Sunday, May 24, 2009

Doctor Ben's Pond Scum (#1057)

Question: we love the rust but the pond scum does not seem to be performing for us- it seems wayyyyy too dark, not like the light green of real pond scum.....have you got any pictures or examples of what it is supposed to look like?
MH Hampstead, NC

Answer: First, Congratulations on being the very first posting on this new BLOG experience & thank you for the Realistic Rust (#1050) comment!

Pond Scum - Yes, an ambiguous product that I have creatively used for many, many years in combination with "other" products to make a scene. The history of this product was that I had one of those old, square Floquil© two ounce jars that I washed my paint brushes as a primary wash to remove most of the color from a brush. If I wanted a perfectly clean brush I would use a second jar labeled Pond Scum #2 (true story) to swish the paint brush real well; dry with a rag; and (if it were a good brush) re-wet the brush bristles with saliva and a quick twist to re-shape the bristles for use another time.

As Pond Scum #2 jar became too dirty to provide a thoroughly cleaned brush I would stir the contents and pour them into the Pond Scum #1 jar, thus, the creation of a weathering finish I called Pond Scum when asked what color(s) I used to create the effect (or affect) from the brush wash bottles. Now, back to your issue MH and let me say first off that folks often expect weathering magic in a jar when they purchase Doctor Ben's weathering products. Often they are not—either magic in a jar nor are they going to get "the magic".

Let me clarify that last part. Obviously, there is no magic involved here. Much of what Doctor Ben's provides are common chemistry and a collective group or material that will improve the
modelers efforts. And as far as getting "the magic", sorry but the magic comes with trial and error; success and failure; communication and sharing which is what this BLOG is all about. I am tired of firing back a quick group of sentences to folks posing questions which often may confuse the modeler even more and who may be afraid to ask for further clarification. Additionally, for the many jars of Doctor Ben's Pond Scum product (and many, many others), obviously other customers using this product may be thinking the very same question and this forum should provide them both an opportunity to search and discover answers that they seek at their time and convenience!

I think back and imagine how the early Doctor Ben's product customers felt when I first began selling Realistic Rust and Instant Age. At the time (the 1980s) early feedback from many customers that these were both great products. If a customer had built a Fine Scale Miniatures (FSM) HO scale kit, they knew what the Instant Age was all about, but what was this Realistic Rust stuff all about? They would vaguely remember seeing the Realistic Rust product used on one of the dioramas that we displayed at the show where they purchased the products and they did find a few sentences on the back of the bottle which also included a warning "not to drink" the stuff in the bottle and that was it! While probably scratching their heads they might think, so where's the magic and I would get a phone call asking me again how to use this product. I suspect that many folks did figure it out for themselves because I honestly did NOT receive as many phone calls as bottles of products that had been sold. Once again, the reasoning for this BLOG posting format—communication & sharing of information.

So, what about MH's concern with the Pond Scum being wayyyyy too dark? Well guess what, the color shades of Pond Scum vary as water temperature increases/decreases and believe it or not altitude can have an affect on the amount of scum in a pond, lake, stream, inlet, et cetera. But MH's pond is a light green of real pond scum or at least the color of ponds in and around Hampstead, NC; how is this Doctor Ben's product going to work for him (or her)? Well, that depends on exactly how MH is using this product (you were expecting a short answer?) . MH could be using this product straight out of the jar, but onto what surface, finish and color? MH could be mixing this product with another product to create a tinted water color. We don't know these things so when you post a question to me on this BLOG additional details would be helpful. With all this considered, how would Doctor Ben (me) use this product to create the light green of real pond scum that MH is looking for? Now this is a question that I can answer!

One way to accomplish this task is to mix the Doctor Ben's Pond Scum with a casting plaster. Depending upon whether Plaster of Paris©, Hydrocal©, Dental Stone or plain old drywall mud is used would dictate how much Doctor Ben's Pond Scum is added to the mixture. I would try to make this mixture kind of "soupy" so that it would self-level itself to a degree. If this pond could be pre-cast in a bowl (not the wife's good silicon bowl-find your own down at Goodwill/Salvation Army for a couple of bucks) or wax paper in a sand box (resist using the kid's sandbox outside) or use one of those throw-away cooking foil containers at the local grocery store. This effort could save a disaster attempting to create a pond in place on the layout. A worse case scenario would be to cut a piece of one inch foam to fit the area in the layout; dig out the pond area in the foam pattern; cast and scenic the drop-in foam shape; and install in the layout with out risk of damage to anything or anyone! Don't forget to add rocks, tires, logs to the bottom of the pond (including scale people cut off at the waist to be swimming in the pond). As a finish coat consider adding some Doctor Ben's Pond Scum to a matte medium; Future Floor Wax (to slightly tint the matte medium/Future Floor Wax) for a nice glossy finish.

