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Need a tip on staining or coloring the running rigging

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I'm currently building the MS Fair American and am about to start all of the rigging. Does anyone have a tip on how to darken the running rigging?


The color that the running rigging line that comes with the MS kit says it's Manila Hemp, but it looks almost white in color and just does not look good to my eye. I've thought of using all black line for both the standing and running rigging although that is not the proper way but it does help in viewing all of the rigging when the model is complete and there is a light colored wall behind the model.


Anyone have a suggestion or two on what to use for the running rigging to make it show up better and look a little more brown and aged? Maybe a different product or supplier. I've got a good selection of fly tying line, but it's all too thin.


I'm always kit bashing things and changing things for my personal taste and have already done some things different on this build. So you purist don't shoot me for doing something different. 


Thanks in advance for any advice.



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i use a couple of methods. In each case you should unspool all the line you will need since whatever preparation you use, it can't penetrate stuff still on the spool and you will only effect the outer layers. I use one of two methods: most often I wet the thread with water ( a lot of water the thread should be dripping almost), stretch it between two points then I rub a small rag with acrylic paint over the thread,running it back and forth. If the color is too dark remove some of the paint by rubbing the line again with a rag soaked liberally with water. You can, if you work quickly, remove most of the paint if that's what it takes. Let it dry stretched so kinks won't form then coming again if you want it darker. It's done and dry within an hour. The other method I use is diluted acrylic in a tin can and I soak the unspooled thread overnight. A pain in the futtocks to untangle and stretch to dry but maybe more consistent color throughout the thread. Also strong coffee will empart color on white thread this way but will never get very dark. The color of acrylic paint I use is Burnt Umber  or Raw Umber. Any brownish earth tone will work but black works too if thinned enough. In all honesty a brown magic marker can work but probably will age weirdly on the model.

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Potassium Permanganate in the crystal form is  a strong oxidizer that the movie industry uses on props to age the look of wood and rope. Use roughly a teaspoon full in about a cup of water and mix WELL. It will be purple but when applied will turn brown. Wear rubber gloves as the stain is very hard to remove from your hands. DO NOT overlap and allow 24 hrs. to dry.

It can be ordered from your pharmacy. If used on wood buff with 0000 steel wool.

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A number of years ago, I read about using potassium permanganate to stain curley maple muzzle loading rifle stocks.  I bought some and used it to stain a stock.  At first it worked fine but over time it developed an ugly green tint.  I don't know if rigging line would be affected the same way.





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Roger, I simply use fabric dye from the grocery store (RIT brand in this case).  Add some salt to it to make it colour fast - there is a mixing guide on the bottle.  I use 2 part black to 1 part dark brown to get the darker colours.  As Frankie advises, do this on lengths of scale rope off the spool.  I put the dyed line in an old teatowel afterwards to absorb a lot of the excess moisture, then allow to dry draped over a rod with a fishing weight (swivel type) clipped to each end.


Please note, Riga Hemp, in its true form is a pale greyish colour and was used for the running rigging. It got a little more greyish with exposure to salt etc.  It is only the other natural rope fibres (sisal, manila and coir) that are more tan in colour.





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  • 2 weeks later...



This is an age old problem with me too.  When I started building models, I used the rigging supplied with kits, black and a manila color.  As my skills or maybe obsessions progressed i began to make my own rigging and found it necessary to color it.  At first, I followed the advice of many and stained the standing rigging with Minwax Jacobean and the running rigging with a mix of Golden Oak and Special Walnut adding and wiping until I got the desired color.


I later ran into an article written by Erik Ronnberg who recommended Liquid Shoe Polish instead of the oil based stains, I believe stating that the oil based stains would eventually deteriorate.  So I then switched over to a mix of brown shoe polish and black until I achieved the desired effect.  This seemed to work nicely.


Then along comes a new article my Erik, who I respect greatly, that is stating problems with fading on the shoe polish and recommends an oil based paint or dye mixed with turpentine and further dissolving bees wax in this mixture saving the independent processes.  I tried this but was having trouble with the colors so I began using a water based dye stain and independently dissolved bees wax in turpentine and carefully pull the rigging through a piece of cotton dipped in the mixture.  This seems to work nicely for me.  


Sorry I hope this helps some, I still use the shoe polish on the standing rigging because I need to match what was already completed on this model some time ago when I was struggling through on these trials.  I guess I am so fearful of problems occurring with some of these processes because of my early use of CA glue on rigging and the horrid deterioration that it caused over a period of about 20 years or so.  Good Luck!  I hope I have not rambled too much and further confused the matter.

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I teach a materials permanence course to graduate art students at University and often lecture on the longevity of "aging" techniques.   I can point to (if interested) numerous academic articles dealing specifically with the acidity of using tea, tannins or other plant based materials for this purpose.   While truly holding their "age" through numerous artificial aging tests, they ultimately do lead to the fastest molecular breakdown of cellulosic materials (i.e cotton and linen thread/rope).     


In conservation of artifacts we often use Golden and/or Liquitext acrylic paints as they are scientifically formulated for archival use and light-fastness.  As JerseyCity Frank also pointed out they do a marvelous job particularly with aging threads and fabrics.  They do not have degradation products and have been proven in artificial aging tests to hold their color.    Throw a bit of beeswax dressing over the newly toned thread and you have a great modeling material.   


I cant speak to Chucks thread source, but can say that it can sometimes be better to avoid aging all together go with something that already has the right look and tone.  OEM products often do this well...     


A final comment Ill make is that I see so many ship models ruined by "over-aging" so my personal opinion is dont do it you dont have to...



Edited by maturin
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