by: Matt Flegal [ ]
To a newbie, airbrushes can be both expensive and intimidating. There are so many of them out there and the price for a good quality one can be up to $200 and seem to have more parts than a car engine. Finally, a quick browse through various forums will reveal a litany of sad posts of users destroying their delicate airbrushes by looking at them funny. Badger has released their attempt at a user friendly, yet inexpensive, dual-action airbrush.
the 105 Patriot
The Badger 105 feels nice and solid in the hand without being noticeably heavy. One thing that I appreciated from the outset is that it is quite well balanced in my extra-large hand and the grip was comfortable. Using highly scientific testing (I let both my 5 year old daughter and 5' tall wife try it out) it was fairly easy to use and hold for them as well. My only concern is that the needle point sticks a good millimeter past the end and seems awfully exposed to damage.
Disassembly and Assembly:
Someday, someone will invent an airbrush that can be cleaned in 30 seconds, never needs disassembly, and I'll sell a kidney to get it. Until then, I usually find cleaning an airbrush (like my Paasche and Iwata) a bit of a chore because I like to fully disassemble them for cleaning. I seem to have a gift for losing washers and gaskets, bending needles, and stripping threads. So I approached this with the exuberant joy of going to get a colonoscopy.
Badger has done a really nice job here of making the airbrush pretty straightforward and simple to take apart. The needle can be easily removed without a full disassembly; just loosen the needle chuck slightly and the needle slides out of the back very easily. As the needle accumulated a fair coating of Tamiya black paint after 90 minutes worth of testing, that saved some real time for normal cleanup.
The handle then can be unscrewed and, while the threads are tight, it fits in pretty smoothly to limit the chance of stripping them. Remove the tube shank assembly and then the trigger and back lever drop out of the top. The spray regulator and spray head unscrew by hand. The tip is a friction fit. Which does point to one very nice thing about this airbrush; no wrenches or pliers are needed as you can take the whole thing apart by hand. You can also take the tube shank apart to expose the spring and such but since even I couldn't get paint back there this will probably not be a frequent need. It was still pretty easy.
Assembly is straightforward, just go in reverse. The back lever can be a little fiddly and be sure to hold the trigger down when you advance the needle. The needle tube has a flat upper surface which can pop out a bit when screwing the tube shank assembly in. Make sure it is pulled back into the tube shank so that the trigger will move. it took a bit of fiddling on my part to figure that out, the instructions are pretty sparse.
Which is a useful point as the instructions are pretty weak when it comes to taking it apart and putting it back together. You get half a page of brief text and an exploded view diagram with part numbers but no names. For an entry level dual action airbrush, it would be nice if the manual didn't feel like a garage kit instruction sheet. Step by step photos and more descriptive text would be a good idea for the novice who is a big part of the potential market. For those who are struggling with this, get thee to Youtube!
Overall though, I could strip this thing down in about 3-4 minutes and assemble it in about 5-7. It's very easy to clean in this state and I have to say that it's about as painless as one can hope for.
So, I mixed up some Tamiya flat black to the fabled "milk" consistency and off I went. One thing right from the beginning is that I loved that it was so easy to set the trigger stiffness. I like my trigger to have a decent bit of smooth resistance and being able to tweak that is great. All you need to do is remove the back of the handle and screw the tube shank in a little bit more (or back it out a bit for a looser trigger) until you get the trigger stiffness you want. On that note, if you shift to an application where you want to change this it literally takes about 60 seconds to do this so this is not only a useful function, it is one that is easy enough that you'll actually use it!
I found I could do a 0.5 mm wide line with minimal overspray at about 12 PSI and yet could paint an entire 1/35 Panther turret in less than 2 minutes with the PSI up to 17. I could get about a 1.5 cm concentrated spray with minimal overspray. I was getting a bit more overspray early on but the trigger is pretty sensitive. Increasing the trigger resistance fixed that pretty nicely. After 90 minutes of airbrushing I found my hand fatigue was minimal. The gravity feed has a whopping big opening into the airstream so even as my paint began to dry in the well it had no blockages and only a couple of starbursts when the trigger was pulled after a 2 minute pause (Yes, I forgot to do a quick clear on a piece of tissue first. . .).
My 5 year old had to fumble a bit but was able to get some credible swirls and designs for her first time holding an airbrush. My 10 year old could fully disassemble it. The use and tear down of this airbrush really are that easy.
This is a lovely intermediate dual action brush. Decently priced but giving good performance it would be a good choice based on those alone. However, the ease of disassembly and the ability to both adjust trigger tension and switch needles without taking the body apart elevate it into being an excellent choice. I've found this airbrush on-line for ~$75 and at that price it's tough to pass up.