Monthly Archives: March 2010

Masking Tape, over a glossy finish, a sticky question.


My experience has been fairly good, using old-school beige masking tape, Scotch “Magic” (flat) transparent tape, 3M blue tape, or the light green 3M high stick tape. I prefer the 3M blue product. Scotch “Magic” tape can do really sharp lines on flat, smooth, surfaces, but it has no ‘stretch’. It won’t go around complex curves, stretch to fill engraved lines, etc. It can be hard to remove too, if you don’t leave an edge up somewhere.

First you need the base glossy paint to be well attached. Clean all the parts on their trees with Luke warm water and dish detergent, hand soap, light scrubbing with a green dish scrubber, light sanding with 600 or finer wet-dry sand paper, your choice. Do what’s worked for you in the past. Lay the paint down lightly and evenly. Keep the model parts warm enough before and after applying paint. Keep the paint warm too.

Having a gloss finish doesn’t require glossy paint. Future floor wax, gloss finish lacquers, gloss acrylic, gloss enamel, what ever’s right, after all the paint colors are in place, gives the thinnest finish.

If you’ve already got the glossy paint down and you’re wondering how to mask over it, there’s still plenty of little details to attend to.

Roughing the area the second color will go on doesn’t hurt- my problem masking is as much about the second coat not sticking on up to the masking line as it is about the first coat pulling off or separating.

Having a clean, fresh, edge with effective adhesive is VERY important. You can get along with the edges of the roll of tape as it comes from the maker IF its fresh and you just unwrapped or opened it. If the roll is a long term resident on your workbench, or the sides/edges are scruffy, its not going to make a clean, tight, line.

I keep my masking tape in a small zip-log bag now, stand it on its ‘tread’ instead of laying it on its ‘sidewall’, in or out of the bag. When I want a really crisp edge, I take a nice length of tape and my sharpest Fiskar scissors and cut the tape, straight, down the middle- this gives two, straight, sharp, edges. If I need a line longer than the length the Fiskar’s blades, I piece it from several pieces of tape, to make the edge, and fill with a second layer. I don’t overlap the joints, I trim the edges to slightly less than 90 degrees and lay the pieces down point-to-point, starting like:

1st color layer…
=====\/=====\/====
area for 2nd color.

Smallish filler pieces to cover the little triangular gaps are good. In general I find that small, narrow, pieces of tape are easier to use over curves (or to make curves!) than wide tape. I usually buy 1″ (25mm) and often cut it in half or thirds or quarters before I apply it. Getting a crisp edge is NOT the same as covering a large area- mark out the edges with narrow strips, then use full-width strips (or paper or plastic) to cover bulk areas. Yes, its hard to get long, straight, lines with narrower strips. Its hard to get long straight lines with big, wide, pieces too. Once its stretched out of shape, you’re better off throwing it away, or cutting it to the straight edge you need. Piecing out a long line in scissors-length pieces against a metal straight edge is possibly easier than applying a 2 foot (60cm) piece of tape…

Once the tape is down, burnish the edge, and any seams. Something smooth. slightly soft and gently curved like a Bic pen cap, orangewood stick, etc, is good. Fingertips work.

If you’re worried about stuff running under the tape (via deeply engraved panel lines, rough surface, whatever) dust a light coat of the base color or a clear to seal the edge of the tape. EASY does it, no blobs. Just enough to seal.

Now lay the second color down, in light, thin coats. More tape and a third color, etc, can follow. Using flat paint and not having to sand-down gloss finish for subsequent coats to stick to is clearly an advantage….

Some people like to lay a thick, wet, coat down and then lift off the masking as soon as the second color will stay in place… Ummm, that isn’t easy to do in thin, light, coats… Slicing along the tape edge with a brand-new knife blade is good, if you’re making a ‘straight’ line, a straight edge to slice along may help. Slice LIGHTLY, don’t go through the 1st color, or down into the base material of the model.

PEEL the tape, gently, slowly, pull AWAY from the masked edge. Peeling off the tape is a big part of getting a good masked edge. But like all human activities, it isn’t really true that there’s one and only chance, or that it can’t be fixed if there are problems. Personally, if I think any of the paint might still be wet (uncured) I shelve it and come back in a day or two.

But don’t heat something with masking tape on it, or leave it on the dashboard of the car on a summer day… Overheated tape stickum is a complete BEAR to remove. Ask me how I know…. After a year or two, the old, beige tape, stickum would vulcanize or cure or whatever you call it- become stiff and hard and require sandpaper to remove. The new, gentler, “blue” tapes are far more forgiving.

After the tape is off, there may be a ridge where a taped line was. Fine or extra fine fingernail sanding sticks, wet, are good for working down the ridge without losing the sharp edge. The stiff sanding stick is easier to control than a floppy sheet of sandpaper, and you only want to affect the stuff that’s sticking up.

Another reason to paint flat paint and gloss it later.

For natural metal finish with solid colors as well, I cover everything that will be bare metal and do the paint first, completely, including masking-ridge-sanding and the gloss coat, then tape off ALL the paint and spray Testor’s Metalizer (from rattle cans) over the bare plastic. So everything gets masked once, at least. (The airbrush-able Metalizer works just as well, and you can mix it and tint it, but I choose to use my time on other things.)

