by: Keith Forsyth [ ]
The airbrush has been a must have tool for the serious model maker for many a year, Once you have learnt how best to use it's magical touch you wonder how you lived with out it. The down side to using an airbrush is the cleaning now with the use of modern technology there is a way to make life that little bit more simple.
I like many others having used an airbrush now for many years have quite a simple system for cleaning mine after every use, by flushing through with cleaner and water (I use acrylic paint by the way). Even so there is always a build of paint over a period of time that requires a full dismantle and a good soaking of the airbrush over night is in some serious thinners that are not generally good for your health, so it a real pleasure to receive one of these in the post for review. I had seen them before on the odd trade stand at shows and other modellers I have spoken to have said how good they are, but I really wanted to see one in operation before parting with any cash.
Ultra Sonic Cleaner
The Sonic Cleaner comes in a cardboard box cushioned by a protective cardboard sleeve on either end. It Measures 20 x 13.5 x 13.8 cm, and is fitted with a standard three pin UK plug. A small instruction sheet welcomes you as you open the box and I would suggest reading it before operating the sonic cleaner.
You also get a plastic tray that fits with in the cleaner as well as a divider for the tray. The Instructions are quite clear as to how best clean your airbrush even recommending the type of cleaner to use with water.
There is a plastic lid that opens with a push of a small button giving access to the stainless steel tank (sized 15 x 9 x 5 cm), the plastic tray is a perfect fit. There is also a max mark on the side of the tank to ensure you don't over fill it.
On the front of the sonic cleaner you get a digital display that shows a count down in seconds once the cleaner is in operation. Three buttons are also present, on/off, timer and a reset. The on/off starts the cleaner going with a default 3 minute cycle, the time can be increased using the time button. This will increase the time by 180 seconds each press up to a maximum of 60 minutes. The time can be reset back to the original 180 seconds by pressing the reset button.
You may be wondering how it works so let me quickly explain by copying from the instruction sheet:
Ultrasonic Cleaning makes use of the effect of cavitations and the sonic pressure that is generated in the liquid by the powerful ultrasonic waves. The process of ultrasonic cleaning in a liquid is the action of ultrasonic waves generating micro vacuole bubbles which repeatedly expand and contract. Once these bubbles burst the action will gradually and gently remove the contamination or dirt that is adhered to the surface of the article as well as places not easily accessed. The cleaning efficiency is improved with the addition of a cleaning liquid due to its dissolving and permeating properties. Therefore, it is ideal for articles that are complicated in shape. The instructions suggest that you break your airbrush down to achieve the best cleaning, I have heard of some modellers who suggest that you can put your whole airbrush in and achieve the same result. I personally would strip it down to ensure that any of removed particles do not get stuck in your airbrush and possibly cause other problems, just remember to remove any O rings or rubber washers first.
Using the Cleaner
I don't feel a review would be complete with out giving this a full work out, so digging out my old badger 200 and blowing paint through it to ensure there was a good build up. The badger was left to fully dry out for a few days before I was satisfied it would be a good test.
I started with the cleaner as recommended by the company and filled the stainless steel container with a mix of 25% cleaner to 75% water, the stripped down airbrush was then put into the plastic basket and lowered into the mixture. The cleaner was then ran for 180 seconds (the default time). Afterwards the parts were checked and their was a definite sign of the acrylic paint beginning to come off. The parts were again re-submerged into the mix and ran for a further five minutes, this after removing the parts from the cleaner had all but removed the sand colour I had used to clog the airbrush up with. It had also started to remove years old bits of paint from inside the airbrush and the cleaning fluid/water mixture had a certain coloured hue to it. I decided to try a slightly stronger cleaner from Vallejo as this is what I normally use to clean my airbrush after use.After emptying the sonic cleaner and refilling again with a mixture of Vallejo airbrush cleaner and water to the ratio 25/75 (I must also point out that I only filled the sonic cleaner up so the mixture just went over the top off the airbrush parts and not to the max level), I tried again for five minutes. The result was a lot of gunk out of the airbrush, which just went to prove no matter how much you think you clean out after every use, there is still a build up on the inside you don't quite get to.As a final test I filled a small glass jar with pure cleaner and submerged the tip of the airbrush into it. The glass jar was then put into the cleaner (which was still full of the old fluid) and the the cleaner was ran for a further five minutes. On completion of the cycle you could actually see that the cleaning fluid in the glass jar was dirty from the paint it had removed. A wipe with a cotton bud removed the last traces of grime from the airbrush, the cotton bud would probably not have been required but this airbrush is the best part of ten years old and has had a lot of abuse in that time. Now the last particles weren't stubborn and came away easily with no effort on my part and showed how much the Sonic cleaner had loosened them during the cleaning process, in fact you can now see the brass the airbrush is made from when peering inside.
ConclusionI am now convinced that this is an amazing piece of kit, I had aways thought that my airbrush cleaning routine was good and efficient and removed the paint I had been spraying through it. Some time it is good to be proven wrong, this machine will clean your airbrush way more efficiently than you ever could and will no doubt prolong the life of your airbrush parts. Coming in at the same price as a good model kit also ensures that it will not break the bank, and should your other half still object just point out she can use it to clean all that expensive jewellery you have brought her over the years with it as well. Highly recommended.