Daily Archives: January 23, 2008

“Water” based model paints. Testor’s Acryl, Polly-Scale, Tamiya, Gunze-Sanyo and now Vallejo


I build (or at least start) a fair number of plastic models, particularly airplanes and cars, but also the occasional ‘other’ – a ship, figure, military vehicle, space-craft, etc. Polly-Scale is my #1 choice for model paint and and Testor’s Model Master Acryl is #2. They are what I buy if I give a model and brushing paint as a present.

Polly-Scale has the finest-ground pigments, and I’m used to working with it, so I find it easier to use, in terms of brushing cover, ease in avoiding brush marks or drips and lumps, drying time, etc. Each of the major brands of ‘water based’ paints have distinct and unique solvent and drying systems and for flat paint I find Polly-Scale‘s system the best- it goes on thinnest and covers in the least number of coats.

Testor’s Model Master Acryl is my second favorite. It has a range of gloss-finish paints, unknown in Polly Scale, color matches to a wide variety of original standard military AND automotive colors., and straight-forward primary colors for doing one’s one mixing. It is widely available, slightly more so than Polly Scale, and it costs $2.99 a bottle versus $3.99 for Polly Scale. So the same $12 + tax gets you 4 bottles of Acryl, or 3 bottles of Polly Scale, at most stores. You can still get Polly Scale for $2.99 a bottle at some places, though….

Tamiya and Gunze-Sanyo are tied for third in my world- they use a water and alcohol solvent, not just water; they have a lot of gloss colors which are perhaps more demanding than Testor’s Acryl to apply well, they can become thicker on your parts than you’d really wanted, and they don’t seem to dry as innert as Polly-Scale or Acryl. Gunze-Sanyo gloss colors, in particular, don’t ever seem to dry. A topcoat is needed. Tamiya gloss feels firm and strong but wears very easily. Luckily, all of these paints react well to Future Floor Wax, so bringing up a gloss is no problem.
All four of theses paints require thorough stirring. Just like house paint. I use a little stainless steel paddle I got in Chemistry class many decades ago, but a nice piece of 12 AWG solid copper wire, or stainless steel or aluminum wire works nearly as well. Stirr the paint until you’re absolutely convinced it is completely mixed. Then stir it for 1 minute more. Remember to raise the stirrer from time to time to mix between the top and bottom of the bottle.

Vallejo, from Spain, are the newest kids on the block. They’re water based acrylics with a stunning selection, and all packed in 17ml squeeze bottles. I get a sense they started out aiming especially for the figure market- little metal or plastic warriors, fantasy figures or dinosaurs, although there are some airplane-oriented colors in their range. They sort chromatically, rather than by nation and branch of military service, or rail-line…. The paint itself is about right for brushing, maybe even a little thick. It sticks well, color is dense and the bronze green and dayglo orange I’ve used look good and stay in place months later. I’ll have to try spraying it or applying it over a large area some time…

Some historical notes:

It was a very long time ago that I first saw Polly-Scale, then called “Polly-S“, acrylic paint for model builders. Back in the 1970s. I’d used artist’s acrylics for various purposes and both enjoyed them and recognized their differences from oil based paints. Back in those days, there were two US model paint suppliers available widely, Pactra and Testor’s, and it was pretty easy to find Humbroil from the UK, in the little tins like miniature housepaint cans. There were lots of other model paints- seemingly every model company had its own brand of paint and glue during the 1960s, and there was at least one model paint company founded on providing exact matches for ‘official’ military colors.

Oil paints were very democratic. You could mix any with any other, thin them all with paint thinner from the hardware store, and they all had similar working characteristics. Testors and Humbroil seemed to have the finest ground pigments, and Humbroil had a seemingly vast range of flat/matt/matte finishes, which were a real step forward from glossy primary and secondary colors from the 9 bottle ‘paint set’- black white, red, blue, yellow, orange, green, purple and thinner. Actually, purple was so loaded with cultural meaning it was probably not sold in the sets- maybe you got gray or “flesh” (peachy caucasian skin tone, sorta) instead, or maybe the basic assortment was 8 bottles… Oil paints disolved in model glue too- so you didn’t have to be that scrupulous about scraping paint off surfaces to be joined, the glue would get through ‘some’ paint. Best of all, because of the vanishingly low surface tension of the hydrocarbon base, you could do a reasonable job of painting most colors onto your model with just one coat, and if you were reasonably careful, not many brush-marks. (yes, several, thinner, coats would have made for a better finish. But we’re talking 8-12 year olds here…)

Polly S was different. First and foremost, it was water based, Second, it was VERY flat and VERY thin- one coat wouldn’t cover much, unless you were painting a flat color over a plastic that was basicly the same color. So you had to apply multiple coats, and it would leave brush marks if you weren’t good at brushing it out thin.

