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Asphalt/bitumen for staining wood?

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I was reading through the build instructions for the Artesania Latina model "Sultan". I noticed that they suggest using a mixture of asphalt and solvent to dye the rubbing strakes.


I can buy asphalt (bitumen) but it usually comes in 14kg buckets, and I anticipate needing a bit less than that. ;-)

I don't want to use acrylic paints since I don't think it will produce the necessary look.


I would greatly appreciate any ideas/suggestions on how to achieve a good result.


Thanks in advance!

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As I recall, many of the Russian builders use this.  I'm not sure where they get it in the small quantities we use.   A quick Google shows some available in a 850 ml can.

"The shipwright is slow, but the wood is patient." - me

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Bitumen can be problematic. It never really dries out completely. However, I don't know about very thin washes of it; perhaps this isn't an issue. In paint it certainly 'crawls' over time and can alligator as well. You could try washes of acrylic or, if you don't want to use that, artists' oil paint. Burnt umber or Van Dyke brown would be better substitutes.

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I bought this product off Ebay and have a couple of jars of it - to me it works very similar to a sepia oil paint thinned wash.  Some of the Russians mix it with Tung Oil as a finish. 



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Hi Neil, very early in my Endeavour build i followed a recommendation to paint the bottom of my hull with bitumen.  I acquired a small can of the bitumen based undercar preserving compound and applied it as was.  It looked great and really simulated the 'brown stuff' used on the hulls before white stuff really well.  It dried reasonably well but as Druxey states not completely.  


Then along came summer and you can guess what happened, it MELTED and went all over the base etc.  Lesson learned, I scraped it off then tried to remove the residue with turps etc but the liquid part of the solution had really penetrated the wood.  the end result was an unexpected really pleasing outcome as it applied a very nice patina to the walnut planks.  You can see the difference in the following photo.


1.  Don't apply as bitumen! :)

2.  Look for smaller quantities in the under car body/chassis preservation compounds .





If at first you do not suceed, try, and then try again!
Current build: HMCSS Victoria (Scratch)

Next build: HMAS Vampire (3D printed resin, scratch 1:350)

Built:          Battle Station (Scratch) and HM Bark Endeavour 1768 (kit 1:64)

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I just built launching ways for a boat and wanted to simulate that "railroad tie" look.  


Wound up mixing one part Matte Medium thoroughly with one part Burnt Umber craft paint.  Added several drops of Black and swirled the mix with end of a toothpick to partially mix.


This yielded a nasty looking brown/black mixture; when applied to balsa sticks (careful not to brush out too much) the effect was reminiscent of wood treated with tar.

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Thanks everyone for the interesting advice and ideas. I will experiment with a few ideas and see what works best. I found some bitumen (super thin black liquid) designed for making things look "old". Not sure what the result will be, but will try it on some spare wood that I have. It is still a way off yet, but when I get to that stage of the build I will post the results.


Thanks again for the great feedback!

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  • 2 weeks later...


Bitumen that Russian are using is not pure bitumen but a patina liquid used in arts for faking antique cracklure. The process is somewhat similar to

black wash that plastic modelers do to highlight detail and scribed panels. Patina liquid is put on finished wood surface (oiled or laquered), it fils

the cracks and grooves, the excess is wiped off. If this liquid is placed on untreated wood, the effect is off a dark wood stain (as mentioned in posts above).

Basically what bitumen patina liquid does is brings out the detail and makes the model look like its few hundred years old. In Europe its made by an Italian company 

Idea (Idea Liquid Bitumen #741).  Judea pitch. Contains white spirit. Gives decorated surfaces an antique appearance. Excellent for darkening cracks and bas-reliefs. Apply with a brush and then wipe with a cotton cloth. Always protect with final varnish.


In US I was able to get Bitumen of Judea which is a similar thing. Just Bitumen will not help you!

Here is an example of Idea Patina used on a model by a Russian modeller


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  • 2 weeks later...

We have a product in South Africa called Waksol F, which amongst other things, are used by beekeepers to treat beehives.(It takes about 2 weeks to dry completely)

It contains mainly Bitumen and some beeswax, which is cool, cause it attracts bees!

Available in 1 litre bottles to 200 litre drums. Over here 1 litre cost less than 3 USD.

Maybe your local beekeeping supplier stock something similar?


Smeared some on a mini chisel this morning to see the effect.20171019_071409.thumb.jpg.f71a1a8e723ee66cd4cf795d9388b561.jpg

Samuel Pepys notes in his diary on 19 July 1667: "the Dutch fleets being in so many places, that Sir W. Batten at table cried, By God,says he, I think the Devil shits Dutchmen."


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Swedish Tar / Hoof oil comes in small jars and gives a nice dark colour It does take time to dry though but also gives of  In my opinion a loverly traditional smell of hemp ropes can be thine easily 

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Several of these posts mention using the bitumin thinned with solvent, especially those of MITBOK and ARCHI.  What is the (functional) difference between these mixtures and simple glaze used by painters and crafts folk.  It is an acrylic mixture of gel consistency, comes in many colors such as VanDyke Brown and is generally available in paint departments.  It is applied to a finished (usually painted) surface, allowed to dry just a little, then scrubbed off.  It lodges in cracks and pores and darkens the surface a little depending on how much you let it dry.


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I think the original post was about dying wood black/dark brown, rather than giving it a antique look ...


These days I would give the wood repeated washes of black or brown acrylic paint. This is uncomplicated and dries fast.


The antique look is essentially simulating the grime accumulated in pores, crevices and nooks, which something different from a patina, which is the surface alteration of a metal under the influence of oxygen and other environmental agents. For the 'antiquing' you just brush on a dark permanent(!) ink or acrylic washes. Before the stuff is dry you can take some off again with a wet brush or you can wipe it off high parts. Doing it in stages, you can finely control the effect.



panta rhei - Everything is in flux



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