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  1. Ultimate Decal Solution – Normal, Strong & Extra Strong Ultimate Modelling Products Our friends at Ultimate have turned their focus on helping us get our decals to settle down, and recently sent us a triple-pack of decal solutions that as most of you will know already, cause a partial softening or melting of the carrier film in order for the decal to better conform to the surface of your model. They're strictly for use with traditional water-slide decals, not for rub-down and carrier-film free decals such as those made by HGW and the like. So far there's little penetration into the market of these type of decals though, so to all intents and purposes we'll be able to use these fluids on 99.999% of available decals. Arriving in translucent plastic bottles with a white screw cap, they contain 35ml of solution, and they have their strength written on the side with the incitement to shake before use. Who are we to disagree? To test these new solutions I chose some left-over Tamiya decals, which aren't renowned for being the thinnest or easiest to settle down. They're better than they were and are a lot less leathery too, but that's all ancient history now. Decals settle down best on a glossy surface, so I applied a healthy coat of Liquitex gloss on my go-to test wing off an old Revell 1:72 Heinkel He.111, which is still wearing metallic shades from my last test, but is smooth enough to take decals with the addition of a clear coat. The model has raised panel lines and a veritable trench of a gap between the wing and control surfaces, which will test their abilities. Each decal was treated exclusively with one type of solution, but you can mix and match if the weakest one fails to move the decal you are treating. The fluid is clear and has a sharp acidic smell the further up the range you go, but other than being a bit unpleasant there isn't any reason to wear a mask unless you're working in a tiny area with no ventilation and happen to spill a bottle. This leads nicely to my one concern – the bottle. It has a very small footprint, so is easy to tip over if you are a clumsy oaf like me. They've thought of that however, and have released a custom 3D printed base into which you can place your three solutions. Incidentally, they also do one for the old Microscale solutions if have those. To apply the decals, soak them as usual in water and when they are ready, place a dab of your chosen solution onto the approximate final location on the model with a brush, then apply the decal over it adjusting it as you go. When it is in the correct position, expel the excess solution and any air from under it by your favourite method. Mine is by rolling a cotton bud over them, taking care not to leave behind any fibres. Add a little more solution and if the decal needs time to adapt to the surface and settle down, leave the solution to do its work. Extreme curves or panel lines may need another application or two as you see fit, always leaving it time to soften the decal so that it can conform to the surface. Sometimes a gentle dabbing of a softened decal can be a benefit, but again you have to take care not to wrinkle or tear the decal, which may become very fragile during the process, especially if you are using the strongest solution. The weakest solution (called "normal") is fine for flat(ish) surfaces with little work to do, or for decals that are susceptible to solutions. Using a test decal on an old part is a good way to determine this. The Strong solution is more suitable to decals over panel lines and on curved surfaces, while the Extra Strong is for the most difficult places to apply decals, or for the most intransigent decals that refuse to react to the weaker solutions. They do exist, so everyone should have this "nuclear option" available, just in case. So how do they work? Very well in fact, but with a company name "Ultimate Modelling Products" you wouldn't expect any less! Looking at the photo of the three decals above, I have numbered them 1 to 3, with 1 being the weakest Normal strength solution. Incidentally and with the benefit of hindsight, the picture doesn't really do the settling of the decals over the panel lines justice, so apologies for that. You can hopefully see that it coped well with the raised panel lines, as did the Strong solution, which also had to cater for some dust trapped in the varnish, which it did well. The Extra Strong was used in the most extreme trench, and immediately softened the decal, which I managed to move slightly and had to reposition it. This was when I tore the decal (my fault), which illustrates how strong the solution is. You can still see the tiny break in the rearmost arm of the cross. The first application caused the decal to settle into the trough, and a further application completed the job, with a little push from a cotton bud. Mission accomplished, and with no drama or deviation from the instructions. To clean the brushes, just swish them in water and make sure you recap the bottles immediately to prevent evaporation and spillage. Conclusion If you're in the market for a set of decal solutions to help you with your decaling, this is a good set and does exactly what it is supposed to. There is also the option to buy all three with a handy base and wide brush, but that's out of stock at time of writing. The info link below leads to the home page of the decal solution section Review sample courtesy of
  2. Buffer & Thinny Buffer Sanding Sticks Ultimate Modelling Products Sanding sticks are a modelling staple, and Ultimate have had an excellent range that we have reviewed in the past, here and here, which has now been widened by the addition of these useful buffers. What's a buffer? It's a sanding stick with fine abrasives that lets you put the finishing touches to your model, and can be used to create a shine on the surface, or to restore the shine of (for example) a canopy that has been damaged or needed a seamline removing. The blue/grey 3000 grit side is the first step to clarity and has a fine abrasive that will smooth your model or give a canopy a transparent "fogged" look, after which the white 12000 grit side will restore the part to clarity. They are incredibly effective in use, and the white side is almost magical in its ability to make paint and plastic shine. Don't treat them as the only sticks you need though, because as with all things, the foundations of a good finish begin earlier in the preparation. Working up through the various grades using finer grits will ensure that your buffers have no deep scratches to cope with, but when you get to that stage you'll find them very effective. The buffers are constructed in a similar way to most modern sticks, with a flexible plastic core that has foam layers on both sides. The sanding surfaces are laid down on top of the foam to give the stick the flexibility to conform to and around surfaces, which results in a better finish. Whilst having good quality inflexible sanding sticks is useful for constructional sanding, foam is excellent for finishing without having to be too fastidious about catching raised detail. As well as buffing clear parts, they have many uses, one of which is for buffing back primer after it has been sprayed. I use the blue/grey side to finish my primer before painting, as it cuts back the "dust" from the finish without being too aggressive, or obliterating raised details. I have also used them to polish gloss black primer to a mirror finish, which gives a very realistic finish for those of you scared (me included) of modelling the modern RAF Hawks in their all-black schemes. Two sizes are available, although once you open the Thinny sticks you'll see that there are actually three sizes. The buffers are there for general use and cover a good area quickly, while the thinny sticks are great for working on the details. Even better though are the super-thinny sticks, which have less of the foam layer, so have a lower 2.7mm profile that allows them to get to places that normal foam-based sticks can't manage. This will be particularly useful in wing-roots where the edges of the larger sticks can cause scuffing to the fuselage or wing root, depending on where you are sanding. The big Buffer pack contains three sticks that should last you for a while, providing you don't get too carried away and catch the abrasive on sharp angles, which can tear it away from the foam. That's not a fault of the sander, just general physics and in my case at least, clumsiness. The Thinny Stick pack has six sticks inside, with two being of the super-Thinny variety. I suspect the super-Thinny sticks will be my favourite of the pack, so perhaps we can implore Lee and the guys to release a pack of those as a stand-alone item? We can but hope. Conclusion I've long been a fan of this type of stick, and have in the past (badly) cut buffers to use on smaller areas, so am very pleased to see the Thinny Sticks becoming available. With careful use they will last ages, and their usefulness is without question. Very highly recommended. Buffers Thinny Buffers Review sample courtesy of
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