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How to get a plain steel appearance

Q: I really like the look of "plain steel" 1:1 hot rods, and I tried to duplicate that look on my latest project. I used Alclad, but the effect was too much like chrome. Hardware store silver paint didn't work either. Any suggestions?

Evan Foster
via E-mail

Ken: The boys in the T&T shop like that look too, Evan, and they've experimented with several ways to achieve the appearance of plain steel.  

Before we get into ways to replicate that look on plastic, though, here's something you might want to play with:

Pick up one of the many diecast hot rods on the market, strip the paint, and buff out the body with steel wool or a Scotch-Brite pad. Granted, your model of choice might not be available, but the effect is still pretty slick. Now, how do we get that appearance on plastic?

One of the best ways is to use one of the Testor’s Model Master Metalizer paints. They come in a host of colors, in Buffing and Nonbuffing finishes – including Steel, Magnesium. Aluminum, Titanium and a bunch of others.  

Most colors also come in jars (for airbrushing) and aerosol spray cans.  The Buffing colors can be polished out; the Nonbuffing shades are meant to be used as-is.  

If you’re doing an entire body, we recommend adding a coat of Testor’s Metalizer Sealer, which won’t dull the finish the way other clearcoats will.

If you would rather not use paint, try Bare-Metal foil or hardware-store variety aluminum tape.
Bare-Metal foil will go on shiny, but you can flatten it out with the type of clear topcoat you don’t want to use over Metalizers. You can also carefully scuff it up a bit with steel wool if you want the appearance of a body that’s been rough-sanded.

The same can be said for aluminum tape, but it might end up being a little bit too thick.

Thanks for the question, Evan, and good luck with your Plain Steel Hot Rod project.


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