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Harder & Steenbeck Colani

Discussion in 'Airbrushes' started by AlaskaJason, Sep 5, 2021.


  1. AlaskaJason

    AlaskaJason Young Tutorling

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    Been looking through all the older threads and I noticed no one talks about the Colani. Which as a owner of one kinda makes me sad. I honestly don't understand why this airbrush is so unknown. I am a H&S guy but I started out with a traditional airbrush type in the H&S Evolution. The Colani though is hands down my favorite airbrush though. Mostly through its absurd versatility. You name it and this airbrush can do it. Fine lines and illustration work just slap on the 0.2mm needle nozzle set. Spraying a large RC car with metal flake, slap on the 1.2 needle nozzle set with a 50ml cup. Add to that everything in between this airbrush can do. Now to the part I love the most the ergonomics of the airbrush. The airbrush was designed by Lugi Colani a amazing and eccentric German mechanical engineer and designer. Colani was fascinated by organic shapes and ergonomics. As such his design feels amazing in the hand. The upside trigger was extremally natural feeling on first time holding the airbrush.

    Here is a couple of pictures of my Colani how I have it set up at the moment. I am running a 0.6mm nozzle/needle set, with a 15ml cup and the 50ml cup when I need it. Lately I have been using it as a priming machine since the 0.6mm needel/nozzle set is amazing at laying down primer or paint with a larger pigmentation.

    Also here is the wikipedia on Lugi Colani worth a read dude was awesome.
    Luigi Colani - Wikipedia

    What are your thoughts on this airbrush? Have you ever used a Colani?

    Attached Files:

  2. JackEb

    JackEb The Dragon Hunter Staff Member Admin

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    I’m pretty sure we have a couple of members with that brush. @DaveG does from memory and he had good things to say about it. I have the H&S infinity but stayed with Iwata just due to spare part availability here in Australia
  3. Nessus

    Nessus Needle-chuck Ninja

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    I have a lot of curiosity about the automatic air double action brushes like Coalani, Hansa EBFE, etc. On the one hand, it seems like great idea: since the air part of the trigger is just on-off button anyway, it seems like making that automatic so people don't have to fuss with the whole "air on, paint on, paint off, air off" sequence is just a straight up design improvement over normal DAs. On the other hand it seems implied there must be a critical trade-off, otherwise these mechanisms would've become the standard long ago rather than the still-dominant regular double action triggers.

    I'm... shall we say "unsold" on the ergonomics of the Coalani. Seems like it's designed to be very ergonomic... for a pistol grip. I hate pistol grips for anything other than broad coverage, and suspect they're mostly the domain of people who come to airbrushing from larger scale general coverage paint spraying, and can't recontextualize from "HVLP gun" to "pen/pencil" for some reason. There's a reason pens and pencils and regular paint brushes don't have pistol grips.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
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  4. AlaskaJason

    AlaskaJason Young Tutorling

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    The double dependent trigger system is actually fairly common now in Europe the Ultra, Hansa, and Grafo brushes all use it in Harder & Steenbecks product line. EFBE uses a similar system as does Triplex. I know most of the Russian and eastern European knockoffs also use the trigger design. If you think about it there is zero benefit of not having a double dependent system because you can not regulate air pressure from the trigger meaning you can not really vary the amount of air pressure on the trigger its the reason why micro air control valves exist. But you know many people hate change and all. Especially a niche intrenched subculture of art that is airbrushing. Here in the US the primary use of the Airbrush was always commercial art, t-shirts and automotive customization. While in Europe it was totally different they focused on commercial art, fine art, and photo editing. Japan also had similar uses as the US. I can only assume that this might be the major difference. (Context, I lived in Germany for 10 years of my total 21 years in the Army. Loved the place and my wife and I plan on visiting soon once this whole Covid thing is finally over.)

    As to the questioning of ergonomics that is simply a matter of taste. Some people will like it some will not. That is to be expected. Its like anything ergonomic. For example I use a cane and there are numerous designs of cane. Not because people are just trying to be cute and artsy, but because of the nature of human kinesthetics.
  5. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    I have had a Colani, but it was before I got real serious about a collection, and I unfortunately parted with it...

