Preparing for the overhaul...

Saturday, September 8, 2012

What I've Learned From My Mistakes

Don't spray paint in the rain.  Or in the almost-rain.  Or in 99% humidity.  Your metallics will be dull and blotchy, your stoves will fog over.  Although, as we've seen, sometimes mistakes are a blessing in disguise.  In fact, I'm pretty sure this is true in almost every area of life...

The same day I did the blue cook stove, I also sprayed some copper pots.  Which, well, came out looking like something one of my neighbors might dig up out of his root cellar and sell the tourists as an "antique."  So with a little creative craft paint ("Americana" brand craft paint in burnt sienna and lamp black), I went with the "old and gross" theme.

USE MULTIPLE FINE COATS!!!  I thought I already knew this advice.  I mean, duh.  Most of us have been at this for years, and "fine coats" seems like really Mickey Mouse advice.  DO NOT BE FOOLED.  When it comes to spray enamels, flat colors are very forgiving.  Gloss colors are not.  And, I've discovered, the lighter the color, the worse the coverage.  My first few tries with the Testors light ivory were disasters; my paint came out gloppy, or obscured the detail.  I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong.  Then, after wasting about 20 bucks worth of paint, talking it over with some of my hobbyist friends, and visiting a hobby forum, I learned the following rules:
  1.  Shake the can for at least 5 minutes.  I'm not kidding.  Shake that baby like there's no tomorrow, then shake it some more.  And start with a new can.  If you've got a can that's, like, half gone and you haven't been mixing things up, well, um, it won't ever mix properly.
  2. MIST COATS, dude.  This shouldn't take you two coats, it should take you more like ten.  The finer and more frequent the coats, the happier you'll be with the results.
Face it, sometimes you just need to use spray paint.  Like, take the pot belly stove, for example.  The sprayed-on enamel more closely resembles enameled cast iron, so you're going to get a better result.  Comparing these two pot belly stoves, I think the ivory one looks a lot more realistic than the green one.

The hair-thin black edges and slightly pebbly texture add realism.
Even with a spray coat over it (Testors "glosscote"), it just doesn't look quite as good.
Oh, yeah, and it's counter-intuitive, but glossy varnish looks better than matte varnish.  It also contrasts much more nicely with the flat black.  Or, at least, I think so.

If you don't want your finish to look pebbly, well, there's a sanding sponge for that and I'll talk about it (if anyone's interested) when I do the parlor stove.  Also known as The Kit From Hell, but that's another story.  Anyway, moving on...

Speaking of which, some mistakes are liberating but some are just depressing.  If it's become a stone around your neck, don't be demoralized; throw it out.  I've thrown out quite a few kits, but I can't really say my money or time was wasted.  I learned a lot.  If every project you try comes out perfect, then you're not stretching yourself and you'll never get better.  Don't be afraid to waste materials, screw up, and look like an idiot.  Within reason, of course; I don't think this stove would make much of a hat.  Or work well as underpants.

Think outside the box, color-wise.  This is your house, do what you want with it.  Just because the folks at Dee's Delights who now produce Chrysnbon made it out of black polystyrene, doesn't mean it has to be black.  Back in the day, people were, I think, a lot more creative with color.  Some of this had to do with the fact that, sans electric light, duller colors were really just lost.  The reason why all that wallpaper was virulently red, black, etc was so it'd show up in gaslight.  And people weren't afraid to go all out, either.  Why can't your pot belly stove be purple?  I've seen antique examples that were aqua, blue, every color under the rainbow.  And even if nobody ever painted it that color before, who cares?

Sometimes gluing two already-painted pieces together causes an ugly colored blob to ooze out.  You can get rid of it by dipping a small angled brush into thinner, then carefully brushing out the seam.  Quickly brush off any excess thinner, to prevent it from eating the surrounding paint.  Repeat the process until it's all gone--and, if all else fails, remember that you can always sand it out and repaint it if you have to.

Wet sanding is key.

Don't spray paint outside.  Even if you're not near a tree--and I can't tell you how many little tree parts I've found embedded in my projects--you're still not safe.  Dude, a bird pooped on the red cook stove.  Invest in a hood, if you can afford it, otherwise try to spray somewhere that's well-ventilated but at least somewhat covered.

One trick I used, when I had to spray outside, was to, as soon as I finished spraying, immediately put a piece of cardboard over my spray box.  Gloss paints stay tacky a LOT longer than flat paints, so keep this in mind.

Stay organized.  All those little bits and pieces can take over your work area, room, and house really quickly.  My family's really tolerant but, um, still.  In college, one of my roommates painted Warhammer figurines and everyone was always stepping on something.  I got out of the shower, put my foot on the mat and got a spear through the webbing between my toes; he was furious that I'd ruined his guy.  What I wanted to know was, why was it in the bathroom in the first place?


Bell and Crow Miniatures said...

"Don't spray paint in the rain. Or in the almost-rain. Or in 99% humidity..." - Well that leaves me the month of August every year here is Portland, Oregon! Ha ha! Great, solid advice you shared here.

CJ said...

Thanks :-) I certainly seem to like learning things the hard way...

I've never been to Oregon, but I think I'd like it.

Anna said...

Humidity is rare where I live, so I recently had to learn this the hard way, too. At least I was painting on wood, so I could sand off the results when it was dry enough.

Those copper pots do look authentically old! For a moment there I thought they were 1:1 scale...