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pre-WW1 and WW1 US olive drab ...


Steben
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Hi guys.

I do not need telling what I am doing. I dwell into paints and colours.
Many topics have passed and usually the battle between regulation/formulas and in the field/practice schools is defined by how far we go into time and how far standardisation was formed.
 

But.

As Americans usually outperform many in standardisation and regulations - whatever the control level was - when it comes to war, they did so quite early.
Steve Zaloga picked this up with his reference to the 1916/1917 QM guidelines par. 3964 which refer to the 1906 "Circular 66" which describes an "olive drab" to be used on Army and escort wagons.

Officialy, we have a paint/colour used from at least 1906 and during WW1.

Some may know this formulation already, but I will repeat:

- 6 pounds white lead (mixed raw linseed oil)   --------- this a basic white paint paste

- 1 pound raw umber

- 1 pint turpentine

- 1/2 pint japan dryer

- 1 quart raw linseed oil

This a tinted umber, a bit pushed towards yellowed with the white lead, dryer and oil ingredients.
Tinted umber is a greyish brown and only the use of "green" umber would yield a classic light olive drab as we think of in WW2. This unlikely.

 

My first experiments lead to a colour very close to the one here below, but I haven't made the original formula.

 

1917%2520FORD%2520MODEL%2520T%2520VAN%25

Anyone knows more on this topic?

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This QM Corps information has been posted and discussed before here and elsewhere. Original paint samples are few and far between and with batch mixing and imprecise measuring variation was inevitable.  Also, I imagine there was some site or regional variation in the colour of the raw umber used in such large quantities as the armed forces needed.  If you look at colour swatches online today there are wide variations in what is described as "raw umber" from somewhere near beige to something more like dark chocolate.

 

This is of course the recurring problem with WW1 colours.  No codification, variable ingredient quality and quantity and inconsistent production at multiple locations with no real quality assurance or control.  So being definitive is almost impossible: a general idea of the likely range of colours or shades is perhaps the best that can be expected.  Over the past few years there have been a number of discussions and questions about WW1 colours here and elsewhere and I believe it must be concluded that there is no single definitive "right" answer.  Certainly not as definitive as an FS match as someone asked.

 

US WW1 OD - noting the likelihood of variation - has been described as looking like "pig slop".  Although this is hardly an accurate consistent standard and it isn't clear if it meant what went into the front end of the pig or what came out of the back end.........  It's a description that might have been widely understood a century ago but has no real meaning today.

 

White Lead - or lack of it - is a problem with trying to mix these old colours today.  Titanium White will give a very different result unless a touch of yellow is added to bring it back to something more like White Lead, but the quantity and the shade of yellow will be more in the nature of educated guesswork.  Or perhaps use an off-white or cream instead of white in the mix.

 

Likewise the tinting effect of the drying agent.  I understand that there was no single consistent "Japan Dryer" used, and that in any case this is just a general description for a product to aid the oxygen absorption, peroxide formation and degradation and ultimately polymerisation of linseed oil paints.  These drying agents could add slight tints of their own.  I understand that shellac was very commonly used in that era, which would have added a reddish/brownish/purplish tint.  Manganese is a very effective dryer in conjunction with white lead and would have given a yellowy-brown tint but I'm not certain how was widely used it was in the WW1 era: it is the most common dryer today.  Coming out of the 19th Century the most commonly used dryers were copal, dammar, rosin and the afore-mentioned shellac.

 

So we circle back to attempts to definite a single colour standard for any WW1 colour being unlikely to succeed and the best that can be expected is an indication of the likely range of colours.

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4 hours ago, Das Abteilung said:

This QM Corps information has been posted and discussed before here and elsewhere. Original paint samples are few and far between and with batch mixing and imprecise measuring variation was inevitable.  Also, I imagine there was some site or regional variation in the colour of the raw umber used in such large quantities as the armed forces needed.  If you look at colour swatches online today there are wide variations in what is described as "raw umber" from somewhere near beige to something more like dark chocolate.

 

This is of course the recurring problem with WW1 colours.  No codification, variable ingredient quality and quantity and inconsistent production at multiple locations with no real quality assurance or control.  So being definitive is almost impossible: a general idea of the likely range of colours or shades is perhaps the best that can be expected.  Over the past few years there have been a number of discussions and questions about WW1 colours here and elsewhere and I believe it must be concluded that there is no single definitive "right" answer.  Certainly not as definitive as an FS match as someone asked.

 

US WW1 OD - noting the likelihood of variation - has been described as looking like "pig slop".  Although this is hardly an accurate consistent standard and it isn't clear if it meant what went into the front end of the pig or what came out of the back end.........  It's a description that might have been widely understood a century ago but has no real meaning today.

