Somebody’s got a case of the airbrush Mondays!

The Martin Maryland’s up on its landing gear now, and I’ve added some paint chipping with a silver Prismacolor pencil – it looks great. So I should be speeding through to completion, right? Well, the next items to be added would be the gear doors, but when I tried to paint them with my trusty Paasche VL airbrush, it started spraying the paint in a wide, sloppy fashion (despite the use of the smallest needle/cone combination). I stopped, cleaned the airbrush again, and got the same result. Changing the consistency of the paint didn’t help, either.

It seems stupid and non-scientific to say this, but this happens. I’ve had this airbrush for 21 years and I’ve never had to change any parts except the needle and cone (and the locking nut, which I went without for several years – I’d just tape the needle in place!). It works perfectly about 98 percent of the time, and I keep it meticulously clean and disassembled after use, but once in a great while it refuses to do its thing.

A good example of this came about 12 years ago, when I was trying to finish up a Hasegawa A-1J Skyraider. I’d waited a long time for a new engine – the one I’d bought was caught up in a Canadian postal strike – and when I was ready to paint I loaded up the flat white and went at it. I had the same results as today – a sloppy spray, not a mist but really a lot of small drops.

As I did today, I checked the paint consistency, stripped the airbrush, cleaned it again and reassembled it – to get the same results. I repeated this a couple of times, to no avail. To literally add injury to insult, when I finally threw in the towel I realized that, in my frustration, I had gritted my teeth so hard I chipped a lower front tooth.

My parents spent a lot on orthodontia, so I’ve adopted a more casual attitude (limited to swearing and threats not “to be surprised when you see me opening an Iwata Eclipse, and then you’ll be sorry, you soon-to-be-little-used airbrush!”). Here’s what usually happens: I leave the airbrush alone, come back a little later and it works fine. This happens every time.

This does not make sense, I know: we ought to be able to fix mechanical things; if they don’t perform, something must be wrong. But my old-enough-to-drink-legally airbrush does seem to have a mind of its own, and no matter what I do, when it doesn’t want to paint it’s not going to paint. Fine. Be that way.

Airbrushing is not a science. It’s an art, and airbrushes have personalities all their own. If my VL is having a rough Monday, I can live with it.



  1. Chris,
    This is spot on. It happens to me from time to time. I have four different airbrushes and it has happened with each of them. It is only in the last few years that I’ve learned “not to push a bad situation”, and instead simply hang it up and do something else. If I had learned that simple lesson years ago it would have saved me a lot of frustration.

  2. […] woes continue – and get fixed A few weeks ago, when I last tried to use my airbrush, it misbehaved pretty badly – spitting, spraying off-center, and generally performing poorly. I cleaned it very thoroughly, […]

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