Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Toyo Safety Gas Respirator [Unboxing and Review]

Airbrushing lacquer paints can be a nasty experience. Lacquer thinners used to dilute the paint not only smell bad but aren't good for your health if inhaled frequently and in large quantities. Because I don't have a portable airbrush spray booth - the ones that come with a filter and hose/suction fan combo - the overspray tends to linger around for awhile even in a well ventilated room. So to make the painting session bearable, not to mention safer, I opted for a gas respirator/mask.   

Guess I'm as prepared for the eventual zombie virus contagion as I will ever be

After some research I eventually bought a Toyo Safety Gas Respirator/Mask from Japan. What attracted me to this product was its claim to effectively protect against lacquer thinner components such as toluene. While not carcinogenic, toluene is nevertheless hazardous to your health. Prior to taking up biochemistry in my undergraduate studies I had worked as a lab assistant. One day, I had accidentally dropped a 2.5 liter glass bottle of benzene to the floor (toluene is a derivative of the much deadlier benzene). Long story short - I've been careful with organic chemicals ever since.

Toyo Safety Gas Respirator/Mask
Made in Japan as the packaging obviously shows
Gas respirator comes in a few separate parts that need to be assembled
Instructions are entirely in Japanese thus making it difficult to figure out how to put it all together

Because the instructions are solely in Japanese I had a hard time figuring out how to assemble the gas respirator/mask. However, using a combination of the Google Translate mobile app as well as diagrams in the instruction, I managed to slowly piece everything together. Parts were assembled in the following order: filter cap, dust filter, absorption cartridge, and last but not least the respirator (with an absorbent strip inside). I'm pretty sure there is a lot of information I'm missing out on as the Japanese instructions are so detailed. But at least the gas respirator/mask works. 

Most visible and prominent part was the antidust filter
Here the antidust filter is placed inside the filter cap
Absorption cartridge which I assume filters out the toxic vapours
Closeup of the absorption cartridge when removed from its packaging

Initially I was mystified as to the purpose of a black colored round flat disc which was included in the set (see below). It turned out to be a fit checker whose purpose was to test if the gas respirator/mask is sized and donned correctly. Essentially when I wore the respirator/mask with the fit checker on and tried to draw breath, I couldn't. This showed that the respirator/mask was air tight and there were no leaks occurring. While it was a bit disconcerting to not draw breath, this is a necessary safety check. 

A fit checker (round black disc) is provided as a tool to test the fit of the mask
Fit checker should fit snugly over the opening before the gas mask/respirator is tested

A pair of what I assume to be moisture absorbing strips were provided as accessory parts to the gas respirator/mask. I placed one inside the fold on the bottom of the respirator/mask. I believe they are meant to capture moisture from your breath as you are breathing through the respirator/mask.

Absorbent strips whose objective I presume is to absorb water vapors from your breath
Placement of the absorbent strip on the lower innards of the gas respirator/mask

So this is how it all looked prior to being put together (see below). Not that complicated really with just three main parts to it i.e. the filter cap and accompanying antidust filter; the absorption cartridge and the breathing apparatus itself. I guess the detailed instructions made the whole assembly process look much more complicated than it actually was. 

Toyo Safety Gas Respirator No.1880 with its main parts laid out

With the exception of the fit checker, I placed all the parts in the order that I mentioned earlier. It was done using the diagram below as a guide. In a moment of sheer stupidity I nearly pulled out both air valves from the gas respirator/mask because I thought the instructions required me to do it. D'oh! Luckily after a few tentative half-hearted pulls at the valves, I decided to leave them alone. A clear plastic drawstring bag is even provided for easy storage of the gas respirator/mask.

Gas respirator/mask was put together with the help of the diagram above and Google Translate
Toyo Safety Gas Respirator No.1880 after being fully assembled
A clear plastic carry bag is also provided to store the gas respirator/mask

Toyo Safety Gas Respirator No.1880 is available from Japan-based online retailers such Hobby Search and HobbyLink Japan. Both are my primary go-to online sources for Japan-made hobby products. I had bought mine from the former as the latter didn't have stock at the time of my purchase. So far it works like a charm whenever I use it. It fits snugly and I can't smell the paint and thinner overspray at all during my practice airbrushing sessions. It takes a bit getting used to but soon you won't even notice you're wearing one. I for one am glad I invested in the respirator/mask. Better safe than sorry ... especially if you frequently work with toxic materials and/or chemicals.    


