from the rear end of the carb. etc. Not only was this method a lot cheaper than the other but infinitely more effective. I know I was thrilled when I finally stood back to see the overall appearance. After a year or two of use, the castor oil that has sprayed back under the centre section has yellowed, so now I have genuine built-in ageing! I must mention this point about silver finishes. I have found that masking out to fuel-proof can give problems- As the topside camouflage needs a matt fuel-proof and the silver is best with gloss, you have to mask one paint job off from the other to give them their different finishes. Now, if you paint the silver first and put masking tape over it to paint the camouflage next, you will pull the silver off when re-moving the masking tape. You must work each step out most carefully. I completed the topside camouflage and fuel-proofed that before tackling the silver. Then the masking tape had only to be applied to the matt finish which can take such treatment without harm. On one area of the Mustang I did it the wrong way round. The tape pulled the polyurethane varnish clean off the silver paint in one whole skin, even to the inspection panels and the rivets—a perfect mould! Back to the Wirraway. In order to protect the rest of the model from accidental silver splashes I taped the top sides up in a newspaper cocoon. This solved the problem. Incidentally, the “damp-paper masking method” is ideal here, for the thin paper only sticks while damp and cannot harm any finish. I use it for lettering also. Use a piece of paper with plenty of over-lap and draw your letters on it. Cut them out with a sharp knife and wet the whole sheet. Position it care-fully on the ‘plane and pat the sur-plus water off with a clean cloth. (I am always getting into trouble for using my handkerchiefs.) Dry round the letters most carefully and add the centres of O’s, P’s and A’s etc. Then either stipple the colour in with the chopped-off brush or spray with the control turned to minimum. You must beware of getting the spray too close to the model or the blast will lift the paper mask and all will be spoiled. You can peel the paper away almost immediately. Remember, lettering would almost certainly be faded and the edges would be chipped here and there, so do not build up too thick and neat a layer. If you have a matt letter on silver, you will have to add the matt fuel proof with that 00 sable. If you have had the courage to get this far and have used restraint, you will sit back and hardly be able to believe your eyes. You will now have a really atmospheric, dirty war weary veteran standing before you. You will either be almost delirious with joy—or want to shoot me. Pass the sandpaper! Many thanks Dave, I’m sure many readers were as engrossed as I was with your unique approach to the art of weathering and ageing a model.
The French connection Just received are the rules and entry forms for the “Challenge de Graouilly”, which is to be held in Metz, France on the 23rd and 24th. of June. The site for this inter-national semi-scale contest will be the home club’s own private flying site, the “Model Aerodrome le Fouillot”. This year all the paperwork has an English translation, which I must say makes life a lot easier, and an interesting ruling is the one that states that a model that has already been entered in an international scale competition is not eligible. This is a method of giving others a chance and avoiding repetition of models winning year after year. Maximum permissible weight for the models is a maximum 6Kg. (131b. 3oz.), with engine capacity limit of .60cu.in., and this year sees the introduction of an “84dB at 10 metres” noise limit. Limited accommodation and meals may be reserved at the Centre Acre de Jussy (C.A.J.) which is situated two kilometres from the flying site. B&B is 23 Francs a day, midday and evening meals 25Fr apiece, and the Sunday banquet
75Fr. These facilities are available from the evening meal time on Friday 22nd, and all day Saturday and Sunday. A total of ten trophies are to be awarded in the r c event, which is run on a very simple basis, with 100 marks being awarded on both flying and static, no complexity bonus being included. Interested modellers should write to Graouilly Organization, 16A Boulevard Saint-Symphorien, Metz, bearing in mind that the latest entry date is the 1st of June. Aerobatic biggies? The competition secretary of the Rolls Royce (Hucknall) MAC, Allan Walker, dropped me a line recently describing their forthcoming rc scale meeting. Scheduled for September 2nd this year’s event will have its usual informal format, with entrants flying when and as they like, frequencies permitting. No set judging sequence will be followed, so documentation will not be required. However, there will be a total of eight prizes (cash plus trophies) for the various categories. To help promote the Large Scale RC Model Association, 1,’4 and 1.’3 scale models are to be encouraged at this event and, if enough support is shown, it is planned to hold an event next year solely for these big models. In addition to the foregoing, and held at the same time, there will be a scale acrobatic event. Apparently a number of regular acrobatic com-petition flyers are building “Las Vegas” type models, so it will be interesting to see how many turn up. Allan’s own project is a scale Zlin 526A which will span 105in. with a length of 78in. and has a Webra 91 up front. There is no set schedule for this “ToC” type event, just a 5-minute slot for a free-style flight similar to the full-size performance, to start once the model is airborne. Take-off and landing will not be judged—only the presentation—which will be marked for positioning, originality, accuracy, variety, harmony and rhythm.