My Airbrush Cleaning Methods

This subject came up after a friend read my last post.

How do I clean up after using Vallejo Air paint in my airbrush?

I put 2 or 3 fluid cups full of Lysol Clean and Fresh through the airbrush, pull the needle and wipe it and the interior of the fluid cup out with a lacquer thinner soaked Q-tip, reinsert the needle, put 2 fluid cups worth of lacquer thinner through it and I am done.  This method works for me.

If I am airbrushing lacquer based paint, e.g., Hataka Orange Line or Tamiya Lacquer, I use only “hardware store” lacquer thinner.  I will fill the fluid cup with lacquer thinner and put a Q-tip in the cup.  Then I use the Q-tip to loosen all the paint on the inside of the cup, which always dissolves in the thinner.  I spray that out, followed my two more cups filled with thinner.  I pull the needles and wipe it off, then spray a final cup full of thinner through the airbrush and I am done.

For Tamiya Acrylics, I follow the above procedure except I use nothing but 91% rubbing alcohol as a solvent.

These methods work for me, they involve no extremely powerful solvents and no abrasives of any kind.  Your mileage may vary. 

And…thank you for dropping by.

M41 Painted – Weathering Coming Up

The markings are from Star Decals (35-C 1251) for an ARVN M41 of the 11th ARC, Dong Ha in April 1972.  I wonder if it is a gate guard somewhere or scrapped or still on duty with the NVA.  Who knows?  April 1972 was three years from the end of the war, so it may not have even made it that far.

My plan is to use Flory Wash from the UK on this model.  I had some success with Flory Wash on a 1/48th scale Sherman, so I have high hopes for it here.  It is a clay based wash with easy water cleanup.

Weathering will commence as soon as I post this entry.

Thanks for dropping by.

M41 Assembled and Some Primer Observations

This kit shows its age.  My theory is that as molds age in use, their alignment deteriorates and you are confronted with little ridges on all the parts.  However, there are nowhere near the number of parts you would encounter on a new modern kit, so the issue is not a big one.  Over several evenings, the parts were cut off the sprues, prepared and put in place.

My practice is to prime all my models.  There are many modelers who would say this is a waste of time and material.  I suppose it is a matter of taste.  Why do I do it?  On armor models, I am using various preparations to weather the model.  Some are solvent based.  I think the primer helps protect the paint finish by keeping it in place while weathering chemicals are being applied.  On aircraft models, I am so frequently masking camouflage and stripes of one sort and another with masking tape that I regard priming as a necessity.  I like to work with acrylic paints for colors.  Without priming, they are easily removed by masking tape being pulled off.   So, I prime models.

Here are some primer products I have used.

Vallejo Surface Primer comes in many colors, and I really liked it when I first started using it.  It is an acrylic-polyurethane.  However, over time I have been frustrated by the fact it can be the devil to clean out of my airbrush.  Maybe that is my issue, and not theirs.  I have tried everything, but it seems that sessions with this paint are marked with frequent needle build-up problems topped off with a full field strip of the airbrush for a thorough cleaning with lacquer thinner.

Stynylrez by Badger is also an acrylic-polyurethane preparation, and it has acted as the Vallejo Surface Primer described above, i.e., airbrush cleaning challenges.

Let me hasten to add that both these primers do their job very well when applied.  I have never had paint lift when masking tape is removed, and the finishes have been protected during weathering procedures.

My issues with these products may be due to my own lack of using proper procedures.  If I can be corrected, I would be grateful.

The final product I have used, and I really count on, is Mr. Finishing Surface 1500 thinned with Mr. Color Leveling Thinner.  I thin the primer until it is as thin as 2% milk, and I apply several thin coats.  It goes on beautifully, and totally does the job.  Paint resists masking lift offs, etc.  It come is black, white and grey.  It is lacquer based, and cleanup is a snap using regular hardware store thinner.  

Mr. Color Leveling Thinner has been described by Dave Knights on the Plastic Model Mojo Podcast as “unicorn tears”, i.e., a liquid with magical properties.  And he is totally correct.  Paints thinned with this thinner  form a perfect finish and resist running and dripping if you overspray.  As a bonus, Mr. Color Leveling Thinner works with alcohol based acrylic paints such as Tamiya’s.

The only drawback is that it is a lacquer type product, so there will be some odor using it.  But unlike old enamel based paints, that odor goes away very quickly.

The tracks were primed and painted with a mix of Tamiya Acrylics I use as a track base coat.  This base coat is the invention of Andy Klein of Andy’s Hobby HQ fame:  5 parts XF68 (Flat NATO Brown), 4 parts XF64 (Red Brown) and 1 part XF7 (Flat Red).  This base coat provides the perfect first step in weathering tracks as it covers up the color of the material the track was molded in and provides a nice base for weathering.

Next step – I’ll try to make olive drab look interesting.

Thank you for stopping by.

