Tech Tip: Mixing 17ml Acrylic Paints
As I was painting latest project, I wanted to use a few colors out of the Vallejo range. Most of these are in the handy 17ml squirt bottles that more paint manufacturers are using these days. Some of my older Vallejo bottles are exhibiting the tendencies of most paints that have been around for a while – the pigments settle out of solution. You can shake the bottles but I am not sure I have everying mixed back to the color I really want. Vallejo does not include any sort of mixing bead/ball/whatever that allows you to remix the paints. Of course, one solution is to add a small metal ball (or two) into the bottle (like a BB) to help you mix the paint like some of the newer paint manufacturers provide but there is also one problem - the small metal balls will get up into the squirt nozzle and cause you other problems.
The solution I wanted was a paint mixer similar to the ones produced for the Testors paint bottles. These are simple battery-powered mixers that are easy to use and equally easy to clean. I tried putting the paint mixer tip into a 17ml bottle but it is slightly too large. When I attempted to reduce the diameter of the mixing tip, well let's just say that didn't work. Even if it had, the resulting tip would not have the smooth finish on the edges and cleaning would become a problem.
To my surprise, I haven't found anyone that has produced a solution for these paint bottles so far. Instead I created a workaround! In the image below, you can see the Tamiya (74017) paint stirrer. Two come in each set with a stirring tip on one end and a small spoon on the other. Overall, the stirrer is six inches long as you can see in this photo. On the right is a stirrer with the spoon removed and the resulting shaft is 4.5 inches long.
The ideal length of the stirrer should be about 3.25 inches so you can reach to the bottom of the 17ml bottle and have enough length to chuck into your motor tool. I selected 4.5 inches so I can also mix the 60ml paint bottles. What is nice about this stirrer is that it won't cut into the plastic bottle at low RPM.
You'll want to use the stirrer at the lowest RPM your tool can operate. Don't try this with one of the inexpensive single RPM rotary tools (it will be too fast), use a variable RPM tool on the lowest setting. Also take care not to apply lateral pressure on the stirrer as it will bend and you will have a mess on your hands if you do bend the shaft. These stirrers are sold in pairs and run about $5-6 USD.
You can see in the image above that I have the 4.5 inch stirrer mounted in my chordless Dremel (which I wish they still made). These can be mounted in chorded rotary tools (a Flex Shaft would be handy as well as the variable RPM foot pedal). I also have the 3.25 inch stirrer made which should be less likely to bend.
I should probably mention the need for a small pair of pliers to grab the tip of the squirt nozzle to unsnap it from the top of the 17ml bottles. Pop off the nozzle, stir the contents, decant what you need into your airbrush, snap the tip back into place and screw the lid back over the top.
With this solution, you can get the most out of each of your 17ml paint bottles. Hopefully someone will make a more gracious solution, but until then...go build something!