- Published on Thursday, 02 September 2010 12:57 James Hatch
Hansa 381 and 481 Airbrush models
Harder & Steenbeck (Germany)
Available from Everything Airbrush
The arrival of these airbrushes comes on the heels of the Harder & Steenbeck airbrushes we reviewed earlier this year. Whether you’ve heard of Hansa before, you may or may not know it is a brand of Harder & Steenbeck itself, and the outward quality is commensurate with the airbrushes labelled under the parent name. When I knew I was to receive these, I was very much looking forward to seeing how they compared against the parent brand name. Being a native Iwata user who now also used H&S airbrushes, would these also fit the bill? Here’s what arrived:
- Hansa ‘Top Line’ 381 (0.3mm nozzle)
- Hansa ‘Hobby Line’ 481 (0.3mm nozzle)
These are two very differently styled airbrushes in terms of features and appearance, although the common factor between them is that they both have a 0.3mm nozzle. This should be suitable for the average modeller in that they will be able to spray very fine detail, and up to larger surface areas, as those we see on 1/35 armour and 1/32 aircraft etc. Let’s take a look the individual airbrushes.
Hansa ‘Top Line’ 381 £102.99
The airbrush comes in a small, black plastic box with slide locks upon the side. The box itself is presented in a card sleeve and the instruction manual is sandwiched between the two. Inside the box, the contents are held solidly in place by a moulded plastic carrier with a red velvety finish. The airbrush has a high quality chrome finish. The name of the airbrush is etched on the side. A 7mm colour cup is seated on the top of the airbrush, just in front of the trigger. At this point, I have to say that I feel that this is a little close to the trigger for my fingers. It is still very useable to me, but a little extra space would have been nice. The colour cup also comes with a lid, unlike the H&S airbrushes I reviewed in April this year. The lid is actually a very tight fit, and could do with the benefit of being placed and removed a few times to loosen the fit a little.
The trigger is a little different than what I am used to. With a standard double action airbrush, I am used to depressing the trigger to let air into the airbrush, and then drawing the trigger backwards to let paint flow. The 381 though doesn’t have a trigger you can push down though. More on that later.
The rear of the airbrush has a paint flow adjuster which is adjusted by screwing/unscrewing the knurled nut. This has the effect of placing a restriction on the distance travel of the needle chuck when you pull the trigger backwards. It’s a simple device becoming more common these days, and it works like a charm.
I think it’s time for a strip down. The first thing I remove is the colour cup. This simply unscrews from the main body, and it sealed via an ‘o’ ring in the main body socket. The rear end of the airbrush also just unscrews from the main body, to reveal the back end of the needle. By slackening the small nut situated here, the needle can be drawn out backwards through the airbrush. This nut is also bevelled inwards in order to reduce the risk of damage to the needle upon reinsertion. You may choose, however, to insert the needle through the front end of the airbrush so that damage risk is reduced further.
With the needle removed, the needle chuck can now be unscrewed my means of the knurled ring around the outside. With this out, unscrew the air valve from the underside of the main body, and now you will be able to remove the trigger. One not first though, be careful with the stripdown as there are a series of ‘o’ rings where applicable, although they are recessed and should cause no problems with loss.
The trigger on this airbrush is a little different to what I am used to. Earlier I mentioned that the trigger doesn’t depress like a normal dual action model. The trigger itself has a hook cast into the seat of it, and this in turn is secured within the main body, by means of a small bar. The trigger hooks under this, and the insertion and tightening of the air valve then locks this back into place.
I haven’t yet mentioned that this airbrush has a ‘tool-less’ strip-down. Although you have seen this so far, very often, you’ll need a small spanner to remove the nozzle. Not with this airbrush though. Like its H&S cousins, the Hansa 381 has a floating, self-centring nozzle. When you remove the nozzle cap and air head, you will be presented with a brass nozzle with a seal on the rear end. This is then just lifted out in order to clean.
That is basically a complete strip down with regards to what the modeller will need to do to keep the airbrush in working order. Reassembly is just as straightforward. I would always use a little non-silicone airbrush lubricant on the forward half of the needle after a post clean strip-down.
Time to put some paint through this airbrush.
For testing, I used a simple 40:60 mixture of Gunze paint to Mr Colour thinner, sprayed at 15PSI. If you of course alter your pressure and spraying distances accordingly, you will be able to do far more with this airbrush than these simple tests. This can be pretty much assured as my tests are basic.
For larger coverage, this airbrush performs superbly and would be ideal for model modellers up to the larger scales. I found it very easy to lay down a good ‘wetted’ surface with an even finish. I would be more than happy to use this airbrush to do the main paint work on a model.