Selling On eBay

I joined eBay in 1999. It became my go to place to find models no-longer-in-production, and it became a great place to periodically thin my stash.  It was really quite enjoyable.

eBay came in handy when we packed up and moved to Arizona in 2014.  We were downsizing.  Tons of stuff we had accumulated over the years in New England had to go.  Anything that was mailable was disposed of via eBay.

Then guess what happened.  You are quite correct, the stash got out of control again!  I consulted with a modeling friend back in New England who has been using eBay to thin out his stash.  (Thanks, Dave, your advice has proven invaluable.)

A lot has changed in the way eBay does business.

PayPal is gone or rather de-coupled from eBay.  They can work everything through your bank account.  It is much handier.

The sale fees have gone up, but what hasn’t?  On the good side, you can list a lot each month and pay no fee until the item sells.  This invites you to keep renewing your listing until the item sells.  A bazillion people a day browse the listings on eBay.  Someone will show up sooner or later to buy most anything.

Shipping rates are through the roof everywhere.  eBay is no exception, as they depend on the USPS.  Twenty years ago, a $3.25 stamp took up to 2 pounds anywhere in the USA.  Now it seems that the cost is at least $10 or much more.  And some of the major Internet retailers are selling on eBay and offer very cheap shipping, probably because they have some bulk shipping deal with UPS.  

Some people offer “free” shipping, but they seem to not understand what “free” means.  On those items I see the sale price loaded by the probable amount of postage.  For example, a kit reasonably selling for $15 with $12 shipping is sold for $27 with “free” shipping.

Everything seems to be offered by “stores”, i.e., people who are simply merchants using eBay as their storefront.  It used to a virtual flea market with individual sellers and just a few merchants.

None of this is a complaint on my part.  The cost is what it is in 2022.  1999 is way back in the rearview mirror.  But the increasing cost of shipping is driving the sale price of kits down as the sellers may have to eat some of that cost to make the sale.  Capitalism at work.

I read/hear some complaining about “eBay bandits” asking way too much and trying to rip off the poor modeler.  Frankly, that is nonsense.  The poor modeler needs to decide what price the kit is worth to him/her.  If the seller wants ten times that amount, ignore the listing and keep looking.  The buyer has no right to demand the item be sold for a certain amount.

One helpful thing eBay does when you are listing something for sale is to tell you where a successful seller started the bidding and what had been the average amount paid for the item in other auctions.  This helps quite a bit to give you a starting point when you are not sure.

If you do sell some items on eBay, huge profits are probably not going to appear.  That is unless you somehow foresaw the collapse of Wingnut Wings and bought many dozens of Sopwith Camel kits just before the end.

The bottom line is that a lot has changed, but eBay still provides us with a way to thin our stashes thereby giving other modelers a chance to enlarge theirs.  And, best of all, you have a little extra money to buy more kits and fill that stash again.  It is all good.

The Hobby Shops Are Dying!

This morning, I was browsing an old edition of FineScale Modeler and read a letter from a reader who was lamenting the closing of a local hobby shop (LHS) near his home.  The sign in the window said “Closing and Everything Must Go”.

The writer was suggesting that the ease of Internet ordering and our desire to use it killed off this small business.  And he was correct, to a degree.

Maybe all of us have contributed to the demise of the local hobby shop.  As a practical matter, specialty retailers of all types are in trouble.  They cannot possibly carry the range of stock that customers might be looking for.  They are small businesses, and therefore cannot take advantage of size to obtain goods at lesser prices.  And their cost of goods plus overhead means they cannot offer goods at a significant discount.

Years ago, I represented an LHS that specialized in R/C kits and accessories, not plastic scale models.  However, the thing that amazed me is the cost of much of what he sold.  His margins were tiny.  I don’t know how he stayed in business.  I bet one has to move a lot of merchandise to make a living in the hobby shop business, and when the customers come in for a few bottles of paint now and then, it is not going to be that profitable.

If I lived near an LHS, I would make sure I would be a frequent customer.  As it is, I am 27 miles from an okay LHS and 58 miles from a really great one.  If a major mail order house will ship me a package for $8.99 and I will know what is in stock, why spend more on gas (not to count wear-and-tear on the car) to go to the hobby shop where I might not find what I need?

Everyone says they enjoy going to a hobby shop and looking at the goods on display.  I am afraid the way things are going, that will be a simple pleasure we will no longer be able to enjoy.

So rather than hobbyists being sent on a guilt trip because we are not at the LHS everyday buying things, I would suggest that part of the solution would be for manufacturers and distributors to remember that it was not they who introduced most people to the hobby.  

It was the LHS.  Maybe they should look at sharpening their pencils and finding price points for their sales to the LHS that will help him/her attract customers and stay in business so that the LHS can bring new modelers into the hobby to buy the manufacturer’s products.

That is not all of the solution, but it might be part of it.

The Zen of Model Building

Lately I have read a number of articles by modelers questioning asking why there should be competitive contest.  Apparently in Europe there are a number of model shows where models for display to the other modelers and the public and not as a competitions for awards.

