Yesterday, I was doing a bit of bench cleanup…
And came across my big, unwieldy bottle of Future. What to do about it? Well…
When I posted this over on the Facebook page, it elicited some cheers, some laughs, some “but…why?!?” comments. As well as questions over what I use instead. And that little blog post idea light bulb started blinking above my head. So here we are.
TL;DR version if you want to skip to the next section – Future is inconsistent in performance and therefore not to be trusted.
Because Future, in my experience, is wildly inconsistent. Several years ago I was attending a panel at CES and heard an apparently well-known UX guy talk about the difference between science and magic. Science, he said, is repeatable and understandable. You do X thing and get Y result. It’s basically the heart of good user experience. Magic on the other hand is inconsistent. Something amazing happens, but when you try to replicate it, it goes wrong. It’s not easily understood, and not readily controlled. Now there’s a whole other layer in terms of magic and design…sometimes it’s just bad design – like the way touching one setting in MS Word will fuck up another setting. And sometimes it’s that whole “sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” thing – like with a very advanced, rabbit hole-ish program like Adobe After Effects.
Anyway. Future is magic. In that it’s inconsistent and unpredictable. With it, I’ve achieved some great gloss coats, and some terrible, grainy ones. I’ve had it self-level wonderfully, and I’ve had it pool and face surface tension issues and orange peel.
It’s other famed use – as a protectant for canopies – is similarly unpredictable at my bench. Sometimes…great results. Other times all it’s good for is trapping dust or pooling up where the canopy meets the frame.
Now…I’m sure a ton of this has to do with environmental factors. Temperature, humidity, phase of the moon, sunspot activity and the like. Fine. The cold, hard truth is that I model in a garage, not an environmentally sealed lab. I need something that can perform consistently across at least a reasonable range of environmental conditions.
And Future is not it.
What I Use Instead – for Canopies
So to my mind there are three reasons you might use Future on canopies. Let’s go through them and the alternatives.
1 – The canopy is scratched or slightly clouded or whatever. If you need to really get after it, this is where light sanding and buffing with increasingly finer grits really works best. Another option is Novus’ plastic polishing system. I tend to use Novus 2 (Fine Scratch Remover) and Novus 1 (cleaner, basically) if called for.
2 – With Future, CA won’t fog canopies! What a silly reason to dip an entire part into a liquid! Aside from weird things popped open at weird angles (like the canopy doors on an AH-1 Cobra) there’s really no good reason to use CA on clear parts. A PVA glue is a better option if you can get away with it. If you need the extra hold to get windscreens sitting right or whatnot, a liquid solvent like Tamiya Extra Thin or MEK works better.
And if you absolutely HAVE TO use CA on clear parts, their are flavors of CA that won’t fog (much). I did some tests when I was figuring out how to tackle the cockpit doors of Kitty Hawk’s AH-1Z Viper – and Loctite’s Ultra Gel Control only fogs where you put it. So if you’re propping up a hinged canopy or something, it’s a totally viable option.
3 – Protection against sloppiness and accidents. Bleed-under! Adhesive residue! Miscellaneous fuckups! I get it. The desire for “insurance” is understandable, especially with something like clear parts, where you’ve kinda got one shot. My alternative? Reduce the potential for screwing up. I mask my canopies with either Tamiya tape or Eduard masks (same difference). I burnish them down. I spray my canopies in gentle, misting layers, taking care to avoid any kind of flooding or gusting. Nice, light, gentle.
When the masks come off, any adhesive that gets left behind (rare) is easily removed with a q-tip and some Novus #1 cleaner. Aided by a chisel-cut toothpick if absolutely necessary.
What I Use Instead – Gloss Coats
I’m happy that it works for others…but for me Future has been a wildly inconsistent gloss coat. At that stage in a build, I want something consistent, something I can trust to not totally screw me and all the work I’ve put in.
I’ve tried a lot of different glosses. You name it, I’ve probably put it through my airbrush. Gunze, yep. Testors, yep. Humbrol, unfortunately. Alclad, yep. Vallejo, AK, Ammo, even some weird shit called Gaia.
My favorite is Tamiya X-22 Clear, thinned with Gunze Mr. Leveling Thinner. But here’s the kicker…once it’s down, it’s important to go back over it with a very light, misted coat of straight leveling thinner. For some chemical reason that’s probably awesome, this helps it go very, very smooth.