 

White Lead - or lack of it - is a problem with trying to mix these old colours today.  Titanium White will give a very different result unless a touch of yellow is added to bring it back to something more like White Lead, but the quantity and the shade of yellow will be more in the nature of educated guesswork.  Or perhaps use an off-white or cream instead of white in the mix.

 

Likewise the tinting effect of the drying agent.  I understand that there was no single consistent "Japan Dryer" used, and that in any case this is just a general description for a product to aid the oxygen absorption, peroxide formation and degradation and ultimately polymerisation of linseed oil paints.  These drying agents could add slight tints of their own.  I understand that shellac was very commonly used in that era, which would have added a reddish/brownish/purplish tint.  Manganese is a very effective dryer in conjunction with white lead and would have given a yellowy-brown tint but I'm not certain how was widely used it was in the WW1 era: it is the most common dryer today.  Coming out of the 19th Century the most commonly used dryers were copal, dammar, rosin and the afore-mentioned shellac.

 

So we circle back to attempts to definite a single colour standard for any WW1 colour being unlikely to succeed and the best that can be expected is an indication of the likely range of colours.

 

First of all many thanks for adding some thoughts.

 

Some things I've found:
Japan dryer is cataloged as an agent with cobalt compounds. It is omnipresent. But not a major artists choice, since it makes for a less glossy effect once hardened in larger mixing amounts. Some describe it as making oil paint "look like acrylics".
Might not be that unlogical on military finishes though.

I stumbled upon two (!) flake white (lead) paint tubes in an artist supply shop yesterday. Yet they are ... forbidden. They did not have a price tag.
White lead has two major characteristics: it is warm orangy (what's in a name) compared to titanium white and has less pigment strength. Titanium white is unforgivingly opaque and a pure usuallly cold white. Again unpopular in the artist world as a mixer.
Both characteristics are obtainable with using yellowish oils and less powerful mixing white base paint (incl zinc).

 

All in all not impossible to recreate "some" attempt. I've mixed raw umber oil paint with mixing white already, but I did not add yellowish linseed oil. The results of this was something rather close to Tamiya XF-51. The content, not the greener lid on top :) . But "Pig slop" is definitely present!
PB136856.JPG


The recipe calls for a certain weight in oil paint paste to combine with a certain weight in raw umber pigment. Raw umber has a huge oil absorption index compared to white. About 3 to 4 times as much as titanium white, 4 tot 5 times as much as zinc white and 5 to 6 times as much as lead white. First of all this means one needs far less white if one mixes umber and white oil paints instead of pigments. If you mix 6 times white with 1 time umber paint, you simply get a rather light warm grey. There is simply to little umber in it. Secondly this means one needs less titanium white or zinc white compared to lead white. Titanium usually has a pure to "cold" hue, zinc white can be warm. This means zinc white is a better choice anyway.

Raw linseed oil - definitely not refined - is yellowish. But is not "boiled". The very (almost brown) colourful boiled version is mentioned in napoleontic "gros vert" and US 19th century "olive" artillery paint mixes.

Edited by Steben
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Marc Ounan's restored ww1 Dodge staff car. The paint is produced base on scans of surviving ww1 painted surfaces
The gloss level is not full but almost full gloss which is convincing when looking at the dryer theory. The colour reminds me of field drab. Not that grey at all.

EB3BZG5XYAApuBa?format=jpg&name=large
8.22.19_MVPA-Convoy-8306.jpg
Dodge3.jpg?tr=w-500

Edited by Steben
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The weight to volume ratio is a real complicating factor in trying to replicate WW1 era paints.  Paint in those times was often defined by weight and in "hundredweight" quantities, certainly in the UK.  A UK hundredweight is, confusingly, 112lbs or 50.8kg.  Logically but even more confusingly a US hundredweight is 100lbs/45.4kg.  I believe that artists would buy oil paints in ounces or pounds from their "colourists", who would mix them up to order.  They had a short shelf life once mixed, longer if the dryer was added later.

 

As for Japan Drier, cobalt is certainly one of them but seems to have been in common use later than WW1 and has been almost completely replaced in modern times by Manganese.  A Cobalt drier might typically be 3% cobalt with 97% Naptha.  But Cobalt is extremely toxic - 5 on a scale of 6 - and has fallen out of common use because of that drawback.  Stable napthalene-based driers seem to have originated in Germany in the mid-20's.  Roughly coincident with the beginnings of Zinc Oxide replacing White Lead in paints.

 

Japan Drier is just a general description for polymerising agents and many things have been used.  Aluminium Stearate is another that might have been used in the WW1 period as paint technology and the need for greater production advanced from the use of natural resins such as shellac and rosin.  This was a white powder.  The dry drier constituents were generally dissolved in mineral spirits like turpentine and added wet rather than dry, as the recipe suggests.