I do not enter contests, not that there is much opportunity where I live, because there is only one contest nearby each year (the non-Covid years that is).

So, if I do not enter contests, why is it that I build models?

Years ago, I did compete some in club and local contests and a few regional ones in New England where there was more modeling activity.  I actually won a few awards, and was pleased with them, but I found the experience unrewarding.

There were too many modelers who took it all so seriously and were really upset if they were not invited to the winner’s circle.  I could not see it.  Frankly, if I got a complement from another modeler, it always felt good, particularly one whose work I respected.

But to get all wound around the axel over some piece of ribbon or a plated plastic trophy?  That did not appeal to me.

So, why do I build models?  I can give you the typical answer, i.e., I am interested in military history, I am interested in aviation and have always been interested in armored vehicles.  I started when “Leave It To Beaver” was in prime time.  I dumped it for cars and girls.  

The typical answer most modelers give.

When you come right down to it, for me the real answer is the “zen of model building”.

A definition of zen is “a state of calm attentiveness in which one’s actions are guided by intuition rather than by conscious effort.”  

“Perhaps that is the zen of gardening—you become one with the plants, lost in the rhythm of the tasks at hand.— Irene Virag.”  


When I open  a new kit and start examining the parts and reading the instructions as I plan the build, I do achieve a state of calmness that is difficult to achieve otherwise.  I am taken out of all other concerns and concentrate on doing my best to make a replica that will match my expectations and no one else’s.  I am getting “lost in the rhythm of the tasks at hand.”

When I am at my workbench, I am trying to become one with the project at hand, and all I want is a finished model that meets the expectations I had for it when I first opened the box.  I share them with this blog because I hope that my observations will prove helpful to other modelers.  I know their observations have proven most helpful to me, so I hope my efforts here are having the effect of giving back, so to speak.

If entering contests is your thing, that is great.  Enjoy yourself.

The important thing is build models of whatever genre or era.  And no matter what you do with the finished projects, you are contributing to this endlessly interesting hobby.

Why Build Those Older Kits?

There are so many great new kits on the market today that there seems little reason to spend time and money on the older kits in your stash or available from second-hand market sellers. However, there are reasons to do so.

In many reviews I have read of older kits the writer notes that the model is very accurate in outline. In other words, it sure looks like the prototype, i.e., the real thing. There is always the comment on “raised detail”, but I think that is an eye of the beholder thing.

Often, the modeler is building the older kit for nostalgia reasons or for whatever reason the modeler has always admired the kit but has not found the time to build it.

There is complexity. Some of the older (1970’s vintage) Tamiya armor kits have far fewer parts than the newer armored kits, especially those with individual track links. The older kits are often assembled more quickly and one can move on to painting and weathering.

And, finally there is cost. The kits today cost a lot more. And that is in no way a criticism. Of course they cost more as they represent a fairly large investment in development. They do have more parts. They often include PE frets and decals that are light years ahead of the decals offered in the 1970’s.

I have been working on and will continue to work on an older kit – the Monogram Promodeler A-26B Invader. I have always been fascinated by the Invader. The rare U. S. aircraft that flew in the Second World War, Korea and Vietnam, not to mention a few smaller wars elsewhere in foreign air forces can be added to that list. Not getting into action until 1945, the Invader missed becoming a much more important aircraft in U. S. military aviation history.

I will be presenting this model in the various phases of construction over the next several months. Stay tuned.

This kit has been in my stash for about 15 years. It was an eBay purchase.

A New Year and A New Blog

This is the best time of year to start any project.

The last model I finished in 2021 was this Douglas SBD Dauntless. I picked the kit up from Rare Plane Detective ( They have a lot of old, rear stuff and are well worth a look.

This kit came out in the late 1950’s and was made by Hawk. It still says “Hawk” on the inside of the fuselage. The one I got was a Testors re-pop which came with Scalemaster decals that actually worked. I think it was made in the 1980’s. Scalemaster made some great decals back in the day. They are now long gone. The old Scalemaster decals in my stash have not surived as well as Aeromaster decals or the ones with old Tamiya or Hasegawa kits.

Why did I make this particular kit? Because back in the days when my modeling bench was populated with Testors Pla gloss enamel paint, a razor blade and a few paint brushes, I made this one when it was first issued. I thought it was the coolest thing going back then. It is long, long gone; probably the victim of a fire cracker.

Testors SBD Dauntless, 1/72 scale (or so they say, but I think it was a smaller “box” scale) (c) Matt Dyer

This is more like what I am building these days – Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless. Accurate Miniatures (Built 2016) VB-6, Yorktown, Battle of Midway (This aircraft damaged in attack on Kaga.), June 1942. I got this kit along with an SBD with Operation Torch markings directly from AM in one box just as they were going out of business. I am sorry they did not make it as a business. Imagine what they would have accomplished in the past two decades.

Accurate Miniatures Douglas SBD-3 Dauntless (c) Matt Dyer