Saturday, 17 March 2018

Unboxing atelier iT resin figure kits [HQ12-02 Race Queen & HQ12-04 Girl with Spear]

My newfound obsession with larger scale resin figure kits dovetails nicely with my first steps in airbrushing. For figurines, the bigger their size the harder it is to obtain smooth skin tone transitions with just a hand brush. Not entirely impossible, just more difficult and time consuming. That's where the airbrush comes in. But painting an entire figure solely with an airbrush isn't feasible, especially for finer details like facial features and hair. I plan to use a combination of old (hand brush) and new techniques (pastel shading). And all these will be tried out first on atelier IT resin figure kits.    

A pair of 1/12 scale resin figure kits from atelier iT of Japan

First up is the unimaginatively titled HQ12-02 or as I like to call her the Race Queen. If you are a motorsport fan then you will likely have come across models at racing tracks be it the pit stops or starting grid. Race Queens are a unique Japanese phenomenon in that they are viewed as glamorous models and they usually have many fans of their own. With her pose, the Race Queen figurine is ideal for placement next to a similarly sized vehicle, not unlike what you would see in car shows.    

atelier iT 1/12 scale resin figure kit - HQ12-02 Race Queen
Packaging comprises a fairly hard cardboard box with the resin parts enclosed in bubble wrap
No assembly instructions are provided but in my opinion none are needed
A simple kit, the Race Queen comes in only five resin parts 

She makes for a good subject matter for airbrush novices mainly because there is potentially little masking required when painting her. With the exception of her head, the flesh parts are by and large separated from her torso. This clear demarcation between parts mean they can be painted separately before being put together without worry of paint over-spray. Only her head and hair would require either masking or careful painting within the lines as it's connected to the torso.     

Fine details on her face are excellent with a well sculpted smiling expression
Clear demarcation between her torso and the exposed flesh of her arms ...

Detail-wise the Race Queen sculpt is excellent. I love the smiling expression on her face as well as her realistic anatomy, not to mention the creases and folds on her outfit. As I intend to paint the pieces separately before attaching all of them together, I may have to pin the individual resin parts with some brass rods. Pinning would serve two purposes i.e. enable parts to be held and manipulated easily when painting and also allow for stronger joints to be formed when glued together.

... and legs makes for easier airbrushing i.e. less need for masking except for her head
Clear muscle definition and bone protrusions on both legs will help in the placement of shadows and highlights
Actual size of the 1/12 scale atelier iT HQ12-02 resin figure kit

Then it was the turn of HQ12-04 or Girl with Spear to be unboxed. Overall, the Girl with Spear seems to have much better details then the Race Queen, especially the facial features. The former also comes with an additional arm option i.e. her left arm can either rest on her hips or extend by her side holding on to something which provides creative options for diorama or vignettes.

atelier iT 1/12 scale resin figure kit - HQ12-04 Girl with Spear
Girl with Spear box art displays the extra option for her right arm
Packaging is sparse but functional
Girl with Spear comes in 11 separate resin parts

Despite comprising more parts, the Girl with Spear too seems well suited to the airbrush novice with similarly clear demarcations between the flesh and non-flesh parts. Even her fringe/bangs come as a separate piece thus making it easier to delineate between her hair and face. The one thing I found curious was as to why the spear was sculpted in two parts. Perhaps it has something to do with the opening in her left hand. I will know more once I do a proper dry fit test of the figurine.   

Her bangs come in a separate piece which will make painting the face easier
There are two right arm options for the Girl with Spear kit
As with the Race Queen, the Girl with Spear also has great details on both her bare legs
Reverse view of both legs showing the outer side
Not sure why the spear came in separate pieces but it may have something to do with the opening in her left hand
Actual size of the 1/12 scale atelier iT HQ12-04 resin figure kit

So with both muses in my target sight, I now have something inspirational to work towards as I practice at gaining some semblance of fine motor control over the airbrush. It's not just resin figurines though. The airbrush should also provide access to weathering techniques for AFV model kits. So I'll be continuing work on that front too - on a previously reviewed 1/48 scale AT-ST Imperial Walker, a 1/35 scale King Tiger tank and hopefully a 1/1000 scale Space Battleship Yamato kit. Lots to do but as always I'm fighting a losing battle trying to slow the flow of sand grains in the hour glass. So what else is new, eh? Well, that's it for this week. Thanks for reading and enjoy what's left of the weekend. 


Sunday, 11 March 2018

Airbrush Setup and First Use

Few of the reasons I'm adding airbrushing skills to my painting repertoire is to acquire the ability to paint smoother transitions as well as paint faster and more efficiently. This skill set is especially crucial when working with larger scale sci-fi/military scale model kits and garage kit figurines. And if you are serious about this hobby, then after a while an airbrush setup becomes a necessity rather than a luxury. Moreover, learning new painting techniques with new paint products should keep things fresh for a miniature hobbyist previously limited to only the good old hand brush and spray paint can.

