Stripping figures, part 2: Pine-Sol

Pine-Sol has been my main solvent for figure stripping.

Be sure to read the warnings on the label. Image from House of Zoka, whatever the hell that is.

The other items I’d recommend are:

A toothbrush, preferably one you are not using for your teeth. A really stiff brush is best, like a denture brush.

A toothpick. Wooden ones are nice as they are too soft to damage even lead, but a dental scaler or pick is also great because it will last longer and has an ergonomic shape. You can get a cheap but adequate one at the drugstore.

Forceps, tweezers, or tongs to reach into the tub of stripper, and

A rag to hold the figures while scrubbing and picking them.

The tools of the trade.

The steps then are:

  1. remove any plastic, cardboard, wood or other base
  2. submerge the figure in a jar or tub of straight Pine-Sol (or equivalent) for at least 12 hours
  3. remove and rinse the figure with tweezers
  4. scrub gently with the toothbrush
  5. gently scrape out any crevices and recesses with a toothpick
  6. if the paint is still adhering, soak again for a while

I wish I could be more specific about soaking times but in practice I just let them soak for days until I remember to check on them. I left a couple to soak while I was away on vacation for 11 days and I’m curious as to how they are doing!

Here are two Grenadier rogues and a Grenadeir Orc, as well as a Citadel Imperial Champion in full armor, in a bowl of Pine-Sol.

Here, they’ve been taken out, but not yet scrubbed.  If you look closely at the armored
guy’s sword, it looks like a wavy or serrated blade, but in fact the enamel paint has come loose and is baggy and wrinkled on the model.  Pine-Sol is pretty good on enamel although some acrylics are more resistant to it.  The Orc was painted about 25 years ago, mostly with Floquil Poly-S paints (do they even make those any more?).  His fur cape, painted with maroon Floquil “metal primer”, has been very tough to get off, but the rest of the figures (which I didn’t prime at all) have been a little easier.

The biggest difficulty in stripping lead figures is to avoid scrubbing and scraping so hard that you damage the figure.

The two rogues have been soaked & scrubbed before, and I was just curious as to whether the last bits of paint in the crevices might come off.  So far the “flesh” paint has been surprisingly tough, although everything else is mostly gone.

Here is a shot of the the orc and knight after a couple of scrubbings (soak, scrub, rinse, repeat).

I’ll probably give it one more go with the toothbrush and pick, and then go in very carefully with the pick and X-acto knife to scrape out any deep crevices.  I rarely get 100% of the old paint off but usually it is enough to get all the crevices cleaned out and any large areas of paint obscuring detail removed.  The orc will make an excellent pirate (patch, hook, and cutlass).  The knight is a little odd, since he has a pistol.  I picked him up a few years back when we running a Warhammer FRP-inspired D&D game.  Our fighter wanted to use guns, but since it was 3.5 ed. it was not easy to make that work (you pretty much need to choose melee weapons as a 3.5 fighter, or you are not so effective).

Pine-Sol is a little better on enamels than acrylics, I think.  I have not used enamels much for painting, due to the need for thinners.  But a lot of the second-had stuff I get has enamels.  I think I will try another method next time, either Easy-Off or Simple Green.  Stay tuned.

Published in: on June 11, 2010 at 12:58 pm  Comments (10)  

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10 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I’ve found that brake fluid works wonders leave it soaking for a day or three and the paint just slides right off.

  2. Just noticed this was a part 2 and I now see that you’ve already used brake fluid and decided against it, so ignore my post.

    • No worries. I agree it works pretty well, I’m just not careful enough to use it responsibly. Also, how do you dispose of it? Please don’t say you dump it down the drain!

  3. Maybe you should try Simple Green. When I soak 25 year old enamel-painted minis in Simple Green for 5-6 days, a toothbrush gets EVERYTHING off, no problem. No repeat soaks, no toothpicks…

    • Cyclo,
      I think I’ve seen several products online called simple green (a degreaser, an all-purpose cleaner, a glass cleaner). Which if any of these do you use? Can you get it at a grocery store, hardware store, or what?

  4. Just an open question: has anyone used an ‘ultrasonic cleaner’ on miniatures?

    I’m just wondering if the combination of the liquid solutions suggested here and the massive vibrations would speed up the process…

    • I’ve thought about those sonic toothbrushes, but never tried it out.

      • I may have mis-named what I’m talking about. It was a two-part unit. The lower part looked like a hotplate. The other part was a simple metal cup. You could fill it with water or a cleaning solution, and when turned on, the lower plate would vibrate the hell out of it. My parents had one – I think they marketed them to clean jewelry…

        The toothbrush uses the same principle. I was curious if such things did any damage to the miniatures at all. I don’t know if softer metal are harmed by that level of vibration or weakened…

        • That’s a good question. I don’t think an alloy would separate due to vibration but I really don’t know. It would probably break superglue joins, since superglue is brittle.


  5. Thanks for posting this Mike!

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