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Modeling Techniques: Wood grains

My local IPMS club, Lafayette Scale Modelers, holds it’s meetings each month at Hayes Hobby House in Fayetteville, NC, USA. We always hold a raffle, and I’ve been blessed to win a few kits. This last meeting I won Eduard’s 1/48 Albatross D.V Weekend Edition. I normally don’t build WWI aircraft, but I decided to give it a try.

The two reasons I’ve avoided WWI are a fear of rigging, and little to no idea about how to do wood grain effects in anything resembling a convincing manner. Since the kit was free (well, the cost of oa few raffle tickets…) I figured “What the heck?” It’s always a good thing to stretch your modeling skills.

A few months ago, a member of my club had demonstrated how he created wood grain effects, using artists oils over acrylics. His technique seemed simple enough, but I decided to modify it a bit to use artists acrylics.

I started by picking up some artists acrylic paints. Being a cheap modeler, I bypassed all of the more expensive tubes of paint, and went right to the bargain set at my local Hobby Lobby. I found a set of a dozen paints from a company called Reeves for about $6, and figured that would work just fine. It had a wide variety of colors that I figure will find a use for quite a while.

I recalled the presentation at the club started out with painting the area to receive the wood grain with a light tan color that formed the “undercoat”. The lighter the color, the better, I remember the presenter saying. So I decided to go with white for my first attempt, and airbrushed all of the parts in question with a coat of Tamiya white. I put it aside for a day to let it dry.

The next step was to create woodgrain effects by drybrushing the acrylics across the parts. A friend had told me that the Albatross was a light colored wood, almost honey colored. The closest thing to honey in my little paint set was yellow ochre… whatever an ochre is. So I squeezed out a bit of paint onto a handy-dandy bathroom tile. Selecting a wide, flat brush from the paint brush jar, I dabbed the brush into the paint, just on the brushes tip.

I then simply dragged the brush across the surface of the part, making 3 or 4 passes, all in the same direction, trying to keep the bristles aligned with the direction of brushing.

And I’ll be darned if it didn’t look like a hunk of wood. Well…. close enough for government work as they say.

I quickly brushed on the acrylics to the other pieces. In areas where there was raised surface detail, I found it worked well to dab paint along the raised areas edges before drybrushing. When the paint began to run low, I simply dabbed some more and continued the process. Even the interior of the fuselage was quite simple, and looked quite woody when completed.

The whole process took about 2 minutes, and I was quite happy with the effect. I found that you can vary the wood tone colors by changing the undercoat, show here applied to the back of an interior piece… explaining why I left the ejector pin mark.

I’ll later apply my normal acrylic wash techniques over this wood grain, highlighting detail and providing shadow and depth.

I suppose you could even do the undercoat of differing colors to produce an even more interesting effect, and I bet you could do some neat things with masking. One friend suggested masking various panels to make the wood grain run in different directions for different panels. I’ll have to try that.

There are certainly plenty of ways to achieve a wood grain effect, many of which look far more convincing than my efforts. Still, I’m quite happy with this method. Low cost, readily available supplies, and quick and effective results.

Now to figure out that rigging…. can you train spiders?