by: Frederick Boucher [ ]
Thirty-seven years ago I set my rattle cans aside and bought my first airbrush, a Badger Model 250. Since then I have used airbrushes from Badger, Iwata, Model Master, and Paasche, with a few no-name types now and then. My thumb and index finger have that airbrushing kink!
While I predominately used airbrushes for building models, there was my era as an illustrator that I upgraded to a "professional" airbrush, a dual-action internal-mix type. Through trial and tribulation, siphon bottles gave way to siphon paint cups. Airbrushes with paint reservoirs attaching to the bottom yielded to those with reservoirs attaching to the side.
While I have been happy with my airbrush rigs, there has always been something lacking: the comfort factor. Enter the Grex® Tritium.TS!
the Grex® Tritium.TS
Strolling through the vendors at the AMPS 2010 International Convention back in April, my eyes were drawn to a bright lime green kiosk. I was immediately drawn to it when I realized it was an airbrush company. The representatives had airbrushes out for trial. I spotted a Tritium with its slick pistol grip and trigger and tried it. I realized this is an entirely new era of airbrushing!
First, the grip. No more holding the tool like an oversized magic marker! The grip is not cold metal but a welcoming ergonomic pistol handgrip with a textured surface with a comfortable grip. You hold the rig in a natural pose. This reduces the fatigue I have experienced during long painting sessions with the old traditional airbrush design, having to keep my wrist cocked up and back.
Next, the trigger. The Tritium trigger is out front. The finger squeeze is natural. You again avoid the awkwardness of the old traditional airbrush mechanism. No more trying to gingerly coordinate pulling for paint and pressing for pressure with your trigger finger cocked and bent for an elliptical movement. Result: I found control of air and paint far easier than my other rigs.
Enhancing the comfort of the Tritium grip and trigger ergonomics is the harmony of weight and balance. My legacy "professional" rig is very nose-heavy, which has led to some unfortunate episodes, some requiring replacement of expense tips, needles, and caps. In the video you can watch how easy it is to twirl the well-balanced Tritium about.
The positive qualities of the design's balance and grip and trigger is that you can actually let the airbrush rest on the edge of your hand or across a finger, leaving your thumb and fingers relatively free to hold or pick up something. This probably is not a good practice but sometimes you just are not within reach of your airbrush holder when you need to grip something. The center of gravity is just behind where the trigger attaches to the body.
Out of curiosity I weighed the Tritium with the 7mL cup: 7.5 oz.
design and engineering
The Tritium is solid. A brisk shaking produces no rattles such as one hears when shaking a rig with the traditional top-mounted button trigger.
The machining is flawless. Running the airbrush over a cloth, I found no rough spots or snags. The nickel chrome plated exterior is so polished that it took a few tries to photograph it without too much light reflection. The needle is equally finely machined. The trigger operates smoothly. The pre-set adjustment knob, needle lock, and rear handle cap threading is tight and smooth.
This is an internal mix double action airbrush. Regulating the paint and air mixture, and thus the spray pattern, is the same as other internal-mix double action airbrushes. And like other internal mix double action airbrushes I have, you can preset the needle travel for precise paint volume control. The other two I use have an adjustable wheel extending from the body to limit the travel of the trigger. I find these almost useless as they get gummed up with paint, or are so tight and slick that my fingers cannot turn them. Grex solves this but putting the preset adjustment knob at the rear of the handle. I am able to adjust this knob while spraying.
The nozzle cap and fluid nozzle are screw-in types. You can choose 0.2mm, 0.3mm, or 0.5mm spray nozzles for the Tritium.
No need to thread and screw the small needle caps. The Quick-Fit™ needle caps snap on and off willingly. I believe they are magnetized. They stay where you put them.
The paint reservoirs do not slide in to be held by friction as on my old-style airbrushes. They screw in. If you have ever experienced an inserted cup full of specially-mixed paint slipping out of your airbrush and splashing everywhere you do not want paint (as I have) then you will truly appreciate this feature! The threading is tight and smooth. After you set the position of the reservoir to the angle you need to paint your subject, you securely set it with the lock nut. A tightly fitting vented cap keeps dust out of your paint.
About the reservoir: you can attach it to side to suit left- or right-handed needs.
The air source connection extends out from the bottom of the handle, thus out of your way. Two male connections are provided: a G-MAC quick-connect valve, and a threaded type. These are quick and easy to swap. The threaded type will fit my Badger braided airhose, but not the hoses of my Paasche nor Model Master. Grex sells adapters for Badger and Paasche hoses. Great versatility if you have other brands of compressors.
Grex engineered the Tritium to operate at up to 80psi (5.52bar). I tested it at 80psi without any failures.
None of the previous descriptions are meaningful unless the airbrush can spray paint well. Spray paint well this definitely can! The examples shown were shot using what I have found to be the most challenging medium: acrylic paint. I used Polly Scale paint straight from the bottle at 12psi and shot through the Tritium.TS3 0.3mm fluid nozzle. Please see the photograph at top left. You can see the fine lines this airbrush produced. The lines to the left were made with the standard needle cap, the lines on the right with the crown cap. Exceptional performance!
Cleaning per the manual was quick and easy. After flushing and back flushing the airbrush I removed the needle. Not a hint of paint residue was on the precisely machined needle. Potentially you might have slightly more cleanup since the reservoir cup and attachment points are threaded.
the Tritium.TS3 set
Grex packages this airbrush in their trademark bright lime and black box. Inside the box is a plastic case with a sliding lock securing the lid when closed. The airbrush and accessories are firmly held by foam and further protected by a light plastic fitted insert.
The set is pricey. But so are other comparable airbrushes. What do you get for your money? The set contains:
* the fully assembled Tritium, ready to spray
* side mounted paint reservoirs with caps of 7mL (1/4oz.) and 15mL (˝ oz.) capacity, and a 30mL (1 oz.) Side Siphon glass bottle
* Quick-Fit™ crown cap
* alternate air connection
* nozzle wrench
* owner's manual
What the set disappointingly does not include is an air hose nor protective cap for the spray end. No matter how careful one is, an accident is inevitable.
The manual is extensively detailed and illustrated, including an exploded diagram and parts list.
Many airbrushes of traditional design can spray a tight pattern. Many have smooth mechanisms. Why consider a Tritium?
What captivated me upon my first squeeze of the trigger at AMPS 2010 was the ergonomics. The feel, the natural motion and position of my hand and trigger finger, the balance, my ability to position and securely lock the paint cup as needed, I perceived that my enjoyment of airbrushing can also be comfortable! As I age, warping my hand to grasp and control a legacy airbrush design is becoming taxing. No matter how well I prepare whichever medium I choose to spray, an uncomfortable rig will inhibit my ability to put down a quality finish.
The ergonomics of the Tritium design provides me with an easy to handle and comfortable tool that keeps fatigue away: my finishes are not tiring to achieve, modeling remains fun, modeling remains satisfying. To me the Tritium is worth it.
Recommended without hesitation!
A companion review of the Tritium TG is available on Armorama.
Please see Grex Tritium.TG Companion Review at Armorama link below.
Please remember, when contacting retailers or manufacturers, to mention that you saw their products highlighted here - on AeroScale.
Grex Power Tools
Founded in 1995, GREX POWER TOOLS is a quickly expanding provider of specialized state-of the art professional fastening systems and pneumatic powered hand tools.
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