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wally7506

British Camo Rubber masks

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It's quite well documented that for Spitfires at the least, were built as sub assemblies from components from various sub-contractors. These sub-assemblies were painted in workshops all over Britain. The wings and fuselages were painted while they were still incomplete. Final assembly was the last stage at which paint would be applied. Quite literally, the wing-root fairings were the last and only parts of the fighting airframe to be painted once the aircraft was readied for service. Every other bit will have been delivered in full camouflage from their diverse suppliers.

A mat(te) to regularise the paint on (say) a tailplane pair to their moving surfaces would make perfect sense, because they were made in different places until the advent of ply/metal elevators. The same for wings. Metal workers built the wings, different metal-workers made the flying surface structure which were then passed along to tailors and seamstresses to be clad in their surface.

The difference in practice of completing a metal wing and it's fabric surfaces require different materials, procedures, time-frames and skills. The idea an aircraft in WWII Britain was painted as a unit, as we do our models, is an idealistic, but logistical nightmarish concept.

The photo of the Curtiss painters at work on a Hawk wing assembly (vertical in it's trolley) clearly shows a semi-rigid mask, possibly plywood, perhaps tin, strapped to the wing, spaced off the surface for a smooth feathered demarcation.

Q. Would there have been a mask for both upper surface colours and another for the underside colour?

The physical complication of moving a weighty, floppy mask, wet with paint along the edges half the time, isn't intuitive to anyone who has worked in a pressure industrial environment.

I'm hopeful this will be resolved one day, as it's surely a fishbone.

G

I must admit I have also shared these reservations about the use of mats as large masks. Given the sheer quantity of war time production the constant addition of dried paint would have made them progressively heavier and therefore given their size increasingly difficult to move. I am familiar with the horse hair rubberized mat material and it is not insubstantial. Also there is in many photos of camouflaged aircraft clear evidence of a heavier/darker application at the edges and a slight progressive lightening off of the intensity as it moves from the demarcation. This suggests that an outline was tightly sprayed first (to a quickly drawn line of some type) then the interior of the colour was more quickly filled in. Some years ago pre-YouTube (it might be on YouTube) I saw in a TV documentary on wartime production film of the construction of Whitleys. The camouflage was being sprayed without masks and at quite a close distance with a very narrow spray jet. The resulting demarcations were quite crisp. Now it may well be that some aircraft were painted with mats as masks early on but as production ramped up this practice fell by the way side. What was acceptable for peace time production becoming obsolete in the face of war time needs.

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The only evidence of masks being used on complete airframes my Fathers peer group can recall was the use of whipped-edge canvas 'patterns' at some of the more 'central' WWII Maintenance Units in the UK. These were apparently something like 'French Curves' we used in the drafting game to simulate the original pattern after re-skinning parts of aircraft. Their sizes were from 1x1 to 1x 3 meters, were used in combination to define the edge. The painters didn't like using them because of the mess they generated, both to the operator and on the job surface.

Milne Bay, that film clip is availabe by searching for [urlhttp://www.youtube.com/user/Bomberguy#p/u[/url] at Youtu.be. The painter was a female. I adore that generation of women in mens jobs.

G

Edited by Vanroon

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Milne Bay, that film clip is availabe by searching for [urlhttp://www.youtube.com/user/Bomberguy#p/u[/url] at Youtu.be. The painter was a female. I adore that generation of women in mens jobs.

G

Thanks for that.

My other problem with the question of these masks is that whenever the subject is raised the only pic offered is that now cliched Curtiss pic, which might simply reflect a local Curtiss effort to respond to mass-producing an unfamiliar camouflage scheme rather than any direction to use them. Curtiss did take short cuts where they could - the provision of nationality insignia as dope-on decals is one.

I do wonder if there are actually specific pics of these masks being used in British factories. I did once see a set of pics from the late 20s/early 30s of large round leather templates being used to paint the upper roundels on flying boats. But despite all the discussion I haven't seen any of British wartime production using them. If they do exist, and I am not denying the possibility, I wonder if anyone can point me in the direction of where they might be found.

