Saturday, November 29, 2008

55 Chevy Gasser--Bodywork and Putty

Back in the day there was only one putty to use--Testors. I remember it came in a grey tube, and sadly would not work as a substitute for glue (although my brother and I tried this when we ran out of Testors "Stinky Red" glue a couple of times).

Thirty years later there are more choices, and over the past year or so I've been trying to improve my ability to use putties to fill and customize model kits, just as I did as a youngster. I had forgotten how hard getting a good, smooth finish with plastic fillers can be....but after some reading and trial and error I'm improving....and can do things faster now which is always good.

For this week's build I need to fill some 1/16" deep cavities on the back of the body (Revell 55 Chevy #85-2069) of a 55 Chevy Gasser. On the stock kit the Revell tooling guys had dug out channels to accommodate the side molding strips. It's cool that Revell did this; it's easier to use premade chrome strips off the parts tree than try to use bare metal foil to get that "brightwork" look. But no C/GS drag racer in his right mind would have left trim in place on a 1:1 gasser; it's extra weight that's not needed, and looks a bit "pristine". So off they go.

Well, not so fast. Filling in 3.5" long and 1/16" deep channels that run the length of the rear of the body, are curved and oddly contoured, isn't that easy.

So here is my current thinking. First, always fill in as empty space as possible with plastic before doing anything else, so I used some Evergreen strips.

Next I laid in the first round of putty--Tamiya Basic Putty is what I've been using lately. This is straightforward; I just apply some where needed, right out of the tube, mold it with a toothpick, and let it dry for a couple of days.

When it comes time to sand out the dried putty things get a bit more interesting. As far as I can tell you MUST use something between your hand and the sandpaper to have your putty work sand out OK. I read this in two hobby books (so it must be true, right?) and first tried little blocks of balsa as my "scale sanding block", which was better than nothing, but not much. Not believing what I had read I went back to using wet sand paper applied directly to the custom body work....but it took forever to sand out and never seemed to get things completely smooth.

After trying different things I ended up changing materials for my "sanding block". That did the trick. The best block I found so far is a tiny hunk of foam rubber. What you see here was cut off a big hunk that came with a computer part I got at work. I wrap the sandpaper around the foam rubber, and then dip the whole thing in water with a bit of dish soap. I am not sure why this makes as big a difference as it does, but it's a HUGE advantage to sand this way--you gain about 100x the "sanding power". What might have an hour of sanding takes maybe 10-15 minutes. And the resulting body work comes out much smoother than if you don't use the foam rubber "buffer".

I have found that the first batch of puttying always leaves tiny holes and imperfections, no matter how carefully I try to sand it. So the "finishing" step is to prime the body (I use Duplicolor Primer/Sealer, straight out of the rattle can, but I imagine any sort of primer that isn't enamel based will work fine) then use dabs of Model Masters red putty mixed with Testors liquid cement brushed over. The liquid cement thins the putty out and makes it easier to spread around. The touch up putty dries quickly and is ready to sand in a couple of hours. I sand it again (usually using 400 to 600 grit wet and dry) using the "foam block" method.

The result is this cool patchwork sort of look. What you see here is almost ready to go--I will prime it again to see what else I have to do, but it's looking like it's getting close.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

55 Chevy Gasser--DecoArt Dazzling Metallics and the Frame

Since being reintroduced to this odd hobby about a year ago my basic techniques are changing--for the better I think.

I have turned my attention to try to build "cleaner" this week and have found that some of the things I keep reading in the hobby mags are true:

First: clean all non-chrome parts with soap and water and a toothbrush before doing anything with them. I have read that this removes a "mold release agent" on the parts, and makes paint stick better. I ignored this after reading it about a hundred times but finally saw it (again) in the "tips for advanced modelers" on some AMT instructions--I figured if those AMT ERTL guys thought it was important I'd better do it. I didn't believe it until I tried it, but: it's true. I can't see the release agent, and I can't smell it, but either washing parts helped make the paint go on a lot smoother or it's a placebo. Don't know which....

Second: Prime everything. I have now done a lot of a/b's with primed parts vs. non primed, and primer does seem to help the finished part look more real.

Third: Spray or airbrush everything you can. Brush strokes, no matter how small, give away that you're doing something at scale.

Fourth: Respect drying and recovering times for enamels. Although I use acrylics and lacquers most all the time, enamels have a place in our hobby--I have become a fan of Engine Black Floquil, and Model Masters FS1038 Gloss black as an undercoat for Alclad II, for instance. But don't forget: enamels take a really long time to dry and gas out! And if you need a second coat, put it on right away or wait a week. If you don't the paint you cover the enamel with (Alclad 2 for instance) will mottle and look bad.

This week I tried to follow these tips for the construction of the 55 Gasser frame. ....I think it helped. The frame is looking (for the first time) like some of the pictures that "serious" modelers put in the hobby magazines--maybe? Good for what I do anyway. So will I do this every time? I don't know--I am usually impatient and in a rush so maybe and maybe not. But if I want things to come out looking good I will.

