I recently enjoyed four awesome days of Mexican food and modeling camaraderie at the IPMS National Convention in Phoenix, Arizona. This was my fist time going to the “Nat’s” as they say, and I had a great time, dry heat or not 🙂
Many thanks to IPMS Phoenix Craig Hewitt Chapter for organizing and hosting a great show!
While at the convention, I had a blast demonstrating fine-line airbrushing techniques with my 10 y/o Harder-Steenbeck Infinity and chatting with many, many modelers. But the most fun was listening to guys shooting an Infinity for the first time.
This is a family website so here are a few that are publishable:
Guy #1: OMG! This brush is awesome! I’m getting one!
Friend 1: You’re too stupid for a brush that smart.
Guy #2: Okay, that’s the thinnest line I’ve ever shot. I’m hooked. Are you taking credit cards?
Friend 2: How ya gonna sneak it past Jen? You know she’s gonna check your luggage.
And my personal favorite, “Will”……..
“Yea, nice brush, really nice; I couldn’t do that with my Micron. But I don’t need another $400 dollar airbrush.”
$237 and free shipping says I 🙂
“It’s how much? Don’t be lying. The desert is a big place and no one will ever find you.”
What was genuinely surprising however was how many guys hadn’t heard of Harder-Steenbeck. Second to that were guys who knew of the brush but were convinced that a Harder-Steenbeck was too expensive for their budgets. They couldn’t be more wrong.
I’m going to try and address both of these issues with a series of short but long overdue articles describing the features and functions of the Harder-Steenbeck Infinity, Evolution, Colani, and Grafo airbrushes.
Let’s start with the “Cadillac” of the line, the Infinity.
In over 40 years of airbrushing I’ve used brushes made by most of the leading manufacturers including Badger, Thayer & Chandler, Pasche, Neo, Skybow, Olympos, Grex, RichPen, and multiple Iwata’s. Something good or useful can be said of all the aforementioned brands. That said the Harder-Steenbeck Infinity is simply the best airbrush for fine-line work available—period.
When fitted with the 0.15mm tip, the Infinity will easily shoot 0.5mm wide lines with ease. This is the where all the fine-line functions of the Infinity come into play and on this court the Infinity is second to none.
However, when the fine-line work is done, the Infinity can be quickly and easily re-configured (in approximately 2 un-rushed minutes) with a 0.20mm tip for general work or a 0.4mm tip that’s ideal for primers and clear coats. All with one airbrush that starts at $237 dollars and 85 cents (No shipping if ordered from MPS).
So, let’s get into it 🙂
With the mirrored finish of the main body, red colored tailpiece, and gold lever limiter control, the Infinity is a visually pleasing airbrush. The thing that strikes most guys when handling an Infinity for the first time is the weight. Airbrush-lite, this is not. If you prefer airbrushes that are light in your hand, pass on this brush.
If, however, you appreciate clever design, precise German engineering, and the weight and feel of a finely machined instrument, you should consider the Infinity.
This barrel-shaped cover fits snugly over the air cap to protect the underlying nozzle and needle. I place this cover over the tip of my Infinity before storage or travel.
The Infinity Fine-Line Air Cap can accommodate both the 0.15mm and 0.20mm nozzle/needle sets: two different size nozzles—one aircap. It’s small shape and compact design allows for good visibility when working close.
The double-pronged Crown slips over the Infinity Air Cap providing protection to the needle while spraying. The Crown Cap has no effect on the nozzle pattern or spraying performance in any way. Note that the tip of the needle is protected but still easily visible permitting quick inspection and cleaning while spraying.
This is important for fine-line work due to the constant eye you must keep on the tip for small blobs of dried paint that eventually accumulate while spraying. This is true for all airbrushes: an unfortunate mark of the breed. The technical term for these blobs is “Paint Goobers” or just goobers.
Goobers will, of course, fling themselves right into the middle of an otherwise perfect fuselage panel on the Fw-190 you’re mottling: been there, done that, didn’t want the T-shirt.
The only way to prevent the dreaded goobers from marring your finish is to diligently watch the tip of the needle while you’re spraying and carefully remove them with a microbrush moistened with the appropriate thinner. The visibility afforded by the Fine-Line Air Cap fitted with the Crown protector makes inspection and cleaning easy while providing some protection for those of us prone to accidents (myself included).
The gold-colored dial with the chromed knob at the end of the brush is the Lever Limiter “with Memory Function.” The Lever Limiter permits maximum lever travel to be set at the specific point where the brush is shooting the line you desire. Many brushes have a lever limiter on the tail piece however, the limiter on the Infinity has a trick ot two the other limiters don’t.
The value of using a limiter is that, once set, the lever is simply pulled back to the stop while spraying. No need to balance your finger as though it were on a tight rope waiting for the inevitable slip-up and the ensuing run, sag, or spider. This finger balancing act is also a big cause of “airbrush claw” that some guys get from holding the brush with the 3-tonne G.I. Joe, Kung-Fu grip: no more.