HSeng AF186 Mini Air Compressor, piston type with an air tank and regulator
Getting an air compressor with a tank is the better option in the long run

With this being my initial investment in an airbrush setup, I had to forgo the expensive branded stuff. Getting tools and accessories to use superseded any personal wish for top of the range equipment. So with the perennial issue of a tight budget up front and center in my thoughts, I bought the affordable Haosheng (HSeng) airbrush setup during a store sale for a further discount. This made-in-China ensemble seems functional enough. But I honestly have no idea how good the setup actually is as I don't have a better system to compare it to. For now though, it will have to suffice.

Made in China Haoseng airbrushes of the 0.3 and 0.2 mm variety
Cheap, no-brand 0.3 mm airbrush - a no-frills basic tool for beginners
Similarly priced, the 0.2 mm version is slightly better as it comes with a needle stopper and an air adjuster

This being a cheap, no-brand airbrush meant imperfections were to be expected in the build quality (see immediate photo below). In addition, the various screw joints seem a bit rough on the edges (not shown) but thus far it hasn't been to the extent that performance of the airbrush is compromised. Meanwhile, the air compressor works like a charm. It's fairly quiet even when the motor kicks in to fill up the tank with air. Getting an air compressor with a tank is recommended as you will be able to work without the incessant sound of motors compressing air. You would also get to airbrush for longer periods simply because there is not need for the motors to run continuously thus overheat.

Imperfections in the metal are evident as can be seen inside the paint cup of the 0.3 mm airbrush
To make the airbrushing process a little bit more hassle-free, I bought a pair of quick release valve couplings (one of which is shown in the photo below). This piece of accessory makes is easier and quicker to disconnect an airbrush from the hose that itself is connected to the air compressor. I'm certainly game for anything that makes for a less stressful painting experience. I'm extremely clumsy as it is, so not having to fumble with unscrewing an airbrush from the hose in the middle of a painting session is most welcome. An airbrush would be disconnected from its hose for a variety of reasons e.g. for a quick clean in between colors; to switch between different sized airbrushes; etc.   

Generic no-brand airbrush quick release (disconnect) valve coupling: top and bottom connectors
Airbrushes with top connector of the quick release valve attached (bottom connector is fixed to the hose; not shown)

My first airbrush spray test was with a mixture of Tamiya Acrylic Paints. This particular paint mix comprised equal portions of XF-58 Olive Green and XF-4 Yellow Green resulting in one of the many types of Russian green evident on their tanks during World War II. Initial results were terrible due to a combination of paint not thinned enough coupled with a ceiling fan being switched on during the airbrushing session. And the fact that it was also a hot day that day meant the paint dried well before it hit the primed plastic spoon. But after a bit of trial and error I managed to better results.       

Mixing a form of Russian Green for initial test sprays with the 0.3 mm airbrush
Adjustments to air pressure, working conditions, paint mix ratio, etc. eventually yielded a smooth coat

After getting used to mixing the correct ratio of paint-to-thinner-to-retarder as well as mitigating windy (i.e. quick drying) conditions, other variables then came into play in my search for a smooth airbrush application of paint on a primed subject matter. These include distance of airbrush from the subject matter and level of pressure/pull-back applied to the airbrush trigger. The latter is based on the fact that both airbrushes are double action types i.e. pressing down on the trigger controls air flow while pulling back on the trigger determines amount of paint flowing into the air stream.    

Mixing a darker hue for testing out the fine line capabilities of a 0.2 mm airbrush
Squiggles and fine lines achieved with the generic 0.2 mm airbrush
After awhile I had gotten the hang of layering a smooth coat of paint with the 0.3 mm airbrush. I then proceeded to paint fine lines with the 0.2 mm airbrush using a darker hue (Tamiya XF-65 Field Grey). I loved that the 0.2 mm airbrush had a needle stopper that determines how far back you can pull the trigger. This in turn controls how much paint is released and makes painting fine lines easier. So far I've only toyed with Tamiya Acrylic Paints which are easy to work with and forgiving to beginners. Going forward, more practice is in store with lacquer paints as well as water-based acrylics.   


I'm itching to start painting figurines and model kits with the airbrush but I can't, not yet. It's doubly hard to continue practicing especially when the stuff being sprayed on are just plastic spoons, pieces of Tamiya Pla Plate or plain paper. However patience is key so I'm going to have to soldier on with the practice sessions until I'm fairly comfortable using the airbrush with different types of paint. It's better to bungle a paint job of a spoon than an expensive figurine/kit. Well, I had better get to it then.

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