by: Nigel Julian
Some of the most eye catching models seen on display are the ones painted with a bare metal finish (BMF), also abbreviated to NMF (Natural Metal Finish).
USAAF fighters and bombers of WW2 are common subjects, and a BMF is also very popular amongst jet modellers.
Silver paint finishes have a reputation of being notoriously hard to achieve good results with, and this has served to put off many modellers from attempting one. Indeed, a comment often seen in the forums on Aeroscale goes along the lines of ď Iíve tried a NMF before but never managed to finish oneĒ.
The idea behind this feature began with a PM from a member asking me for advice on natural metal finishes. Rather than replying in the private message domain I decided to turn the answer into a short article.
Over the last couple of years Iíve built 5 aircraft with natural metal finishes. Each one has been finished using Alclad2 lacquer.
Alclads website can be found here.
In no way should this feature be considered, and neither is it intended to be, an attempt to be a definitive guide to producing a NMF.
What I hope to do is dispel some of the fear and trepidation that many people acquire at the very mention of modelling a BMF scheme aircraft, and to share what methods and techniques I have found work best for me.
When modelling a subject with a NMF one thing will be immediately apparent. Any seams, glue marks, scratches, sanding marks, finger prints will be magnified many times over when Alclad2 is applied. While many people will see this as a bad thing, I prefer to look at it the other way. I see this as a way of working on and improving basic building skills. If you can get your seams to look good with a NMF over the top of them then they are going to look good every time!
So, as this is an article aimed at explaining how I go about actually painting a model in a BMF, lets assume that all the seams are perfectly finished and sanded smooth. No glue marks remain and the model has been washed (I use Isopropyl alcohol) to remove any grease, oil and fingerprints.
All models featured here are 1:72 scale. Mostly built straight from the box although some have extra details here and there. I wont highlight these as this articles about using Alclad2 and I donít want to detract from that.
The first NMF I attempted was an OOB build of Tamiyas P-47D Bubbletop.
The base coat for this was Alclad2 Polished Aluminium.
The Alclad website recommends a gloss black primer when using either Polished Aluminum or Chrome lacquers. Although I had purchased a can of Alclads own black primer to use during this build I had, while researching Alclad builds, come across references to issues with this primer not drying properly, so I elected to prime with Tamiya Gloss Black Acrylic.
I have no personal experience to either confirm or deny the reported issues with Alclad primer, as Taimya Gloss Black has become my preferred undercoat for Alclad, and this is not a reflection on the Alclad product.
After leaving to dry overnight or longer, its time to shoot some of the Alclad lacquer.
Or is it?
First things first.
Always spray Alclad in a well ventilated area.
Always wear a mask.
Always follow the manufacturers instructions.
Alclad comes ready to spray, so there's no need to thin it. Just empty a small amount into your paint reservoir and its good to go. I usually spray Alclad at about 5 psi or lower.
Gradually mist the lacquer onto the model rather than going for immediate coverage. Spray from about 6 inches away and slowly build up the coverage. It takes a lot less paint to achieve an even coverage than youíd expect.
Donít overdo it. Remember itís very easy to mist some more lacquer onto the model. To remove it is another story altogether.
Gradually mist the Alclad onto the model. Less really is more with this stuff. One of its quirks is that once youíve made a pass over the models surface with Alclad2 it seems to take a few seconds before it appears. I'm sure there's a perfectly understandable scientific reason behind this phenomenon but l am not going to attempt to understand it. Maybe there's a leak in my mask!
While the process followed is essentially the same. The five examples show different finishes achieved using variations on the technique.
Tamiya P-47 Thunderbolt. Single Alclad2 base colour. No panel line wash.
PM Models Sea Fury. Single colour base coat. Some variation in Alclad shades. A dusty dirty finish.
Tamiya P-47 Thunderbolt MKII. Single colour base. Panels painted in different shades symmetrically. Oil wash.
Tamiya P-51 Mustang. Single colour base. Asymmetrical panel variation. Oil wash.
Dragon P-38J Lightning. Single colour base. Asymmetrical panel variation. Pro- Modeller wash.
Tamiya P-47 Thunderbolt. Kokomo.
