So I came back from the UK with these:
They’re my boyfriend’s old Blood Angels from when he was a teenager along with a couple of other interesting bits (Eversor Assassin and Rogue Trader era Inquisitor). I need to strip them of any old paint and undercoat and tidy them up before I can repaint them for him. They’re not an urgent job, just something to potter along with when I need a break from my Wolves but I’d like to do it well, which is why I need to figure out the best way to strip them. Now metal is fairly easy to strip but there are quite a lot of old plastic arms and banner poles mixed in with the metal so I decided to do an experiment to compare different ways of stripping miniatures.
I’ve tried to keep this experiment as fair as possible, but my bathroom is not a chemistry lab and I don’t have things like ultrasonic baths or a collection of measuring beakers and “stripped” is not a definite term. I’m also conscious that not all brands are equal and not everything that I use is available everywhere else. Conversely, I cannot get the classic stripping media Dettol and Simple Green (well, not without travelling to a specialist shop in another city) so I’ve had to miss them off my list. Therefore this experiment is far from comprehensive. I am also going to put up a couple of warnings and disclaimers before I go any further:
The data given below are for the brands/varieties of products that I have used. I cannot guarantee that every brand will work the same way. This article is just a guide. Before using any medium to strip your miniatures please, please do a test piece first! I do not take any responsibility for any damage or destruction of models due to use of the information on this page or for the use of any products in a way not intended by the manufacturer.
Read the instructions on the bottle before use! Some of the products used below are irritants and/or produce fumes. Always work in a well ventilated environment and keep any solvents out of the reach of children and animals. Protective clothing such as gloves and goggles may also be advisable.
For this experiment I decided to test the effect of the following five solvents on plastic, Finecast resin and Forgeworld resin:
- Control: water
- Acetone-free nail polish: I used Etos Nagellak Remover zonder aceton
- Brush Cleaner: Revell Aqua Color Clean
- Brush Cleaner: 4Art Penseelreiniger: Sunflower oil based brush cleaner for oil paints
- Foaming Kitchen Spray: C1000 Keuken Powerreiniger Lemon: I know that traditionally Fairy Power Spray is used but having discovered that normal kitchen spray is good at cleaning paint residue from the sink I wanted to see if it worked to clean models. There are lots and lots of generic degreasers out there so I recommend shopping around to see what’s best for you.
I prepared the test samples by spraying with Chaos Black undercoat and coating with a layer of Citadel Layer paint.
To run the experiment I simply soaked the test pieces in the solvent and periodically tested them by scrubbing gently with an old toothbrush.
In the table below I have put the results of the experiment along with the cost per litre, whether the cleaner is reusable and any notes.
* Cost per litre in euros calculated 19/05/13 for the products used.
† Converted from cost in Pounds Sterling
The cleaners used above were all suitable for plastic, Finecast and Forgeworld resin. Surprisingly, the two resins were far easier to clean than plastic, possibly because they do not hold the primer so well. From the results I recommend picking the cleaner for the job. The nail polish remover and the Revell Aqua Color Clean brush cleaner worked the fastest of the cleaners used, however they do produce a lot of fumes. They also evaporate quickly. Indeed, the Aqua Color Clean is so volatile that it evaporates faster than it can be used, particularly in a shallow dish. For this reason, as well as the cost issue, I prefer to use nail polish remover out of these two solvents. For single models or situations when quick cleaning is required I would say that nail polish remover is probably the most effective. However, I would recommend testing it out first as not all nail polish removers can be used on plastic models (as I know from experience).
The only cleaner to not produce fumes is the oil based brush cleaner, which is also the most reusable of the cleaners used. Its performance is similar to that of the cleaning spray. For cleaning large numbers of models or regular stripping of miniatures, these two cleaners are probably most effective, especially as, since the cleaners are non volatile, the models can be left to soak quite happily. Cleaning Spray is also the cheapest option, particularly as it’s an everyday household product that you may already have at home.
So, hopefully this article gives a few different ways to strip plastic, Finecast and Forgeworld resin. There are several things to consider:
How much are you going to strip? If you only have one model to strip, I’d recommend the nail polish remover as it’s quick and relatively cheap (you need 20ml rather than a litre of the stuff). For a lot of models, the kitchen spray or the oil based brush cleaner are probably more economical, while for somebody who regularly buys things off Ebay or Bring and Buy stalls, a tub of the reusable oil based brush cleaner might be most practical.
Where are you going to work? The nail polish remover and the Aqua Color Clean require well ventilated areas. If you don’t have a well ventilated space to work in, I’d steer clear from working with these.
How fast do you need it done? 24 hours before you need the model painted, based and sitting on the gaming table is far, far too late to worry about using kitchen spray.
What can you get? I was trying hard to get Dettol for this experiment but I wasn’t prepared to travel to the next city to get it. Kitchen sprays are fairly easy to get from the supermarket, and, in the UK and The Netherlands at least, you should be able to get nail polish remover there too. If you can’t get hold of a product easily, you’re probably better off looking at one of the many alternatives.
This article doesn’t show every method for stripping miniatures but hopefully it gives you an idea about how to choose your stripping medium. Whatever you use, do try a test model first and good luck!