Wagon Weathering with Mick Bonwick - Let's Get Involved! — Accurascale Skip to content
Wagon Weathering with Mick Bonwick - Let's Get Involved!

Wagon Weathering with Mick Bonwick - Let's Get Involved!

Ever wanted to add that extra realism to your models with weathering, but were too daunted by the task? Do you want to learn new skills and take your models to the next level? Welcome to the first in our 'Let's Get Involved' series! 

We want you to be able to bring out the very best in your Accurascale models (as well as others!) so we are going to bring you a number of tutorials on adding that bit of wow factor to your wagons. We begin with a weathering tutorial for our HUO hoppers from Mick Bonwick. These techniques can be added to many different wagon models. So, we will now hand you over to Mick and let's get involved! 

1. Materials to be used

The idea is to use only a few products to weather this hopper to give you an idea of what can be achieved. Having said that, an airbrush will be used on this tutorial to do the underframe and the inside of the hopper body, but that is to cut down on the time needed to do the tutorial. A very similar result can be achieved using layers of Dullcote and weathering powders.

From left to right, AK Interactive Burnt Umber pigment, Testor’s Dullcote, Railmatch Frame Dirt enamel, AK Interactive Asphalt Road Dirt pigment and AMMO by Mig Tracks Wash. The brushes to be used are a ½” flat shader, a filbert and a rigger. I’ll explain the reasons for these choices as we go along.

Most of the work on this model will be with pigments, so to ensure that a suitable surface is available for them, a coat of Testor’s Dullcote is applied to the model before starting.

2. The Underframe

A thin mix of Railmatch Frame Dirt is mixed in the airbrush cup. The paint is thoroughly mixed in its jar before doing anything else, so that there are no unmixed lumps of pigment that could block the airbrush nozzle. To further limit that possibility, white spirit (the only thinners needed for enamel paints) is placed in the airbrush cup first. By the time the paint is added, the neat white spirit will have travelled as far as the nozzle, meaning that the first thing to pass between the needle and the nozzle will not cause a blockage.

A guide to how much each of thinners and paint to use for this task is 5 drops of thinners (from a disposable pipette) to a brush full of paint (in this case a standard round brush, size 4). This proportion will usually be the best starting point for any weathering task, and it can then be made thinner or thicker to suit the work in hand. Mix thoroughly in the cup.

3. A Thin Coat

The airbrush has given an even covering of frame dirt across the whole underframe and no attempt has been made to prevent overspray onto the bodywork. This will be utilised later, when work starts on the body. If working without an airbrush, burnt umber pigment is laid down onto all chassis components, using the filbert brush. If the surface will not accept enough pigment in these circumstances, apply another layer of Dullcote and then apply more pigment once that is dry.

4. Wash and Rigger

Hoppers accumulate dust and dirt very quickly. And rust takes hold as soon as the painted surfaces are damaged. Accumulations are greatest in corners and damage is at its worst on edges, so a good way of representing this is to use a wash in these places, applied by using the rigger brush. To work effectively the wash needs to be thinned even further by dipping the rigger brush in white spirit before dipping it into the bottle of wash.

5. Capillary Action

Capillary action is utilised to get the thin fluid to run into all the corners and detail. Remove any blobs of thinned wash that might be on the tip of the brush just by touching the tip of the brush against the edge of the bottle.

Holding the tip of the brush against a corner or edge will send the fluid racing along the detail. You may find blobs appearing, but don’t worry about those because they will be dealt with later.


6. Corners and Edges Done

The wash has been applied to all the areas where dirt and rust would have started to accumulate. A guide to this was found in Paul Bartlett’s photographs which you can view here.

It’s always best not to imagine how weathering happens. Use a photograph as reference whenever possible.

There are some areas where wash has been placed, for example on bodyside bracing ribs, to represent other areas of rust.

7. Manipulation of Wash

The applied wash has been left to dry for about 30 minutes and is now being manipulated with a damp brush. The ½” flat shader has had a couple of drops of white spirit dropped onto the bristles, rather than being dipped into the white spirit, and is being used to drag some of the wash downwards from the top bodyside edges.

The effect of this is to replicate the vertical movement of dirt and rust generated by rain and gravity. If the brush is made too wet before starting this exercise, too much material will be removed too quickly and a tide mark will be created, as you will see from the right-hand end panel.


8. Distressing of body panels

With the brush still only damp, the bristles have been rubbed in a random pattern around each of the lower body panels to disrupt the even layer of paint applied with the airbrush. This has the effect of taking some off and moving some into corners, but leaving random areas still ‘dirty’.


9. Pigment and Filbert

The filbert brush is used to apply pigment, making use of the soft but firm bristles shaped with a rounded end and flattened rather than circular. The shape allows the pigment to be applied to all sorts of places and areas with just the one brush.

10. Application Method

The inside of the lid of the pigment jar will have a thin layer of pigment attached to it, and it is from this layer that the pigment is taken to place on the model. Avoid the temptation to dip the brush in the jar, you’ll just make a mess. I know from experience! The right-hand body panel has had the beginnings of pigment applied around the top and left-hand edges.

11. Body Sides Completed

All bodyside panels have now been treated with the pigment. After placing the pigment on the panel edges, the filbert has been used to drag it downwards to create the faint vertical streaking on the panels. The filbert was then dragged horizontally across the strengthening ribs, but without adding any more pigment to the brush. The very fine residue on the bristles is deposited on all the raised detail.

12. Levers and Handles

A damp (white spirit again) brush has been dragged (gently!) across the handles and levers to remove some of the paint so that the white safety covering is revealed. Most, if not all, photographs will show this to be the case.

13. The Interior

A piece of card has been cut to protect the sides from materials now to be applied to the interior, being made to fit snugly around the top edge. The interior had the Dullcote applied to it at the beginning, just the same as the rest of the wagon.

14. Airbrushing or Pigment

Dullcote and pigment layers can be used to build up the colours of the interior, but an airbrush was used for the purposes of the tutorial. The effect of airbrushing a thin mix into a complex shape such as this wagon interior is that some areas are not completely covered.

In this view the angles of corners can be seen to have less paint on them than other areas. The air pressure from the nozzle keeps the paint from settling because of the disrupted airflow. This can be overcome by lowering the air pressure, but in this instance the characteristic is being used to prepare the surface for pigment application.

15. Pigment

The burnt umber pigment has been used to cover the gaps left by the airbrush, and the very slight difference in tone has been used to alter the monotone of the airbrushed paint. The fine texture of this pigment has added a level of relief to the inner surfaces of the hopper.

16. The Result

There is more that could be done to further highlight the details on this model, but the primary aim was to show how to use just a few materials and tools to turn the pristine contents of the box into something that has obviously been earning its keep.

17. A Comparison

The version in the background was weathered without the use of an airbrush and is shown here for comparison purposes. Other than the underframe and interior all other materials and tools were the same as this worked example.

We hope you enjoyed this tutorial and dive in and have a go! These tips can also be applied to our O gauge model of this wagon. We would like to extend a very special thanks to Mick for this tutorial, and we will bring more to you soon. Email us at ideas@accurascale.co.uk with your suggestions for future tutorials that you would like to see. 

Mick offers classes on weathering at the Pendon museum and runs a great blog on RMWeb which you can visit here, as well as maintaining a very interesting Flickr account which you can see here! 

Fancy a go yourself? We have a very limited supply of HUOs left in stock. Shop here for OO gauge, here for O gauge, or check out your local 'Accurascale Approved' stockist for their availability while stocks last!

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