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wally7506

British Camo Rubber masks

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I've been sent back and forth so many times that I'm not even sure where I stand on this one.

So I need a little refresher.

How were British Military Aircraft painted in WW2?

Were camo patterns applied freehand, or were rubber masks used?

Are there any pictures of these paint schemes being applied?

Are there pictures of the rubber masks?

Seems like the Luftwaffefanatics can determine where and when a 109 or 190 was painted by the type of camo and/or the colors used. Can the same be said for RAF/FAA aircraft? That is to say, did certain MUs produce an especially tight demarcation line in the camo pattern while others are known for a more obvious feathered edge?

Any/all photographic evidence will be appreciated. I'm concerned mostly with Spits, Hurris, Tiffies, Tempests, Beaus, and Mossies ... and the lend lease fighters, too.

TIA :deadhorse:

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There was a photo in on of the "At War" series many years ago of, I think, a Hurricane being readied for painting. I don't think the "masks" were used in the way that term implies, but rather to chalk out demarcations for the painters.

John

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Where's the bloody photographs when you need them eh?...

Darn it I've got some shots somewhere of Spitfire wings being painted by using big cut rubber mats, draped over the wing setion as it's hung vertically from a former...but do you think I can find them?...:(

I've also seen the P-40 wings being painted the same way in the American factories...I think that may be in one of the Squdron Signal books?

But anyway, many maintenance bases painted their own and if it was sprayed by hand then you'd get a softer edge, wouldn't you?

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Masks were used, in factories and some MUs. Talk to Bill Matthews (former IPMS president,) and he'll tell you about using them, and describes them as being flexible, but rather rough in texture. This leads me to believe that they could have been a horsehair/rubber mixture, which was still in use, 40 years later, as a packing material. You won't find any relics (a favourite question from the "They didn't exist" brigade) because rubber has a finite life, and perishes into dust; nowadays rubber O-rings have a maximum "life," in aviation terms, of 5 years, after which they must be discarded. At Tangmere there's a German liferaft, on display, with a note, explaining that they don't have a British raft, since, because they were rubber, they've long since perished into oblivion. German rafts are/were neoprene, so lasted longer.

A fellow club member has told me how, as an ATC cadet, at a summer camp in 1943, they were taken to a factory, and saw heavy, flexible, masks being laid on the surfaces before painting.

At a model exhibition, at the Mosquito Museum, a few years ago, we were talking to two old(er) men, who described painting Hurricanes brown, then laying mats over them, before painting the green. "When we had to paint the mirror image, we just flipped the mats over, and used the other side."

A fellow modeller, post-war, went to work at Hawker's, when the Hunters were in production, and went into the paint shop, to find flexible mats being used for the camouflage scheme. At the end of the line was a man, obviously long past retirement age, who was polishing out any overspray with car polish. When he asked about the mats, he was told "This is the way we used to paint the Hurricanes, only we didn't have him at the end; didn't have time for all that."

Bill Matthews can also tell how things were done, when masks weren't available; he was asked to paint, freehand, an Anson (or Oxford,) with the proviso that any feathering had to be a maximum of 1". He had five attempts (presumably only doing the outline) before the chargehand was satisfied. According to Ian Huntley, Boulton Paul chamfered the edges of their mats, to give a slight feathered edge.

In the "Camouflage & Markings" series, several of the booklets have reproductions of the companies' official camouflage schemes, with measurements to fractions of an inch, and many of those who refute the existence of mats, point to them and say that it proves that they were able to just draw chalk lines, and freehand the spraying, but close examination of the drawings will show that there aren't enough measurements to enable the spraying to be done without mats.

People point to the reprint, of camouflage instructions, published 30-odd years ago by the RAF Museum, and quote, from that, a 2" demarcation allowance, but that actually applies to the demarcation between upper and lower colours, not between the upper surface colours.

There is, somewhere, a photo of P-40s being painted, in America, using masks, to which people say "Well, that doesn't prove that they were used in Britain." So we asked the Americans to paint a/c that way, but didn't do it ourselves?

I've read how sprayers are proud men, and would have thrown away the masks, and done it their way; not in wartime Britain, they wouldn't, not if they wanted to keep their jobs. Another author said that rubber was a strategic material, so wouldn't have been used for painting. Well, so was paper; we were recycling the stuff before the word was invented.