    I see this differently than many, as I do use the trigger to regulate air pressure on almost all of the brushes I own. Some are easier than others to work with, and some just don't want to do anything more than just open. Most will allow for some regulation when you develop a feel for them. I have an exercise I do with every brush I work with, which is to initiate air pressure, and then draw the needle back to paint the smallest dot I think I can get out of the brush. I then ease up on the trigger to slow air pressure until it stops paint, then press down again for more air to get another dot. Without moving the trigger forward or back, I will paint rows of dots, usually about 100 in @ square inch by only messing with trigger air pressure... those that get it usually get it, those that don't usually won't - so, sorry to have gotten off topic...

    Back to the Colani... From my perspective, the fixed double action is much more of a regional thing - as it was fairly common for one brand to emulate their competitors. It was true at the start of the 1900's among the Chicago based American companies, as they shared similar features, or sizes, etc. And, it was especially true in European countries. It isn't that the feature has grown to be popular now, it is that is where the system originates from, and has remained in use. Hiekel, Grafo, Prinz, Gabbert, Hansa and others (I don't have a start date for Efbe), are brands that pre-date Harder and Steenbeck as airbrush manufacturers - that all had the fixed double action. Now, Harder and Steenbeck has since acquired many of those brands - at which point they incorporated their nozzle system to the builds, but seemingly maintained the fixed double action, because those were signature features of those brands.

    The design of the Colani brush itself was actually a throw back to a very early Harder Steenbeck design from (maybe) the 1950's. Even this base model was a "copy", or in house version of a neighbors brush ;), from the brand Hiekel (Curt Hiekel). The Hiekel design was common in Germany pre-war, for maybe 20 or 30 years. There are quite a few models in the Heikel line that all feature similar design and function items. There are also other brands that originate from the same city. Not my brush, but here is a typical Hiekel -

    heikel airbrush.jpg

    Harder and Steenbeck redesigned the front portion of the Colani to use the same design as their Evolution. As compared to the original "Ultra" model the Colani is based on (the 1950's version), the new top, front portion allowed them to incorporate one of their greatest features, which are the drop in self-centering nozzle and nozzle cap combinations. The design is not original to H&S (they can be found earlier on Aerographs out of England), but they certainly make it work for them. Great design, and wonderful execution.

    I am pretty sure that they asked Colani to design just the grip for the brush - which he did, along with the trigger shape, and eventually the choice of color for the parts. They are wonderfully ergonomic, if you choose to hold the brush this way. For my own personal preference, I am more of a "pointed pencil" holding user - the more a brush allows me to hold my hand the way I would with a pencil, or paint bush in hand, the better I like it. One I am growing to like more and more is the Wold model U, which has a dual lever system requiring the user to simply press the trigger down. First air, then paint with a single downward press. Takes developing a feel for it, but they were certainly capable :thumbsup:. I've got 2 pre-1925, and one from 1946. I love working with them.

    Wold Model U2.jpg
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2021
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  6. Nessus

    Nessus Needle-chuck Ninja

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    Interesting thoughts about the relative prevelances of trigger design.

    When I first started airbrushing, I thought one was intended to vary pressure using the trigger, so I worked hard at developing it as a skill. It could be done with the brush I had at the time (a Paasche VL), but was extremely difficult due to the short travel. I had to pinch the trigger between thumb and index finger to do it with any degree of real control or repeatability.

    None of my current brushes (Eclipse, Micron, and SOTAR) can do it though. They're all on/off twitches, in that there's a distinct spot in the trigger travel where they go from fully off to fully on, with no graduation. My current understanding is that while some models of brush technically allow it, it's a user exploit rather than the way the brush is designed or intended to be used.

    One thing I actually don't like about the Micron trigger is how the air valve depresses with a sharp tactile "pop". My Eclipse and SOTAR just depress with smooth linearity, which means once I put soft springs in there I can depress the air valve just by resting my finger on the trigger, almost eliminating the need to worry about the whole air-paint sequence. Can't due that with the Micron, as even with a soft spring, the "pop" demands a deliberate press.