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Having started the topic all I have to say is this:

Where can I get re-useable, pre-cut rubber camo masks for 1/48th scale Spitfires?

Wally,

We do 1/48th scale Spitfire camouflage masks in vinyl. If you are interested please send us an e-mail at this address.

Best regards,

Ian

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Can I destroy one myth perpetrated above? Rubber supplies were not cut to as low a 3% following the Japanese take-over of Malaysia. This appears to stem from US publications, where the figure of 90% cut or even 95% can be found. I've not found an estimate of 97%, but I dare say that's there.

However, from the following site http://ww2total.com/WW2/History/Production...fluences-UK.htm

UK raw rubber imports are given in 1000 metric tons.

1939: 69

1940: 200

1941: 168

1942: 66

1943; 69

1944: 36

1945: 36

So the figure never falls below 50% of the 1939 total, and then only in the final years of the war where it can reasonably be assumed that synthetic rubber was providing much of the demand. Clearly there is a dip after the Japanese successes, but not to anything like the 3% claim.

If the US, with its quoted 95% loss of supply, could afford to produce Mickey Mouse masks in rubber during their early war years, than it is stretching a point to suggest that the UK could not divert a small amount to assist in the production of important war weapons. Just how many metric tonnes of rubber would be needed for a few camouflage mats in a few dozen factories?

re the film of the Whitley: I believe there is also similar film of the Lancaster. Reference books describe the Halifax as also being painted freehand, so there does seem to be no evidence of large mats being used on the heavy bombers. (I suspect it is reasonable to include the Stirling in this, but I've seen no evidence either way.) This removes much of the "unwieldy" criticisms. Nor does the evidence that edges were applied before the centres filled in rule out the use of mats for spraying - or just marking with chalk - those edges. As for the lack of photographic evidence: there's a lot of wartime production that doesn't exist in photographs. Something called security.... and paint shops do not seem to have been considered photogenic places generally. Then or now.

I have to agree with Edgar that the apparently desperate urge by some to deny the reported use of these masks seems to go well beyond any reasonable doubt.

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I have to agree with Edgar that the apparently desperate urge by some to deny the reported use of these masks seems to go well beyond any reasonable doubt.

No one is trying to deny it - on the contrary some like myself are seeking further confirmation of their existence because even with small aircraft these masks may, I suggest, become quite unwieldy. Nor is it in anyway denigrating previous research if people ask questions about it, it is simply stock standard research methodology. I note that no one has asked about how these masks were stored when not in use - if they were made to accurately allow the approved pattern to be applied then any form of storage that distorted them like folding could possibly have been out of the question, especially if the paint was still wet. Also given the pace of aircraft production multiples would be needed, and I suspect that because of wet paint build up there may have been allowance for duplicate masks to be used while that paint was drying. Dry paint being lighter than wet. There are many questions simply regarding the practicalities which must also be considered in the search for further information.

Edited by MilneBay

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Actually, some people do attempt to deny the process, judging from their reactions.

I can understand why more details of the process would be interesting, I'd like to know more myself. However, I don't go with the assumption that these mats were used as a modeller uses masks, for very much the reasons you suggest. They would be used for marking out the demarcations, probably with chalk. There'd be no need for concern about wet or dry paint on them.

Of course, such a practice is then completely compatible with describing the aircraft as being airbrushed freehand, rather than the latter being some kind of contradiction.

What I don't understand is how the observed consistencies in British aircraft camouflage patterns could have been achieved without some such control.

Edited by Graham Boak

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Actually, some people do attempt to deny the process, judging from their reactions.

I can understand why more details of the process would be interesting, I'd like to know more myself. However, I don't go with the assumption that these mats were used as a modeller uses masks, for very much the reasons you suggest. They would be used for marking out the demarcations, probably with chalk. There'd be no need for concern about wet or dry paint on them.

Of course, such a practice is then completely compatible with describing the aircraft as being airbrushed freehand, rather than the latter being some kind of contradiction.

What I don't understand is how the observed consistencies in British aircraft camouflage patterns could have been achieved without some such control.

