Painting Balsa Wood - Seal it First?

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kchildress

New Member
Looking for advice with painting balsa wood on buildings. Being as soft as it is, I have a feeling the wood will soak up paint like a sponge. I mostly curious if the wood should be sealed with something prior to painting. I'll be using these 1/16"-thick clapboard siding panels. My plan is to cut the panels to size, cut the window and door openings, affix the window and door casings to the panel, and paint the panels on both sides.

Thanks!

Kevin
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wvg_ca

Well-Known Member
yes, you are better off with a sealer, which dries relatively quickly ..otherwise the first coat of paint will act as a kindof sealer, paint does dry slower than sealer in most paint lines ...
 

Sirfoldalot

Curse You, Red Baron!
Staff member
Kevin -- You are going to have lots of opinions on this one. JAZZ is spot on - so is George - it depends on what type of finish you want? My suggestion is to try different methods on small scraps of the siding.
 

kchildress

New Member
JazzDad, wvg_ca, and Sherrel D., Thank you all for the ideas. I'll definitely take the pre-sealed route, but there will be no sanding. The clapboard is only 1/8" spacing so sanding would be too tricky. I've been racking my brain for what to seal with and aerosol shellac is the best thing I can think of. I'll just mist it on very, very lightly and see where it goes. And yeah, I'll definitely be testing on a few pieces!!!

If anyone sees a red flag with this type of sealer, PLEASE let me know! :)
Capture.JPG
 

Sirfoldalot

Curse You, Red Baron!
Staff member
I think you are with a winner there. I'm so out of touch that I did not know that shellac came in a "bomb". I could have used that -- way back when.
I have mixed talcum powder with shellac to give a super smooth finish with fine sanding - I'm talking about general woodworking and also wooden roofs on O-scale boxcar kits.
 

GeeTee

Well-Known Member
If you want a painted smooth appearance , seal it. if you want a old weather beaten unpainted look or a stained appearance then I would not seal it.

The purpose of the sealer is to fill in the wood pores so it doesn't keep soaking up paint . The problem with sealer is you tend to lose the texture of the wood grain , which is the whole purpose of using wood in the first place.

Usually you seal wood when you want it to look like something other than wood, Sherrel's O scale boxcar roofs being a good example .

My rule of thumb is , if the wood is used for wood , don't , if its for anything other than wood such as metal , brick , concrete , seal it then paint it.



Generally I rarely seal wood , I try to use wood for wood , metal or styrene for metal , and masonry(hydrocal) or plastic for masonry/concrete.
 

kchildress

New Member
GeeTee, Your comment is exactly the type of stuff I hoped to hear. I had assumed it the other way around - that using something like that spray shellac would help retain the detail of wood grain. And I definitely used wood to make sure it looked like it was built of wood!

Thanks for the input!

Kevin
 

GeeTee

Well-Known Member
Heres an old Gloor Craft KIt ? I started about 30 years ago .

Brown / black / grey or driftwood wash applied first to walls and cornice moldings then Elmers rubber cement dabbed in various key places (walls edges of cornice) then painted .

Once dry , masking tape /toothbrush or small wire brush is used to remove the rubber cement and "peel" the paint.

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You can alternate paint and rubber cement to create a building thats been painted and repainted.
 

kchildress

New Member
I've got a dilemma. There doesn't seem to be a can (or three) of pure white acrylic model spray paint on the North American continent. I'm looking for others to share their experiences with painting balsa with spray paints other than acrylic.

I've read dozens of threads on this topic and I just don't see folks explicitly, specifically, stating what spray's they are using. Lots and lots of people explain they just use "cheap rattle can sprays", but no specifics on what that is. Are we talking laquer, enamel, what? Any brand that you think outshines the others? Where are you getting it? Most importantly, does it cover well and retain very fine detail?

I've decided to spray the balsa straight and not sealing the wood first. I don't care if that takes 20 light coats and a month to complete. Today I tested three different enamel sprays that I had laying around from three different manufactures - one satin, one gloss, and one flat. I took it real slow for the first couple coats. No warping. The third coat I really laid it on just to see if being "wetter" would cause warping and had no problems there.

The only real problem I saw with my tests is the nozzles just suck for very light applications. I'm seeing obvious spattering when I'm trying to lay on a coat of mist.

