Thursday 16 January 2014

The Helpful Hobby Guide to Oldhammer : How to strip models

It's been quite some time I was thinking about doing a tutorial about how I strip minis and after reading Orlygg's very useful post about it, I thought it was time to give it a go.
While Orlygg's article concentrates on the power or Dettol, I will try to offer another approach.

Being french comes with some drawbacks. Most people will think about poor personnal hygiene or constant whining but as far as oldhammer goes, the major drawback is that France lacks Dettol. I only came across some after a little trip to UK which gave me the opportunity to buy 4 bottles of the stuff. With that said, you'll understand my experience with the stuff is not the best you can find around.
However, I've been stripping minis since the late 90's and I am pretty sure those who are new to the thing and those who use different methods can find an interest in what I'm about to tell.

I apologise in advance if I seem like smashing through open doors here but I Think I'll start with the basics to be clear/

Materials :

There are many products to work with here, the list is endless and only depends on the part of the globe you live in. To name a few, acetone, dettol, glanzer, fairy powder spray, nail remover, biostrip, simple green, nitro-mors...

The 2 I am going to talk about are mainly Acetone and Dettol because :
a) these are the only ones I use so I couldn't talk of any other,
b) as far as I'm concerned, I get the job done more than ok with these 2 alone

Acetone :

Some people seem to be unfamiliar with the stuff so  I believe a few words are mandatory here. Acetone can be bought in most supermarkets and DIY shops along with alcohol, linseed oil, chlorhydric acid and other fancy chemical products. What you want here is the plain and simple pure version of it, full of (CH3)2CO and not the scented diluted version you find in nail polish removers. Its basic cost is about 2,5€ per bottle which makes it rather cheap.

A particularity of it is that it evaporates VERY easily. There are pros and cons about that property, it means you get to inhale quite a lot of it if you're not careful, you can waste a fair amont of it if you don't close your stripping jar correctly, and since it evaporates, it leaves a very cold touch on the hands which can prove very unpleasant when you're stripping models in your garage in winter...
It is not toxic but just like alcohol, its vapors affect your senses so unless you have the opportunity to work in a well ventilated place or in open air, it is best to wear protective gear (more about that in a few lines).
It has the power to dry your hands like a lot of products so gloves may be a good idea here too.

The main reason I love acetone so much to strip models is that it doesn't only make paint soft, it MELTS and DISSOLVES it, and everything else for the matter. Dip a model in it and the only thing you'll find left is the metal parts. Paint will melt away, glue (any glue) will melt away, green stuff and milliput will peel of in no time and the most important thing PLASTIC will be sent into the void of chaos.

The advantage to this is that the longer the dip, the best it works, there is a time limit where dettol doesn'nt work anymore because some parts are not in contact with it or because the paint is too thick. You don't have this kind of trouble with acetone, it will slowly but surely eat all the paint and will go it those recesses where it's always a pain to go with the brush.
Some people have a problem with disposing of it because obviously you don't want to throw a plastic melting liquid in your plastic drainage system but I never experienced the problem in all my 15 years of using it. I think the plastic used for drainage is immuned to acetone. One other thing is that since it evaporates, if you want to get rid of it, just open the jar and say bye-bye. I have one stripping jar I keep for this purpose and I only refill it once in a while when the models are not covered so disposing of it has never been an isue for me.

So to sum up 
  • Acetone melts paint, glue, most modeeling putties and plastic
  • It smells bad
  • It evaporates easily so keep it stored in air-tight recipients.
  • eye and hands protections highly recommended

Dettol :

Dettol can be found in supermarkets in UK and I don't know which other countries. One thing you have to make sure about is that you get the one with "chloroxylenol" in it which is usually the brownish looking one. I think I bought mine 3£ per bottle.

Some people tend to find Dettol smelly but though I don't fancy its odor much, I don't find it that bad. You have to keep in mind Dettol is primarly a disinfectant and a powerful one. It doesn't "clean", it just kills germs and bacterias like Bleach. You have to keep this in mind because undiluted Dettol can be a dangerous threat to your own microflaura and fauna. Think of it like a concentrated antibiotic and you get the idea, you don't want to ingest any of it and you want to keep it away from your mouth, skin, eyes (any mucosals in fact). Some people tend to mistake it for some sort of super-soap and use it with little care...

One thing which is a pain with Dettol is its slippy touch which makes it hard to handle models and small parts (I sometimes get nervous breakdown because I can't grab this little sword at the bottom of the jar).

  • Dettol makes the paint soft (looks like it has wrinkles everywher) which makes it detach from the model
  • It leaves plastics and glue unharmed
  • It's slippy and once you get some on places you didn't want it to be, it gets reeeaaally annoying.
  • eye and hands protection highly recommended 

Tools :

Recipient :

What you need here are hermetic recipients. I chose jampots because you can see through them, you can easily open and close them, they're cheap and easy to get.

Toothbrushes :

I use a wide range of toothbrushes depending on the type of models. I sometimes begin with a medium or hard one to remove the bigger parts of paint form the model or when I have only dipped models for a short while and I want to make a preliminary bath.
Most of the time , I use a soft brush to finish the job or I even use it to start when I only have a shitty priming to remove.