That is a very good point about their use as a stencil to allow a chalk outline to be drawn rather than as a simple mask for spraying. It is the latter suggested usage that seems the less satisfactory explanation - the familiar Curtiss photo notwithstanding.

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The ex-Hawker employees told us that they sprayed Hurricanes, with the mats in place, then flipped them over for the mirror scheme; they also said that they washed off any paint build-up with thinners. The man who went to Hawkers, post-war, watched them spraying Hunters, with the mats still in place. I have no doubt that different companies could have used different methods, but, in all cases, they would have had to satisfy the Resident Technical Officer, who was answerable to the Air Ministry, not the company. "Maybe they did, maybe they didn't" is far better than the blanket "They were never used," which was prevalent a few years ago.

There was, apparently, an article in the RAF Yearbook, when Tornadoes were being sprayed in grey/green camouflage, which said that the pattern had been done, using mats "Just as was done in WWII."

According to Ian Huntley, Boulton & Paul chamfered the edges of their mats, to introduce a hint of feathering; they wouldn'y have done that if they weren't spraying directly onto the mats.

True, there are no photographs, that I've seen, but (remembering the slow film speeds of the 1940s) would you fancy arc lamps, or flashbulbs, in an atmosphere heavy with cellulose particles? A friend of mine, who's a (now retired) French polisher, was working in a chair factory, spraying furniture, during the 1960s, when a visiting photographer asked to take his picture; "Sure," said his foreman,"if you'll promise to go and explain to his widow."

According to one eye-witness, who, as a member of the ATC, watched mats being used, around 1943, two men were perfectly capable of laying the mats into position, and removing them afterwards.

Remove all idea of the mats being used for aesthetic reasons; the Air Ministry's obsession was with a smooth, non-drag, surface, and any drag caused by a build-up near the edge of the mats would have been far less than that of any overspray of a couple of inches or more. As early as March 1940, the Ministry were asking for a maximum roughness of .001" on all paint surfaces.

Edited by Edgar

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Thanks for the response, Edgar, mea culpa. I should have phrased it that the mats could have been used for marking out, rather than that they definitely were.

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Having started the topic all I have to say is this:

Where can I get re-useable, pre-cut rubber camo masks for 1/48th scale Spitfires?

I can offer you a .pdf of my masks to the scale you require.

http://pic20.picturetrail.com/VOL1620/1548...69/52584972.jpg

The local habadasher may have some rubber-backed curtain material.

Should you decide to use rubber, observe how quickly it deteriorates with repeated wetting of solvent based paint. Modern acrylics are fine. :)

Write to me at guzzi#space,net,au.

G

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I found the following in RAAF Camouflage and Markings Vol 2, by Geoff Pentland, Kookaburra 1989, with Spitfires under discussion.

"....almost universal hard-edged camouflage separation line on their upper surfaces. The reason for this was the frequent use made of stencil masking mats for the clean-up spray work involved. The mats themselves could be easily fabricated from materials such as duralumin, thin plywood or even strong cardboard, and when cut in the shape of a more-or-less standard camouflage pattern, certainly helped achieve uniformity from aircraft to aircraft."

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I found the following in RAAF Camouflage and Markings Vol 2, by Geoff Pentland, Kookaburra 1989, with Spitfires under discussion.

"....almost universal hard-edged camouflage separation line on their upper surfaces. The reason for this was the frequent use made of stencil masking mats for the clean-up spray work involved. The mats themselves could be easily fabricated from materials such as duralumin, thin plywood or even strong cardboard, and when cut in the shape of a more-or-less standard camouflage pattern, certainly helped achieve uniformity from aircraft to aircraft."

That line has been the prod which had me delving into the technique. DAP Beauforts are one of the few examples of close to identical demarcation I have seen in my research.

Complete sub-assemblies of the nose and cockpit section of the aircraft were built and painted by sub-contractors off site. Presumably using Bristols MoD contract as guideline. DAP were building Mk.IIs for an RAF order which went ultimately unfilled after Singapore. I have (somewhere) a photo made showing a line of rail flat cars with 2 noses per waggon. So close to identical, they must have been masked schemes. Hard masks one presumes, there was no spare rubber around at the time. :)

Tho' Dad says they could spot differences without looking at the numbers by the pattern on the wings.

