Painting and Detailing
Priming for Paint
With such a rough surface you probably could get away without priming but it was still worthwhile as it showed up surface imperfections, allowing an opportunity to try and rectify before final paint. Before priming I sanded down the surface and cleaned with a degreaser to make sure the paint adhered. I bought two cans of primer which at the time I thought would be enough but in the end I must have used five or six.
I stood the submarine up vertically and sprayed a light coating to small sections at a time, spiralling down the submarine until I reached the bottom. I then reworked areas that had been covered too thinly and usually the full can would be used for a single layer.
With the surface painted, imperfections such as delamination and cracking in the Fibreglass will become visible so I applied body filler where I could and used an electric sander to try and even out the surface. Given that the primer would mostly be sanded off I repeated the priming and if necessary I did more rework to smooth out the surface. Knowing when to stop is key because I started chasing perfection and sometimes just replaced one defect with another, so in the end I accepted that I would never get a perfectly smooth surface. Once happy I applied one last coat of primer before marking and cutting out some surface detailing.
With the surface primed it is far easier to mark out some of the surface details. Working out what details there are is just a matter of pulling up photographs and drawings from the internet. In the end I invested in a small scale model which I actually should have done from the start. For the sake of around £10 is well worth it for reference and much better getting a 3D representation of something. It will also help when painting the details.
I marked the surface with a pencil by eye and when satisfied I went over with a felt tip pen just to make the markings clearer for cutting. I used a Dremel engraving tool (107 Engraving Cutter) to cut shallow grooves into the Fibreglass where I marked out the details and I just cut the details freehand as there was no simple way to cut the straight lines on the contoured surface. The best method I found was to cut a very shallow groove to start with as you can get a straighter line, as there is very little resistance, and then cutting deeper on each pass to the required depth using the previous groove as guide for the tool bit. These details bring a bit more character to the model and was well worth the effort.
For the power and reset switches I chose to for now just to simply to have them recessed in countersunk holes on the top of the coning towers where the periscopes would raise from. I also drilled holes to hold the power and HDD LED, with the power LED recessed in the front of the coning tower and the HDD LED protruding from the rear.
As well as the recessed details there are also some protruding details and it would have been a shame to do one without the other. So I made the protruding shapes from modelling clay and then cured them using a heat gun on the low setting, heating it up gently without melting it. Another option is to pull off the modelled protrusions and bake them in the oven and then stick them back on after.
With all the holes drilled and protrusions modelled I chose to apply one last layer of priming, ready for final paint.
It was difficult to fathom out the exact colour match for the submarine but with some research I went for flat black and it was close enough for me although compared to the scale model I bought, it seemed a little dark with the colour of the model being more grey in colour, but the photos of the Astute being closer to black than grey.
I used the same method I used to apply the primer, just being more precise and careful with the coat thickness as you don’t want it too thin or too thick that it will run. I bought two cans of spray paint thinking that would be enough but in truth I could have done with another.
This is where about nine months of effort starts to come together and it’s at this point that it was make or break. I knew towards the end that I needed to get to this point quick before I lost my patience and ended up throwing all the work in the bin. It does look a bit bare and naked once painted but I knew the painting the detail will bring it to life.
For the detailed painting such as the markings etc it was just the case of working out which details were needed either from looking through photographs or copying the scale model. I then drew some of the details into word and set the required scales to make some templates to use. I printed and then cut them out so they were ready to attach to the hull to provide a nice neat stencil. However what I didn't appreciate that by using normal paper the paint would run through resulting in rough edges. It seems obvious but I didn't give it a second thought as it was fairly thick paper. Transferring onto grease proof paper or removing the stencils straight after use would have helped.
Along with the stencils I made which were held in place with masking tape I also used fine line masking tape which comes in various widths and I think I used 3 mm wide tape, and doubled up. This stuff is great as I was able to lay very straight lines by holding the tape taught and running it around the hull. Its also great at marking a line with a precise width and then using regular masking tape at either side of the line and then the fine tape can be removed. I used this technique for the vertical lines on the hull which wrap around the circumference.
With everything masked up it was just the case of applying paint, a single colour at a time. I started with white (matt white water based paint) as it was the dominant colour on the hull. I used matt yellow for the horizontal dashes towards the bottom of the hull and also a matt red for one of the vertical lines, both using Acrylic model paint. There were some details such as the hatches and the like which could only really be done by hand. As the colour bled through some of the stencils I had to remove the stencils and using some more of the fine masking tape I toughed up some of the edges with a flat black acrylic paint and it came up nicely.