Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stripping for Fun and Frugality

Articles about stripping miniatures are fairly common on the web, and one more can't hurt.. Right?

When I originally acquired my Witch Hunters army, I knew I'd have to remove the gobs of paint before I did anything with them. This resulted in me spending hours on the porch with oven cleaner, gloves, a plastic container, and a tooth brush. It sucked.

Then I decided to give Simple Green a try. I had more models to strip, it was winter, and I really didn't want to deal with noxious chemicals (or the too-small cleaning gloves) again. I purchased a spray bottle's worth from the grocery store, and the rest is history.

Below is a photo log of the stripping of four Fire Dragons purchased from eBay about a year and a half ago.

Above, you can see four Fire Dragons of the older style. The previous owner apparently used them well, as they show quite a bit of evidence of handling. Compounded with the fact that I don't field minis other people have painted (except for my Orks,) they're a prime target for the Simple Green bath.

This would be my technical setup. A used plastic multi-vitamin container, filled with enough Simple Green to cover the minis, capped with aluminum foil to prevent evaporation. The self-locking tweezers on the picture to the right are for arranging the minis to get below the surface level and to remove them without wasting Simple Green.

I usually let the miniatures soak for 24 hours before toothbrushing them, but I've had success with as little as 15 minutes (yes, minutes!), with three days being the maximum time I've used. Bare pewter does tend to lightly tarnish if exposed to Simple Green for a long period (half a day plus in my experience.)

Above, you can see the miniature immediately after removal from the Simple Green. After about 48 hours of soaking, the paint is already rubbing off just from handing it with my bare hands. Next step is some thorough scrubbing with a toothbrush, with plenty of rinsing.

Four Fire Dragons, stripped, dried, and displayed for your pleasure. You can see a little bit of tarnish on the second and fourth from the left, but it's largely cosmetic -- and something that will be invisible once the minis are finally painted. These four took about fifteen to twenty minutes of gentle scrubbing with a toothbrush.

Simple Green Pros

- Non-toxic, to both the environment and yourself. Simple Green is biodegradable, and it doesn't have the nasty habit of destroying your lungs or hands like brake fluid or oven cleaner. This means you can use it indoors, without a gas mask, and without gloves.
- Strips very, very quickly. 15 minutes will allow you to brush a large chunk of paint off of the mini, if not all of it.
- Reusable. That vitamin container of Simple Green has been filtered through a paper towel to remove sediment and topped off as the level went down, but is mostly the same as when I started stripping.
- Weakens Super Glue. If you wanted to break apart the mini for better access to nooks and krannies, this will help a little bit.
- Safe on plastics and pewter. The big three - Simple Green, brake fluid, and oven cleaner - all have a reputation of being safe on plastic and pewter, but there are strippers out there that can melt plastic.
- Cleans your sink. After stripping the minis, I generally give the sink of a quick brushing with the toothbrush. ;)

Simple Green Cons

- Can tarnish pewter. This hasn't affected my painting, but it may be offputting.
- Weakens Super Glue. If you didn't want the mini to come apart, it's going to be weaker after the stripping. Careful.
- Doesn't remove paint underneath Super Glue. If the assembler went crazy with gluing, you might have to chip away to get at the paint underneath.

In summary, I highly recommend concentrated Simple Green for general purpose 40k mini stripping.