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Speedy builders....Paint or blacken brass?

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The blackening process is well covered here on the forum. Use the search feature to find all the information you’ll ever need for blackening! 👍😀



Current builds: Rattlesnake

Completed builds: Lady Nelson

On the shelf: NRG Half Hull Project, Various metal, plastic and paper models


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I have always just painted with flat black paint. This has the advantage that you can work on a few brass pieces at a time and put them in place on the wood before painting. You can't do this with blackening chemicals because they stain the wood. Paint also works equally well on bare metals of all types and on solder joints. It has the disadvantage that the paint chips off on areas that get wear (like when you are attaching rigging).


I do have brass blackening chemicals and want to give it a try. I think it produces a better (and thinner) black coat and is resistant to chipping. However, if you use solder on brass parts the blackening chemicals will not blacken the solder, leaving a shiny joint that will need painting. Another disadvantage is that you need different chemicals to blacken different metals.


If you produce a large number of metal parts all at the same time blackening them before installing in place is overall faster than painting the individual parts one at a time.


Your title is addressed to "speedy builders" and I am not one of them. I can find time for only small modeling jobs, and I do not have everything planned in advance and all the materials prepared for mass production. So I end up making a few pieces each time, and blackening is not handy for this because of the chemical mixing, metal cleaning, etching and blackening process times. Paint is faster and easier. But if you have everything planned, all the materials on hand, and the time for mass producing all of the metal parts in advance I would recommend blackening.

Edited by Dr PR
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Maybe I've confused the respondents. "Speedy" refers to the Vanguard ship model. Vanguard uses many tiny brass fittings. I have the model complete as far as hull and deck, and the basics of the two masts. Now is time when all those minute fittings will start being used. Honestly, the build has sat at this stage for 6 months. Trying to deal with the fittings has brought me to a standstill. I'm honestly thinking of just starting a new build (HMS Supply) that doesn't require so many tiny brass fittings. I wish Vanguard had made this model larger. Too bad...it's really a nice ship, and Vanguard's illustrated instructions are the best I've encountered.

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Blackening is choice of methods.  For me, for loose parts like rings and eyebolts and always cannons, it's blackening.  For parts on a sprew it's painting though they can be cut off and blackened.   I find that blackening agents do a nice thin uniform blackening.  I don't have an airbrush so that method is out for me.

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

Current Build:                                                                                             
Past Builds:
 La Belle Poule 1765 - French Frigate from ANCRE plans                             Triton Cross-Section   

                                                                                                                       USS Constellaton (kit bashed to 1854 Sloop of War  _(Gallery) Build Log

                                                                                Wasa (Gallery)

                                                                                                                        HMS Sphinx 1775 - Vanguard Models - 1:64               


Non-Ship Model:                                                                                         On hold, maybe forever:           

CH-53 Sikorsky - 1:48 - Revell - Completed                                                   Licorne - 1755 from Hahn Plans (Scratch) Version 2.0 (Abandoned)         



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Would the etching primer be from a spray can? I might try that on my Speedy. Any particular brand you recommend?

Dave Barnard


Current build: HMS Speedy (Vanguard Models)

On hold: Niagara (Model Shipways), Constitution (Mamoli)


Marseille (Mamoli)

Duke William (Kammerlander)

Halifax (Lauck Street Shipyard)

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I have seen Sparex No.2 recommended as a pre-treatment to clean non-ferrous metals, especially brass and copper, before blackening. Does this also etch the surface to give it tooth?

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I blackened the brass fittings for my Speedy build (here). I've tried various methods. The one I use now (described here in my current Duchess of Kingston log) enables me to blacken several dozen small fittings at a time. I find this method gives a much better finish than paint. 

Cheers, Derek


Current build:   Duchess of Kingston

On hold:              HMS Winchelsea


Previous builds:  HMS SpeedyEnglish Pinnace, Royal Yacht Caroline (gallery),

                            Victory Cross-section (gallery), US Clipper Albatros, Red Dragon (years ago!)


On the stocks:    18th Century Longboat

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I like to seal brass (as well as other metal/wood/plastic/resin/card) fittings with a sealant (so the paint sticks better) and then have a paint-a-thon.

Then, you can just assembly line them and paint a whole bunch at one time.


I should also state that I typically brush paint with acrylics.

Edited by GrandpaPhil

Building: 1:64 HMS Revenge (Victory Models plans)

1:64 Cat Esther (17th Century Dutch Merchant Ships)

On the building slip: 1:72 French Ironclad Magenta (original shipyard plans)


On hold: 1:98 Mantua HMS Victory (kit bash), 1:96 Shipyard HMS Mercury


Favorite finished builds:  1:60 Sampang Good Fortune (Amati plans), 1:200 Orel Ironclad Solferino, 1:72 Schooner Hannah (Hahn plans), 1:72 Privateer Prince de Neufchatel (Chapelle plans), Model Shipways Sultana, Heller La Reale, Encore USS Olympia


Goal: Become better than I was yesterday


"The hardest part is deciding to try." - me

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