Look at the majority of photos, and you won't see the great swathes of feathering beloved of some modellers; the drag from the rough texture would have been devastating. It was tried, and they found that unskilled workers, when they tried to sand it off, were taking the paint completely off the rivet heads, so that a repaint became necessary. You will find some photos, with obvious feathering (there are always exceptions) but these don't appear to be factory-fresh airframes, some could have been resprayed by the Squadrons.

If a modeller wants to paint a model with large overspray, I won't argue against it, or get all precious; it's a model, it's his (or her) model, so it's fine by me. Please, though, don't rewrite history as a means to justify it; it isn't necessary.

Edgar

Edited by Edgar

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Masks were used, in factories and some MUs. Talk to Bill Matthews (former IPMS president,) and he'll tell you about using them, and describes them as being flexible, but rather rough in texture. This leads me to believe that they could have been a horsehair/rubber mixture, which was still in use, 40 years later, as a packing material. You won't find any relics (a favourite question from the "They didn't exist" brigade) because rubber has a finite life,

Edgar; I know exactly the type of material you are referring to.

When I was much younger my father was in the RNZAF and so, on occasion we had to move, my father was able to obtain

some packing cases to pack my mothers crockery and prized curios/antiques in.

Some of these packing cases had the type material you describe (very rough, horse hair/latex/rubber), you could actually

cut it and create distinct holes/shapes, in it with a sharpe knife.

As to it having a limted shelf life, some of my mothers curios etc are still packed in this type of material

and that's been over 30 years or more, and it's still doing very well.

With regards to the P 40's desribed by Zeke and use of mats, I have a book written during WWII for/by the RAF,

called "Britains Wonderful Air Force" (I know it's written circa 1943-45 because they refer to the USAAF "currently"

flying British aircraft types)

In the book there is a commentary that refers to the MAP aircraft/lend Lease. The commentary makes mention that

because Britian had to pay vast sums for aircraft manufacture, eventually She"influenced" US Aviation trends/manufacture.

The mats may well have been British inspired!! :pilot:

Regards

Alan

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I had a conversation a few years ago with an ex wartime RAF Painter and Doper - he confirmed the use of the rubber mats when he worked at a UK maintenance unit.

I then asked him about what they did when they didn't have the rubber mats, his reply was that the Flight Sergeant would come out to the shop floor with the relevant AP as a guide and draw chalk lines on the aicraft which they would have to paint to. He said that they would use masking tape and newspaper to mask off the large areas - sound familiar. He also said that whilst the AP allowed feathering of the demarcation of up to 1" no "Chieffy" he worked for would let a demarcation of greater than 1/2" pass.

He also said that wherever they sprayed freehand without masking, they would always strive for a 1/2" demarcation.

The point about the Flight Sergeant transposing the camouflage pattern from the AP to the aircraft would explain why subtle variations in camouflage patterns exist.

In spite of the evidence put forwards by the neysayers I have to go along with what the old boy told me - after all he had been there and done it!

Regards

Wez

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"If a modeller wants to paint a model with large overspray, I won't argue against it, or get all precious; it's a model, it's his (or her) model, so it's fine by me. Please, though, don't rewrite history as a means to justify it; it isn't necessary."

Amen to that.

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Well done Edgar. Now we just need to copy your reply onto every other model related forum on the internet and the "deniers" will disappear in a puff of smoke!!!

Cheers

Steve

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Masks were used, in factories and some MUs. Talk to Bill Matthews (former IPMS president,) and he'll tell you about using them, and describes them as being flexible, but rather rough in texture. This leads me to believe that they could have been a horsehair/rubber mixture, which was still in use, 40 years later, as a packing material. You won't find any relics (a favourite question from the "They didn't exist" brigade) because rubber has a finite life, and perishes into dust;

That depends on the compound and the way it is stored - else we wouldn't have any surviving WW2 or WW1 aircraft tyres!

But I'd imagine mats would be fairly poor quality - and used as floor mats etc when no longer needed for painting!

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Don't forget how these mats were used. They were hit by thinned paint on a regular basis. The effects of the thinners alone would have ensured a very short life for almost any form of contemporary rubber, especially the vicious type they used back then; none of your gentle acrylics.

