Tuesday, 20 February 2018

When paint doesn't match...

I hate trying to match paint colours. I don't think it is at all possible. Not if you want to get a 100% match anyway. I tried it a year ago when building my staging shelf for Philden, and the colour matching service offered by a leading hardware store was a poor match at best. Ignoring the fact that the rich railway red timber look I was going for didn't at all match my desk (above), the store matched Australian Jarrah all-in-one stain-and-varnish (below right) had left me pretty disappointed since day one. It looked nothing like the original, (below left). The end result looked more like watered-down paint than a timber stain-and-varnish.

The original and now no-longer produced Cabot's stain-and-varnish Gloss Australian Jarrah on the left, and the hardware store's poor attempt to match it on the right.

Believe it or not, the above example actually took 3 attempts to get it not even close. So 18 months after the above debacle, I sought out some advice on how to get the new section of layout to match with the original layout section I had stained-and-varnished back in 2015 before Cabot's decided to discontinue making a Gloss Australian Jarrah. The team member suggested using another brand who were now producing a Rich Jarrah, that strictly judging by the colour sample patches in store looked a very, very close match to my original layout section.

Taking the hardware team member's advice to use the Feast Watson's Gloss Rich Jarrah stain-and-varnish instead? Well, it's brown mate, and looks nothing like the display board sample.

I think you can tell by the above first coat that it looked nothing like it. It looked as brown as a dog poo on a hot day. Going back to the store with the above photo, I was explained that to undo the staining of the timber would require sanding the timber back to its bare state. But there was still no guarantee that anything was ever going to match the original and now discontinued Australian Jarrah stain. This was the fourth time I had tried and failed. It was time to think outside of the box. What if I just painted it instead?

The Dulux duramax spray paint range requires no priming on wood or metal (it does on plastic), and is touch dry and able to be re-coated in just 20 minutes. I used just 1 can of the Gloss Indian Red to apply 4 coats on my extension.

Ignoring the sales team leader, (or whatever they call themselves), whose answer after my purchasing a $40 can of stain-and-varnish had just failed, was to lightly sand the surface before applying a $63 can of enamel primer, followed by a $47 can of tinted gloss enamel, (we're up to $150 here, or half the price of a new model locomotive), I took a Dulux duramax spray effects brochure home to run by my wife while deciding just what to do over a cup of coffee. Amongst their colour choices was a Gloss Indian Red, in a spray can that required no priming on wood or metal, and could be re-coated after just 20 minutes drying time. Best of all, it cost just $12 per can.

Sure, masking the area to be spray painted took some time and care, but spray painting the new layout section was a good test run to see if any paint would bleed or make its way onto the area I didn't want painted if I were to re-spray my existing layout. It took me just one afternoon to mask the extension and apply 4 coats of paint. The finished result looks better than my original section of layout, and used less than 1 can. The photos below of the new extension are now ready to start building some new layout on.

Taking my wife's advice? Perfect. The Dulux duramax Gloss Indian Red spray paint turned up brilliant. The colour looks like it was the leftover paint from a NSWGR 421 Class restoration.

The 80 cm long extension will attach to the end of my current 188 cm long layout, giving me 2.68 metres of HO scale bookshelf layout spread over two distinct scenes with two tracks connecting via the 'mouse-hole'.

And to future-proof any further expansion plans, the corner will include a sneak-off track for the day when I finally extend this to become an L-shaped layout. For now, a perspex strip will sit in place on the corner.

The new lift-off lid design weighs much less and adds another strip of gold painted trim to the layout's appearance. I'm also replacing the lift-off lid on the current layout to match and spray-painting it in the same Gloss Indian Red with gold trim.

The 80 cm extension will effectively replace my current 70 cm staging shelf which is nothing but two tracks on a stub-ended painted black shelf. Ignoring the wrinkles in my track plan above, the current layout's two tracks will continue through the mouse-hole to a second railway station and platform, with two sidings. One siding will end hard in the front right corner, where I have already factored in a provision for one day extending this into a half-room sized L-shape layout. Careful use of this end of backdrop could make this look like the entrance to a port. While the foreground has a split-level to allow me to model a rock wall falling away into the water, with a short bridge, (something I regretted not having on my current layout) crossing the cut-out section.

And finally the name reveal... Phills (coughs) Harbour. Naming my fictional NSW extension loosely after one of my favourite holiday destinations is a big stretch of the imagination, but enables me to model some completely different scenery.

This layout was always intended to stand above my desk and provide some inspiration for my writing. After a five year break from finishing my last novel, writing is something I am again wanting to return to in 2019. Only now my desk has become impractical to share space with my writing and my HO scale modelling. The problems I've experienced with trying to match the original stain I used on Philden with the extension, have also seen me ditch any plans to build a matching desk complete with built-in N scale layout beneath it. Time-wise, the time is no longer there as I try to complete some more railway books in 2018 before that window also closes on me. Next month the desk goes up on Gumtree, and I'll replace it with a mix-and-match desk and storage/work area from IKEA. I need something that I can put a model I'm working on aside, and not get lost in the clutter as I start laying out my next projects.

Blog-wise, there are still a few more HO scale reviews for me to post in the coming weeks as I near completing my roster overhaul. I've found that some models have worked, and others haven't, solely because of the size restrictions I'm forced to work with on a small bookshelf layout. I don't know if everyone really appreciates my reviews or not. I guess I just do it to share my thoughts about what I like and what I don't, in much the same way as readers leave reviews on my books. Anyway, I'm nearly done for now. Auscision's NQTY's have been a very pleasant surprise, as have their 40' foot and 20' foot containers in general. I do need to add a couple of coil steel butter-boxes to complete my small steel train. But a little birdie tells me that SDS Models 81 Class isn't that far away either. If anyone can tell me whether 8125, 8144, 8155 or 8176 were repainted into Pacific National colours between 2002-2005, it would save me the anxiety of buying the wrong livery for my era. Otherwise, I'll play it safe with either 8101 or 8168 in Freight Rail blue with the PN patches to join NR29 on my roster.

Sure there will always be something on the horizon that may tempt me to add just that one more model to my collection in the future, but for now those few above items will have to do. One day I'm sure I'll have that L-shaped room layout complete with the city scene I was wanting to build on an upper level, but for now I'll be happy with what I've got. And just be thankful that I found a way around the problem of what to do when the paint doesn't match...

See also: Painted stained and varnished


  1. Keep the reviews coming Phil. Always worth reading.

    1. Well I do have a few more models on the arrival track, so I guess why stop now when I'm on the home straight. Thanks Rob, I get around to them soon.

  2. G'day Phil. My list shows:
    8125 painted Sep-2005
    8144 painted May-2005
    8155 painted August-2005
    8176 painted September-2005

    The first one painted was 8113 in September-2004.

    I hate Freight Rail blue as a livery and would avoid it at all costs, but the choice is yours.



    1. Thanks so much for your much-needed research Chris. I now know that I can just sneak the Pacific National 81 Class livery onto my 2002-2005 era layout. I have fond memories of an "unofficial" cab ride in an 81 Class one night at Acacia Ridge yard in Brisbane in the summer of 2004/2005, and although I forgot to take note of the loco number, it was still wearing the Freight Rail livery with the PN patches applied. So I've always had a soft spot for the 81's no matter what colour they're wearing.

      Hopefully one of the above will appear on my layout this year!


Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil