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  an article from the

"Narrow Gauge Downunder" magazine


I enjoy building structures that have seen better days, and normally are well weathered. This includes all the objects made of metal found around and that are part of these structures. Rust and other types of weathered deteriation have always fascinated me and I am always searching for that perfect method to show these effects. 

A good example of my well weathered modelling is “SAM’S SALVAGE COMPANY”, seen opposite. It employs most of the weathering techniques that I use, and below I’m going to outline a couple of these methods, and show you how easy they are. The main thing with any method that has to be repeated over and over again is that they are simple and use easily available materials.


 In trying to achieve a well rusted effect on our often simulated metals, where we can use cast resin, styrene, paper or plastics (and real metal sometimes!) we need to undercoat the material to achieve a surface that will take our paints, weathering chalks and pencils. For this I use spray cans of automotive etching undercoat in grey. It also is available in white and black.

Having a close look at rusty metal often reveals a base colour that can vary from brown through red and purple. This base colour depends on the make up of the metal. In SAM’S I have used a red through purple base and this is achieved with HUMBROL™ Wine Red#73 and Oxford Blue #104, but the choice is yours as to what brand or colours you use. With both cans open and a 1/4” chisel brush in hand, dip into the blue paint and apply onto the object, and with the brush still wet, dip into the red and over-paint the blue. Vary the amount of red used on each sheet so you get a variety of colours from red through purple to blue. 

Having allowed all the painted parts to fully dry, brush on various coloured rust powders, from the dark brown to the light brown, varying the coverage on each piece. By far the best rust powders I have used are made by BRANGDON ENTERPRISES™ and are available mail order through  Then, with an bright ochre coloured powder, dab on blotches at random to represent areas of new rust. Finally, using pastel pencils in orange and brown (the brand I use are CONTI™ and are available from artist supply shops) I draw vertical stripes of rust where new rust has run down the part.

Don’t over do these effects, and leave some pieces without any. The object is to achieve a set of pieces that look similar but have subtle differences in colour and rust spots.


The simulated corrugated iron I use is rolled aluminium sheet and comes in scale 8 feet or 10 feet long sheets by a scale 24 feet long. It very thin and close to scale thickness. I always cut it into approximately 3 scale feet wide sheets. This aluminium sheet I use is manufactured by “VR Models" and sold at various hobby shops.  

Because of this scale thickness, it too thin to etch with ferric chloride (available from Dick Smith Electronic Stores) as it simple disappears before you can stop the chemical reaction, unlike the  thicker sheets available that can be etched with the ferric chloride .If you use this enchant take all safety precautions when using it. To etch this thinner and more realistic corrugated iron I use ‘LIQUID DRANO - Professional Strength, available from most supermarkets, and is used to clear domestic drains. Pour the DRANO into an old metal tray and place the sheets into the liquid gel. Liquid Drano is a very mild acid, and will take several hours to etch the aluminium. This etching allows paints and chalks to adhere nicely. Just keep an eye on the process and remove when the desired effect has been achieved. Wash the sheets well in water to stop the chemical reaction.  Once etched this material is very thin so handle with care. 


Another aging effect I used on SAM’S SALVAGE COMPANY is the tar paper on the veranda roof. 

From the art supply shop, you can obtain a large sheet of black construction paper for about $6.00. This is a pulp type paper, and when you tear it across the sheet, it doesn't tear straight through, but sheers across the paper leaving the rough matted interior of the paper exposed, which simulates the tar with the outer paper torn away. I cut the paper into 4 foot wide strips to the required length of the wall or roof, and with 80 grit sandpaper, sand the outer face to thin it down, as well as rough the surface. Don't worry if you crease the paper, as the next step is to hold the paper with both hands and place creases over the sheet. The sheet can now be torn across at an angle or an edge torn away or to any shape that looks a well weathered piece of tarpaper. 

If you want holes in the sheet, drip a large drop of Superglue onto your sanding surface, allow to dry, place the sheet of paper over the blob and sand until a hole appears, as can be seen at left. 

When the sheets are to this stage, I use a large flat brush and apply a beige chalk and grey chalk over the entire surface to weather the matt black of the paper. The final effect is achieved with the CONTÉ white pastel pencil which I use to highlight the creases we made in the sheet. Apply the pastel at a low angle and smug with the tip of your finger. The black CONTÉ pastel pencil can also be used to add different shades to the tarpaper.  Once the tar paper is attached over the wall or roof, weathered scale 2"x 1" battens are added to complete the effect.