G

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Re no spare rubber: see my statistics above re supplies of rubber, even in 1942/43. Of course the word "spare" carries a wide range of meanings, and the Kookaburra quote (which relates to Spitfire repainting) doesn't mention rubber.

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In light of this thread i opted to use hand cut rubber sheet to mask my 1/32 Spit. Luckily my work had some thin rubber sheet laying around which i utilised. :D

As i didn't want to physically stick the mask to the surface i held it whilst spraying so it gave that fine feathered edge. I think it worked ok for me and will be using the rubber in the future.

b8770a83.jpg

e96bca0a.jpg

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I can offer you a .pdf of my masks to the scale you require.

http://pic20.picturetrail.com/VOL1620/1548...69/52584972.jpg

The local habadasher may have some rubber-backed curtain material.

Should you decide to use rubber, observe how quickly it deteriorates with repeated wetting of solvent based paint. Modern acrylics are fine. :)

Write to me at guzzi#space,net,au.

G

Any chance you could post the .pdf somewhere for us all to download? Use a file sharing site, post the link here?

On the main topic - I've seen pics of a Mosquito wing marked off using the mats, but I'm buggered if I can find the website. In any event, given the wealth of eyewitness evidence provided by Edgar, what's the biggie? Mats were used, probably in a number of different ways. The apparent consistency of markings could not be achieved without some kind of stencil, as aircraft of a single type were being turned out in vast numbers from more than one factory in more than one geographical location. Other than centrally-made or approved stencils, how could this be done? Answers on a postcard... :P

Edited by Gwallt72

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Gwallt72, I'd certainly love to see the masked Mosquito photo. Clearly if they exist, photos were made in the painters zone. Were they in a jig or trolley?

I've let my file sharing site lapse since the crack-down on copyright violations, the subs trebled, so the only way you can get the masks is to email me, citing the scale you require at guzzi#space,net,au. Correcting the obvious errors and include Spitfire Mask in the subject line.

I have commenced on Hurricane masks, but progress is slow, as work is mad just now.

G

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Gwallt72, I'd certainly love to see the masked Mosquito photo. Clearly if they exist, photos were made in the painters zone. Were they in a jig or trolley?

I've let my file sharing site lapse since the crack-down on copyright violations, the subs trebled, so the only way you can get the masks is to email me, citing the scale you require at guzzi#space,net,au. Correcting the obvious errors and include Spitfire Mask in the subject line.

I have commenced on Hurricane masks, but progress is slow, as work is mad just now.

G

Vertical, on a trolley, and done in sections prior to assembly, if memory serves correctly. I'll go digging later in the week, see if I can find the pics again...

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I just got the book "Britain's War Machine", and what should I find on the back cover but this photograph:

mask.jpg

Someone will now remind me that it is already on page 2 of this thread... [Edit: Actually, it isn't- just checked.]

bob

Edited by gingerbob

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I just got the book "Britain's War Machine", and what should I find on the back cover but this photograph:

<snip>

bob

Nice photo. Painting a roundel?

G

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I'd be more worried about the complete lack of 'Health 'N Safety'. They should be wearing hard hats....

Tim P

They were real men back then and had names like Granville, Stanhope and Royston, and they all smoked GP-prescribed tabs for that healthy lung feeling.

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Flypast October 2012, on the restoration of Anson K6183: page 55.

"...fortunately among the stocks I purchased from Ron Lee there was a stock factory-painted tailplane, which suggested that Avro used felt masks to delineate the colours rather than the softer freehand method."

Felt would certainly avoid any use of rubber. The involvment of the Avro Heritage Group in his restoration suggests that more information may be found there.

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Felt is a material I believe could have been used for 'hard' masking within the sense of wartime rationing. Locally produced, light-weight, non-strategic, cheap and ultimately disposable when used up.

Perhaps a casual observer could interpret old, painty felt as another type of floppy material, leading to some of the misunderstandings over the years.

G

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