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Removing chrome from model kit parts

This question arise very often among model car builders:

Why do model kit builders remove the chrome from those parts to have them painted in chrome finish again?

This is up to the model builder and his/her available resources when building a particular model kit like access to Metalizer, Alclad2 primers and finishes, air compressor, airbrush, etc.  Some model kit builders can add to my answer to this question so here I go:
The chrome finish provided on model kits out of the box is very thick and out of scale.  As a result, subtle details on the chrome parts are reduced or lost to a thick plating. This problem does not discriminate to any particular model kit brand. But in my honest opinion and experience, it is very strong on chrome parts from most (if not all) AMT model kits.

I have tried household bleach with no success although some colleagues often recommend it. What really does the trick for me is oven cleaner. Yeah, I went the cheap way and got a can from the Dollar Store but it is not as predictable as the one from Walmart. If you want to buy the original Easy Off brand be my guest, but I’m getting awesome results with Walmart’s Great Value brand.

The rims shown below belong to our recently featured Revell LaFerrari 1/24.  A metal surface for this is preferable. I use the kitchen sink in my house for this purpose and then I take the parts to my studio. Make sure you have good ventilation because the fumes are suffocating. Once you cover your chrome parts in a cloud of oven cleaning foam, let it the cleaner do its work. If the parts have many intricate details, let them seat for some 30 minutes. By the time you get back, the foam has worked its magic. I seldom have to give a second coat due to chrome plating residue but if necessary, feel free to do it. When finished, rinse with soapy water and let the parts air dry. The 3rd picture is showing the parts primed with Alclad2 Gloss Black Base ALC-304. You can also use as base either Testors Model Master Acryl 4695 Gloss Black or Tamiya X-1 Gloss Black.

Last but not least is the shade of Aluminum or Chrome you’d like to add. On this particular kit I airbrushed with my AZTEK A470 a thin coat of Alclad 2 Duraluminum. My goal was to achieve a Dark Chrome finish on the rims.

Orange Peel effect with Alclad 2 products:
Now that I have your attention on Alclad 2 products: I read and get asked about the nasty looking orange peel finish when Alclad 2 is used. Yes, it has happened to me as well. No matter what base I have used, Acrylic or the Alclad’s own gloss black base, you can get orange skin. The problem lies on us rather than the products themselves and I say products because I’m also including Testors Model Master Metalizers. They are made with a Lacquer base and we all know that Lacquer is very ”hot” compared to enamel.

Have you paid attention to a jar of Alclad2 or Testor Metalizer that has been sitting for a long period of time without being shaken? Notice how thin the pigment is while the rest of the bottle is solvent. That’s the problem there; we want to see a metal finish with one or two thick coats instead of several thin coats. Because lacquer is so ‘hot’, we see it dry very quick and we keep spraying on our parts. What this is actually doing is softening our gloss black base with all that solvent and that’s how we get the infamous orange peel finish.

The cure? Spray your Alclad2 or Testors Metalizer at some 12 to 15 psi and do light thin coats.

Double color model kit rims?

You can use Maskol, Micro Mask (from Microscale Industries), Vallejo Liquid mask or, you can use Elmer’s Glue or Testors Clear Parts Cement and windows maker. I prefer Testors because of the applicator but you can use any of the above. The pictures below are quite self explanatory. These rims belong to a 1/24 Tamiya Taisan Porsche 911 GT2. The center of the rims on the car are supposed to have a gold color. I thought of painting it with a brush using  Testors Gold Leaf from their enamel square bottles. I even bought the paint but was reluctant to start because I was concerned on how it was going to look. So I remembered that on a soft surface white glue is a nice masking agent. I applied the Testors clear cement (the fine applicator comes very handy) and left it to dry overnight. I took the rims sprue outside and finished with Krylon Gold Leaf  (KSCS029) spray paint from their Short Cuts spray paint line. About an hour later with the help of a toothpick I opened a gap, with a pair of tweezers I peeled off the glue and viola! Much easier and a lot better finish.

Happy model building folks. Hope you squirrels added more model kits to your stash for the long winter ahead 😉

George Collazo
George Collazo

George has been hosting review sites and blogging about toy collectibles, travel, digital photography and Nikon digital imaging since 1998. His first model kit build was a Testors 1/35 DODGE WC-54 in 1984.