Another technique that I would consider if i were MH would be to paint the surface with a light pond scum color (such as a brownish green—Depot Olive Green #1093 and Rail brown #1092 would do it for MH) swishing the two colors together varying the hues to find the shade of pond scum it is that you seek. I'll bet you didn't know that you could make your own colors, now did you! The glossy surface can still be finished like the above suggestion (I really like the Future Floor Wax for shiny water) but perhaps you are creating a bay, or an inlet and it is a windy day. The water will not be as smooth as the water in that idle pond. Matt medium can still be used to create a wavy surface but have you ever considered using a tube of clear silicon caulking for modeling water those "moldable" waves? I did this back on my "Anglesey Boatyard" diorama back in the late 1980s. I don't remember where I got the idea but I believe that I read in the the NG&SL Gazette, Model Railroader, Model Railroad Craftsman magazine or somewhere (I read a lot of magazines in those days) but using the silicone caulking was not something that I thought up, but here are a few lessons that I learned. Silicon caulking has a odor that lingers—for days! Use this technique in a well ventilated area and not in your family room next to the TV and the kitchen. The article discussed using your fingers to spread the silicon caulking around with your fingers. Not a good idea especially should you discover an itch during the application process. Use a disposable putty knife or paint paddle or whatever you have handy, just not the fingers. And point all your waves the same direction, but NOT straight
into shore. have the waves coming in at an angle. This is more dramatic to the viewer which is also why when I build a diorama I do not make the structures parallel to the diorama base. We AD&D folks tend to square up the diorama display base with the table or platform where the model is being displayed. Finally when the silicon caulking is dry and less odorous the wave tops can be dry-brushed with Doctor Ben's Antique White #1094 for highlights and foam. Add some Doctor Ben's Rail Brown for additional blotches of crud floating in the water and Doctor Ben's Pond Scum to the brown crud as well as accentuating the rocks, walls, pilings, etc at the waterline for some super scummy detail. Author's Note: There may now be a clear latex caulking at your local Big Box Store without the odors I experienced.

We don't know that MH has any of these other Doctor Ben's products used to create a light green pond scum but, we do know that he does have Doctor Ben's Realistic Rust. If MH doesn't want (or can't) purchase any of the above products or in a pinch consider this technique. Using a clean jar or plastic container and add a spoonful of the two rust and pond scum products that MH does have. The orangey-yellow rust will lighten up the darker Doctor Ben's Pond Scum and adding more rust to the pond scum a little at a time will lighten the darker green to a closer light green that MH is looking for. My guess that this will get MH closer to the color of light green of real pond scum depending, of course, on the lighting MH is using over the work bench and the layout. Want to bet that they are not the same colors? But that's another topic for another BLOG. A very *special* thanks to MH for submitting his question and as a show of our appreciation Doctor Ben's is sending MH a goodie box with some of the Doctor Ben's products discussed in this BLOG to help him/her along with this experience.

And what about the pictures and examples that MH asked about? Well, quite honestly, I haven't had the chance to create and post any at this time. Do you have any great pond scum pictures that you wouldn't mind sharing? Send them in and we'll post them with the Doctor Ben's Pond Scum product on the website (yes, you will get credit for providing the pictures). Now get out there and build something! ttfn, Ben


  1. Hey Ben!

    Good to see you blogging! You need to do a few things though. First, you need to set up Feedburner so that I can get the posts emailed to me. Call me and I'll walk you through it. Second, use more images in the blog. The text is killing me!!!

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  3. Yes, I agree. I would like to sign up for emails also. Scott, I now have a blog also. It just covers my goings ons and the On30/Sn42/HO layout and more. Pat

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