I've been shopping for Tamiya, Revell Spray Color, and Humbrol. Plenty of those to be found in Europe and Australia, but everything in pure white seems to be wiped out in the U.S.

Thanks in advance for helping me beat a dead horse,

Kevin
 

Ash Pit

Active Member
Your local Hobby shop might have Aero-Gloss Balsa Sealer which works very well for sealing Balsa. Baring the availability of Aero-Gloss wood sealer from your local hardware store may be a good choice. Speaking as an old R/C airplane Modeler/Flyer
 

kchildress

New Member
Yep, been there along with every other place like it. No spray acrylics at any of them. So it brings me back to my original questions ...

In the absence of spray acrylics for modeling: Lots of people explain they just use "cheap rattle can sprays", but no specifics on what that is. I don't see folks explicitly, specifically, stating what spray's they are using. Are we talking laquer, enamel, what? Any brand that you think outshines the others? Where are you getting it? Most importantly, does it cover well and retain very fine detail?

I've been shopping for Tamiya, Revell Spray Color, and Humbrol. Plenty of those to be found in Europe and Australia, but everything in pure white seems to be wiped out in the U.S.

Thanks,

Kevin
 

McLeod

Sprue-n-Glue Victim
Do you have an airbrush?
That's what I use to have better control of a spray bombs contents. Spray bomb paint can be easily decanted by spraying through a short drinking straw into a small glass bottle. Once in the bottle, the paint must be stirred aggressively to release the aerosol gases. Rust-o-leum has an extensive range of paints stocked by most big-box hardware.
 

kchildress

New Member
Do you have an airbrush?
No sir, I don't. I know that's what I need for this project, and others, but its just not in the budget right now. I've rear about the technique you explained and that sounds very interesting.

Can you tell me about the actual type of paints you've used like that? Are they enamels, or other?

And how do those compare to acrylics, if you know?
 

McLeod

Sprue-n-Glue Victim
No sir, I don't. I know that's what I need for this project, and others, but its just not in the budget right now. I've rear about the technique you explained and that sounds very interesting.

Can you tell me about the actual type of paints you've used like that? Are they enamels, or other?

And how do those compare to acrylics, if you know?
Personally, I've always preferred enamels, due to the durability of the finish.
Presently, I use Rust-oleum Painters Touch enamel spray bomb, due to very common availability and wide range of colors. It dries to the touch fairly quickly, but, I try to give a couple of days dry-time to set before moving on.

To decant this paint, I simply spray it through a very short cut drinking straw (1.5" long) into a clean glass, reusable baby food jar. I stir it sufficiently to release the gases. Normally, it does not require thinning for airbrush use. - Should mention safety concerns: not near open flame and in a well ventilated space; wear a mask.

I shy away from acrylics in the airbrush. They dry too fast and do not have a durable finish; in my opinion.

I know, not everyone has or can afford an airbrush. They are a very good investment for the modelling hobby, though. Airbrushes can be picked up for under a 100 bucks. My compressors are just cheap hardware store 'on sale' compressor's; nothing special. - There is certainly a place for the spray bombs convenience; but, nothing beats an airbrush for control and the fine work.
 

GeeTee

Well-Known Member
I have always used Floquil ( no longer made) or Scalecoat II . Floquil was lacquer , not sure about Scalecoat II .


These days I use just plain old Rustoleum for generic painting . If I am trying to be color accurate then I would probably use Scalecoat. There are couple of of MR paint suppliers .

I have seen dual action Chinese made airbrushes for less than $20 (Harbor Freight and Ebay) and Harbor Freight sells a 350 knock off kit for $10 https://www.harborfreight.com/34-and-3-oz-airbrush-kit-62294.html . or a an airbrush kit , dual action , hoses and compressor for $90.

I tend to use acrylics on things like scenery , where color accuracy is not an issue ,I have always found that acrylics don't bond as well and tend to peel up it the surface is smooth (plastics tend to repel water ) .

You can use any compressor with a 1/2 CFM or more just put water trap on it.

If your going to build kits or from scratch I would highly reccommend getting an airbrush , I just don't think you get as good a result ( poor atomization ) from a can especially with the newer low VOC formulations and you waste a lot of paint.
 




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