Thursday, 10 May 2012

Strip Shows? How do you like it?

Don't panic! I am not going to start discussing the merits of boob jobs, suspender belts or women who look like this...

I want to discuss the ways in which we 'leadheads' strip off the layers of ancient paint from miniatures before breathing new life into them with a new paint job. When I was younger I much preferred to buy metal models with my pocket money as they could easily be passed to my father would would remove the paint with some vile concoction of paint stripper he'd use on the car. I am sure I can remember little puffs of smoke escaping from the brown sludge as he'd drop my chaos warriors or undead champions in or perhaps that is just childhood fantasy? One thing is for sure, I was never allowed near the 'dreaded jam jar' with the battered brushes sticking out of it for fear of instant death.

In later years, I discovered my first method of cleaning up old miniatures. Good old Nitro Mors (recommended by my dad, who had moved on from the foul brown poison). Here it is for those of you who have not heard of this product...

This stuff is green and vicious. Get this on your skin and you are going to know about it, especially around the more sensitive areas of your fingernails but it does a damn good job of cleaning off the most appalling of paint jobs- acrylic, enamels even modelling putty and superglue is destroyed by this stuff. I recently purchased a very badly mauled bloodthirster from eBay. Most of the detail had been obliterated by rivers of glue that had run into the details but after a day or too soaking in Nitro the stuff just peeled off like jelly. I have also found the Nitro watered down a little is effective at cleaning up what I call 'lead scum'. This is the layer of grey dirt that covers models with a high lead content. Simply leave them in the nitro bath over night, rinse under the tap and all the detail is revealed.

The downside to Nitro is that it destroys plastics- utterly. Shields, bases, extra arms simply become puddles of grey goo. For many years this restricted my painting as plastic models once completed were impossible to
strip back. My dad (who knows far too much about paint and paint strippers for any sane person) suggested using brakefluid but I was always dissatisfied with the results as it damaged detail on plastics and left models with a slight fluffy texture. Restorations were impossible. It just wasn't worth buying that tortured box of Heroquest miniatures that had been attacked with enamels and superglue as you couldn't get the stuff off.

Then I found aid in the most unlikely of places.

Under the sink!

As every child knows, Dettol has a distinctive smell and an equally distinctive sting as your wounds are bathed by your mother after your umpteeth fall from your BMX. Little did I realise that this brown liquid was also a powerful paint stripper for acrylics and enamels but left plastics totally undamaged! At last, I could strip down my brutalised warhammer regiments models I painted in 1988 and clean them up as new. You have to be careful with Dettol though, as once removed from the liquid and immersed in water for cleaning the paint can become very, very sticky and clog brushes and adhere to any (I mean any) surface. However, there is a simple solution that creates a chemical reaction that prevents this- washing up liquid. Ooze this stuff on liberally and brush away and see you plastic, metal or combination model scrub up nice and shiny once more.

Sadly, Dettol will not shift glue. So glue damaged plastics are still (for me anyway) destined for the miniature grave at the bottle of my bitz box.

So what is the point of this post? Firstly, I thought I'd share some of my practice in the area of cleaning miniatures. But I hoped to generate a little debate and perhaps learn a thing or two... So readers! How do you strip your metal and plastic models?

Any tips, techniques or hidden/special products you can share with myself and other bloggers that will help us in that eternal battle against the fifth chaos god- the Dark Lord of Badly Applied 80s Paint!



  1. Dettol is great -but smelly and very slow. HOWEVER. Fairy Power Spray. Spray on. Wait 15- 1 hour or so(depending on how thick the paint is), grab toothbrush, scrub with toothbrush while rinsing under warm water. Five minutes or so of utterly effortless scrubbing (and very little mess) later and you have a mini clean as the day it was minted.

    It works on Enamel too. Just need to leave it for longer. Also, spray, don't steep. Four and five sqooshes and that's it.

  2. Really, fairy huh? Mr Muscle used to work till they changed the formula, perhaps they just put a new label on the bottle.

    Still like Nitro Mors for lead, nothing shines up metal like it.

  3. I tend to use Dettol for everything these days, although Nitromors was a favourite - certainly smells better, not that you'd want to inhale too many vapours!

    Not sure what to suggest about the plastics and glue problem - I've usually given it up as a bad job, especially if its polystyrene cement that's been used and the plastic has been melted by it.

    Might have to give the Fairy a go sometime.

  4. I've tried a few different things for plastic, but i'm still yet to find the "perfect" one.

    Dettol works great, but leaves the mini's smelling awful. Probably has no negative effect on the mini or paint, but having recently stripped & dry minis sitting on my painting desk gives me a headache.

    The best (but still not perfect) stuff I've found so far is Acetone free nail polish remover. It does a great job removing paint & glue, requiring only a few hours to work. The only thing you need to be careful of is not to leave it over night, like i did by mistake. If you do your mini will become soft and swell up a bit, basically ruining it. Saying that though, if you use it as i suggested it will take the paint off no problem and keep the detail too. I think max time would be about 10 hrs you could leave it for with no ill effects.

    The most attractive part of using this stuff though is the price....its free and easily attainable.....just nick it from your partner's nail polish box, and when they return to use it next time, only to find an empty bottle they will think it must have leaked out. Then they will unwittingly resupply you by going out to buy it again. The perfect crime :)

    The obvious problem is in finding something strong enough to remove paint, but not too strong that it devours plastic.

    Which is precisely the reason why i think Acetone free nail polish is the best stuff for me at this stage.

  5. I've tried the nail polish. It works, but I still rate it as a risky move. On the whole, I reckon Fairy Power Spray is the way to go. It has a VERY high pine oil content and you only need a few ml's of the stuff to completely strip a model. I used to go through a bottle of Dettol every twenty infantry minis in 28mm. So far, I've managed over a hundred with one bottle of fairy power spray and I've still got quite a bit left in my first bottle of the stuff.

    For speed, cost-efficiency and lack of overpowering odours, you honestly can't go wrong with the Fairy. Try it. You won't regret it.

  6. Very interesting tip regarding the dish liquid. I've only use dettol for plastics because I hate the gooey mess the paint becomes. I'm a nitro-mors man, though. It adds a whole bunch of testosterone to an otherwise 'nerdy' pursuit.

  7. Thanks all for the comments.

    It seems that Fairy Power Spray is the next step for me. I have a query though, is it just as case of lying your models down and spraying over them as you would a greasy patch in the kitchen or fill a small container with the stuff and plonk your mini in?

  8. Best results seems to be 90% fairy 10% water and soak for a week. (
    Being impatient I tried some plastics after day or two and paint started coming off but clumpy/sticky so week seems better). After enough soak time you'll find paint kind of dissolves away rather than turning into gunk.
    If kept in airtight container the solution is reusable but haven't used enough yet to judge for how long.

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