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Make rubbing compounds work for you

Eliminate orange peel for a smooth-as-glass topcoat
Even though you’ve sprayed your final clear coat, and it looked really good while it was wet, after it dried, you noticed a fine orange-peel texture developed. Don’t panic and don’t beat yourself up: It’s a natural part of the paint process. It’s possible that you’re happy with the clear finish as is. But you could take your finish to the next level. How?

Rubbing compounds will help you transform that fine orange peel to a glossy, smooth-as-glass result. You will probably need multiple applications of the coarsest grade of compound on each surface to start. But after you have smoothed surface, the following fine and finish rubbing compound applications go quickly. Finish with swirl remover and model-compatible wax, and you’re done!

Rubbing compound is a paste with a fine-grained abrasive particles that minimize orange peel. For hobby paint finishes, Tamiya’s coarse, fine, and finish rubbing compounds work well. Mr. Hobby also offers rubbing compounds in three grades, including fine and super-fine.

Begin with the coarse compound, applying it with a soft cloth and using gentle pressure. Work one area at a time. For instance, on a car, start on the hood, roof, or trunk. It may take four or five applications on a single area over the course of 15-30 minutes before you get the glossiness you desire. Then follow with single applications of fine and then finish compounds, polishing until you get uniform and mirror-like reflections.

The improvement is hard to see in a photo, but evident in real life. Here, compare the smooth, uninterrupted light reflection vs. the earlier, slightly pebbly reflection. Wax, not yet applied in this image, will further aid the gloss.

Be extra cautious with corners, edges, and any fine, protruding details; rubbing compound can easily remove the color coats in these areas. Consider applying protective tape to particularly sharp edges. Touch up any mistakes with a fine brush and you color coat paint. The added paint can be polished in with the existing paint during subsequent stages but be careful to avoid burning through the edge again!

The last step is to apply a hobby wax. My go-to is The Treatment. It’s no longer sold in jar size, but you can find it in small packets (just Google search The Treatment model wax). Other modelers swear by Novus No. 1 and No. 2 compounds. And if you make it to scale model shows, there are often plenty of choices from the vendors.

Apply your choice of wax in a circular motion with a soft cloth, continuing to polish until it works into the surface and remaining surface wax becomes stiff. Then wipe off the excess with a second soft cloth and buff the result. Move on the next section of the model and repeat the process until all surfaces have been waxed.

Polishing compounds and waxes will build up in recesses like panel lines and along window moldings. A soft, worn toothbrush under a running faucet does a good job of removing buildup. Then dry the body and check for remaining areas needing a second round of brushing.

And there you have it! No matter if you’re working on a high-gloss airplane fuselage or a custom car body, use this process to get the smoothest possible result every time.

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Essential finishing techniques for scale modelers.
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