Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Star Wars AT-ST [WIP - First tentative steps in the use of Oil Dot Filter Weathering Paint Technique]

Before assembly of the Bandai Star Wars 1/48 scale Imperial All Terrain Scout Transport (AT-ST) Walker had even started, there was something I needed to get my head around first. That something is a technique used by scale modelers to increase the richness and variety of hues on an otherwise monotone color scheme, namely the oil dot filter weathering paint technique. Results weren't up to par as I went ahead armed with only a basic knowledge of how to manipulate oil paints in a scale modeling context. Nonetheless I'm posting this in the hope others will learn from my mistakes.

Materials used in my first attempt at oil dot filter weathering

Using an actual model kit as a guinea pig was of course a non-starter. So I got hold of some styrene sheets (Tamiya Pla Plate) and cut out a rectangular piece to serve my purpose. I then went through the usual process of priming it before applying a light gray basecoat i.e. a color I plan to use as the AT-ST's primary hue. The final step prior to the oil dot filter weathering technique is to apply a protective clear coat onto the surface. It was here that I made my first mistake.     

White styrene sheets were first cut out in simple rectangular shapes ...
... before being primed with a fine light gray primer ...
... followed by a basecoat color of Tamiya AS-16 Light Gray USAF and finally a protective clear coat

I had erroneously used a gloss clear coat instead of a satin/semi-gloss or even matt/flat one. It seems a glossy surface is slippery thus making it harder to control the blending process. In my old work flow, I apply a gloss varnish to make the application of decals, pin washes and panel lines easier. So in the future I'll have to tweak this by perhaps adding a layer of semi-gloss after the decals, washes and panel lining in order to prepare the surface for oil dot filter weathering. Some modelers suggest doing oil dot filters before the washes and panel lining while some do it after. I believe the order in which they are done depends on how heavy the oil dot filter blending process is i.e. amount of thinner used.

Oil paint colors used are Winton French Ultramarine, Yellow Ochre, Payne's Gray and Zinc White

As for the paints, I used the Winsor & Newton Winton Oil Colour. Price-wise they fall in the mid-range category and are much more affordable than the scale modeling versions. The actual hues I used from this series of oil paints were French Ultramarine, Yellow Ochre, Payne's Gray and Zinc White. The colors were chosen based roughly on what I've seen other modelers do. Going forward, I'll probably have to refine the color choices I've made here e.g. a buff hue vs pure yellow ochre.

Putting wooden coffee stirrers to good use
But first they had to be cut down to size ...
... before being used to apply the oil paints onto the basecoated surface

It's recommended that the oil paints be placed on a cardboard palette to allow the linseed oil inside to be absorbed out. This has a threefold effect in that the oil paints will then be easier to blend, dry faster and to a matt finish. However, it is likely my subsequent error was to allow the oil paint to dry too much before starting the blending process. I could've also used insufficient thinners when blending or just didn't blend long enough. During the blending process, the oil paints didn't blend very well and the only logical reasons I can think of are the aforementioned ones.   

Initial blending steps looked horrible but that is to be expected
Further blending makes things look better
And yet further blending makes the hues imperceptible ... well that was the plan anyway

For a first try the results aren't too bad but they were far from what I would ideally have preferred. Streaks of paint were still visible in parts at certain angles. The intended effect of the oil dot filter weathering technique is one of subtlety. What I achieved war far from imperceptible. Even then though, the piece looks much more interesting than when left in its original monotone color scheme.

Oil dot filter weathering technique - before blending
Oil dot filter weathering technique - after blending
At certain angles the streaks became less subtle which wasn't what I was aiming for

Since the effort above I've done more research and found two good tutorials of this technique. If you are interested you could check out an article by renowned scale modeler, Michael Rinaldi or a video by Karl Logan for Testors Corporation. Both are great references for the technique, albeit executed in slightly different ways. Depending on whether I have the time, I might still do another test piece or just go ahead and use this technique on an actual AT-ST model kit. Regardless I hope to start working on the AT-ST interior soon. That's next, by the end of this week if I'm lucky. Or the next if I'm not.

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.

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