25 years later I use the same Paasche VL for base priming and base coating and some finer stuff on occasion. It is a great, robust, workhorse airbrush. The other airbrush that I own is a Iwata HP-CS. The Iwata is also about 20 years old and I actually found it in the bottom of a dollar bin at Goodwill. I think it started life painting fingernails, but after some serious cleaning, a new nozzle, needle and a couple of O-rings it is good as new. Well, I guess it is. I never used it when it was new.
Which brings us to this posts subject: Cleaning your airbrush to make it as good as new. Some of this came up on the CMON forums the other day and I thought it would make a useful blog post.
If your Airbrush will not spray a nice consistent cone pure water you probably have a clog. A thorough cleaning of your airbrush should fix your clog, if not, it's a good place to start.
The process described below is a deep cleaning. You shouldn't need to do this every time you use your airbrush.
You need to take apart your airbrush. The Paasche comes with a convenient little wrench for doing this. The Iwata doesn't and it has some much smaller parts, particularly the nozzle. I use some small pliers to do this job. Be careful not to damage anything. If you are familiar with working on miniatures or models you will be right at home taking apart your airbrush. Have a clean, well lit, place to work and don't be in a rush.
The next thing to do is remove the needle. Guess what, the needle is pretty delicate. Once you remove it set it somewhere safe so you won't bend tip or be tempted to use it to pry all the gunk out of your old crusty nozzle. You shouldn't need a tool for this. The knob that holds the needle in place should only be finger tight. If it's too tight to undo you can use pliers but use a light touch and go slow. Once the needle is out make sure it doesn't have any paint on it. If the needle has paint on the very tip and you are worried about bending it, you can use a soft paint brush dipped in cleaner to wipe it off. When I am painting and get a clog, usually just this step is enough.