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EVOLUTION AL plus 0.2 Airbrush

James H

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Harder & Steenbeck
Catalogue # 126255
Available from Air-Craft.net for £154.99





It's been a while since we took a look at an airbrush here on LSM, so when Air-Craft.net told us they were sending a new version of Harder & Steenbeck's excellent Evolution airbrush, I really could wait to see this one. Unlike the regular airbrushes which are chrome plated metal (or nickel plated), this one is constructed mostly from Aluminium, with an anodised surface. Of course, that's going to feel differently in the hand, but just how different?


I received this airbrush a few weeks ago but wanted to actually chuck some paint through it in anger of course. How else can I actually evaluate such a tool and report on how I found it? Exactly. I knew I had an opportunity coming up with a 1:32 Bf 110E from Dragon, so I would be able to try a little cellulose and acrylic paint. My paint of choice is Gunze/Mr Hobby and Tamiya, so this is what I'll be atomising today. Due to the needle size, I wouldn't expect an airbrush this size to really be used for applying primer to large surfaces, so I will spare it that task.






The Evolution AL plus 0.2 is packaged into a very sturdy, lockable plastic case with the interior shaped to hold the airbrush. Externally, a cardboard sleeve encases the box, and within the sleeve is a stock Harder & Steenbeck instruction manual for the Evolution range of airbrushes.


As the product title suggests, this airbrush has a 0.2mm needle, which is the finer end of what modellers would readily buy, being designed for finer detail work. The colour cup on this model is also very small, having a capacity of 2ml only. Don't let this put you off. This is pretty much stock for the smaller needle size brushes. The shape of the removable colour cup means that it's also very easy to clean out, and of course, removing it makes things real easy during a main strip down and clean at the end of a session.




I've heard one remark from a well-known modeller about how the airbrush actually feels in the hand, with its reduced weight. The spiel for this type does say that this model is 50% lighter than similar non-aluminium airbrushes. Well, that reviewer found it too light due to the aluminium construction, but I would tend to disagree with him. I find the airbrush feels very comfortable and as natural in the hand as my regular Iwata weapons of choice. Yes, it is much lighter, but it still feels substantial and balanced. That fear, for me, is allayed.


This is a very attractive airbrush. The aluminium parts are beautifully and evenly anodised in black. Anodising isn't a coating, but instead, it's a process whereby the natural oxide layer of the aluminium is dyed, through an electrolytic treatment. The anodised parts benefit from corrosion resistance, and offers some general protection to the metal itself. I still advise that you don't treat the airbrush roughly (and why would you with such an investment?), as you wouldn't want to scuff the very attractive appearance which it has. The name 'EVOLUTION AL plus' is emblazoned on the side of the airbrush too.

Here are a few general details regarding this airbrush.

  • Black anodised aluminium body and tail
  • 0.2mm needle/nozzle (optional 0.15mm and 0.4mm needle/nozzle sets available)
  • 2ml colour cup (other sizes up to a massive 50ml are available)
  • Stainless steel needle
  • Self-centering Nickel Silver nozzle
  • Quick connection fitting as standard (removeable)
  • Solvent resistant PTFE triple needle seal.

If you are familiar with Harder and Steenbeck's CRPlus range of airbrushes, then the AL plus will be very familiar for you in appearance and parts breakdown. Even for me, who uses Iwata normally, there is nothing about this airbrush which strikes you as being too different, apart from the fact that, of course, these airbrushes require no tools to strip them down. Always a bonus!




Strip-down is remarkably simple and very quick to perform, taking only a few moments, and making it a real bonus if you need to do a little quick maintenance whilst part way through a paint job. The 'self-centering nozzle' is essentially a tube with a nozzle end and a PTFE seal at the other. This inserts, like a barrel, into the sleeve of the air head. The air head seals to the airbrush body via a small O-ring. As this is a fine detail brush, the needle cap (crown cap) is mostly designed to just protect the needle with a couple of 'v' protrusions, instead of the whole or crenelated air caps we see on airbrushes with less-fine needles. The air cap and air head are chrome plated, and you can remove the needle cap by simply twisting it away from the air head. This is a little fiddly, but it does come off.




There is nothing remarkably different in the body of the airbrush as compared to other types, and you will be wholly familiar with how to disassemble and reassemble this model. Removing the tail (end piece, in the manual), you can of course slacken the needle securing nut and then retract the needle a little before you attempt to remove the nozzle for cleaning. The locking nut is actually bevelled inwards from the rear, lessening any risk of damaging the needle when re-inserting it after cleaning.




