September 24, 2012

An other way of tuning airbrushes

While scientists and tinkerers think of ways to tune airbrushes to improve their performance, I tried a different approach, since the airbrush is only one of the components used during airbrushing. The others are water, air and paint. Paint will always be the result of the manufacturers choices; all artists can do, is change the mix ratio by adding more water to less paint. There's also not a lot private persons can do about the quality of air. But there is something that can be done about the quality of water used for spraying.

Combo meter

Two properties of water affect the ease (or not) of airbrushing. These are the surface tension of water and the level of particles contained within the water. I am still studying the possibilities to relatively easy lower the water surface tension (which directly related to the attraction between water molecules), but I have already experimented with ways to reduce the number of particles in water. The measurement of the number of particles per volume of water is expressed in ppm (parts per million). To measure that I use a combo meter that is capable of measuring the pH (acidity level) and the ppm. An image of the device you see above.

The water that flows out of my tap at home is approximately 300 ppm, which means there is 300 milligram of dissolved solids inside every liter. That may not seem like a lot, but all particles have to pass the section of the 0.2 mm nozzle minus the part of the needle that is inside of it. The particles in the paint I use (Holbein Aeroflash) are inevitable - no paint without pigments and solvents (even if they are water based). These substances contain solid particles. The less there are of those, the better the airbrush will perform, because less solid particles per volume have to pass the narrow gap between needle and nozzle.

So how to remove as much rubbish as possible without affecting the paint? The answer to that question is to use as clean as possible water. Distilled water which measured had a ppm of 20 and RO-water (reverse osmosis) has a ppm of 27. I have a RO-system for other purposes (it's healthier than tap water and when mixed with proper nutrients is a delicacy for plants...) and the device is in the image below.

Reverse osmosis system

This type of RO-system has three filters: On the right in the transparent container is a sediment filter that traps coarse particles. The carbon filter on the bottom left removes certain chemicals and the horizontally placed filter on top (the osmosis filter) in the black cylindrical container, removes all solids larger than 1 micron. Note: make sure the RO-filter is from Dow-Chemical; other brands are not as good. I prefer the RO-water over the distilled water which is totally dead. No other argument for this choice, just an intuitive preference. This particular RO-system cost me 120 Euro, but I've seen them (after I bought one of course) for a little over half that price.

I am also experimenting with magnetizing water which reduces the attracting force between water molecules (which is why solvent based paints spray better than water based paints). Reduced attraction improves the flow of the water - it is capable of passing through the narrow gap between needle and nozzle with more ease. I haven't yet figured out which magnetic frequency works (best), because there are too many conflicting opinions on this matter offered on the Internet. It urges me to test which method is the best. I just place the water of the small plastic container that contains the water with which I spray on top of a powerful speaker magnet, as a result of which all molecules are polarized and turn into the same direction. Polarizing water molecules theoretically makes water flow easier, better.

Water container on top of speaker magnet (watch video below from 18:27 - 19:33 minutes)


I have tested spraying with RO-water and it makes my Harder & Steenbeck Infinity airbrush spray wonderfully. With its polished needle and the RO-water it behaves a lot better than straight out of the box using tap water to dissolve my paint. If these tests are consistent I am going to try using it in my favorite Iwata Custom Micron SB. Further ahead in time I may experiment with HFHV (high frequency high voltage) electric fields and ultrasonic frequencies.

Whatever it may take to allow water to recover from its current contaminated and brutalized state caused by modern day society. Water is an intelligent living organism that has properties that go beyond (intentionally induced) common perception. Water has a self-repairing mechanism built into it, but mankind has harmed it so much that we need to help it to return to its original state. Stay tuned while I continue to tune.


Update September 28 2012: I used the processed water in the Iwata Custom Micron SB and the results were stunning...  Straight out of the box the gun already sprayed smoother than any other airbrush I owned, but with the water treatment, its handling became beyond incredible. The latest Chief Plenty Coups session was sprayed using the water from this experiment. Especially when working very close to the surface with ultra low air pressure the water processing is beneficial. The instant at which clogging occurs, is postponed and the level of control over the fineness of the spray by trigger motion is elevated significantly.

Update September 20 2012: I suspect a similar magnetizing treatment of solvent based paints may result in comparable improvement, but I have not yet tested that, I left the 1 : 20 mix ratio Holbein Aeroflash in the open paint cup of the Iwata CM SB and continued to spray the next day (16 hours later) and after blowing out the residue (without even stirring the content of the cup) the airbrush sprayed like I had just given it a fresh refill... Try that with untreated tap water. One other strange thing I noticed: the flexible wall of my cylindrical closed space plastic water container was shaped in a concave shape (bent inward), as if the volume inside of it had decreased. I am repeating this to check if this was a coincidence.