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Tool Review
Custom Micron CM-C2 Plus
Iwata Custom Micron CM-C2 Plus Gravity Feed Dual Action Airbrush
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by: Mario Matijasic [ MAKI ]


Originally published on:
Armorama

Introduction:

Iwata is the world's leading manufacturer of high quality professional airbrushes and spray equipment. With several different airbrush series, each fulfilling a slightly different role, Iwata offers an airbrush for any type of spray work you have to perform, whether you are a graphic designer, illustrator, makeup artist or a scale modeler.

Iwata recently introduced a new marketing message Ė 5 Ways to Spray Ė delivering an easier way to understand airbrushes (link).



5 Way to Spray sorts Iwata airbrushes into five spray performance categories:

- Absolute Precision (Custom Micron series airbrushes)
- Total Control (Hi-Line and High Performance Plus series airbrushes)
- All-Star Versatility (Eclipse series airbrushes)
- Effortless Coverage (Revolution and NEO for Iwata series airbrushes)
- Full Finish (G-series airbrush-guns).

This review covers Iwata Custom Micron CM-C2 Plus Gravity Feed Dual Action Airbrush, an airbrush designed for experienced users who demand absolute precision and unmatched extreme detail spray-work.



First impression:

The presentation of Iwata Custom Micron series airbrushes is very impressive. The hard cardboard packaging box was recently upgraded to a top-opening version that delivers a 5 Ways to Spray message by indicating the Absolute Precision performance category on the front. The back of the box includes details on the airbrush itself, specifying the head system types and spray performance of Custom Micron airbrush series.

Opening the box reveals a very attractive aluminum case with clasp on the front. The case features a cushioned foam bed containing the airbrush, nozzle spanner, pistol grip air-moisture filter and a tube of Iwata lube. The nozzle spanner is designed to remove the head nozzle, while the filter collects and evacuates moisture build-up, thus ensuring the airbrush receives nothing but clean, dry air. Finally, the lube can be used to lubricate the head needle and main lever mechanism for optimal airbrush performance.

The case also includes a large Iwata sticker and Custom Micron instruction manual. The manual is clear and concise, giving an overview of airbrush features, general operating principles, maintenance and various troubleshooting procedures, as well as providing Custom Micron airbrush series parts diagram. A special touch is the inclusion of test sheet from the factory. The test sheet confirms this particular airbrush was hand tested and adjusted by Iwata service technician, but also provides a great example of how fine the spray lines can be when using the Custom Micron airbrush series.

The metal case secures the airbrush tightly, protecting it from any kind of accidental damage. Iwata suggests storing the airbrush in the case, rather than on the workbench or in the airbrush holder, keeping this expensive and delicate tool out of harmís way.

The airbrush:

Custom Micron CM-C2 Plus is a gravity feed dual action airbrush. It features 0.23mm nozzle in a special head system which has all its parts matched, tested and retested together as a set until the spray characteristics are as perfect as possible. This type of head system provides very fine detail (0.23mm to 25mm) spray pattern. If even finer spray work is required, there is an option to replace the head system to a 0.18mm.

The airbrush features several improvements over the previous CM-C version. The most noticeable change is the inclusion of micro air control (MAC) valve that enables airflow control at the head of the airbrush. The large 7 mL (0.24 oz.) paint cup is redesigned into a funnel, allowing the airbrush to be used with only a minimal amount of paint, also ensuring easy and thorough clean up. The trigger system is taller than the previous version and modified to a square, improving grip and control. As the rest of Custom Micron airbrushes, the CM-C2 Plus features a cutaway handle that enables access to the needle-chucking nut, pulling back the needle to flush paint out of the cup for a quick and easy clean up. The preset scaled handle also allows adjusting the paint flow by limiting trigger movement, setting it to the same value over and over again if needed. The one-part needle-chucking guide/auxiliary lever assembly enables easier maintenance. As for the needle, the new solvent-proof PTFE needle packing allows for the use of solvent-based paints. This kind of needle packing should last much longer than rubber O-rings, which can swell and crack when subjected to solvents. Another improvement over the previous CM-C version is the inclusion of crown cap dock at the back of the handle. Users performing fine detail close-up work can take off the crown cap from the needle cap and safely store it on the crown cap dock.

The chrome finish is tough and polished to perfection, with Iwata CM-C Plus JAPAN TL / ANEST IWATA engraved on the airbrush body. Like all Iwata airbrushes, the Custom Micron CM-C2 Plus has a 1/8'' air valve fitting.