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i dont know as much in depth about this as Edgar (nice write up BTW mate)

but i do know they used some masks as my grandma used to make em !

at Mather & platt in newton heath gtr manchester , in the war years

in fact i think the building is still there it was camoed like the huricanes in brown and green upto around 10 years ago.

she used to bring hime off cuts to burn on the fire for fuel !!!!

mad eh ? i remember her talking about it vaguely and my dad told me about the burning of them

and house being thick with black smoke for days ! :analintruder:

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I had a conversation a few years ago with an ex wartime RAF Painter and Doper - he confirmed the use of the rubber mats when he worked at a UK maintenance unit.

I then asked him about what they did when they didn't have the rubber mats, his reply was that the Flight Sergeant would come out to the shop floor with the relevant AP as a guide and draw chalk lines on the aicraft which they would have to paint to. He said that they would use masking tape and newspaper to mask off the large areas - sound familiar. He also said that whilst the AP allowed feathering of the demarcation of up to 1" no "Chieffy" he worked for would let a demarcation of greater than 1/2" pass.

He also said that wherever they sprayed freehand without masking, they would always strive for a 1/2" demarcation.

The point about the Flight Sergeant transposing the camouflage pattern from the AP to the aircraft would explain why subtle variations in camouflage patterns exist.

In spite of the evidence put forwards by the neysayers I have to go along with what the old boy told me - after all he had been there and done it!

Regards

Wez

As I'm a sprayer by trade I'd say that a 1/2" demarcation would be perfectly feasible even with spray guns of the time.

I have an old Broomwade bypass gun which will do less than 1/2" if you want it to.It operates at a maximum of 35psi,you can put more inlet

pressure on but it just blows the excess pressure out the back of the main air gallery.

Set it up right with good paint and about 15-20psi on the inlet and you can sign your name with ease.

To spray a "freehand" pattern with minimal overspray would be easy,put your edge in first and then fill in with a 50% overlap,triggering in the

right places would soon do it.

Mark

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Sorry, I missed one. In February, 2006, in response to an enquiry, I received a letter on this subject, from Fred Ballam, the Westland Archivist. He said, "Westland definitely used templates or "masks" as they were generally known to provide outlines of camouflage schemes, national markings and serial numers, etc. These were made from sets of drawings which were prepared for each type broadly to comply with the Ministry handbook on colour schemes for different operational environments. I've never seen any photographs of any of the painting operations so have only personal memories to go on. The masks were flexible to fit to aircraft contours so I guess they had to be made of rubber or something similar."

Edgar

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scan0001-1.jpg

And there's this instruction on the drawing for the Portuguese Mk.I Spitfires; had it all the time, and never read the small print.

Edgar

I thought you might be here and on Key Publishing. I think some posts on Key Pub make for some interesting reading on this subject.

Edited by ollieholmes

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Hi all

There is a Video on Youtube (Iv'e posted it previous in another discussion) about RAF P 40's.

In going through the the video again I found this picture which speaks a thousand words.

Note to re-iterate, for BPC aircraft in 1940, there were teams of British technicians who worked closely

with US aircraft manufacturers in the United States (even influenced production methods) these P 40 Wings are destined

for the RAF.

Image006.jpg

Of note is the thickness of the mats/masks you can make out, they are about an inch/2.5cm thick,

Looks like an "A' Scheme camo pattern

Hope that helps (Edgar-one for you)

Regards

Alan

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They were possibly rough because of the build up of overspray Edgar :)

BTW "nowadays rubber O-rings have a maximum "life," in aviation terms, of 5 years, after which they must be discarded"

Only if they are loose, if they are in their proper packets they have a life of 10 - 15 yrs, though some are marked up as longer........ Spitfire items are still being used from Wartime items BTW as the companies are allowed to inspect and recertify seals, some however have a life on them and one diaphram in the Griffon fuel system even if stored correctly in oil has to be replaced at 10 years (even if installed in the engine), as they are no longer made they had to get a batch especially manufactured.

Hoses are similar, but the newer Teflon items are on condition with no life as such as they do not degenerate.

I, a couple of years ago doing a tyre change on an aircraft, found the Dunlop inner tube that was still in excellent condition and made in the UK!! by Dunlop had the date stamp on it for 1975..... I was 14 when that little puppy had been installed, so decided it had earned its keep in 33 odd years gulp! and retired it.... Though it was perfectly servicable, but hey let's not push things too far :)

Edited by TonyT

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Good information, but how then does one account for the Spitfires (etc) seen in factory shots with subtle differences in their camouflage patterns? If they were using mats for everything, the patterns would be virtually identical between airplanes, and there are numerous shots that clearly show they weren't.