Decoart: In a back issue of Scale Auto Magazine the author recommended checking out the "Dazzling Metalic Elegant Finish" acrylics by Decoart as a substitute for other metallic paints like Alclad.

Always anxious to try new things, I went online and bought a few bottles of the Decoart paint--it was inexpensive, about $2 for a 59ml bottle. Right out of the bottle it's really thick, like white glue almost. So the question is, to airbrush it, what do you use as thinner? The paint is water soluable, but I haven't had a lot of luck using water or soap and water to thin acrylics. Again I turned to Scale Auto Mag, this time their website's forum, where an experienced painter said to try windshield wiper fluid.

Hello? This seems counter intuitive to me: wiper fluid is a disgusting blue color, not good for mixing with paints, right? However, my wife was going to Kragen and I told her to pick me up some windshield wiper washer fluid, and to my surprise she did....the bottom line is: it works great! I mixed up some Decoart metallic gold, copper, and green, added about 50% wiper fluid, and airbrushed it on the springs and shocks for this build, and it looks really good! I wiped off a bit of the paint here and there to make it look "used" as I can't think of a gasser that would ever have pristine leaf springs. I'm pleased with the results. Add this one to the toolbox! It really works!

As I said last time a lot of the parts for this build come from the 51 Henry J, by Revell/Model King, #85-2036. It's a nifty kit, with a lot of (to my eyes) retro looking gasser parts. But it's also a dickens to build--definitely not for 10 year olds. The rear suspension/leaf spring/tie bar setup is 100% how it was done in the 60's from my research, but building it was tricky--you're fighting gravity all the time, and the back end is held up exclusively by the shocks. I ended up using Tenax7R to bind everything together, which is a first for me outside of scratchbuilding. It worked--it cut through the paint so I didn't have to do a lot of scraping and dried quickly but not so quickly that I couldn't position things first.

Another first for me is using Alclad stainless steel on the frame instead of chrome. It looks GREAT--it really does look like stainless! The "normal" Alclad steel is pretty good looking too. In general I tried to use different metallics here and there to give things a more "show" sort of look.

And here's the frame BTW. Looking good, I think anyway. It was lengthened a few scale inches to accommodate the Chevy wheelbase (longer than a Henry J) then finished with Alclad, Decoart, and Floquil paints. I'm not ready for the big time, but at the moment I feel that I'm improving.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

55 Chevy Gasser--Week Three, Building the Engine

Hard to believe that's it's been 35 plus years since I the last supercharged scale engine came off my workbench. But here it is.

Three plus decades have gone by; my techniques and tools have changed but I don't think the results have gotten any better. There were no acrylic paints back then, no photoetched add ons, no CA superglue or epoxy. Armed with only an Xacto knife, some Testors enamels, and Testors glue, I was waltzing away with trophies from the local hobby shop and loving every minute. Looking back I don't really know why I stopped building--I found it the hobby quite relaxing then much as I do now--I was getting interested in girls I guess, and the two don't go together that well.

I don't remember modeling seeming hard at all back then....I don't remember doing a lot of work to seal the annoying split that runs down the joined halves of the transmission or struggling with getting a blower on straight. But somehow I remember being better at this way back when compared to now. I remember building a rear-engine funny car with a "swirladelic" paint job that was--as I remember anyway--awesome. The paint had to be seen to be believed. It took 1st place at the LHS annual model show getting a 10 out of 10 for the engine build (which was fully plumbed as I remember). I was 12 years old. The model is long gone now, and no picture of it remains. Too bad.

OK fast forward to this week's engine build. It took me the better part of two hours to build and install the distributor. How did it come out? Well, OK. It still doesn't look that realistic to me, but it's better than the big glob of black goo on top of the distributor that I was using a few builds ago.

The tiny photoetched details on the carbs (which came from DetailMaster) took quite a long time to build and didn't come out looking that realistic. It's hard for me to describe how tiny the photoetched carb parts are, and my camera doesn't seem to have a suitable macro lens to catch this either. The instructions said to use a pin vise to drill holes to affix the parts to the carb, and I have a really tiny pin vice, and the holes I drilled were still way too big. And how to find the tiny wire to plumb the linkages and whatnot? The smallest wire I had was solid 30 gauge and it was too big.

Without the correct pin vise and throttle linkage materials, I ended up bending the photoetched pieces best I could with tweazers and gluing them to the sides and fronts of the carbs with Devcon clear epoxy. Next time I might use some sort of plastic or brass backing to have the parts "stand off" from the carbs a bit; that might look more realistic.

After I had started down this path I discovered that MPC's artisans had cut the carb tooling so that some molded-in linkage was present on one side of each of the carbs already (they came out of a "switchers" kit I believe), and IMO, just putting some wash on that would have looked better than what I tried to do.