The model was first sprayed with Tamiya Gloss Black, as a base coat for the Alclad2 Polished Aluminium. As it was the first time Id used Alclad I decided after the base coat of Polished Aluminium that I was going to get out while the going was good and not attempt to paint any panels in different shades. Panel line washes were definitely not my strongest point either at the time of the build so I didnít give the model one of these either. So what you see is just a single colour Alclad over Gloss Black. Klear was only applied to matt areas where the decals were going to be applied, such as the cowling.
Youíll see that the gloss black base coat gives an impression of the panel lines without an extra wash.
As this model depicts the personal Tíbolt of an 8th USAAF Group CO its shown in immaculate condition with no weathering.
PM Models Sea Fury.
My second Alclad adventure and the required finish was the opposite of my first effort. The Sea Fury was built for the Suez Campaign and depicts one of the Furyís operated by the Egyptian Air Force.
As before, the model received a base coat of Gloss Black and was then over-sprayed with Alclad Polished Aluminium. I then masked off a few on the larger panels and sprayed them with Alclad Dark Aluminium.
Alclad dries very quickly but I always leave it overnight before starting to mask off different panels and anti glare areas. My preferred masking tape is the Tamiya product and I havenít experienced any issues with it pulling Alclad away from the model. (famous last words! )
This serves to break up the otherwise uniform colour and gives some depth to the paint scheme.
At this point the model took a completely different path to my first.
As it was depicting a Sea Fury based at a desert air base in Egypt under combat conditions I elected to aim for a weathered and dusty appearance. After the wing stripes were painted on and decals applied I gave the model a couple of coats of Klear and then added a watercolour based light brown panel line wash. The whole model was then over-sprayed with a very thin (90% thinners 10% paint) mix of Tamiya Buff. The finishing touches were to sand back the leading edges of the wings to a polished sheen. This was done using the finest polishing stick I have, which was just abrasive enough to remove the Buff over-spray and leave the Alclad lacquer intact.
The Rumble In The East Asian Sky Campaign gave me the opportunity to build another of Tamiyas excellent 1:72 Bubbletops. This time in the guise of a Thunderbolt MKII in SEAC colours.
Gloss Black for primer as usual but this time I used Alclad Aluminium as the base lacquer. During the previous months I had picked up some other shades of Alclad and a series of masking sessions ensued as I masked and sprayed different panels in Polished Aluminium, Light Aluminium, Dark Aluminium, Duraluminium and Steel.
As much as possible this was done symmetrically, matching panels on the port and starboard wings with the same shade of Alclad.
Compare a photo of this model (photo 7) with the earlier Tamiya Bubbletop at the same stage. (photo 3), and youíll see how spraying the panels in different shades of Alclad really brings the NMF to life, adding depth and variation of tone.
On this aircraft I applied a couple of coats of Klear before adding a combination of decals and painted on markings. More Klear followed by an oil wash of Burnt Umber. The blue stripes were then reversed masked and sprayed with Matt Varnish. Finally I did the same thing with the olive drab anti glare panels.
I followed a very similar path with the Tamiya Mustang P-51D. However, instead of picking symmetrical panels to spray different shades of Alclad I just masked them randomly and followed no particular pattern when applying the Alclad. After an oil wash of burnt umber the model was finished with a coating of Humbrol Satin Varnish.
The final subject in this article is my recent build for the Twin Spinners Campaign. The Dragon P-38 Droop Snoot which I built as a standard P-38J.
The usual primer of Tamiya Gloss Black was over-sprayed with Alclad Aluminium. Various panels were picked out at random but because of the amount of colour in the paint scheme I didnít paint as many as on the previous two builds.
After a couple of coats of Klear I applied a wash from Pro Modeller instead of the usual oil wash. Pro modeller washes are a new product which I decided to try and they work very well.
No varnish was applied on the P-38, apart from the olive green anti glare sections.
So there you have it. 5 variations on a theme. Ranging from a single Alclad Polished Aluminium scheme with no panel line wash to multiple shades of Alclad over different panels with oil and pro-modeller washes. Satin Varnish, no varnish, and Klear finishes.
Apart from painting NMF planes you can also use Alclad for engines, undercarriage legs, in fact anything requiring a silver/metal finish. If your not using Chrome or Polished Aluminium youíll find that Alclad adheres well to acrylic primer or even Klear, but it does require a primer every time.
Finally when youíve finished spraying Alclad, youíll be wanting to clean your airbrush. This is done just as if you had been using acrylic paints. I use Isopropyl Alcohol for this.
I hope this answers some of the more common questions and has helped to encourage you to try a NMF sometime.