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FROM THE February 2010 ISSUE

Painting tip

Q: I’m not exactly a newcomer to this hobby, but quite frankly, painting scares me – particularly the thought of ruining an “okay” paint job by sanding it and turning it into a disaster.  

As a result, the models on my display shelf have so much orange peel they look like the Piggly Wiggly produce department.  

How can I get over this?

Chris Edgely
via E-mail

Ken: On a positive note, Chris, you still have your sense of humor, so all is not lost. (For those of you who don’t have one in the neighborhood, Piggly Wiggly is a grocery store chain with a really cool name.)

This hobby is all about learning new techniques and expanding our modeling horizons, so our advice is for you to take a deep breath, dive in, and start sanding.  

There are many tricks and approaches when it comes to polishing out a paint job – too many to list here – so we’ll try to give you an overview of the process:

Simply (but unscientifically), sanding is the process whereby big scratches are replaced with smaller scratches, until it reaches a point where the scratches are so imperceptible that light doesn’t diffuse as much and we see reflections in the surface.  

The trick is to approach the process with a certain amount of finesse, so you don’t sand through the paint, while being aggressive enough to eliminate the orange peel.  

Start by using appropriate automotive sandpaper – which is made for this purpose – and not “lumber” grade paper. An aftermarket polishing kit, which contains several grades of fine polishing cloth, will do the trick, too.

Think of orange peel as waves on a lake, with high spots and low spots.  Your first sanding pass, with whatever grade of paper you decide to use, will cut down the high ridges and flatten the surface.

At this point the surface will look smooth, but dull.

From there it’s a matter of further reducing the depth of the scratches until the surface shines.   

There’s much more to the process than we could ever cover in this column. Look through some back issues for more information, or check the Kalmbach Library for books on painting techniques.

We know you’ll feel better about painting once you get one or two shiny ones under your belt, Chris.


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