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As a newbie to ship modeling I have some questions that I need some help with.


Do I use primer prior to painting a wooden model? What are the advantages or are there none?


I hear using varnish as a finish on most of the threads. My hardware store tells me that varnish is not used anymore and polyurethane replaced it. What are the advantages of using varnish instead of polyurethane?

Why is a  "satin" finish preferable compared to "glossy"?


I really need some advice to give my models a professional look


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I use matt varnish on bare wood and matt paint on coloured areas. I can recommend the Admiralty range of paints & varnishes from Caldercraft/ JoTiKa

 Avoid using varnish over paint as it can leave a "Milky" bloom on the surface, I learned the hard way & had to re paint most of my model recently! Also I would avoid a satin or gloss finish as it tends to look toy like in my opinion. All the best & welcome to this great site "Sygreen", Geoff

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I use polyurethane matt and satin but dilute 50/50 with low odour turps. On small areas I brush it on but on larger areas such as decks, I apply with a single action airbrush. I find this gives a smoother more even finish that an aerosol can. Because the poly is thinned, I usually apply at least 4 coats. It tends to dry a lot quicker than 100% poly. I agree with Geoff, Admiralty paints are excellent both for brush and thinned in an airbrush.

Edited by hornet
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Primer is to seal the wood and provide a smoother surface for follow on paint or "varnish". 

Shellac (thinned to 50% if using a product already in solution) is the classic primer.

Tung oil diluted to 50% (1:1) by mineral spirits is another type of primer. Tung followed by primer strength shellac is another choice.

Classic vanish is boiled Linseed oil heated to dissolve in shellac - not really a DIY product.

Sand and Sealer is a product that is primarily intended for use on open grain/open pore wood like Oak, Hickory, Walnut.  It tends to be thick in consistency and will leave a layer that might be out of scale (too thick).

The reason that a mat finish (egg shell) is preferred is one of scale effect.  Most of us produce models that are between 1:50 and 1:100 of the actual vessels.  An actual vessel with a high gloss finish would appear as having a mat finish if viewed clearly from a distance where it was  seen as 1-2% of its actual size.

To use polyurethane on your model is a matter of whether you are prejudiced against using plastic on your model.

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Please please please avoid shiny finish on old ships. In my opinion, that is the quickest and easiest way to ruin a model. Bright or shiny finishes should be used only on modern yachts, racing boats or the like. You get the idea.

For old ships a matte or satin (eggshell finish) is much preferable.

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