The evaluation:

I suggest getting to know the Custom Micron and carefully disassembling the airbrush before actually using it for the first time. The instruction manual helps in the process, showing the breakdown of the airbrush, identifying all the parts (link). The cutaway handle unscrews from the airbrush body revealing the back end of the needle and needle chuck. After unscrewing the needle chuck, the needle can be removed. The needle spring adjuster, which houses the spring and the needle chucking guide, can be unscrewed next. The trigger is now free to be taken off. Spring guide is very tight, but in order to remove the needle-chucking guide/auxiliary lever assembly it needs to be unscrewed as well. The head system of the airbrush consists of four parts: needle crown cap is removed first, then the nozzle cap, followed by unscrewing the nozzle itself using nozzle spanner, and finally the head cap. Completely stripping the airbrush is the best way to get acquainted with the tool, making sure all the parts are easy to remove and clean thoroughly. There are four O-rings on Custom Micron CM-C2 Plus and these should be checked periodically for wear and tear. The instruction manual also suggests lubricating the needle and air valve for optimal performance, as well as any threaded connections in the airbrush.

After reassembling the airbrush it is time for a performance evaluation. The airbrush feels good in my hand. Although a bit heavier than my old Tamiya Spray-Work HG Super Fine Airbrush, the balance of Custom Micron CM-C2 Plus is evenly distributed. The trigger is ergonomically shaped and its movement can be controlled via needle spring adjuster: the more the needle spring adjuster is tightened - the trigger's resistance is greater, the looser the adjustment - the smoother trigger action feels. Also, using a small slotted head screwdriver, the needle packing screw (PTFE) in the Custom Micron body cutaway can be fine-tuned to add or release tension on the needle, in order to further customize the airbrush. I tested these features and adjusted to what feels most comfortable.

I experimented with the airbrush doing various spray patterns: dots, squiggly lines, thin and medium spray patterns gradually moving to filling big areas, mottling, etc. I used Mr. Hobby Aqueous Color from Gunze (acrylic paint) and Tamiya (solvent based paint), the brands I normally use to paint my models, appropriately thinned using brand specific thinners, at about 1.5 bar (~22 psi). Here are my observations:

- Due to their fine nozzles (0.18-0.23 mm) and superb paint atomization, the Custom Micron airbrushes are used for the most delicate spray work, pre-shading/post-shading a model or applying free hand camouflage. Covering larger areas is possible, but that would require several coats of paint and a lot of patience compared to the general purpose airbrushes.

- The paint atomization is superb. When spraying appropriately thinned paint I got no tip drying or clogging, no spitting or blotching during the entire painting session. The airbrush performs perfectly and does everything I want it to do.

- The resulting spray patterns are clean and smooth, delivering super thin lines in a consistent and controlled manner without spattering or overspray.

- The airbrush feels very comfortable and well balanced in my hand.

- The trigger action is very smooth, providing a perfect response. I like the ergonomic trigger shape far better than the old-style round lever, as I feel it offers more control when performing delicate spray work.

- The preset scaled handle which can be used to adjust the paint flow by limiting trigger movement is very responsive and can be nudged accidentally while handling the airbrush.

- The large 7 mL paint cup is a bit oversized for my taste. For an airbrush performing ultra-fine spray work I think the smaller 1.8 mL paint cup, like the one on Custom Micron CM-B, would do perfectly.

- The nozzle crown cap features feathered edges. The crown cap can be removed when spraying very close to the surface, resulting in even finer spray lines. I was stunned with the precision and control when using the airbrush with no crown cap, however, tremendous care should be taken as the exposed needle is extremely easy to damage and is also extremely sharp.

- Altogether, Iím very impressed with the performance of Custom Micron CM-C2 Plus. This airbrush is definitely a step up from my previous airbrush system in terms of precision and reliability.

MAC valve:

Iwata Custom Micron CM-C Plus v2 features an integrated micro air control (MAC) valve. A small knob located at the bottom front of the airbrush just below the paint cup, the MAC valve enables incremental control of airflow at the head assembly of the airbrush. As I learned from a very interesting tutorial on how the MAC valve works (link), this is not the same as regulating the air pressure at the compressor. The purpose of the MAC valve is to ďalter the velocity of the paint, change how the paint atomizes, and fine tune spray patternĒ. What this really means is that the valve can be precisely adjusted to provide additional control of the paint output thus achieving super-fine spray lines for detail work.

Additionally, some modelers like to use the MAC valve as an additional airbrush grip, providing extra stability as well as being able to twist it open or closed when needed. Using both hands to hold the airbrush while spraying is a completely new concept to me, but I guess it could be the optimal way to fully capitalize on the benefits of the integral MAC valve.

