Reviewed by Mike Cougill, O Scale Trains, Sept/Oct, 2008 pg. 57

Back in the 1950s, John Allen rocked the world of model railroading by modeling the effects of age and weathering on objects such as structures and rolling stock. Since that time, a model doesn't look complete without some dust, grime, peeling paint or rust. Today, weathering of models has become an art form in its own right (see our feature article on pg4, O Scale Trains, Sept/Oct, 2008).

Award winning modeler and diorama-ist Richard "Ben" Bendever has created a line of weathering stains and products based on his NMRA Clinic techniques.

I’ll give you the bottom line up front: I have no idea what this stuff is, but I like it. This particular product is designed to be a matched replacement for the long defunct, but much loved, Floquil weathering stains. My samples consisted of a thick liquid pigment base of some kind in a 7O0/0 alcohol solution. Colors are: Aged Driftwood®, Hardwood Maple®, Knotty Walnut®; Natural Basswood®, Natural Pine®, Nautical Teak®, Realistic Oak® and Rustic Barn Red®. A 12 page How-To Guide #1 was also included.

These stains can be handled in a variety of ways. You can brush them on full-strength like a heavy bodied opaque wood stain or as a transparent wash which enables many transparent layers to be built up. Wood or some other porous material is the obvious first choice for these stains, and I tried them out on a piece of scrap wood siding with excellent results. However, I mainly use styrene as a modeling medium and I was curious about how they'd respond on a nonporous surface.

The photo [at left] shows two applications to a sheet of styrene. On the left, I simply brushed on the full-bodied stain with a soft bristled brush. As you can see, the coverage is spotty with a bit of streaking since the stain is just lying on the surface and not soaking in. To the right, I pre-wet the area with some denatured alcohol and dropped the stain into the wetted area. The alcohol allowed the pigments to disperse at random, letting them do what nature and chemistry dictate they do. Similar to laying down a watercolor wash in a painting (something I have a bit of experience with), the effects are marginally controllable by the amount of alcohol or wetness the area has. The How-To Guide suggests pre-wetting plastic models, theta dropping or dabbing on varying amounts of the appropriately colored stain, letting the area dry for a few minutes and seeing what the results are. (You'll likely be pleasantly surprised.) The Guide book stated that the weathering effects do not have to be sealed, but be aware that the colors aren't permanent on nonporous materials like styrene. I was able to completely remove the color from my test piece, even after several days had passed, by rubbing it vigorously with an alcohol dampened paper towel. However, I did successfully apply another layer of color without disturbing the previous one.

A use I hadn't planned on was coloring the existing scenery on the layout. I use sisal twine extensively for tall grass and wintertime weeds. The sisal has a natural yellow tan color that works okay but can be a bit boring en masse. Trying the Natural Pine® and Realistic Oak® Stains gave a convincing color to the twine that I really liked.

The twine soaked up the colors in a random fashion. Some areas were more intensely colored; other spots had the natural color of the sisal showing through, giving the effect of grasses going into dormancy for the winter. Vigorously shaking the container will put the pigment into suspension just like a bottle of regular paint, but it doesn't stay in suspension long. This can be used to advantage by dipping the brush to the bottom of the jar to pick up the full strength pigment or just slightly dipping it to get a weaker semi-suspended coloring. I also used a spray mister filled with isopropyl alcohol to dilute areas of the grass where the stain was too dark for my liking. Once I got going, I colored half of the existing grassy areas on the layout in short order. They now blend in with the rest of the scenery and look much more natural to my eyes. I'm certain that I'll find a use for this product on other parts of the scenery too.

I think Dr. Ben has a winner with these products. Other products in the line include weathering powders, building materials and scenery items. Check them out.