I just now (about five minutes ago) rushed in from the mailbox with a bottle of Gunze or Creos or whatever Mr. Hobby Aqueous paint burning a hole in my greedy little hands. I rushed to cut off the annoying packaging that the US Postal Service insists upon, and found one little bottle of paint.

Ah yes. The big day had arrived. I would find (I hoped) a lovely little bottle of “made in Japan” paint that resembled my beloved (dare I say it?) Polly Scale. Oh yes! My piggy little eyes lit up like Babe’s when he spoke to the nice ewes.


Then I did what anyone would do. I removed the cap and took a big, solid whiff of the paint.

…and it smelled like ALCOHOL.

Okay. It’s time to make some sense out of some of what is said about paint.  As someone who paints with a brush and who’s PRIMARY CONCERN is to keep the stuff in the air as non-toxic as possible (not perfect, but as non-toxic AS POSSIBLE) I like Polly Scale a lot. It has a mild, ammonia scent. Very mild.

I like Tamiya a little less. It has a strong ethyl alcohol smell. Like Jose Cuervo. I dislike old-fashioned Floquil. It smells like model glue.

Most of the paint I use smells very little. Newer paints like The Army Painter and Hataka Blue have virtually NO SMELL. This is a big deal to me.

Now I’d like to say a few words about paint in general. Please refer to this discussion for some mystifying verbiage that will scramble your rambles:

Mixing acrylic lacquers.

So, what I was always taught was that ENAMEL was (originally) baked onto metal. It was made in places where you could see craftsmen beating samurai swords out of ribbons of steel.

It wasn’t paint. LACQUER was what us yokels call “paint.” Then came stuff that was sorta like “instant enamel” or “looks just like enamel without the need for a furnace” and eventually it became “enamel.”

Enamel and lacquer became American marketing lingo faster than you can say luxury car or fast food. So most of the jargon that’s associated with it is confusing bullshit.

What I’m trying to say is that one must develop an understanding of context, and then, God bless you, you must INFER the meaning from the context. This is an infuriating, inexact way to do engineering. I hope that when I get my artificial brain in the future, it’s not designed by some dudes who think this way.

But I doubt it.

Any-who, words like “lacquer” and “enamel” lost their meaning a long time ago. For a while, it was safe to use a kind of “rule of wife beating thumb” that went “lacquer dissolves styrene, enamel doesn’t.” That rule was fairly good. Floquil and Ulrich made LACQUERS that could eat your Revell Airacobra. Testors and Pactra made ENAMELS and they wouldn’t destroy your precious. Enamels had a solvent that we called “mineral spirits” in the U.S.A. and was called “white spirits” in England and other strange places.

Is this making sense? Because it became very complex when the first “non-toxic” paint came out. It came from (I think) Tamiya and it had a solvent of pure, beautiful ethyl alcohol. The same stuff that’s available in a convenient 40 ounce size at all convenience stores on the south side of L.A.

This stuff is toxic, holmes, but that’s the whole idea! Hooray for intoxication!

Then came all sorts of different kinds of “non-toxic” paint. None of these paints were literally “edible” but they weren’t “as bad” as nasty old Floquil with its lung-burnin’ toluene or whatever.

Now, let’s fast-forward to the future.


Disappointed? Yeah, me too.

Any-who, the airbrush now rules the land. Like Sauron. Airbrush Orcs could not spray Tamiya paint. What to do? They bought industrial strength toluene or methyl-ethyl-ketone and added it to the Tamiya paint. Not Windex, me boys. The kind of stuff that’s outlawed in most of the world because it will kill a n****r faster than The Klan on a hot Saturday night in Mississippi.

But it SPRAYS SO SMOOTH! (The mating call of the airbrusher– also heard on hot summer nights down south). The EXTREMELY TOXIC thinners made Tamiya spray-able. But, of course, spraying THE MOST TOXIC SHIT IN CREATION might be a bad idea if you HAD IDEAS. But ideas are a commie plot and not allowed in many areas in the U.S.– therefore, it was discovered, by a few enterprising individuals, that a market existed for lung burnin’ paint. 

Enter the new “acrylic lacquers.” As a rule, these babies are lung burners, marketed as “easy to spray.” There are other paints, that are less toxic, but they don’t have the passionate, devoted followers (a.k.a. fanboys) of the acrylic lacquers.

So what’s the problem? Bubba and Leon get to spray all day in the Georgia sunshine, a few sissies up north learn not to buy it, and all it well.

Not so fast– the word “acrylic” is in there, and, unfortunately, this ONE WORD was used in another “rule of thumb” to mean “water based, kiddie paint suitable for your damn kid until he outgrows this nonsense.”

But in this case, acrylic is associated with true lung-burnin’ demon piss, and it should not enter a home where Mom is miffed about the weird smells. So what can we do? Well, I can try, I suppose, to identify which paints are, more-or-less, non-toxic.

Let’s adopt a “rule of thumb” right now. The rule goes like this:

ANY paint I review on this site is NON-TOXIC. I ONLY use non-toxic paint. But, in recent years, the inhalation of toluene has caused enough brain damage among my detractors to lead them to say that “all paints have solvents” and “all paints are lacquers” and similar bullshit.

So I’ll just say that the paints I review on this site are low in toxicity. They are reasonably non-poisonous. But you don’t want to drink them. Still, the implication that what I’m saying is just covering up the real fact that you ALWAYS have to deal with something toxic when you paint a model is a gross distortion of the true facts.

But of course, the words “gross distortion of the true facts” sounds like some liberal politician and that’s about as far as that goes. If you can parse out the meaning of “gross distortion of the true facts” AND you paint with a brush, then welcome to my club. So far, the membership is still in the single digits, but YOU NEVER KNOW!

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