On the other hand, you could work with it all day indoors without stinking up your room, or the basement/garage. And when it dried it was VERY inert- oil based enamels do undergo a chemical change as they dry, and simply applying thinner will not soften them and return them to the pre-dried state, but thinner and some friction WILL remove them. Not so Polly S. Once it was dry, you could sand it off, and that was about it. Ask me how I know… And it dried quickly too!

Open Letters To Senator Clinton and Senator Obama. No more squabbling!


I submitted these two to the two candidate’s web sites this afternoon. I wrote to Senator Clinton first, then Senator Obama, re-using as much as I could, since I had similar messages for both of them.

Dear Senator Clinton,
Dear Senator Clinton,
My wife and I are lifelong, registered, Democrats. We watched the debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus last night. We were appalled by the tone your negative, mud-slinging attack on Senator Obama set. We were nearly as appalled that he’d come prepared to wallow in petty finger-pointing with you, but you clearly started it, sustained it and lost the most by it.

You cannot seriously go back through every vote Senator Obama has cast in his lifetime in elected office, with your own vote to support President Bush’s dishonest war standing there in the room with you like the proverbial elephant. Don’t go there. You have no credibility. This is precisely the ‘old’ politics that we, the people, want change *away* from.

Nor should you go back into anybody’s prior legal work for ammunition to attack their character. You have nothing to gain. Many voters remember the mysterious appearance of your *lost* law records in White House.

Your behavior at the debate was not worthy of a leading candidate, much less a President. If you want to be President, you must *act* like a President. By all means, have a “war-room” somewhere that responds, quickly, strongly and truthfully, to rumor, inuendo, suggestions and lies. But don’t use your precious and brief time in the spotlight to generate more of that garbage, or even to respond to the great majority of it. The President of the United States of America doesn’t descend to petty gotcha politics.

The President of the United States of America has a full-time job understanding the situations we find ourselves in, both foriegn and domestic. They also have a full time job synthesizing a vision of where the country is going, and leading toward that vision. Not simply reacting to the events of the day, year or century. You need not farm out most of the job the way the present office holder did when he started, but you cannot micro-manage the executive branch. Jimmy Carter proved this for all time, by trying and failing. Even malignant egomaniacs like Richard Nixon deligated. You must too. And when you do, be crystal clear on what you want done, and hold people accountable. Starting with yourself.

At this point, the 2008 Presidential election is yours to lose. You took a big step toward losing last night. Don’t repeat it, and it will be forgotten. If you do repeat it, last night will be remembered as the beginning of the end.

Best Regards,
Bill Abbott
Dear Senator Obama,

My wife and I are lifelong, registered, Democrats. We watched the debate sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus last night. We were appalled by the tone Senator Clinton’s negative, mud-slinging attack on you set. We were nearly as appalled that you’d come prepared to wallow in petty finger-pointing with her. She clearly started it, sustained it and lost the most by it. You dind’t do yourself many favors, however, and you need a better strategy for the future.

You cannot seriously go back through every vote Senator Clinton has cast, without going into her vote to support President Bush’s dishonest war. You got that one right, but the challenge now is what to do. We cannot go back and fix the past. Senator Clinton’s descent into mud slinging is precisely the ‘old’ politics that we, the people, want change *away* from. If you feel the need to criticize her for a vote, stay in the top 5 you disagree with. Make your point, and move on.

Your behavior at the debate was not worthy of a leading candidate, much less a President. If you want to be President, you must *act* like a President. By all means, have a “war-room” somewhere that responds, quickly, strongly and truthfully, to rumor, inuendo, suggestions and lies. But don’t use your precious and brief time in the spotlight to respond to that kind of garbage, at least not the great majority of it. And don’t generate more of it. The President of the United States of America doesn’t descend to petty gotcha politics.

The President of the United States of America has a full-time job understanding the situations we find ourselves in, both foriegn and domestic. They also have a full time job synthesizing a vision of where the country is going, and leading toward that vision. Not simply reacting to the events of the day, year or century. You need not farm out most of the job the way the present office holder did when he started, but you cannot micro-manage the executive branch. Jimmy Carter proved this for all time, by trying and failing. Even malignant egomaniacs like Richard Nixon deligated. You must too. And when you do, be crystal clear on what you want done, and hold people accountable. Starting with yourself.

At this point, the 2008 Presidential election is Senator Clinton’s to lose, but I’m rooting for you. She took a big step toward losing last night. Don’t jump on the same, sinking, ship. I support you because I sensed you were less inclinded to that kind of politics. I gave the local volunteers a check for your campaign and I wear one of your buttons, today. Don’t make me regret that decision. Watch the tape of last night. Senator Edwards is the one who looks Presidential. I’m sure he’d appreciate my vote.

Best Regards,
Bill Abbott