The thot plickens..

J

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Firstly, it is certain that not every British company used mats, although apparently Supermarine do refer to some such on a drawing.

Secondly, if the mats were used to mark out the lines, rather than as a painting mask, then the kind of small and subtle variations you see on Spitfires would be perfectly normal.

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I find it hard to believe that they didn't use rubber masks.

The industrialized world, and the arms industry in particular, has been doing repetitive flow production since the American Civil War -- they would have been pretty good at it by the 1940s. It's not as if the part where they actually have to paint the planes wasn't considered when they designed the assembly line and it was some kind of afterthought! There is no way that the best they could come up with was a bloke with a scale drawing, ruler and stick of chalk!

Like the rest of the stages on the production line, they would have come up with a solution (at the planning stage) which balanced consistency, accuracy and speed.

There aren't many ways of doing this... you could use a pounce, a template or a reusable mask (all of which are more efficient that ruler and chalk).

Airplanes are too big for pounces. Templates are a better idea for marking, but thats still not as efficient as reusable masks.

A reusable mask is simply a stencil. And we know they had stencils, and we know they had rubber masks. We know they used jigs in the rest of the production line -- why would the paint shop be different?

So I can't think of any reason why they wouldn't intend to use rubber masks in every instance of standard schemes? I can't see why they would choose not to given the option. No other solution would have been as efficient.

The only reason I can think that they wouldn't use them apart from supply problems, would be if the camo scheme had such a short run, that it didn't warrant producing a mask, or if there wasn't time or capacity.

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At least in the case of the Spitfire, you may find it hard to believe, but it's true. There is ample, voluminous documentary evidence of wide variation in Spitfire camouflage patterns, even between aircraft of the same production batch. They may have used them here or there, but I don't believe it was a common practice throughout the war. It would be much, much faster to chalk a line and spray it by hand than to heft incredibly huge and thus very heavy, paint encrusted rubber mats around the paint hangar. I can't even imagine what a mess those would create, and how easy it would be to muck up your paint job with flakes of dried paint all over the place.

J

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At least in the case of the Spitfire, you may find it hard to believe, but it's true. There is ample, voluminous documentary evidence of wide variation in Spitfire camouflage patterns, even between aircraft of the same production batch. They may have used them here or there, but I don't believe it was a common practice throughout the war. It would be much, much faster to chalk a line and spray it by hand than to heft incredibly huge and thus very heavy, paint encrusted rubber mats around the paint hangar. I can't even imagine what a mess those would create, and how easy it would be to muck up your paint job with flakes of dried paint all over the place.

J

...and they would be even quicker using a mat of some sort as a stencil to chalk the line? There would be no reason for these to be anywhere near wet paint.

John

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I would say that there was significant evidence of some variation in Spitfire colour patterns, but not "wide". Quite the contrary, I would say that the Spitfire patterns remained remarkably consistent over the years of production in different factories. You've just been looking at WM's article on the early Mk.IXs - there he distinguished between Supermarine and RR-built Mk.IXs by small variations in the pattern of the camouflage on the nose. This would not be possible if wide variations in the pattern were normal.

However, although there is evidence from instruction on drawings that Supermarine did use some kind of stencil, no-one has ever said that EVERY British manufacturers used such mats for the full overspray. Clearly some did not. However, observers have expressly stated that such mats were used in some factories. Why this appear to offend some US modellers is a mystery.

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Re time saving and mats, I had a thought:

With the number of Spits coming through the pipeline, I would think that after a day or two the guys in charge of painting the camo scheme would be able to do it in their sleep, especially after the elimination of alternating 'a' and 'b' patterns. They'd hardly need a line to follow on something like a wing panel.

As for Spitfire production, the fuselage was painted before the wings were put on, and likewise the wings. Then the fillet was fitted in bare metal or primer only, and same for the cowling. Obviously then somebody would have to "fill in the blanks" with a spray-gun. So even if mats were used, I would expect some variation at the wing root and on the cowl.

I'm a student of the Spitfire, but not specifically of the fine points of camo variation. I am frequently amazed at what somebody can pick out of a photograph.

bob

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