Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tape Masking

Another painting technique worth watching for is something I call tape-masking. Instead getting all artsy-fartsy with an airbrush, Breyer just taped off the areas they wanted to keep white with masking tape. The technique is not too different from the one Reeves uses now for its markings and patterns, but lower-tech and cheesier. A lot of Marney tests, like this one, were tape-masked:

(Yeah, he does have a few freehand airbrushed spots on him, too.)

Stencils or masks are intricate and expensive to create; one tool-and-die guy I spoke to described it "jewelry work." That’s why the same pinto patterns show up on older test colors: they weren’t going to commit to making a new mask until the model was definitely moving towards production. If an existing mask wasn’t sufficient, and nobody had the artistic chops to freehand the pattern desired, they resorted to the masking tape.

99.9% of the time, if you run across a legitimate original finish model that has been tape-masked, it’s a test color or sales sample. Surprisingly, there may have been one regular run production model that was briefly released using this technique: the #74 Polled Hereford Bull.

I purchased this guy several years ago from the collection of a former Breyer Sales Rep. You can see that the edge of the markings is very "cut" looking and defined. Amusingly, you can also see that they tried to soften the edge a bit, possibly with a cotton swab or something:

He looked like a touchup job at first, but trust me, he’s 100% original finish. He’s passed all of the scratch, sniff and dunk tests. All the modifications in his finish are underneath his clear factory topcoat.

At first, I thought he might have been a preproduction piece (this guy’s collection was pretty awesome - a test or oddity wouldn’t have been out of place) until I found a few more on eBay. I even bought one more just to confirm what I was seeing: yup, more tape-masking.

Now, it’s possible that all of these guys that I’ve been finding were all preproduction, pre-mask pieces, but it seems unlikely. If only one or two random pieces showed up, the preproduction theory would be plausible. When you’ve seen four or five - on eBay - from different sellers in different parts of the country, it seems more likely that these fellas were legitimate production pieces.

These PHBs could have been from the first production batch, before the mask was ready, but after the model was available for ordering on the wholesale price list. And in order to get the order out, Breyer resorted to masking tape. A similar situation occurred not that long ago with the blue roan Appaloosa Performance Horse release Diamondot Buccaneer: the first batch of ‘em had handpainted spots, not masked ones.

Small changes occur in many models at the beginning of their production runs - enough so that I get a little uneasy whenever I see customizers descend upon new releases with such gusto. It their efforts to create something special and distinct, they may be destroying something just as special and distinct in the process.

1 comment:

Hope said...

I had no idea there were so many different kinds of variations in the models. Really neat to know, but hard to keep up with. This must take a lot of research!!