As stated in the kits instructions—“Inspired by the classic TV and movie rockets of the 60’s & 70’s, the Mercury 9 Rocket is a modern take on the classic rocket designs…..” Yes it is; and really cool looking too 🙂
Faced with the need to find a suitable subject on which to test the new Mission Models Chrome paint, I wandered aimlessly around Skyway Models, my favorite local hobby shop, until I happened upon the Mercury 9 Rocket by Pegasus Hobbies. Perfect!
Having grown up on a steady diet of sci-fi movies from the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s, the model appealed to my sense of nostalgia for those old films. Most importantly the Mercury 9 would be a good test subject, as it lends itself to a myriad of schemes that could include White Chrome, Black Chrome, and Colored Metalics. Being a pretty avid airplane modeler this represented a big change from my normal fair but I was looking forward to it. Colored metallics? This was going to be fun!
This is a basic and rather large kit that comes together very quickly. The kit has a very low parts count and the fit of the major components is acceptable with a few exceptions (see Main Body below). The parts have large sprue gates that require clean up but there’s very little flash. The plastic was a bit waxy on my example so all the sprues were washed in denatured alcohol (Note: Crown Denatured Alcohol “Cleans Glass” on can) prior to use.
The kit instructions were followed except for a few points. The small crew rocket wasn’t glued to the main body. Here I opted to leave them separate for ease of travel and presentation. Similarly the instructions call out for the fin halves of the main rocket to be glued onto the main body. I modified the kit parts so the fins could be assembled prior to attaching them to the main body. This greatly simplified painting and masking. Lastly, a fitting on the side of the main body intended for some fuel lines or power cables was modified as these connections were not used in this build.
A Brief Word on Metallic Finishes:
Before we start the painting process lets take a moment to consider what’s required to achieve a superior finish when spraying any metallic paint like Steel, Aluminum, or Chrome, be it a lacquer, enamel, or acrylic. The suggestions and techniques that follow are not meant to be an in-depth discussion on painting metal finishes; numerous books on the subject are available. They are simply the techniques that I’ve used to my satisfaction and the ones most relevant to successfully spraying Mission Models Chrome. That said there are as many ways to pull off a good metallic finish as there are modelers mixing up metallic paints. With that in I mind, please take whatever you find useful from the following suggestions, combine it with your own experience, and develop a technique that best suites you.
The most important consideration to achieving a good metallic finish is the smoothness of the surface you’re painting. How smooth you can get that surface will make or break the final finish. I can’t emphasize this point enough. Suffice to say that even the tiniest scratch or stray dust particle will become magnified under a metallic paint. This is especially true with a Chrome finish, which in its best rendering mimics a reflective mirror.
In addition to the obvious scratches and dents, any deformation of the surface like a dimple or molding mark becomes more visible when under a coat of metallic paint. In particular seams and areas that have been puttied can have a roughness and/or porosity that will completely ruin any metal finish, especially polished aluminum or chrome. In short, it’s best to invest as much time as is required to ensure that the surface of the model is as smooth as possible prior to priming/painting.
Once you get the surface of the model smooth, another variable to consider is which base coat to use under the metallic paint. Its common to use a gloss black base coat especially for chrome or polished aluminum. This is base coat I’ve used most often for these finishes.
My approach to preparing a model for a metallic finish that’s been puttied and/or sanded would normally entail spraying it with a filler coat. I normally use either Mr. Surfacer 1,000 or 1,200 depending on the severity of the scratches to be filled. Similarly Alclad Gloss Black w/ Filler (#ALC309) also works great for this application. Wet sanding and buffing the coat of Mr. Surfacer with Micromesh (4,000, 6,000 and 8,000 grit) is then required before spraying a gloss black base coat.
For a gloss black base I usually use Alclad Lacquer Gloss Black, which shoots beautifully and provides a smooth and shiny finish when dry. With a solid gloss black coat established, properly applied reflective metallics like polished aluminum and chrome will give you a mirror-like finish. The degree of “mirror-like” being largely dependent on the depth and clarity of the gloss coat AND the absence of any imperfections in the plastic, primer, or paint.
Sounds rather challenging doesn’t it. Well, it is. Producing a quality metallic finish takes some experience and most importantly, practice. But, like most modeling “tricks” it’s a matter of having the patience to practice the required techniques on old models or sheet plastic till you’re satisfied with the results: time well spent.