NEVER try to save materials when masking. Use fresh tape, use more tape, remove the tape and start over if you don’t like what you see. The tape is cheap, your time is expensive.

That said, don’t make your life harder than it needs to be. If you’re painting the tips of wings and rudder, mask the EDGES of the tips off, then cut some slits in a paper bag, and use the bag to cover all the model, except for the little bits you want to paint. Its not saving stuff, just making your life easier. Wrapping something completely in tape isn’t much fun, and risks overspray on gaps that require a lot of inspection to check.

Well, that went on too long, but you’ll have a good time doing multicolor paint and paint + natural metal. You can do the gray wings with polished leading edges, flat aluminum panels, satin finish engine intakes and maybe a titanium bit on the engine pylon.

Take a shot, take some pictures, let us know how it goes for you!

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I just sent this letter to our Representitive Lee. Just In Case She Wondered. Yeah, President Obama’s organization emailed and asked me to do it. I was happy to jump in.


Dear Representative Lee,
As your constituent, I’m writing to tell you why I’m such a strong supporter of health reform.

I was once a young person with a minimum wage job and no health insurance. I had no regular doctor. If I got sick, I treated myself with over-the-counter medicines and hoped I got better. If something serious had happened to me, I would have been yet another indigent in the Emergency Room. I couldn’t help but compare this development with my childhood. My dad was in the Navy and I was a military dependent until I was 21. I experienced “socialized” medicine first hand- seeing the doctor that was available, going to a big building full of doctors and patients, It worked fine. In fact, back in the 1960s, it was being operated by a large fraction of 18-22 year-olds who were either draftees or who volunteered to get some hope of picking a billet.

My late, first, wife was a writer, an independant, and simply could not find comprehensive health insurance. We’d lived together for 8 years, and I proposed to her and we got married. At the stroke of a pen, she suddenly had the same coverage I had. I’m not sorry we got married, but the system is perverse. We tried for months to find coverage for her. It wasn’t there. We had a pile of cash in the bank. And this was 25 years ago! She died at a young and untimely age, but not from the notional cause (weight) that the insurance industry claimed made her a bad risk.

As an adult with choices I have Kaiser through my workplace. Terrific health care, comprehensive, focused on “health” rather than “treatment”. They don’t bill some pot of money in the skhy for each and every step they take. They do their best to keep me healthy and keep the money they can save.

We pay more for health care than any other nation, and I can assure you that we don’t receive what we’re paying for. The for-profit insurance model is based on denying coverage and excluding the sick and potentially sick. Its simply wrong. We’re already paying more than any reasonable, “world class” system would cost. And getting less.

My wife and I are looking at retirement in another 10-15 years. And our son will leave school and start his adult life in 10 years or so. Our existing health-care system will be spurting money and not addressing either public or private needs in 10 years. We’ve got to fix this thing, and we can’t wait any longer,. People I love are depending on it.

The Republican party has an irrational mistrust of any collective social structure. They are intent on destroying even the for profit insurance we now have. That’s why the Randian lunatics want private health savings accounts. They want to peel off the healthy and well paid, so that there’s a “moral” hazard to being poor, or sick, or both. If you want coverage, in their universe, you should work harder, become rich, and pay out of your wallet. Unless you’re in Congress, of course.

Now they broadcast scary lies and dissemble in ways that should make them blush. I don’t know what their mothers taught them about sharing, or taking care of others. I know that their stone-wall opposition to health care reform is based on fear and delusion. Don’t be frightened of them. You’re from the Bay Area. They’re not serious players in our district.

There are others who would rather have the perfect package, as they understand it, and won’t accept compromise. They’re wrong. There is not a majority of voters in favor of single payer. Maybe someday. Not now. As Stanley Crouch observes, “Not getting your way is a democratic act.” Please don’t draw an imaginary line in the imaginary sand ad require the nation to line up on the right side. Lets get STARTED on fixing our broken health care system. Nothing final is going to happen this year. With your help, perhaps we can start something.

Please see my message to you, along with the stories and photos of other Americans from your district and across the nation, at http://my.barackobama.com/HereFor

Thank you.

Bill Abbott

Mondrian puzzle




Mondrian puzzle, originally uploaded by eric rutten.

Wonderful! I really like that Mr. Rutten re-purposed an existing puzzle and that painted it by hand. I had always thought of Mondrian as having hard-edged vibe but that’s not true- imitations and derivative works may be hard edged but the original is all “by hand”. Rutten has another puzzle, and a graffiti (boy I wish I’d thought of that…) and some neat primary color stuff on his own account. Check him out by clicking through this photo.

Jean and I saw an exhibit of Mondrian’s work at the MOMA in New York and I was astounded to see it was all free hand. Among the last of the “New York Boogie Woogie” pictures, one he left unfinished at his death, there WAS masking tape. Mr Mondrian had painted prospective squares of color ON TAPE and had placed them gently on the painting, to see if that was the color and location he wanted. But masked lines or edges? Never.

Up close, you could see his brushwork, which he’d done nothing to hide. No trace of the industrialism of, say, Paul Klee’s IKB canvases, which really are flat, uniform, color. Somewhat counter-intuitively, Mondrian is intensely organic. His early work was clean and representational and his abstractions are, literally, abstractions of a figurative world. If “figurative” is a word…

Bill