Hairspray Weathering in the Third Reich

One of the more daunting prospects of plastic scale modeling can be the weathering process.  Once you’ve finally managed to make everything look perfect on your kit, do you really feel giddy about then making it look like it’s actually been used?  While it depends on your subject and how you want to display your model, the answer for many is “yes!”  Weathering can add an extra oomf to your kit, enhancing the fourth wall and making the viewer question weather this tiny collection of plastic pieces is actually the operating tool of an army of miniature people.

There are dozens of different weathering techniques – thinned oil paints, chalk pastels, specially-made powders and pigments among them – but tonight I’ll be writing about the hairspray method.

Yes, hairspray,

I was skeptical as well, trust me, but my current project demanded a level of weathering that I thought this method would bring about if I did it successfully.  I’d never tried this one before, and in fact only recently heard about it (see page 32 of April 2013’s issue of FineScale Modeler for the article that inspired me) so this was mostly uncharted territory.  But hey, isn’t half the fun of this hobby learning new techniques?

I wanted to try this method on a transport dolly that’s included with Bronco Models FI 103 Re-4; it’s a nice little touch that adds a relevant display stand to the kit.  As the piloted V1 I’m building is based on an unflown prototype recovered by the British at the end of the Second World War, I knew that I wasn’t going to weather the aircraft itself.  However, as this was 1945 and the Luftwaffe had certainly seen better days by that point, it made sense to make the transporter that this primitive guided missile is resting on look like it, too, had been through the wringer.  I knew that I wanted the dolly to have an outer coat of olive drab, and an underlying coat of Steel where the paint had chipped away from use.

I started with a coat of Vallejo Model Air’s Steel.  This went over the top and bottom surface of every part of the dolly, as seen below:

DSCN1061

This is actually every part of the dolly except for the actual frame of the piece.  By this stage, I had already tested this method on the frame itself, therefore I knew I could continue with the remaining pieces.

Once this had dried completely, I went to my townhouse’s master bathroom and found a can of hairspray.  I don’t think it matter which, exactly, as this brand differed from that used in the FineScale Modeler article.  I coated the top and bottom surfaces of these pieces thoroughly, though not so much as to create pooling.  Do as I did and treat this like any other airbrushing job.

Once this had dried completely (actually I waited until the next day, though I could have only held off for about ten minutes or so) I then added a heavily thinned (read: 50/50) Tamiya XF-62 Olive Drab.  Sorry that I didn’t get a picture of this, but hey, it’s olive drab – you’ve seen it already.

Here’s where things get tricky.  Apparently the hairspray acts as both a sealant for the undercoat and a release agent for the over coat.  In theory, by placing the layer of hairspray between the two, it is now possible to treat the two coats of acrylic as you would treat two different mediums (eg, acrylic and enamel).  So, after letting the Tamiya dry for, again, at least ten minutes, I took a wide, soft brush that had been dipped in water and gently coated the piece in question.  The goal is to keep the paint moist and workable without making it run off the piece.  Once the piece was well and truly soaked, I took an old brush of mine on which I had cut the bristles short, so short that it serves no purpose other than stippling work.  Pushing against the olive drab coat very carefully, the outer coating begin to flake off, exposing the shiny Vallejo steel underneath.  Success!

Once I started to see results, it took patience to not assault the outer cover with gusto, but I think I did alright.  I tried to wear the paint away most where you would find it worn on a prototype cart of this nature.  Once I’d completed this on all the pieces, I left them out to dry, again.

DSCN1073

I swear by the Tamiya Spray-Work Painting Stand, and you should too.

After a day (You can never be too careful with paint this thin) I added a layer of Testors Dullcote.  Several hours later, it was finally time to assemble the pieces.  I won’t bore you with details here, as assembly was very straightforward.  Know, though, that the cart is rather cleverly designed to feature moving wheels and handles, adding yet another level of realism to the finished product.

Speaking of the finished piece, here it is!

DSCN1077

DSCN1078

This will, I think, make an excellent addition to the display I have in mind for the finished model, and it also served as an ideal test bed for this weathering technique – a technique that, I hope, you will try on your own kit in the future.

Cheers, friends, and happy building.

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2 thoughts on “Hairspray Weathering in the Third Reich

  1. Pingback: JSDF Type 1 - Tamiya 35331

  2. Pingback: Weather-Worn and Battle-Scarred: Painting Naval Subjects in 1:700 | The Museum Modeler

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