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Neo for Iwata airbrushes

Kit:Neo TRN2 (IWAN5000); TRN1 (IWAN5500) // Scale: // Price:$170 each
Iwata Medea
Solid construction; intuitive and easy to use; consistent results
TRN1's tiny nozzle easy to mishandle
TRN2: Side-feed, double-action, pistol-grip, interchangeable paint cups; TRN1: Gravity-feed, double-action, pistol-grip, interchangeable paint cups.
Entry-level airbrushes can be tough to get right. They need to be affordable, easy to use, and give consistent results so as not to disappoint consumers. Built in China for Iwata, the Neo brand of airbrushes hit that mark.

The most recent additions are the pistol-grip TRN1 gravity-feed and TRN2 side-feed airbrushes. Both double-action brushes are externally similar and operate the same, so I’ll review them together and note the minor differences.

The chrome bodies feel substantial — no shortcuts here — and are set off by black plastic grips decorated with orange strips. The balance is good, but the grips feel a little small in my hands. Pulling the trigger is a smooth, intuitive action, although the trigger runs into my other finger at full travel, indicative of the smallish grip.

Both brushes have a set screw to limit needle travel and for a smaller spray pattern.

The TRN1 comes with a .35mm needle and nozzle as well as 1⁄10-ounce and ¼-ounce color cups. The TRN2 has a .5mm needle and nozzle and three paint reservoirs: ¼- and ½-ounce metal cups, and a bottle adapter with a 1-ounce plastic bottle.

I found the attachments for the paint reservoirs tight and secure. That’s especially important on the side-feed system, which can get messy fast when the friction ring gets loose, dumping paint onto the floor, your clothes, or, worse, the model.

Trigger-pull on both is smooth. The first ¼" activates the air. The needle moves from there, beginning the flow of paint; the farther back, the more paint. I was impressed by the amount of control I had. I confess to being a late and reluctant adapter when it comes to pistol-grip airbrushes. I miss controlling the airflow with the button of a traditional airbrush. Having used these and the Grex pistol-grip brush, I am starting to see the advantages in certain applications.

To determine what kind of pressure worked, I mixed equal parts Tamiya acrylic green and Tamiya thinner and airbrushed white styrene, using the siphon-feed adapter on the TRN2.

Thanks to the gravity-feed I could move paint in the TRN1 at almost any pressure, but it atomized effectively in both at 8-10 psi. At 12-15 psi, the pattern became a lot less ragged; at 20 psi and above, the pattern was tight and consistent.

I moved on to working on a couple of models. Easy to work with, both brushes produced even patterns. It was easy to put paint exactly where it need to go, even when spraying at awkward angles. The TRN1’s narrower .35mm nozzle was great for getting into tight spaces. The TRN2 .5mm head worked OK in tight spaces, and it covered larger areas noticeably faster than the TRN1.

Cleanup for both is relatively easy, but you’ll need to invest in fine interdental brushes or a set of Iwata’s cleaning brushes to get into tight spots, such as the TRN1’s tiny nozzle and paint channel.

Both brushes come with a wrench to remove the nozzle. I liked the hefty nozzle on the TRN2 better than the diminutive TRN1 nozzle. I fumbled it once — and my fingers aren’t that big — while trying to replace it after cleaning the brush and almost didn’t find it again. Plus, dropping it carries the likelihood of damage.

The trigger mechanism cannot be easily taken apart and Iwata discourages users from doing so, except for a drop or two of Iwata Medea Super Lube. If it needs to be cleaned, contact Iwata for information about service. Although Neo brushes are not made by Iwata, it stands by them with parts support and a 5-year warranty.

Bottom line: While not Iwata per se, the Neo line are quality airbrushes that provided consistent, repeatable results. While they are aimed at entry-level consumers, I don’t see any reason either of these shouldn’t be a primary airbrush. With proper maintenance and care, I expect these to last for many years.

Note: A version of this review appeared in the March 2015 FineScale Modeler.
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