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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bolt Action - The Agony of Humidity (Frosting your Models with Matte)

It was pretty humid today, and I decided to spray some matte varnish on tanks. Care to know how it went?

I'm a bad decision dynamo! Read on to find out all the sad, tragic steps in this latest misadventure.

This fantastic voyage began like so many others involved with my Bolt Action hobby, with a fabulous new list idea. I promptly ordered two SU-122 tanks and they arrived last night to be treated to a scrub down before a good spraying with Plastic Soldier Company's "Russian Tank" spray.

This phase of the plan went off without a hitch. I'm sorry to disappoint, but don't worry, it gets better. After spraying them down, I went to work adding some additional stowage as well as some captured German equipment such as an MG-42 with ammo boxes; a Gewehr 43; a bag of potato masher grenades; a German pistol and binoculars - basically all sorts of things I felt a tank crew without a MMG on their tank might want. I was pretty proud of the stowage work I'd done, giving these unimpressive but not terrible models a bit of life. Perhaps that pride is what irritated Poseidon enough to cause my later humidity issues.

The colors went on the tank well enough afterwards, and with a wash and a muddying of the sloppy looking tracks done as well, I stepped outside into the relatively cool night air to spray these bad boys with a bit of matte. Before I go any further, I'd like to say an SU-122 article is coming out at some point - these machines really warrant a look for some interesting reasons I won't have room to mention presently.

Of course, I didn't actually check the humidity before going out there to spray coat these finished models. As I had mentioned, it felt cool, if not sticky outside. I'd received bad results spraying matte in the winter, spring, summer, and fall in this forsaken land and considered any attention to such a thing as "appropriate conditions" about as necessary as looking at the floor of a Historicon restroom when you enter. When it comes to spraying matte in Central NY, you're either going to step in it, or you're not. There's no reason behind it - just wizardry and witch craft and other "sciences" at play. Much like these esteemed scholars I just don't understand what's going on when I spray that stuff in any season.

This piece of cardboard I used to hold the tanks was originally jet black from priming other models black previously. Of course, I didn't see this before noticing the tanks, but I think this makes for nice drama, no? Seriously, look at how frosty that got! They tell me the tiny microscopic wizard spell beads of matte finish spraying forth from the spray can pick up even tinier, microscopic-ier beads of water that are apparently suspended in the air by some witch's incantation on humid days. Call it what you will, Mister Doctor PhD; all I need to know is that the spray I intended to preserve the look of my tanks with turned something black into something white. Turning black into white strikes me as the exact opposite of preserving something's original color. Turning black into white seems like something out of a fantasy - or a science fiction story.

Gah! The Ice Queen hath wrought her icy wrath upon my SU-122! Seriously though I considered leaving it and calling it intentional. Enough of the original color remained, since the frosting seemed to concentrate on the sharp edges. It was an accidental highlight! Right? No! As you can see from the Gewehr 43 on the above tank, the frosting was brutal to some of my favorite little pieces on these tanks. It's like this "science" that you speak of decided to concentrate all its malevolence on the features of the SU-122s I enjoyed the most. Take another look at it - the wood inside the bucket maintained close proximity to the original color, and the rest of it looks completely frozen. This was not something I could just deal with. No, my fellow BARbarians, this would require a trip to the true source of all things magical in order to rectify. I was going to need to take a trip to the wise old hermit's hut off in the outskirts. I was going to need The Internet.

Oh, the insanity that was The Internet's Response! Some wise old hermits told me that I should have dipped my tanks in Mop and Glow before spraying them, which was not helpful at all being beyond that stage. Others told me that you could stick your tanks in the oven at 225F for ten minutes, which would cause the magical water poisoning to disappear but probably also melt the model. This seemed like robbing Peter to pay Paul; or perhaps a more appropriate saying would be "Melting your tank in order to boil off the water molecules frosting its surface." Yes, I think I'll start using that one.

Other spells the hermits suggested to me consisted of blow drying the tanks until the frost disappeared, which seemed logical to me if not for the fact that this was no ordinary ice; spraying the model again in an environment that didn't have a sorcerer's humidity curse cast upon it; or rubbing it down with olive oil.

"Blow drying a tank? Cooking the tank in the oven? Ridiculous! I'll do something sensible like anointing my tanks with olive oils in order to restore their inner calm and sense of rightness."

After performing the ritual oiling and reciting the litany - some would call it rubbing every millimeter of the tank with a cotton ball soaked in olive oil while cursing like a Soviet tanker - the frosting seemed to disappear. Unfortunately the tank was now covered in oil I hadn't previously seasoned; and besides, I hadn't thought to bring along any dipping bread. This meant I was going to have to wash it off with soapy water.

Not only do you find out a lot about yourself while you're attempting insane rituals to recover your models, but you find out a lot about the durability of their paint. I had never fully submerged models before, and I was surprised to note that they survived the ordeal well enough. No paint scrubbed off, and no tiny pieces lost their bonds during the process. The entire process was repeated once, then I realized I needed to hurry up and publish an article, and I decided to stop so I could write this warning/guide.

I wish I had taken a picture of these tanks before trying to spray them with matte. After the wash, they were definitely on the shiny side, and I think at this point I have them at least very close to their original state. They had a bit of air drying left to do, as some water was collecting in hard to reach places, but for the most part, I can say I was very satisfied with the results of the olive oil / soapy water scrub treatment.

Looking back at the original frosty shots, I'm very happy with the results. I would have liked if the matte had actually toned down the shine from all that wash I'd applied, but for now I'm just happy that I was able to bring it back to a pre-frosting presentation.

Have any horror stories? Let us know about it on the forum! - Judson

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