Like many aircraft modellers, I love the way a well done natural metal aircraft looks. And like many... I hate the thought of painting one! There have been many products to help with this - from multi-toned paints (silver, steel, etc) to foil such as BareMetal Foil. Some time ago, model paint companies started coming out with "buffable" metalizer paints - my favorite for a while was from ModelMaster. The problem was that these were delicate finishes, and required a sealer, which often dulled the finish you had worked so hard to achieve. For a while, I went back to just using Rub 'n Buff paste, and limited my "natural" leanings to propeller blades and small items.
I'd heard for quite some time about this wonderful metalizer - SNJ Spray Metal. It sounded "too good to be true" - it was durable, it could be masked, it could be painted over, it didn't need a sealer - not even Future! When a chance to pick some up as part of a promotion (bundled with an Accurate Miniatures P-51B kit) came up, I took the plunge and bought some. It languished on my shelf for a year and a half, for one reason or another. I just never got around to using it.
Finally, a project came along that I had to use this with. Hasegawa's KI-61 Hien kit had several colorful options, and I chose to go with a mottled green over natural metal camoflage. I decided to give SNJ a try - after all, it had been sitting around, and this would be a chance to see if it DID hold up to masking as well as was stated. Plus, any gaffes could be hidden somewhat with the mottling. "What the heck, give it a shot."
Let me say, it lives up to its hype.
The product gets sprayed on in 4 mist coats, 15 minutes or so apart. Over light grey plastic, it's hard to tell at first what's happening with it, and with the clear canopy not "misting" much, I was afraid it wouldn't cover the framing well after seeing the first two coats.
Third coat's the charm... suddenly I had something that looked... silver! Cool! I finished that coat, waited, and put on the fourth. I then let it cure for a while (SNJ reccommends an hour - and that's really all it needs.)
I looked it over - good coverage, no doubt about it, and very smooth. If I were doing an aluminum or silver doped aircraft, I could leave it at this and be happy. Of course, I could leave it at silver paint at this point with the same result - no metal "flakes" were showing, which is good.
Looking in the box, I pulled out a polishing cloth and a jar of aluminum powder - they reccommend using a mask "just in case" with this, and I'd say do it. After masking a test panel, I dipped the tip of my finger (covered with the rag) in, and went to work... in a few seconds, there was a *very* noticable difference! I pulled off the masking tape - all the SNJ stayed on the model, not so much as a hint of paint on the adhesive. Excited, I went to work on more panels on the model - with a few minutes work, there were noticable variations in panels. It looked like... metal.
This stuff works great. As with any "metal" finish, be sure you have a smooth surface - sanding marks, scratches, and such *will* show up. (Of course, they'll show under paint as well, but it seems more obvious under metal finishes.) Still, I can heartily reccommend SNJ Spray Metal for any project where you need a "metal" finish. They have other shades besides aluminum, as well - gold, bronze, and copper, both as powder and as "paint." The powder can be applied over other enamel paints, as well, such as black - use some aluminum powder, and it can come out looking like steel. And again - it's DURABLE. Unlike other products, which need sealant, peel off, or can't handle handling, SNJ's product stays on the model and stays looking *good.*
Where to get it... Suprisingly, I still have not found a site for SNJ Model Products. However, many online and traditional hobby shops have their products. You can contact the company itself at firstname.lastname@example.org, write them at PO Box 292713, Sacramento, CA 95829, call at 916-428-7217, or fax at 916-395-8920.