Starting at the Beginning

There are an infinite number of bad ways to do something. There are an infinite number of good ways to do something. But there is usually only one “right” way, and that’s a problem. The “right” way to build a plastic model is to spray on the paint with an airbrush. As I explained in my last blog entry, I decided that doing it the “right” way was a bad idea. But abandoning one bad technology often leads to having to abandon a whole bunch of other bad technologies. Technologies tend to do that–they tend to “bunch up” and grow into each other. You can seldom isolate one bad idea and just cut it out. It’s intertwined with a lot of other stuff that also has to go. This is why bad technology is often so deeply embedded in our culture. It’s grown into such a tangle it’s impossible to remove, unless you really start cutting.

Which is what I did. I decided that spray painting was out. So far so good–no harm in an old coot deciding to do something wacky like paint with a brush. But then I realized that enamel paints smelled to high heaven. Like an oil refinery. But acrylic paint didn’t smell (by comparison). So I decided that if I were going to give up my airbrush for clean air, it wouldn’t make any sense to use paint that still put a lot of volatile organic compounds into the air just sitting there evaporating. So I decided to switch over. But I had some serious doubts. Masking tape would pull up acrylic paint, and I believed that acrylic paint tended to show brush-marks. So I did some experimenting. I tried the newest acrylic paint available to me, which was Testors Modelmaster Acryl, and instead of brush marks it dried to an amazing smooth finish. Then I tried to mask it. The tape pulled it right off, and the paint formed a “ridge” along the masked edge. Not good.

Then I had an epiphany. During that epiphany I had a vision of a new way of doing this whole hobby thing. It boiled down to a question that was so obvious that I wondered why I hadn’t thought of it before. What if I didn’t mask anything at all?

I began to realize that masking was just my lazy way of doing business. Painting without masking might be possible. How could I know, since I hadn’t actually tried it? I mean, I tried it when I was a child, and now I assumed that it wouldn’t work because it hadn’t worked all that well when I was eight years old. Then I had discovered airbrushing and masking and it had never occurred to me to question “the collective wisdom” that there was no other way. I realized that there was another way. No spraying. No masking. Using acrylic paints and decals to finish scale models would mean that I could do something really cool. I could get rid of the smell, once and for all.

My first efforts were a little crude, but I never lost sight of the idea that I would eventually find a way to do anything that I had done using an airbrush, with a brush. I had discovered some very important tools that would help me on my journey. The first and most important item on that list was the paint, which I will explore and explain in my next installment.

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