Welcome Back to the Labyrinth

"We have been away far too long, my friends," Ashoka declared, his face lit by the eldritch green glow of his staff. "But we have finally returned to the labyrinth whence our adventures first began."

"Just imagine the treasures that lie within," said Yun Tai, flexing his mighty muscles. "Wealth enough to live in luxury the rest of our days."

"And arcane artifacts of great power," added Ashoka his words dripping with avarice. "All ours for the taking!"

"Umm...guys?" Nysa interrupted. "Do you hear something dripping?"

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Stripping Miniatures

As part of my ongoing project to organize and catalogue my miniatures collection I've started stripping all of my early miniatures in preparation for giving them new paint jobs.  I sincerely believe that a miniature does not reach its potential or full aesthetic value until it has been painted to the best of my ability, and a while lot of my miniatures from the early '80's do have paint on them, it was very poorly done.  In fact many of them have been so heavily layered that all detail is obscured.

Consequently, I recently undertook a bit of internet research to find a suitable solvent for stripping miniatures.  The most commonly cited stripping agent is brake fluid, and the runner-ups are hardly less caustic.  Seeing as how I didn't want to mess around with environmentally hazardous toxic materials, I continued my search.  Eventually I found a recommendation on a discussion forum for the use of Dettol, a household disinfectant that can be purchased in any pharmacy.

I was a bit dubious about the efficacy of a household disinfectant for stripping paint, but I thought I'd give it a try since, if it worked, it would be preferable to the alternatives.

Much to my surpise, Dettol works like a charm.  Mix a 50:50 solution of Dettol to water and let your miniatures soak overnight.  Acrylic miniature paint sloughs off easily and light scrubbing with an old toothbrush will get your miniature clean as a whistle.

Citadel Legion of Hell Standard Bearer after an overnight soak in Dettol
The downside is that your house will begin to smell like a hospital, and I recommend using rubber gloves when scrubbing the miniatures or you'll get a sticky, sludgy residue on your fingers.  After scrubbing, soak your miniatures in hot soapy water and scrub them again with a clean brush to get all the Dettol and residue off, and you've got one clean miniature ready for repainting.

Unfortunately, a lot of my first miniatures were painted with Testors enamel paint that I had around the house from model-building.  This is a lot harder to get off than acrylic, but Dettol will do the trick with a bit of patience.  I found that I needed to let the enamel-coated miniatures soak in Dettol for several days.  This will soften the paint, which can then be scraped off with a hobby knife.  I used a dental pick to get into the recesses.  I was never able to get all the paint off in one go, and after an initial scraping, I return the miniatures to the Dettol solution for a couple more days, then repeat the process.  After doing this a few times, I found that even the most recalcitrant enamel can be softened enough that most of it can be removed.

Citadel Vampyre FF 58
The vampyre, shown above, was so thickly coated in enamel paint that most of the details were obscured.  With a little patience and effort I was able to get most of it off, well enough for a repaint,  anyway.

Here's another Citadel miniature from the Fiend Factory line that was successfully stripped of enamel:

Minotaur FF17

I'm in the process of stripping most of my old miniatures, but not all.  This old Ral Partha miniature was my very first D&D character, an elf made using the Holmes Basic Set, and I'm going to keep it like it is for posterity, and as a reminder of what my old paint jobs used to look like.


Trey said...

Careful with that stuff. Wikipedia tells me it is harmful if inhaled or ingested. Interestingly, they use it in Australia to kill invasive cane toads.

biopunk said...

I think isopropyl alcohol is the main solvent in Dettol, and that softens acrylic paint very well.

Have you tried that 50:50 with water?

Sean Robson said...

@Trey: Yeah, they include that caution on the label, too. I still reckon it's safer than messing with brake fluid, oven cleaner or any of the other things that people use to strip their minis. Considering that I sometimes work with hydrofluoric acid for fossil preparation, Dettol is the least of my worries.

@Biopunk: yes, I use a 50:50 solution of Dettol to Water.

Kiltedyaksman said...

I recommend Simple Green. It's bio friendly, no smell, and available at Crappy Tire.

Anonymous said...

"fossil preparation"