 

Boiled Linseed Oil was not actually boiled in the WW1 era but had things added to cause the same effect as boiling: shortened drying time.  It used to be physically boiled but the additive discovery apparently goes back to medieval times.  In today's products you would find manganese and maybe still cobalt - as in Japan Drier.  But in the WW1 era I believe that Lead Oxide is more likely, another white powder, or Naptha.  So Boiled Linseed Oil is already modified to shorten the drying time compared to raw oil and Japan Drier is added to further shorten the process.  Without this the drying time could be days or even weeks.

 

I understand that the surface finish was more satin than gloss.  High gloss as we understand it today wasn't possible on vehicles etc until paints like nitrocellulose enamels emerged in the later 1930's.

 

But we circle back to definition of WW1 paints not being capable of the same degree of exactitude as we have come to expect since the arrival of RLM, RAL, BS, FS etc colour standards.  And there are still many arguments over those..........

Edited by Das Abteilung
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21 hours ago, Das Abteilung said:

The weight to volume ratio is a real complicating factor in trying to replicate WW1 era paints.  Paint in those times was often defined by weight and in "hundredweight" quantities, certainly in the UK.  A UK hundredweight is, confusingly, 112lbs or 50.8kg.  Logically but even more confusingly a US hundredweight is 100lbs/45.4kg.  I believe that artists would buy oil paints in ounces or pounds from their "colourists", who would mix them up to order.  They had a short shelf life once mixed, longer if the dryer was added later.

 

As for Japan Drier, cobalt is certainly one of them but seems to have been in common use later than WW1 and has been almost completely replaced in modern times by Manganese.  A Cobalt drier might typically be 3% cobalt with 97% Naptha.  But Cobalt is extremely toxic - 5 on a scale of 6 - and has fallen out of common use because of that drawback.  Stable napthalene-based driers seem to have originated in Germany in the mid-20's.  Roughly coincident with the beginnings of Zinc Oxide replacing White Lead in paints.

 

Japan Drier is just a general description for polymerising agents and many things have been used.  Aluminium Stearate is another that might have been used in the WW1 period as paint technology and the need for greater production advanced from the use of natural resins such as shellac and rosin.  This was a white powder.  The dry drier constituents were generally dissolved in mineral spirits like turpentine and added wet rather than dry, as the recipe suggests.

 

Boiled Linseed Oil was not actually boiled in the WW1 era but had things added to cause the same effect as boiling: shortened drying time.  It used to be physically boiled but the additive discovery apparently goes back to medieval times.  In today's products you would find manganese and maybe still cobalt - as in Japan Drier.  But in the WW1 era I believe that Lead Oxide is more likely, another white powder, or Naptha.  So Boiled Linseed Oil is already modified to shorten the drying time compared to raw oil and Japan Drier is added to further shorten the process.  Without this the drying time could be days or even weeks.

 

I understand that the surface finish was more satin than gloss.  High gloss as we understand it today wasn't possible on vehicles etc until paints like nitrocellulose enamels emerged in the later 1930's.

 

But we circle back to definition of WW1 paints not being capable of the same degree of exactitude as we have come to expect since the arrival of RLM, RAL, BS, FS etc colour standards.  And there are still many arguments over those..........


With the experiments I've done so far I'm slightly moving towards the idea the exact type of dryer or oil is not that crucial to the eventual hue as is the thinning and amount of fluid.
If one adds a thick layer of varnish on top of dull dry mix of umber + white, the colour becomes yellowish, excatly like the one on the picture above... The same colour appears when mixing some yellow ochre in dry mix.
I think we mentioned this earlier... a semi opaque paint will render a glaze, bringing out the yellow in the umber.... I even added some little flour to the same mix and got a rough surface and a dull warm grey....

 

I've noticed most cobalt dryers today are dark violet hued. This does add some little character towards olive. Don't know whether it was violet back then.

 

Flower pots with an umber glaze:
raw-umber-brown-stoneware-glaze-satin-se

Another example is the Liberty Truck in Cantigny. These guys did the same thing: scanning an original piece of painted metal.

It is very close to Ounan's Dodge, a brown khaki close to field drab. 
http://www.amps-chicago.org/images/CantignyJune2019 (28).jpg
https://nebula.wsimg.com/a9f6175fdb1b01df4716c81db522ca40?AccessKeyId=8097AC226920F6C59E04&disposition=0&alloworigin=1

 

101475755_1585420381607122_1835475615638

 

Edited by Steben
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  • 2 weeks later...

