Thursday, 21 April 2011

Workbench: Renovating old miniatures

Mostly my work involves putting paint on to miniatures and that is what I talk most about here. Today though, I intend to tell you how to do the opposite, cleaning old paint off miniatures to allow them to be repainted.

The model in question is a Captain Tycho I bought from Ebay to paint as the Death Company variant (psycho Tycho!) of my company captain. Now the paint job on him is not awful by any means, not up to our standards, but not bad. It is also completely wrong for the Death Company scheme (lotta black). I could just dust the model with black primer and go again but every layer of paint on a model dulls the detail of the sculpting. Instead I resolved to strip the model back to bare metal and start again. As my method for this is pretty much ideal I felt I should share it with everyone. First step is to remove the base:

Easiest way is to clip a line through the base rim at both ends of the slot. With the base effectively in two halves you can waggle the halves to break the glued bond at the tab.

Comes out nice and easily, there will be a line of texture along the top of the tab. This needs to be scraped off:

A sharp blade and a few seconds later we have a model ready to strip:

I also snapped off the backpack at some point in this process as it was one of the aincient RTB-01 designs and I have shiny new Blood Angels ones that I can attach to him. Now it was time for a bath in my paint stripper of choice:

No your eyes do not decieve you. Fairy power spray is the very best miniature paint stripper I have ever found. It removes paint quickly, has no solvents or harmful chemicals to breath in and best of all, has no detrimental effect AT ALL on plastic or resin. Most commercial stripping agents will dissolve plastic as they are designed to dissolve the paint. The power spray seems to work by infiltrating the layers of paint and peeling them back. Amazing stuff. Oh and it is really good at removing burnt on food too...

This shot shows roughly how much power spray to use. I've used an old broken-handled teacup to strip my miniatures but any small vessel will do. Note the time.

After just five minutes an experimental brush with the cheapest toothbrush money can buy (5p) shows the paint lifting easily from the leg of tycho. At this stage give the model a vigourous brushing to remove the worst of the paint:

Then back into the power spray for ten minutes or so and then more targeted scrubbing (I use the Citadel stippling brush as it is perfect for all scrubbing duties, just don't use it for stippling). Use the point of a craft knife (or tootpick or whatever) to lift any stubborn paint from the deepest recesses. This takes about another ten minutes as the paint in the cracks is tenacious! You could just lob it back into the power spray to help the process but I am patient. Eventually you have:

Good as new in under an hour. Given that I got this model for less than half its cost on ebay - largely due to its condition - I'd say an hour of very limited effort in front of the TV is well worth it. Hope this helps some of you folks save a few bob on renovating old armies. Just make sure to give the figure a damn good scrub under running water after you are finished to remove all trace of the power spray residue. 'Till next we meet:



  1. Fantastic results for the amount of time spent. I've been a "Simple Green" evangelist for a while, but this Fairy Power Spray sounds great.

    A little searching turned up that it's called "Dawn Power Dissolver" in the U.S. I'll give it a shot! Thanks!

  2. and thank you very much for the US info!

  3. "Dawn Power Dissolver" does the same thing over here in the USA. It's what I use all the time on my models with great success. I pick mine up from Walmart.

    Thanks for sharing this. Aside from the different brand, it's the exact process I follow myself.

    Ron, From the Warp

  4. Agitation is the key!

    Any chemical which can remove paint without you brushing or rubbing the miniature with a stiff brush is something you don't want in your house.

    I find that using a toothbrush and removing the paint over several stages is the best way to go. There's no need to leave it overnight.

    I like to use Dettol, although that can leave an odour. Perhaps I'll give Flash a twirl. Thanks for posting.