What's the big difference?
I believe soft brushes are far more efficient to get in the recesses, their flexibility enables them to get in these remote places that are hard to reach. You have to make sure you don't push hard on your toothbrush (same goes when you brush your teeth), the harder you push on your brush, the less efficient it becomes. the best method to brush is to do gentle circular movements with a soft brush. Pushing too hard on the brush makes you brush with the sides of the hairs whereas when you do little circles without pushing, you're making the tips of the hairs gently scratch the paint which is way more efficient.

Some people may think another way but this is just my own point of view of course.

I also tend to think that though it does'nt make a big difference on white metal, using hard brushes on old dark grey lead can be harmful to the models.

Protective gears :

Though it is a pain to wear goggles, facemasks and gloves, I believe keeping away from harm or intoxication is somehow useful. It may sound like "wear your seatbelt" but you have to consider the point that living a tad longer means you get to play/paint/collect a tad longer too...

Gloves are a no brainer, they're cheap and you most probably already have some lying around. So why have irritated skin and stinky fingers when you can wear them?

Goggles have to be considered, brushing does make a lot of drops go in lots of different ways and when this way is towards your eyes, you may have wished you had something to protect them. Since I wear glasses, I usually don't put goggles put if I don't have my glasses on, I try to find goggles before getting to stripping.

The face mask is one I've been using for a few years now and I just don't consider not using it now. Whenever I spray prime, varnish or if I strip minis I put this on. It's only 30€ to avoid any toxic, unpleasant gas or particles. And you get to breathe like Darth Vader which alone would be enough to make me wear one.

To try is to love it

Stripping :

Ok, now we've set the scene we can move to the main course.

The dip :

You've got yourself a jampot and it's full of acetone or dettol so the first step is the easy one, just throw whatever you have to strip in the pots (remember that if there is any plastic you want to save you might want to use the dettol pot...
How long should you leave the models in the pot?, wel it all depends on the nature of the paint used, how thick the layer is, how old it is too and how fresh your stripping fluid is.

For some models with just a thin layer of priming, you don't even have to dip the models, the vapors of it are enought to remove the paint. Not you can also try a speed dip and if you're fast enough you can remove the paint before it damages the model (to be considered as a last chance method). Some materials like plastic-rubber can be dipped a few minutes without any serious damage.
In the case of Acetone , as I said, the longer the better. Most of the time I'll just throw my models in the pot as soon as I get them in the mailbox so that I can do all the stripping at once in the following week-end. If you are using acetone, you may want to make the bath a bit longer to remove any trace of glue.

The brushwork :

As I said in the brush section, I tend to favor gentle circular moves with a soft brush to heavy handed linear movements with a hard brush but I guess it's all about what works best for you here.

Note that at this point if some parts still won't go, it's no use spending too much energy. Just put the models back in the stripper and come back some little later. The paint you have removed has enabled access to the stripper fluid which can work its way. You might also want to try toothpicks in the recesses if the paint is too thick in the crevices and holes (the eyes can be annoying parts sometimes).

Rincing :

You now have models which look OK but which still have some little pieces of paint here and there and more importantly which are covered in acetone, Dettol or whatever product you used.
Last step is quite an important one and an easy one. Just pour some liquide soap on the models and brush them with hot water. Then let them rince under hot water to remove any trace of soap and you're good!

Brush it

rinse it

You just have to be careful you let them dry correctly by placing them on some absorbant paper. White metal and plastic won't be harmed by water but old lead (the soft dark grey kind) has to be dried correctly. Water in itself is not a problem but the oxygen it contains will oxydate the lead which can be the starting point of leadrot.
You don't want to hear about leadrot. EVER.

Put it another way, do you prefer spending one minute drying your models or seeing your runequest broos turn nito a blob of corroded cancerigenic dust? Yeah me too.

Once this is done I also tend to store m models in boxes with those drying bags you get with ink cartridges and other products.

Once all of this has been done you can fully appreciate the joy of your favourite models freed by years of clumsy brushwork.

Hope this will prove useful to those who haven't tried stripping model sbefore or for those unfamiliar with acetone stripping.
If you want to comment, ask questions or give alternative methods, tips or hints, please do so below. I'll update this post with anything that makes it clearer.


  1. "Lead rot" is like "erectile dysfunction". I dont even want to talk about it, just in case.

    You have me considering using acetone to get the last bits of paint off a couple of old RT ork crotches. The stink of that stuff puts me off though. Thanks for the guide, its useful :)

    1. Lead rot, yep it kills your models and yourself in the same time (highly cancerigenic)... the mere thought of it gives me the creeps...

      Acetone does smell but nothing a mask you can find in any good DIY won't fix. Take one made for solvents and you're good.
      Since the hobby requires to prime, varnish, strip and so much other nasty practices, I think spending 30 € in a mask every 3 year is a reasonable thing...

      Nice o read the this tuto proved useful !

  2. I do always wear a mask when spraying and using other horrible hobby substances, but its the way that some of those chemicals have a stroing enough smell to get all over the house that bothers me. Thats a big plus for Fairy Power Spray as far as I am concerned, as it doesnt have a very strong or pervasive smell.

    But you know, the right tools fro the right job and all that. Acetone does some things that the other substances cant.

    1. Agreed, I only strip outdoors on in my vast garage with the mask and ventilaton on. The smell of acetone is not that strong (or maybe using it for 15 yeras has got me acustomed somehow) but it's like alcohol, it gets to your head and you feel a little strange. Even for Dettol, I do it in remote areas where the smell and danger are far from the children's reach.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...