Spraying Mission Gloss Black:
As with lacquer-based metallics like those from Alclad and AK Interactive, Mission Models Chrome should be sprayed on top of a gloss black base coat to achieve a reflective Black Chrome finish. To facilitate achieving a nice gloss black coat the folks at Mission Models have developed a Gloss Black especially for use with their Chrome paint. Like their Chrome, Mission Models Gloss Black is an acrylic.
In order to achieve the smoothest finish as possible, it’s best to apply Mission Gloss Black in multiple light dry coats. A dry coat is achieved by holding the airbrush farther away from the model than if you were spraying a line. While doing so adjust both the paint flow and air pressure so that the paint partially dries before hitting the surface you’re spraying. If properly delivered, a dry coat is not shiny at the point where the paint is hitting the surface since the paint isn’t sufficiently wet to reflect light. It is diffuse and flat.
Be patient and build the Black Gloss up gradually using multiple light passes. Avoid spraying a wet “fill” coat on top of the dry coat as you might if spraying a lacquer or an enamel. If done improperly the wet paint will most likely swirl and fish eye leading to imperfections that will mar the final finish. As multiple coats build up you’ll gradually see the surface turn from flat to matte to semi-gloss to gloss (see below).
Preparing Mission Gloss Black for Spraying:
For spraying Mission Gloss Black, I dilute it with Mission Thinner at a ratio of paint to thinner of 80:20 (8 drops paint: 2 drops Thinner). In addition, I add ~2-3 drops of Mission Polymix Additive per airbrush paint cup (a volume of ~2ml). I spray this as a dry coat at ~12psi. All the rocket sub-assemblies were shot with an H&S Evolution fitted with a 0.2mm tip.
The following photographs were taken to illustrate the process of spraying Mission Gloss Black using a dry coat technique. Our victim subject is one of the three main fins.
The airbrush was held sufficiently far away from the model (3-4 inches) so as to deliver a diffuse light, dry coat of Mission Gloss Black. One pass constituted moving the brush from left to right across the fin. After ~10 passes note that the fin is flat (not shiny) and that there is very little black color seen but more a dirty grey due to the diffuse light coats of Gloss Black that have been applied.
After ~25 passes the black color is now easily seen. Also note the finish is starting to get slightly shiny.
With 35 passes completed the fin is looking very black in color and a shine is now evident.
After ~50 passes the fin is now completely gloss black. Note the slightly dimpled texture of the black coat at this point (~5 minutes after spraying). This texture will decrease as the gloss black dries.
To ‘Mesh or Not to ‘Mesh: That is the Question:
Sprayed as described above Mission Models Gloss Black will serve as a sufficiently smooth base coat for Mission Chrome (see below). However if the modeler desires a true mirror-like finish, Mission Black Gloss can be wet buffed with Micromesh to achieve an even smoother shinier finish. I found that a gentle wet buffing with cold soapy water using Micromesh pads of 8,000 and 12,000 worked great. Prior to any buffing allow Mission Gloss Black to dry for ~24 hours.
Spraying Mission Chrome:
Just like Mission Models Gloss Black, Mission Models Chrome is best applied using multiple light dry coats. After shaking the bottle thoroughly to suspend the aluminum pigment I spray Mission Chrome straight from the bottle at 12 psi with 2-3 drops of Mission Polymix Additive added per ~2ml airbrush paint cup.
Build the chrome up slowly using multiple light passes. When the reflective chrome finish begins to appear use caution as too much Chrome will make the finish less reflective and more like white aluminum. Learning how to gauge when a sufficient amount of Chrome has been applied is largely dependent on experience and practice.
After 10 passes as described above the fin is starting to look silver but not shiny chrome.
Twenty dry coat passes with Mission Chrome produces a nice black chrome finish. And, as mentioned earlier, every stray piece of dust or micro-schmutz becomes visibly pronounced.
As another example: the main rocket engine mount. This circular piece was first shot with Mission Gloss Black followed by Mission Chrome as described above. Note that the finish is quite nice except for the occasional stray dust particle compliments of my photo-booth.
Making Colored Metallic Paints with Mission Chrome:
I wanted to test making colored metallics out of Mission Chrome by adding Mission paints to the mix. Jon Tamkin, the Mission Models Grand Poobah told me this could be done and gave me a few pointers.
What a blast this turned out to be! Mission Chrome can be tinted with any of the colors from the Mission Models range by simply adding the paint to the Chrome. As a test I added a few drops of Mission Blue to an airbrush paint cup (~2ml) of Mission Chrome and the result was a very nice metallized blue when shot: awesome. The intensity of the color can be increased by simply adding a few more drops of paint to the mix.