    I've been thinking on and off for the past year or two about trying a Hansa 281, specifically because of the trigger action (more precisely: because I'd been looking at Giger's hand technique, and the 281 is the closest thing to an EBFE BI that's purchasable in the US), and was wondering if there's a trade off to that style of trigger action, other than losing the ability to creatively misuse the trigger to control air pressure.
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  7. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    Just goes to show how different individuals perceive their tools ;) - as I do the trigger air regulation thing on all of those brushes. The hardest is the Sotar, due to the short, stout spring used in the Badger. I change them and the retainer screw out to allow for more feel. The dots on the right are a Sotar I was trying to get dialed in, the dots on the left are a Creos PS771 I got in while working on the Sotar. You might be able to see how much easier the Creos was to manipulate based on the results. These are done by pressing down for air, then drawing back for paint. Once the dot is painted, I only ease up on the downward pressure, but do not move the needle. Then press down again to paint another dot. Pretty much the air stays on the entire time, just reduced enough to cut suction enough to stop paint flow.

    trigger dots2.jpg

    The Micron trigger/air valve is the same one used on most of the rest of the Iwata line (except the Eclipse), as well as much of the Creos, and Tamiya and Rich/Richpen brushes... and the Olympos models that use the cross pin style trigger. The only other time I have heard of someone dealing with the "pop" needed to work it, resolved the issue by replacing the o-ring at the top of the air valve assembly (in the brush body itself) and the push pin that fits through it. His pin had a bit of a rough surface to the finish.

    I've got a few of the Hansa's - both before H&S took over the production, and after. I also nabbed a few nice Efbe's. I like the trigger action on all of them. It just takes some time to get used to them after using a normal double action. There is the slightest hiccup in the action right when paint initiation will begin (it is actually the trigger making physical contact with the needle chuck). Almost imperceivable, but it is handy knowing where and when it will happen -as that is when you get paint ;). Most have some adjustment you can fine tune, once you get how they work. I should mention, though - that most of the brushes that use this style of trigger tend to be very stiffly sprung. Especially Efbe have quite stout triggers. It is easy enough to soften them up, and they respond nicely to lighter springs, if needed. I think the Hansa 281 is a really nice, little brush. The H&S version allows the cup to be swapped out for other sizes, too.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
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  8. Nessus

    Nessus Needle-chuck Ninja

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    I actually had the entire brush replaced by Iwata service not long after I got it due to an unrelated head alignment issue, and the trigger "pop" on the first one was even worse, so I'm skeptical that it's unusual (and when I described it to the Iwata service tech, they didn't seem to understand what I was talking about, or consider it an issue). It makes sense that it's down to friction though, as the sensation feels like the O-ring is rolling instead of sliding.

    I'm wondering if it might be worth lubing the O-ring, as the valve pin doesn't appear to be sold separately, and the whole valve is expensive.
  9. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    "...I'm skeptical that it's unusual". Well, I have been using Iwata airbrushes for close to 35 years, and have maybe 100+ brushes that use the same valve, and push pin set up. While I understand the issue you describe, it is not something I have had an issue with on an Iwata (Sparmax is a different story - I have a Max 3 I fight with often). So, to me, it seems unusual.

    It is not the actual valve pin that needs lubed. There is a push pin in the body that the bottom of the trigger presses against. The push pin passes through an o-ring in the brush body, and in turn presses the valve stem. The pin and o-ring can be lubed with petroleum jelly (vasaline) on an as needed basis. Remove the needle, and trigger from the brush, maybe even the chuck and guide, and unscrew the air valve casing from the brush body. You can push the pin out of the body from the bottom using the back of the needle. You can also apply lube to the back of the needle, and use it to smear it around the ID of the o-ring without having to remove it from the body. Lightly dab the pin with lube, and insert it back down through the trigger slot using tweezers.

    This is the location of the o-ring and push pin -
    Iwata O-ring.jpg

    If you are for some reason skeptical of using petroleum jelly, even though it is inert, and actually a very good lube for this o-ring, you can look to purchase poly-urea grease, which will also do a great job.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
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  10. Nessus

    Nessus Needle-chuck Ninja

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    Thanks! In regards to lube I was mostly worried about contaminating the air stream, which is probably more an issue with fluid or powder lubes than thick greases, but I wasn't sure. I don't know if I have any petroleum jelly on hand, but I have some K33. Is it worth going out of my way, for PJ or poly-urea, or will the K33 work fine?

    By "valve pin" meant the brass pin inside the valve that the O-ring wraps around, not the plunger pin at the base of the trigger. Sorry If I was vague about that.
  11. DaveG

    DaveG Airbush Analyst Very Likeable!

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    The K33 is poly-urea grease - perfect lube for this area.

    The valve pin itself does not actually touch anything - other than the seal (which is lightly bonded to the brass shaft) - which contacts a seal face within the valve. There is nothing to lubricate in this area.

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