Another thing I tried out for this motor was "dry brushing" the logos on the valve covers. The idea is to put paint on a flat brush then brush almost all the paint off onto a piece of paper towel or whatever. Then brush the remaining tiny bit of paint over raised letters, over and over and over, until the "dust" left on the brush colors the raised surface.

I have tried this on several occasions with only modest success. I guess I have gotten a bit better as it as time goes on, as this time what I ended up with was pretty good; not a total disaster. I bought a Tamiya brush especially designed for this, and it might be my imagination but it seems to have helped. As you can see from the close up photo of the valve covers the Edelbrock logo is OK, but it's missing some of the paint on the "E". I don't have the courage to try to fix this, and other means (putting paint on a toothpick and then rolling the toothpick over the logo) haven't led to good results so this might be as good as it gets.

I paid $12.50 for the pulleys for the blower and crankcase from Arrowhead Aluminum specialities, making it by far the most expensive aftermarket goodie on this build. Arrowhead has some really cool stuff and their parts are reasonably priced--$12.50 might seem like a lot until you see the detail on the pulleys--it's really, really good. (As a slight aside, I read on the Arrowhead site that the owner and guy who makes all the parts is having horrible health issues and it's delaying order shipments. It is a very sad story--you can read about it on his website....I wish him all the best and a speedy recovery).

I had one heck of a time getting these aluminum parts to stick to the plastic supercharger and crank cover. I tried using five minute epoxy, always my first choice, but it never seemed to stick "fast"--I could bend the affixed part with my hand, which of course meant the belt wasn't going to looked "stretched" when I attached it.

I ended up using a bit of CA glue, applied with some applicators I got from Micromark, quickly followed by CA accelerator. It ended up looking a bit "cloudy" where the CA touched the chrome, which I had to touch up with silver chrome enamel paint.

The fan belt included with the parts was way way too big and didn't look "scale"; I ended up using masking tape cut to size and painted with flat black Floquil paint.

So this was more work than I thought it would be. Overall, scale engines, like scale "glass", are always harder for me to pull off than I think they are going to be. It's funny because as a youngster I never was bothered by either a bit.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

55 Chevy Gasser--Week Two. Still Going.

Hello again, we are continuing to build a 55 Chevy scale model inspired by the street gassers I saw at a recent Billetproof show.

So let's get right to it. As I said last time, the floorboard of the build is a combination of the floorboard of a Henry J Gasser (Revell 85-2036)and a Revell-Monogram 55 Chevy (#85-2069--heck of a nice kit).

After joing them together with a pretty heavy dose of Tenax7R glue there was a pretty big gap between the 55 floorboard and the Henry J. I would have normally used the usual putty/sanding sort of technique to fill it, but I read online about using superglue and baking soda to fill gaps instead.

Since this was going to be the underside of a model that wasn't going to get seen much I figured it'd be a good time to experiment with this new means of filling gaps and seams.

Here is the result. There was a 1/4" or so gap in the floorboard that's gone now. In its place is a fairly rough and not great looking big heap o' CA glue.

To pull this off layed down a fairly generous pool of CA glue then dropped pinches of baking soda. It works! But there are some things to keep in mind. First I found that a small pinch of baking soda goes a (very) long way. The baking soda seems to act as an accelerator and soon as it was dropped into place the glue dried rock solid. If I put in too much I ended up with a small mountain of glue and baking soda that was rock-hard--as if the glue was sucked up into the mound--and ended up with scale ant hills.

Second, the dust that comes off the CA/baking soda when you sand or file it is super nasty. Keep this in mind when you're working with it. I was grinding down my CA glue/baking soda ant hills when I got a bit of CA dust in my eyes and it burned like no one's business. So if you're going to sand the CA/baking soda mix after applying, make sure to wear eye protection and a good respirator.

This week I was working on the 329ish Chevy engine that's going to go into the Chevy. If you've read previous posts you probably know that I am really crappy at building distributors and wiring them--I have made a huge mess out of this many times in the past. I am always looking for ways to improve and this time I bought a distributor/wiring kit from Detail Master. It wasn't cheap--about $6US, and there were are a lot of tiny parts that needed to be assembled and painstakingly epoxied together--the distributor is like a whole build all by itself....

But the results aren't bad, and this is me we're talking about building it. It's still not perfect but this is turning out to be my best distributor effort to date. So I am going to keep working with this distributor kit for awhile.

The fuel lines are next. I should have some pix in the next few days.

For reasons not entirely understood I have decided to try to mimmick the uber-detailed builds I see in hobby mags and on line for this engine. I always am fascinated the "best in the hobby" type guys who are "fierce competitors" when it comes to detailing their builds so they can win best of show at some hobby fair. These guys must have open accounts at places like Detail Master, or get free goodies in exchange for mopping the warehouse floor, or whatever, because all the superstars seem to use tons of these aftermarket parts. They are indeed expensive, and as you can see from the photo, really, really tiny. Unfortunately (?) the only thing fierce about me is my far sightedness.

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