Sunday, August 22, 2010

First Airbrush. Alternative Compressor.

I've always wanted an airbrush set. I guess everyone who is into gunpla or plastic kit modeling in general would think the same way too. I always thought that it would be easier than using spray cans, more economical in the long run, and of course it can make your project look way cooler. So yesterday, I decided to get myself the Tamiya basic airbrush.

It costs about 42 USD. The package includes the airbrush, the gravity feed cup, small wrench for assembly/disassembly, and the manual. It doesn't include the hose and connector so I bought one too.

I think they gave me the wrong hose, it was too narrow. The black thing that you connect to that round metal can't get inside the hose. The store clerk told me it was the only kind of hose they have. Good thing there was a pet store in the area and I was able to buy an aquarium hose. Inside the car, I tried to insert the black "pin" with the rounded metal into the hose and it fit nicely.

The tough choice to make about getting this airbrush was between getting just the basic airbrush, or the basic airbrush set which has a Tamiya Compressor. I actually checked out the compressor set in the store, to see how everything looks like. I was surprised that the compressor itself was so light. In the end, I decided to just get the airbrush. I was being a cheap bastard so I wasn't really willing to pay extra for the compressor set which costs about 130 USD. I KNOW, and it took me a long time to convince myself, that I already have a compressor at home and it has been with us for years now.

Drum roll. This is the compressor I was talking about. This is actually a medical equipment called a Nebulizer. I have asthma, actually almost everyone in my family, that is why we have this. The nebulizer itself is actually a small cup/container where you put the medicine that has to be vaporized for inhalation. I heard from someone that the machine putting out the air to turn the medicine into vapor is actually called a compressor. From then on, I had the idea that if I could connect this to an airbrush, then I just might have the painting equipment I need to reach gunpla-making heaven.

I googled. I stumbled upon a forum dating back to 2005 about a guy who used his son's nebulizer to replace the broken compressor he had to reach a deadline for a commissioned work (i think). I also tried to look for the specs of my nebulizer, and one site claims that it has a max output of 29 psi. Whatever that means. I just knew that if that info is correct, this little equipment would actually be enough to supply air for an airbrush. So I got home nervous and excited. Assembled the hose and airbrush, took out the compressor, and connected the hose to the equipment. I was relieved and so happy to feel air coming out at the end of the airbrush. I found out online before deciding to buy that this type of AB has continuous airflow. You just pull the trigger to let the ink out. I was totally surprised because the air coming out was a bit too strong. Without a hose connected to the compressor, the air coming out of the machine wasn't really that strong when I put a finger in front of the air outlet. And that actually made me re-think my decision at first to not get the AB with the compressor set.

I had things to do so I didn't try to paint with it right away. This afternoon, I got the chance to test the AB with the C (get it?). At first I didn't get the right mixture of thinner and paint. Too much thinner, too little paint to be exact. The air coming out was a bit too strong and I can actually see some paint being blown off the plastic runner. I decided to add more paint. The flow was actually better, but still a bit too strong. For this, I decided to cut a hole in the hose to let some air escape before reaching the AB.

I have also read about Aquarium Pumps being used as an alternative for air source. This blogger, had four connectors attached to his pump, and he opens two or three of them like a faucet to let some air out and it worked (sorry I didn't save the links of those entries). So I made a small hole, turned on the AB, and it was still working fine. The air coming out was noticeably less forceful than before. When I pulled the trigger to let ink out, it was blowing paint more gently compared to the first attempt. Some people out there may raise an eyebrow at this wacky idea, but hey it worked.

I used an illustration board and SD 0 Gundam's runner to test the AB. First I used white ala primer, then gray to see how the coating would look like.

This is the red portion of the runner.

The blue.

And the yellow.

Here are the trial runs done on the illustration board. You set the trigger sensitivity by moving the red slider on top of the AB. The leftmost line was done with 3 strokes/coatings. After one line I adjust the slider to let more ink out. 2nd and 3rd lines done with 2 strokes. 4th to 6th line done with a single stroke.

I have discovered one issue with this set-up. When the compressor is on and air is rushing out of the AB, small amounts of paint actually come out even if I'm not pulling the trigger. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with the compressor's output, or something is loose inside the AB. It's no biggie, but I do think paint gets wasted due to that, and I have to be careful where I point the AB even if I'm not pulling the trigger. On the bright side, I think it'll be nice to do post shading when painting the armors or other stuff due to the very small amount of ink being blown out.

So that was it. I'm pretty happy that so far things worked out for this wacky idea. I know I need a lot of practice, I need to learn more stuff about airbrushing and how to actually apply them to my projects. Sorry for the lengthy post. It has been awhile since I last posted something here. I'd probably practice airbrushing on SD 0 and HG GN-X. I'll post updates whenever I can. If you have questions or tips for me, please leave a comment. I could really use some advice, especially from experienced modelers if they happen to stumble upon this entry.