Badger Sotar Review

8/2011
The Sotar 20/20 has to be one of the coolest looking airbrushes there is.



There are two models, the 20/20-1 with a tiny reservoir, and the 20/20-2 that I have with a 1/12 oz. cup.  There is no cap for the cup.

There are three needle/spray regulator/tip sizes available; fine, medium, and large.  The tips are 0.20mm, 0.45mm, and 0.70mm.  I received the fine and medium sets.  With a cup this small, I'm not sure why anyone would need the large size.

The trigger and rocker on mine have the new Glydecoat treatment.

Like the Renegades and Krome, the spray regulators come either with a fork design or without any protection for the needle.  Mine has the versions without the forks.

Some have complained that the Renegade Velocity's dark finish makes cleaning difficult.  As you can see on the right, the Sotar's black color stops part way down the cup, making it easy to see residual paint.

Some History

I once asked Ken Schlotfeldt about the Sotar.   because it looks so different from other Badger airbrushes, I thought maybe they had purchased the design from another company.  He said no, it was a Badger original and was introduced in the mid 90's to compete with the Iwata Micron.  It was originally sold only as a Sotar, with no Badger name.  They wanted to create a sub brand like Toyota did with the Lexus.  But eventually, they just added it to the rest of the Badger line.  By the way, Sotar stands for State Of The Art Results.  That's a little corny, I know, but you have to admit the name Sotar is catchy.  I don't know where the 20/20 came from.

First Impressions

What can I say?  It feels like what it is, a precision instrument.  It weighs just 77g, half way between the 65g Vega 1000 and 87g Patriot.  The plastic finger rest is the same as the one on the Krome, and is comfortable.  And, it is removable if you don't like it.

Here is the Sotar next to the Krome.



The Sotar has a much shorter nose, which is nice for detail work.  In fact, of all my brushes, only the 200s and the 100 side feed noses are shorter.

Parts Breakdown



There are similarities to other Badger airbrushes.  The trigger mechanism is the standard Badger type that you will find in the Patriot and 100 series brushes, while the head assembly looks like a mix of the 100 series and the Renegade line.  One advantage of the Sotar is that you can remove the head for cleaning without the tip falling out like it does on the Renegades and Krome.  The Renegade tips, needles, and spray regulators will fit in the Sotar.  Note:  I'm not saying they are the same, only that they will fit and work.  Obviously, the Renegade needle lacks the knob on the rear.

The needle bearing is the Teflon pressed in type.

The needle limiter is just like the Krome except for length.  It also has a unique feature that Badger has patented.












On the left, the arrow points to where the limiter prevents the needle being pulled back more than a set amount.  This is normally how a limiter works.  But, by readjusting the limiter, it can push against the needle end knob and pull the needle back even before the trigger is pressed.  This is similar to the way the 100 side feed airbrush works.  In both cases, the numbered ring can be calibrated, just like on the Krome.  And, like the Krome, care must be used not to damage the tiny tip. 

The method on the right has the advantage that if the nozzle becomes clogged, which is a common occurrence when doing fine lines, you can pull back on the trigger and clear it.  You can't do that with the method on the left.  But, since the needle on the right is being prevented from fully seating in the tip, you can get an initial spurt of paint when you press the trigger.

Because of this design, the Sotar is the only airbrush I know of where you have to remove the needle to remove the handle.

The needles have a color coded knob on the back end.  Black is fine, white is medium, and clear is heavy.  The fine needle comes to a very sharp point.  I don't care if it's made of Kryptonite, a needle this fine is easy to bend or break.  I've found I can straighten small bends by drawing the point across my cutting pad while rotating it.
















Trying it out

Here are my doodles with food coloring on a paper towel.  On the left is the fine setup and on the right, the medium.
I cheated and used the needle limiter.  It works really well.













Conclusion


The Sotar is a really fine airbrush for doing really fine work.  Some people can and do paint beautiful models with it, but it is not something that most modelers will ever need. As Badger states on their website:

The 20/20® provides the professional illustrator with an airbrush capable of producing the ultimate in fine line detail.

If you fit this category, it's meant for you.

I do cringe a bit when I see that a beginner has bought one of these as a first airbrush.  It's like giving a teenager a Maserati.  Parts are expensive.  Coast Airbrush sells the fine tip for $36, and it's very easy to lose or damage.

Once again, many thanks to Ken Schlotfeldt for the sample.

Postscript

Today, 8/30/18, I got an e-mail from a reader who doesn't want to be named.  He sent me a photo of his new Sotar.  Here it is:


Notice the head is now brazed on like the Renegade models, and the cup is different too.  It's like the Renegade Jet.  To my eye the finish looks more like the metallic gray of the Renegades than the original black of the Sotar.  He says it sprays fine, but he's not happy with the internal finish of the head parts.

As I noted on my home page, manufacturers can and do change their design whenever they feel like it.  If I know about it, I will mention it.  But, I cannot guaranty that what I show will be what you get if you buy one.  My thanks to the reader who sent this.


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