The biggest myth in model railroading?


Almost all scratch builders that have been in the game for some years will have an opinion on the FloStain line of stains in general, and especially the infamous Driftwood color. Discontinued a long time ago, many modelers still sings it praise and some are also ready to dish out serious amounts of moolah on eBay for a helping of this carcinogenic brew.

The origin of this almost mythical status among modelers is clearly due to some very fine modeling done by Gary Nash and Mic Greenberg in the mist of model railroading yore. Their work was published in several articles in Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette in the early 80´s. They described how they used a driftwood and dirt technique to weather wood. Their results looked excellent. But I feel this was due much more to the excellent modeling skills of the two said gentlemen, and not because driftwood stains resembles the color of weathered wood very well. As I have stated in some earlier posts, weathered wood is most often a silvery, cool and light grey. Driftwood is quite dark, and has an almost greenish tone.
Please note that this is not an attack on the modeling by Nash and Greenberg, quite the contrary. If it had not been for their prize-winning work Driftwood flostain would probably be totally forgotten by now.
Maybe my point here is that it doesn’t really matter that much what brand of paint or stains you use. The quality of the work is far more important.
Confession time, folks. If there ever was a modeler that fell under the Driftwood spell, it will have to be yours truly. During family trips to Sweden in my teens I secured enough Floquil products to wipe out a medium sized Norwegian town (like Trondheim, my home town). You would guess that a teenager would acquire a different type of contraband roaming the streets of Stockholm, but no…
A combination of A-West-Weather-it and growing concerns about health, an unopened bottle of Driftwood has lingered in the back of a drawer to this day. For some time I considered this bottle to be my retirement insurance, but there is a limit even to the Driftwood craze, it seems. Failing to secure my retirement fund by selling my bottle of Driftwood, I have decided to use it for the advancement of model railroading research. A small research project is under planning even as you are reading this. In short, this project will make side by side comparisons of carefully prepared color samples of Driftwood, A-West-Weather-It , SilverWood, diluted Indian ink and coffee.
Stay tuned!


4 thoughts on “The biggest myth in model railroading?

  1. Drifting along…

    Went to Hobbytown USA in Columbia SC today. From my house that’s a 32 mile round trip. Usually, that means that I make a list (check it twice or more) and then make the run when I have enough to make it sensible. Today though, the US Postal Servi…

  2. So. I live in the uk and been out of modelling for a long time. Back in the early eighties I was a deciple of Greenberg and Nash. But I am only just realising that the driftwood stain was harmful. But how harmful was / is it? I haven’t used it for 40 years but worried that it could still ‘get’ me.

    • Flostain was toluene-based, and it is no doubt that toluene is a nasty chemical that can damage your health both in the short and the long term. As you haven’t used the stuff since the eighties, it is probably safe to assume that we can ignore the short-term effects. The concerns are the long-term effects. In other words, cancer.

      But let me hasten to add that from what I have read, when it has passed almost 40 years since your last exposure to Flostain, it is very, very unlikely that you have an increased risk of developing cancer compared to if you never came near the stuff.
      And remember, you used the stuff as a hobbyist. If you had used the stuff everyday for years, it would have been a different story. But even then, the almost forty years passing with no sign of developing cancer should put you at ease.

      But I also know that these types of worries have a tendency to spin out of control. It happened to me when I started to really worry about the lead-based solders I use quite a lot in my modelling. The more I googled, the more worried I got. At this point the only sensible thing was to see a doctor and get the lead levels in my blood checked. And they came back just fine.
      So if you are unable to put your worries about your toluene exposures to rest, ask your doctor for a check-up. In any case I think your doctor can give you much better medical advice than some random stranger on the Internet!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s