To set lever travel, begin by pushing the chromed knob and engaging the Limiter.
Now turn the gold knurled knob clockwise for a smaller line (less travel) or counter-clockwise for a larger line (more travel). Once you’ve found the sweet spot (the lever position that gives you the line you want) you can begin spraying by pulling back to the stop and focus your attention on maintaining a constant distance from the model, not finger balancing.
The eventual build-up of paint goobers on the needle while spraying fine lines is discussed above. In addition to goobers on the exposed portion of the needle, one also has to deal with occasional clogging by goobers within the nozzle.
The easiest way to remove nozzle goobers is to flush them out of the nozzle with a large volume of wet paint. This is normally done by pulling the lever all the way back but, what if the lever limiter is set and you don’t want to lose the sweet spot?
With other lever limiters the easiest way to deal with this is to partially unscrew the tail piece, thereby getting full lever throw and allowing the nozzle to be cleared. The tail piece is then re-tightened maintaining the the pre-set. I did that for many years and it’s a bit of a pain.
With the Infinity, the Lever Limiter can be disengaged by toggling the chromed button while pulling back on the gold knob: toggle-in while pulling out. The nozzle can now be quickly cleared with a full stroke of the lever.
I use the Lever Limiter function every time I do fine line work. It decreases line variability and hand strain while increasing reproducibility and accuracy. The ability to quickly clear the nozzle with a full stroke of the lever then return to the sweet spot with just a toggle of the chromed limiter knob makes spraying fine lines with the Infinity much easier than with other brushes.
The Lever Drag Adjustment
Being a brush designed for fine-line work the Infinity is equipped with a lever drag adjustment permitting you to dial in the amount of feedback or tension exerted against your finger by the lever as it’s pulled back. People with a tendency to over-control may find that increasing the lever drag dampens this out.
If over-controlling the lever is not an issue or you suffer from acute airbrush claw, the lever tension can be reduced to give a feather-lite response: very handy.
The entire line of Harder-Steenbeck airbrushes utilize the same range of paint cups of 0.5, 2, 5, and 15ml. Four different sized cups: one brush. For easy comparison, the average airbrush paint cup is on the order of 2-4ml’s.
Being able to select the appropriate sized paint cup for the job at hand permits better viewing of the area being painted, lessens paint wastage, and obviates the need to stop spraying in order to fill a too-small paint cup. The last example is always fun while trying to lay down a wet coat destined to be a gloss: better move fast! There is an easier way.
Staying true to its intended role of fine-line airbrush the Infinity can be fitted with a very small 0.5ml paint cup. The “Micro Cup” holds more than enough paint for the average fine-line job and most importantly, its low profile affords the modeler an unobstructed view of what’s being painted. No more spraying a line while looking around a too-tall paint cup smack dab in your line of site. This is especially helpful for close-in shots like pre-shading panel lines and mottling.
Other than primers and clear coats, the 2ml cup is what I most often use for general spraying during the build and for finishing smaller scales. I build mostly 1/72, 1/48, 1/35, and 1/32 with an occasional 1/144 kit.
On my bench the 5ml cup is reserved for applying primers and clear coats to larger-scale models (i.e., large 1/72 and bigger).
This rather large cup is great for small production applications and custom automotive painting. You guys building 1/16 Tiger’s or 1/32 B-17’s may find a use for one as well.
The following table summarizes the configurations possible with the Infinity.
Spray Job Tip Size ~Line Width Cup Size
Fine-Line 0.15mm 0.3mm to 3mm Micro
Modulation 0.20mm 0.75 to 15mm 2ml
General 0.20mm ” ” 2-5ml
Clear Coats/Primers 0.40mm 2.0mm to 25mm 5-15ml
At Model Paint Solutions we carry two Infinity packages. The “Infinity Solo” which is comprised of the Infinity fitted with the 0.15mm Infinity tip (Air Cap, Nozzle and Needle), 2ml paint cup, and Crown protector. The Solo is perfect for some one wanting a brush just for Fine- And Super-Fine-Line airbrushing.
The “Infinity 2in1” is comprised of an Infinity fitted with the 0.15mm Infinity tip (Air Cap, Nozzle and Needle), 2ml paint cup, Crown protector and a 0.40mm Infinity tip (Air Cap, Nozzle, and Needle) and a 5ml paint cup.
With the 2in1 you get all the tools required to shoot fine lines and primers/clear coats in one box.
When it comes to utility, versatility, and fine-line performance, there is no airbrush available that compares to the Harder-Steenbeck Infinity. Were it not for the fine-line performance of this brush I could not have pulled off many of the smaller-scale schemes featured in articles on Model Paint Solutions.
Until a better brush comes along, I’ll be using a Harder-Steenbeck of one type or other until I’m too old to cut sprues without safety nippers 🙂
Thanks for reading along and drop me at line at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or require more information.
For more on matching the nozzle size and paint dilution to the specific type of spray job, check out Airbrushing Tips ‘n Tricks: Volume 3.
Now I gotta go paint something with an Infinity of course 😉