Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Painting Jigs

Once a resin or undecorated plastic freight car is finished, off to the paint booth it goes. After preparing the model via washing with liquid detergent soap or 91% isopropyl alcohol and drying (usually a hair dryer is used to speed up drying) the model is ready for paint. My paint choice today is normally an acrylic paint as Vallejo or Model Master.  I still have a supply of Model Master which was removed from the paint market.

I always begin painting a freight car with the underbody.   For this task I like to use  a jig/car holder made of brass that Joe Binish soldered up for me.  Joe used the article "Building an Adjustable Paint Stand"  that appeared in Railroad Model Craftsman in July 1997.  As the article title states the adjustable paint stand which I call a "car holder/jig" is adjustable enabling it to hold a 36 ft., 40 ft. or 50 ft. car.

Brass Car Holder jig.
(Click on this or any image to expand.)

Brass Car Holder Jig in adjusted position.

When I airbrush a freight car I begin by spraying the underbody first.  Since I mount trucks and couplers early in a freight car build to have them installed to get the car weighted properly I remove them and use the brass adjustable car holder.

Adjustable car holder used  to airbrush underbody
of a freight car.

The adjustable car holder is also useful for other painting tasks including the spraying of a tank car.  One other task I like the adjustable car holder for is the painting of a car end when it needs to be a different color, such as black, from the rest of the car body.

Adjustable car holder with car taped
ready to have end airbrushed.

Once I have the underbody sprayed I remount the trucks and couplers and proceed with the car body color or colors.  I used to tape off the underbody; however, I believed there had to be a better way.  My solution to avoid the taping off  the underbody after spraying  is a simple jig/car holder anyone can build or use.  I use this car holder/jig with trucks and couplers mounted as you can just drop in the car as the cardboard sides protect the underbody and trucks.

The car holder/jig consists of a piece of lumber, 3/4" x 3 1/2" x 6", four nails inserted as shown in the photo and a 3/4" band  cut from cardboard surrounding the nails.  The band has a cutout on each end for the coupler to sit in. The dimensions in the photo are for a 40 ft. HO scale freight car.

A simple to make car holder with wood,
cardboard and four nails.

 I can not avoid taping completely as the couplers, in my opinion, still need to be covered with tape to maintain proper working order.  The car is placed in the jig/car holder and sprayed using airbrush or paint "rattle" can. The jig is especially handy for a RTR car or any car that needs a quick clear coat. Just drop the car in and spray.  

Car in car holder/jig with couplers taped

I have made car holders/jigs for longer cars.  Of course, the longer jigs can also be used for shorter cars.  The longer car holders were made using no nails at the corners of the 3/4" cardboard band.   I found 3M Blue painters tape worked just fine to hold the 3/4" cardboard bands to the wood base.

Car holder/jig for longer cars.

The simple jigs/car holders I have shown and described here have saved me a lot of time in the Minneapolis & Northland Railroad Company Paint Shop.  I hope you will find the same is true for you should you give them a try.

There are many other car holders or jigs for painting freight cars that individuals have made and shared with modelers.   One such car holder is made with folded cardboard stapled to a wood base.  This car holder can be found in the May 1995 issue of Model Railroader on page 148.   Another car holder is one using wire mounted on a wood base.  The wire is inserted into the bolster holes for truck mounting to hold the car for painting.  This car holder/jig can be found in the February 1996 issue of Model Railroad on page 163 or in the September 1984 issue of Model Railroader on page 147.

Thank You for taking time to read my blog.  You can share a comment in the section below if you choose to do so.   Please provide your name if you choose to leave a comment.   Please share the blog link with other model railroaders.
Lester Breuer



  1. To protect the couplers Michael Gross suggested using Teflon plumbers' tape. It's thinner and narrower than the blue tape and it stretches. This makes it a bit easier to use to cover the couplers.

  2. Bob I will make a note to purchase plumbers tape to try on a future project.

  3. Another great build Lester. You are doing the hobby a great service by documenting them in your blog.

  4. Thank You Mike for the kind words.
    Lester Breuer