Sunday, 26 April 2009

Taking a dip

I’ve had several comments over the last year querying my technique for removing the paint from old castings to prepare for re-painting. When I started on this project I wasn’t really sure how I was going to do it as I didn’t like the idea of using heavy duty paint-stripper, which seemed the logical choice. I found a website selling a modellers version of paint-stripper and placed an order but the goods never showed up (they didn’t take my money either to be fair). So then I Googled ‘stripping paint from toy soldiers’ and discovered someone that used domestic bleach to do the job. This seemed like an all-together friendlier way of carrying out the task and after experimenting came up with the following simple method that seems to work on all types of paint.

Take a batch of 12 or so infantry or 6 cavalry figures and pop them in a glass jar before covering them with domestic bleach – the type you put down the toilet not the ‘thin’ stuff - then leave overnight to soak. Next day carefully pour off the liquid down the sink making sure not to lose any of the little men down the plug-hole in the process. At this stage it may well look as if nothing much has happened as most of the paint will probably still be attached to the figures.

After the first dip

Part fill the sink with warm water and put the castings in then gently scrub them under the water with a toothbrush (I have discovered that it’s best to use an old one not the wife’s favourite one). Most of the paint should come away like magic but you may find some hard to shift bits - normally reds and flesh colour are the most stubborn. Sometimes you may need to give the castings a second soaking in the bleach and repeat the process. Wash the figures with soapy water and then rinse with clean water to remove any traces of the bleach. When the figures are completely dry brush them again with a dry toothbrush to get rid of any bits. If after all this there are still any small areas of paint remaining just leave them – a coat of undercoat should seal them.


After the first scrub

I should point out that bleach is not a very friendly chemical and you should wear protective gloves when using it. Children under 14 years should not attempt this technique (ask an adult to do it for you). One final point, don’t leave the figures for too long at a time in the bleach as they might become tarnished or form areas covered with a white powder. I’m no chemist but I guess that some sort of reaction with the chlorine may set in. This has only happened to me once but as a precaution I limit the time in the dip to about 8 hours.

8 comments:

DC said...

The white powder may be lead rot/oxidisation. The good news is that chlorine is supposed to 'fix' (as in prevent further damage) lead rot - so you should be killing two birds with the one stone. That said, and to confuse matters, the last time i tried the fix rot with bleach trick the rotten areas of the figures in question turned a delightful shade of 'baby poo' brown. Clearly we need a chemist....

Stryker said...

That's interesting about chlorine being a fix for lead rot - I did have suspicions that the rot was already there before I stripped the paint and I guess this confirms it. I had the 'baby poo' brown effect too but I just washed the figures in soapy water and painted them - so far no problems!

Ian

rpardo said...

Hi
I think that the white and brown substances could be, respectively lead(II) and lead(IV) oxides.
Whereas the first could be formed by atmospheric oxidation, the second could be the result of the reaction between chlorine (bleach) and lead/lead(II) oxide.
Maybe you must use (with care to don't damage the figures) a metallic brush to clean off all the powdered lead substances!
Regards
Rafa

Stryker said...

Hi Rafa

Good to hear from a real scientist – I should have thought to ask you before now! I’m now slightly worried about that lead(IV) oxide. I’ve inspected the troops and they all look quite healthy but I will take extra care in future. Is there any possibility that my men may be slowing rotting away under the paint? Actually, please don’t answer that…

Ian

rpardo said...

Ian
Relax you... the lead(IV) oxide is only formed at very oxidant conditions... I think your men will remain safe!
Regards
Rafa

Stryker said...

Phew...thanks Rafa!
I wish I'd paid more attention to chemistry classes back in my school days...

FIXED BAYONET METAL SOLDIERS said...

Great info, well done.I'm doing a blog on 54mm if you can help let me know

Sharon said...

You have forgotten to add, 'clean the sink' scrub the worktops' and 'clear everything away when finished' from your otherwise comprehensive instructions.