Removing the colour cup via its screw fitting, reveals a PTFE ring which is inserted into the body of the airbrush. As this is just a seal, and providing that you ensure the colour cup is firmly screwed in, then you should have no problems with any solvents attacking this. In fact, the statistics for this model do say that the PTFE seals within the AL plus are indeed solvent resistant. I tend to use Premi-Air Liquid Reamer, which is a pretty ferocious, toluene-based cleaner, and in the limited use I've so far given this brush, I've seen no deterioration or swelling of these. The rubber O-ring which seals the air head to the body is standard rubber, but the design of the airbrush should mean that this never actually sees any solvent. My tests have shown this area to be both clean and dry when I stripped it down to clean things up.




How does it perform though? To be honest, it performs beautifully, and no differently to the already high expectations I'd set for it. It's more than a match for my 0.3mm Iwata airbrush, which I use with the crown cap removed, when I am doing fine detailing. As this airbrush is specifically designed for that fine work, I found that I wasn't straining my trigger finger in trying to hold back a flood of paint that could come as a result of pushing my Iwata HP-C Plus to the limit with fine detail work.





Alclad is by nature, a very thin product, and is sprayed without thinner. After airbrushing a test piece of plastic in gloss black, I used an Alclad lacquer to cover this, opening up the throttle a little. Spraying pressure was about 12PSI, and the airbrush was moved around the surface from about an inch away, at a speed which ensured the freshly laid colour was slightly wet as I progressed. Flawless.


Gunze Aqueous/Cellulose/Metallics


I like to thin both of these types of paint by at least 50%, using Mr Levelling Thinner; even the Aqueous one. I find it helps paint flow, and certainly stops me having to think twice when I move between the two types of paint. Again, I am spraying these at around 12PSI. I rarely increase pressure unless absolutely necessary, and if applying a heavily thinned mottle paint scheme, I lower the pressure even further in order to stop the paint spidering on me, and welling up.




Both types of paint handled beautifully with this airbrush, with no clogging or spraying issues. It's unlikely you're going to want to spray Mr Metal Color in fine patterns, but I thought I'd try it anyway. Again, this medium is sprayed un-thinned, but this time, I simply could get no paint flow, presumably due to pigment size. I soon overcame this by loosening the needle locking nut, and retracting the needle by a very small fraction. This allowed paint flow, albeit a flow which you really couldn't describe as being fine. I don't recommend Mr Metal Color with this airbrush, unless you're not after a particularly fine spray pattern, which to be honest, isn't what you normally use the stuff for anyway.


Tamiya paint

For pre-shading, I tend to use Tamiya Matt Black. This is thinned by 50%, again using Mr Levelling Thinner. Pressure again is 12PSI. The pre-shading control on the surfaces of my 1:32 Bf 110E showed a beautiful level of consistent control which I find perfect for this task. Although I don't spray fine lines for this task, I still want them to be fairly even and not too broad. Just keeping the pressure at around 12PSI and opening up the throttle a little on the airbrush, brought just the results that I strive for.


A couple of times whilst pre-shading this model, bearing in mind some of the angles and curvatures of the subject, I almost tipped the airbrush over a little too far and deposited the paint onto the floor. Those were lucky escapes. I suggest that you perhaps invest in a lid for the colour cup. It could prevent some arguments between you and your better half.


This airbrush handles beautifully. Whilst I've only tested the a small number of brands, and not touched those such as Lifecolor, Vallejo, AK etc, those that I did use were handled perfectly. I also didn't use enamels in my test as I simply don't use that type of paint any more. In the hand, I feel this model balances perfectly, and the trigger has the same level of response and control as that of my Iwata airbrushes. The trigger spring isn't too weak, and adjusting paint flow was effortless. Strip-down and cleaning was also a joy, and being tool-less, much easier than having to root for my small Iwata nozzle spanner.


For such a high quality airbrush with such a fine needle, the price for this one is perfectly pitched, and if you are a 1:48 modeller, you could probably get away with using this airbrush for most of your work. I know it will get some serious use on my 1:32 projects.


Very highly recommended


Our sincere thanks to Air-Craft.net for this review sample. To purchase directly, click THIS link.


James H




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