Some research on oil absorption and mixing oil paint led to this:
286884672_547749756785678_61651366939267

This means by average, 6 pounds of ground lead white + linseed oil will render 5.22 pounds of lead white to be paired with 1 pound of raw umber according to the recipe.
And 1 pound raw umber will render in reverse 1.56 pounds of paint paste if not overdiluted. At least 0.56 pounds is 254 grams of linseed oil or in other words at least 270 ml /cc.
1 quart is 946 ml/cc. So a lot of the added linseed oil (almost 75%) is pure thinner. The paint can't be thick, purely opaque. 1 layer would not have sufficed to cover. It does give a hint to a glazing effect, which makes raw umber yellowish.
This means if mixing paints instead of making the recipe one still needs to add oil and dryer and use multiple layers.

To calculate the volume we have:

- 5.22 pounds LW is 319ml/cc of pure pigment and thus around 695ml lead white paint paste.

- 1 pound RA is 137ml/cc of pure pigment and thus around 405ml raw umber paint paste.

- 473ml turpentine

- 236ml japan drier

- 946ml raw linseed oil if only umber is added or arund 675ml if umber paint paste is used


Of course, these are all based on average numbers and weights.
If not using lead white paint, which is more than realistic, one better uses something like "flake white hue" or a semi opaque warm zinc white with low tinting strength.


- Not using the extra liquids

- Using titanium white

- Using high opacity zinc white

 

will all eliminate the gentle tinting and diluted effect and render a grey instead of a yellowish earth tone in depth.

Edited by Steben
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  • 2 weeks later...

By the way: Very close to a FS30118 swatch I have, but just slightly more greyish.
think of a faded field drab jerrycan which got a clear coat.

Edited by Steben
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It is interesting how the colour appears to change from a more green shade in the first picture to a more brown shade in the second - different lighting, different background, different point from which it is viewed. 

 

cheers, Graham

 

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4 hours ago, Steben said:

By the way: Very close to a FS30118 swatch I have, but just slightly more greyish.
think of a faded field drab jerrycan which got a clear coat.

I am watching your work with a lot of interest there.

 

This is one of those colors I find 'hard to match perfectly' because of its properties that give it especially significant hue shift in varying light conditions.

Edited by Casey
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9 hours ago, ColonelKrypton said:

It is interesting how the colour appears to change from a more green shade in the first picture to a more brown shade in the second - different lighting, different background, different point from which it is viewed. 

 

cheers, Graham

 

Absolutely. And it still looks grey in some conditions.

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OK Folks. Next step. And it is a big one.

Not 100% true copy, but engineered approximation.

- non-rectified/non-purified linseed oil

- dark dryer

- turpentine (you know the tree stuff)

- raw umber oil paint paste

- Flake white hue paint paste (I had the opportunity to buy lead white, but on top of it being rather on the toxic side it was 20 bucks for one small tube...)

 

Mixed in the proportions as described.

The flake white hue immediately felt like something different from zinc or titanium white, albeit based on both :). It was low tinting, but not transparent. Ideal!

And God, I love the smell of linseed oil and some turpentine. The dryer somewhat less...

 

290237983_529133862335817_87067034981792
290714388_529179312331272_24065192259060

I'm so impatient.
I'll let you guys know the dry result ASAP.
But let me tell you already: it is again very close to FS30118 / 33105. Probably lighter since it is wet glossy, while the two FS colours are flat...
After all these repetitive signs: the WW1 olive drab was in all probability a version of what we call field drab.
And it is much closer to pig slob than any ww2 olive drab I've seen.

pigs-in-slop.jpg?w=640

Edited by Steben
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The colour is very very very indescribable.
It is glossy and gets its tone due to a certain "thickness". This means it is very variable.
It varies from grayish brown like a dark RAL 7006 to "caramel olive", close to Field Drab.
If one sees this colour one understands in a second the PC10 rants.
Do not forget this 1 brown earth pigment tinted with white.
Add the different raw umber pigments used and the chaos is ready to embark.

The raw umber I used is Daler & Rowney. Classic Pbr7. Nothing wrong with it.
But there are lighter and greener ones. They do tend to be called "light" and "green" umber as well... so .... not sure it actually means anything.
The mix of all elements except the umber looks like a semi transparent titan buff. So that may be a great road to try.

Edited by Steben
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Update: getting very close with RAL1011 + RAL7013 + RAL8027
Fine tuning led to more 1011 and 7013 to 8027. 8027 is a very strong tinting colour (because of the red).

Steve Zaloga suggests Tamiya XF49 as base for WW1 olive drab. But I find it too green compared to the oil mix. Adding a tad of XF52 (Flat Earth) helps a lot!

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