Keeping that constant pressure, I had no issue in producing easy and variable lines and patterns. These are shown on the test card below. The ease of use in this respect extends to me being able to do handwriting too. Removal of the needle cap, and holding the airbrush nearer the surface also allowed for even finer and more delicate work. You need to be very careful and used to handing an airbrush to do this as it is very easy to damage the needle.
So what do we think?
I do quite like this airbrush. It is easy to use and is basically a very good all-rounder which should give the modeller a tool that he/she should feel very satisfied with. There are a couple of things which I do have to mention. The first is the distance between the colour cup and the trigger. To me, this could have been a little more spaced, but that is subjective, as I have said. The second is the trigger action. When you depress the trigger to draw air, you in effect grip the airbrush more tightly, and when you introduce paint, you have a good stable platform on which to do so. In the absence of the initial ‘press for air’, I feel that some stability was lost, and therefore you need to practice a little more in using the airbrush for fine work. When you have mastered that though, the results are very good indeed.
Hansa ‘Hobby Line’ 481 £102.99
This airbrush comes in quite a large plastic box with a transparent plastic lid. The box itself is a rugged design with 2 large clasps to secure the lid. Within the box, all components are securely fitted into a moulded insert with a black velvety finish. Under this insert is the instruction manual.
There are some fundamental differences between this airbrush and the previous ‘381’ model. The most obvious is the fact that the colour cup/pot are not a single part of the airbrush, and not mounted on the top of the main body. A 7ml colour cup in a bright nickel finish is included, and is connected into the right hand side airbrush main body via means of an elbow fitting. This elbow is sealed into the airbrush with a rubber ‘o’ ring and after attaching this, you make the joint secure by means of a screw fastener you tighten with your fingers. It’s simple and means you can attach/disconnect the colour cup quite quickly. The colour cup also comes with a nickel finish lid too. As before, this is a little tight when new, so I would advise you spend a few minutes attaching and removing it to loosen it up a little.
Another paint reservoir is included too. This is a plastic pot with a paint suction tube inside. This attaches to the airbrush by means of the same high quality connector as the nickel, gravity fed cup. As mentioned, this is of course a suction paint reservoir which hangs downwards on the airbrush. Some people have a preference for this setup, and this excellent airbrush set gives you a choice. There is a spare plastic paint pot included too so you can switch between them quickly following a clean.
The airbrush doesn’t have a paint flow adjuster as did the previous one, so again, this may or may not influence your purchase. As a rule, it’s very rare I use one anyway. A male quick release connector is fitted as standard, and can be unscrewed if your hose doesn’t support this feature. A high polish nickel chrome finish adorns the airbrush, with the brand and model number engraved onto its side.
Time to strip! The rear of the airbrush simply unscrews from the main ensemble, uncovering the rear of the needle. Again, loosening the locking nut means that the needle may be drawn out backwards. The air valve may also be screwed out from the underside of the airbrush, as may the needle chuck from the rear of the main body. The trigger on this airbrush is the more traditional ‘press for air’ type, and this can just be lifted out from the main body after the removal of the needle chuck.
The needle cap and air head are unscrewed to reveal the brass nozzle. This is removed by lifting it from the main body with fingers. A seal exists on the rear of the nozzle, so take care not to lose it.
Again, that is it. Simples! Now, pop it all back together again, and it should take no more than a minute or so. This is important in order to gain confidence of prospective airbrush users who may be scared by this element of airbrushing.
Paint now added to the colour cup, and the compressor primed, it’s time to put the ‘481’ through its paces. Using the same paint formulas as before, along with the same spraying pressure, we’ll do the same tasks.
Large area coverage with this airbrush is a doddle. I found this as easy with the ‘481’ as I do with my native Iwata airbrushes. Fine work and doodling is also very easy, and easier than the ‘381’ in the respect that you have a better grip on the airbrush due to having to introduce air into the system first. I’m one of those old dogs who can’t learn new tricks very easily, so that could be a handicap that only few of us may experience with regard to the 381. The 481 feels a lot more natural in the hand and is a delight to use. Again, removing the nozzle cap, some extremely fine work can be done, and as fine as the more expensive airbrushes I use.
Below is a test card showing some of the test work I did with this airbrush.
So what do we think?
Overall, this is an airbrush I like very much. It has all the features and ease of use that you would expect from some of the more expensive varieties. A versatile airbrush that should suffice for the majority, if not all of the tasks you would wish it to perform. Very highly recommended.
Our sincere thanks to Harder & Steenbeck for sending these review samples.