Cleaning:

Cleaning the airbrush is the most important airbrush maintenance procedure. Clean airbrush ensures optimal operation at peak performance.

There are numerous tips on how to clean an airbrush and they all follow the same basic principle: always clean the airbrush before the paint dries. I always do a paint flush between color changes and at the end of a painting session using the appropriate airbrush cleaner; this is an absolute must. I use an airbrush cleaning station as it makes flushing the airbrush easy while keeping the fumes inside the pot. Also, Iím very passionate about doing deep cleaning by removing and cleaning the needle and the nozzle, thoroughly cleaning the paint passage and reassembling the airbrush after each paint session. Finally, I would suggest being extra careful when performing a deep clean as airbrush nozzles and needles are very delicate and easily damaged if manhandled.

Here are some tips on cleaning the airbrush from Iwata website: link. These can be downloaded as pdf and printed.

Warranty:

Last but not least, Iwata offers a five-year warranty on the entire line of their airbrushes. The warranty covers all manufacturing defects of material or workmanship for a period of 5 years from date of purchase. Any part or material that is or becomes defective so as not to be usable within this period will be repaired or replaced. The warranty does not cover airbrush needles and nozzles, as well as damage caused by negligence or abuse.

Airbrushes.com goes an extra mile by providing an additional warranty period on all Iwata airbrushes acquired from them or any of Iwata authorized UK dealers extending to 10 years from date of purchase.

Conclusion:

Iwata Custom Micron series is the flagship of Iwata airbrushes, designed for ultra-fine detail spray work, delivering high-end tools for serious hobbyists. Iwata Custom Micron CM-C2 Plus is the latest addition to the Custom Micron range and it really is an absolutely amazing airbrush, offering precision and control that outperform any airbrush I used so far.

However, Iwata Custom Micron series is not for beginners. These airbrushes require experience in operating the dual-action airbrush and thinning the paint. As with all the other tools, there is a learning curve for handling Custom Microns and although I wasnít able to produce the ultra-fine spray lines like those on the supplied test sheet on my first try, Iím confident Iíll be able to master using the airbrush and all its features very quickly.

Finally, here is the summary of my opinions on the CM-C2 Plus:

Pros:
- custom-matched head system provides excellent paint atomization for high-precision spray work
- easy handling, smooth trigger action, perfect balance and impressive control results in superb performance
- regulation and fine-tuning the airflow at the front of the brush
- possibility of upgrading to 0.18mm head system
- 5 (or 10) year warranty

Cons:
- damaging the nozzle results in replacing the entire head system
- paint cup too large for my taste
- the price

Huge thanks to Airbrushes.com for the review sample. Be sure to check the company website (https://www.airbrushes.com/) for the complete Iwata portfolio, but also for a wealth of information and airbrushing tips, as well as airbrushing courses.

SUMMARY
Highs: Superior performance to any airbrush I tried so far. Perfect control and superb paint atomization result in ultra-fine spray work.
Lows: The price.
Verdict: If you can handle the price, Iwata Custom Micron are the best airbrushes on the market, bar none.
  Scale: N/A
  Mfg. ID: ICM-4502
  Related Link: Airbrushes.com website
  PUBLISHED: Jan 23, 2019
NETWORK-WIDE AVERAGE RATINGS
  THIS REVIEWER: 93.37%
  MAKER/PUBLISHER: 94.58%

Our Thanks to Airbrushes.com!
This item was provided by them for the purpose of having it reviewed on this KitMaker Network site. If you would like your kit, book, or product reviewed, please contact us.

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About Mario Matijasic (Maki)
FROM: CROATIA HRVATSKA

You wonder how did this addiction start? I was a kid when my dad broght home a 1/72 Concord airplane; we built it together as well as couple of other airplanes after that. This phase was just pure fun: glue, paint, decals in no particular order... everything was finished in a day or two. Then I disc...

Copyright ©2019 text by Mario Matijasic [ MAKI ]. Images also by copyright holder unless otherwise noted. Opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of AeroScale. All rights reserved.



Comments

Oh beautiful steel that makes my kits so much better! I bow at your feet...er...compressor(?) and await another chance to do something interesting with you. As with so many of you out there I too have accumulated too many kits, paint and air brushes, but my Iwata remains the choice for that extra level of detail. And now that I am mainly shooting acrylics I don't hate cleaning you nearly as much as I did back then.
JAN 24, 2019 - 10:26 AM
   

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