To test this out, I first painted the main rocket intakes with Mission Gloss Black delivered as multiple dry coats.
The intake was shot with Mission Chrome applied as a dry coat as described above.
The intakes were then masked with Tamiya tape preparatory to being shot with metallic blue. Note that the tape was placed directly over and burnished onto the previously shot coat of chrome.
Metallic blue was made by adding a few drops of Mission Blue to an airbrush paint cup of Mission Chrome diluted for spraying as described above. This was applied as a dry coat at ~12 psi with an H&S Infinity fitted with a 0.2mm tip.
With the intakes painted I set about preparing the main body of the rocket for painting.
The main rocket is composed of two halves that after some adjustments with files and sandpaper fit together acceptably well. Additional work was required to fill and blend the main seam on each side of the assembly.
A sufficient amount of putty was used on one side that I opted to spray the entire body with White Gunze Mr. Surfacer 1,000 to ensure as smooth a finish as possible preparatory to being sprayed with chrome. When dry the Mr. Surfacer was first wet sanded with Alpha 1,000 grit sandpaper followed sequentially with Micromesh pads of 4,000 thence 8,000 grit.
With the surface smooth but not buffed to a reflective finish I opted to test how Mission Chrome would adhere to a base coat of Mr. Surfacer by skipping the Black Gloss step. Mission Chrome was diluted as described above and applied directly onto the Mr. Surfacer using multiple dry coats. The result was a velvety smooth white aluminum finish that looked awesome and could easily be used to mimic a natural metal finish on an aircraft model or similar.
Preparatory to shooting the metallic blue panels the main body was masked with Tamiya tape. This was done within one hour of shooting the main body with Mission Chrome.
Metallic blue was mixed from Mission Chrome and Blue as described above and applied as a dry coat. When dry the taped were removed to reveal tight paint lines and more importantly no damage to the chromed areas that had been masked.
Tinting Mission Chrome to Aluminum:
As a quick way to test how aluminum-like Mission Chrome can be made to look by adding Mission paints, a few drops Mission Grey was added to a paint cup of Mission Chrome and the resulting mix was used to shoot the engine pods on the fins of the main rocket. Prior to spraying, the fins were masked with Tamiya tape. The result was a very aluminum-like finish the hue and color of which could be changed by adding lighter or darker shades of grey. This will be a handy paint for aircraft modelers wanting to do natural metal finishes but not wanting to expose themselves to the fumes inherent when using enamels and lacquers: cool stuff.
The Crew Rocket:
The small crew rocket that sits atop the main rocket body was first shot with Mission Gloss Black. The nose cone of the rocket was then wet buffed sequentially with 8,000 and 12,000 grit Micromesh pads followed by a dry buffing with a Kimwipe tissue. This resulted in a mirror-like finish.
The nose cone and the small side crew door were then shot with Mission Chrome as described above. After drying (~2hrs) the cone was masked with Tamiya tape preparatory to painting the rest of the rocket. The main body was painted with Mission Chrome to which a few drops of Mission Yellow and Orange were added. This was applied as multiple dry coats as described above.
The painted assemblies were glued together using thick CA (Bob Smith). The small black bands around the crew rocket, main rocket, and main fin engine pods were made with strips of black decal film.
The spherical tops of the engine pods were painted first with Mission Gloss Black thence Mission Chrome tinted with a few drops of yellow and green. It was late and I was getting weird. The mix however produced subtle yellowish hint to the tops that was just what I was looking for.
The rocket base was quickly assembled with thin Tamiya glue and sprayed with Mission Black Primer. The base was then shot with a light coat of Mission Dunkelgelb leaving some of the black showing to confer a sense of depth.
This was hoot. Being off my normal aircraft court I found the build refreshing and fun. Between the size (this is a tall model) and the mix of chrome and colored metallics; it’s an eye-catcher. Moreover, the painting process allowed me to test out the new Mission Chrome and I have to say there’s a lot of utility to this acrylic-based metallic paint. The ability to make custom colored metallics by simply adding Mission paints makes for endless possibilities. Moreover, the ability to shoot a metallic finish on a model the size of the Mercury 9 and not chase the family dog out of the house due to fumes is a good thing in my experience. Highly Recommended!
Now I gotta go paint something!
More Rocket Pics Below: