While many of us don’t have time to scale a cockpit interior or lay down rivets, we would like to do a little extra to make our model more personalized. Award winning scale rc modeler, Lyle Vasser, lets us in on the secrets to simple and easy weathering techniques that can make your aircraft come to life.

Find an aircraft paint scheme

This is the paint scheme that we are striving to duplicate. I really like this scheme, it looks like a pre-war shot. Little did these guys know what they were in for in a few months! The slightly faded navy gray-blue set off by the red striped tail and old style national insignia with the red circle will really be unique at the field. I bet Dave will get a lot of people asking if it is a Dauntless dive bomber!

Here is the “canvas” the unpainted fuselage and wings without the inner workings, engine and radio. I weighed these components as they are to see how much weight the paint will add. The starting weight is 15 lbs. Not bad for a plane this size!

The craftsmanship is impeccable! Dave is a very precise individual, from his background in the armed forces, I think that was a definite asset, and it really translates into his modeling work. Serious scale modelers attempt to recreate the full size aircraft in miniature. That means in every detail… so this aircraft had a bazillion raised rivets throughout the surface of this aircraft. Well, Dave has replicated every single one of those with 1/5 scale rivets!!! Each scale rivet, a little smaller than a head of a regular pin, was inserted in a drilled hole and glued in.  An unbelievable display of patience and determination!!!

I picked up the paint today at Lowes. I use Latex house paint to paint models. It has huge benefits:

  1. Virtually odorless and non-toxic
  2. Cleans up with water and soap
  3. Very easy to control
  4. Is naturally “flat” which is good for warbirds
  5. Durable
  6. Inexpensive!

I bought Lowes premium brand which I assume means it is better? They have these neat little half quart sizes which is perfect for my application since we aren’t painting a whole house or anything. At about $4 a half quart the paint for the entire aircraft cost less than $40! The first aircraft my dad and I painted with automotive paints cost over $250!!! The $40 also included the cost of a quart of Floetrol which we will discuss later.

Here are the color swatches that look like the gal behind the counter matched perfectly. Don’t get too excited if they look way off from the original source SNJ. Color on computer monitors vary wildly. Trust me, the color is pretty close to the original, taking into account the scale of size, fading, and what I will do to it later, it will look very, very close.

Color codes are as follows:
Med. Grey-Blue – Valspar 4010-6 “Baritone Blues” Exterior Satin
Lt. Grey – Valspar 4006-1C “Drizzling Mist” Exterior Satin
Insignia Blue – Valspar 4011-4 “Royal Navy” Exterior Satin
Red – Valspar 1009-1 “Oh So Red” Exterior Satin

Let the base begin

Today’s goal was to get the base coat on the entire model, top and bottom. Before I could get to that, I was concerned there was a possibility of the latex not adhering to the smooth metal rivets. Although some chipping would be natural, to have it all come off would not be desirable. The plane would look like it was wearing sequins, YIKES! I know that latex bonds mechanically, i.e. it needs a little texture to adhere adequately. These rivets were smooth metal so I decided to shoot some etching primer on each rivet. In order to save weight, I sprayed the etching primer from a spray can into my airbrush and used that to coat each rivet individually instead of coating the entire surface of the model. It looked pretty wild after completing that.

Next I mixed the paint. The grey paint for the underside of the model was mixed first. It is suggested to use 2 oz. per quart of Floetrol to Latex paint. This is the first time I have used Floetrol and was wondering what the benefit is. It seems that it really extends the drying time of the latex, roughly four times longer than without it. Because of that, I wasn’t stopping every 5 minutes to unclog the paint gun. Bonus! The stuff looks like milk of magnesia, and mixes right in. Some declare this stuff even flattens the sheen of the paint further. Bonus again!

Special tip! I discovered that stirring paint by hand takes time. A handy trick I discovered is to take a popsicle stick and put it in the chuck of a drill. Today, I got creative and glued a little “propeller” on the end of the stirring stick. This really mixes the paint quick and when it gets all thick with paint, just throw it away!

After Floetrol is added, I then mixed the Latex paint 50/50 with the “secret weapon”… Yes! Plain old windshield wiper fluid. It seems the cheaper the better. It has alcohol and a little bit of ammonia in it which thins the latex. It also has soap in the mix that helps lengthen the drying time of the latex also. For the underside I mixed 5 oz. of Latex and 5 oz. of windshield wiper fluid.

The moment of truth – the Spraying o’ the Paint

This is always a tense moment: is the paint right?, is the spray gun going to spit this stuff everywhere?, is it going to run?!! Well, with Latex there really aren’t any worries. If it runs, just wipe it off with water and start over! One thing about Latex though, when you first put it on it looks like crap! Always makes me wonder for a moment, is this really going to work? Well it does. But look how thick and messy it looks when it first goes down!

Don’t worry, remember it is 50% windshield wiper fluid. That will all evaporate away. You can even speed things up with a heat gun and see the windshield wiper fluid evaporating and leaving the Latex behind.Dried paint on left and heat gun is evaporating the windshield wiper fluid. “Tighter-than-a-drum” finish. It’s like magic.

An unexpected surprise

The dark etching primer I sprayed on the rivets can be seen somewhat under the base coat and really adds dimension to the paint already. Wish I could claim I planned that, but is just one of those happy accidents!

And just how much paint did I use today?? Underside used only 8 oz. and the topside used about 10 oz. Keep in mind that 50% of that is the secret weapon windshield wiper fluid and evaporates! About 9 oz.of actual latex used. I don’t think it gets much lighter than that!

Pencil in the details

I decided to do a little detail work on the underside of the wings. Dave and I agree that the underside of model airplanes are rarely, if ever, seen up close. The bottom is only seen when the model is being assembled or going by 75+ MPH in the air! So it really doesn’t make sense to go overboard with detail in this area. In order to guide the weathering on the bottom of the aircraft, I decided to pencil in the panel lines.

What?! PENCIL??

Well, yes. Pencil. Graphite looks very scale for grime or shading on light colors. It probably looks best on aluminum paint for weathering. But for this application I wanted to just use it as a guide to do some weathering and give the appearance of detail without putting a lot of effort into it, it won’t be looked at very much, but some good photographers (Don Thun) might be lurking about and snap a picture of the underside as it flies by!! So we need a little effort there. This is the underside of the fuse where I have already done some work on the camera doors.

To make seams and doors stand out, I drew a faint line with pencil then smudged it with my finger. Keeping mind that the slipstream would carry grime backwards and gravity would bring it more to the bottom of the fuselage. It seems like the panel lines, especially on the bottom, should be darker towards the tail to imply the slipstream has blew the slight grime backwards.

So you have to ask, will this come off? Yes, a little bit, but some gets rubbed into the slight texture of the paint and that does the trick. But when hit with a little dusting of paint it is pretty much there. The cool thing is if it needs a touch up, no problem, ITS PENCIL. If you mess up just ERASE it!

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