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P-51B Build Report 3 – Painting

July 30, 2010

The last post left the Mustang mostly assembled and ready for painting. This time around, I’ll cover off on the process of painting the Mustang and the myriad of lessons learned.

Step 1 – Priming

After sanding down and smoothing out various seams, I sprayed the Mustang with Testors primer. As with any other application, the purpose of the primer is to give the paint a surface to adhere to. Exciting? Not at all. Important? Yes.

Step 2 – The Colorful Bits

Once the priming was complete, I sprayed the section of the wings under the ID stripes with Model Master Aluminum, then traced the various panel lines in Tamiya Flat Black. While I was at it, I went ahead and painted the tires. At the same time, the forward cowl, prop spinner, and wheels were painted Insignia Red.

Once everything dried, I masked off the wings and sprayed the Tamiya Flat White for the ID stripes.

Step 3 – Masking Hell

Before starting in on the main scheme, I had to mask off the forward cowl and ID stripes. The stripes were fairly easy. Certainly easier than the provided decals suggested. All it took was four pieces of tape cut to width and carefully laid over and under the wings. The tricky part is making sure they line up exactly at the leading and trailing edges, but I got it in one or two tries.

Next up came the nightmare of masking the forward cowl. Traditional masking tape and Tamiya’s thinner, more pliable tape were both completely undone trying to encircle the fuselage and kept wanting to veer one way or another. Unable to get a straight line, I finally bought a pack of 3M Artist Tape for Curves. This was also a giant pain to deal with, but I finally got it more or less in place.

Or, well, not exactly in place. I later discovered my masking line was too far forward, but by that point it was too late to do anything about it, so, well, screw it.

With the plane masked off, I also went ahead and applied the Eduard canopy mask to the various canopy bits. These are cut to perfectly fit the canopy, and save a lot of time and hassle over other masking techniques. Still, they weren’t exactly fun to deal with, either, and despite my best efforts there are still a few places where they ended up off by a millimeter or so.

Step 4 – The Underside

Once everything was masked off, I moved on to the main scheme. The underside of Don Gentile’s P-51B was painted in a medium gray color known as Neutral Gray. This made paint selection really easy, since Tamiya happens to offer a color called, aptly, Neutral Gray. I mixed up a batch, loaded it into the airbrush, and started spraying.

A few things became immediately apparent.

First, I’d sprayed the white paint for the ID stripes WAY too thick, to the point where there was a visible ridge where the paint ended.

Second, I was doing the Neural Gray all wrong. The center of the wing, around the bay doors and just forward of the radiator intake, took on this dusty texture, which can be caused by all kinds of things. Spraying too thick a paint mixture, spraying too far from the surface, which gives the atomized paint time to dry before it hits the model, spraying at too high a PSI, which does the same, and so on.

Still, my impatient self put my head down and charged ahead with the lightening and blending coats.Once I was done, the area around the ID stripes and under the center wing area still looked like ass, so I busted out the sandpaper and wet sanded the crap out of the underside, well as the excess white on the top of the wing.

Major lesson learned here? Thin the paint more, cut back the PSI, and stay closer to the model.

On the next go round, everything went quite a bit better. I couldn’t really get the sandpaper into all the little recesses, and the underside still kind of looks terrible in spots, but, well, it’s the underside so who cares?

Step 5 – The Main Event

With the bottom painted, all that remained (aside from some odds and ends such as the prop blades) was to spray the main coat up top. After what felt like hours masking off the underside and cutting some spray masks out of some of Nolan’s construction paper, I gave it the three-layer blend treatment. I think the final blend coat might have been a bit too strong, but then Gentile’s ride was only around for six weeks before he totaled it, and most of the weathering looks like accumulated dirt and stains and chips and such as opposed to paint fading.

The base coat

The lightening coat

The blend coat

Overall, I’m happy enough with the way it turned out. But this is very much my first model back, and it’s quite clear that I’ve got a lot I need to work on.

Up next, decals and weathering.

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