|This process is tested on Scotsmen|
Stripping time again. I recently applied matt varnish and a lot of touch-up paint to a host of very shiny ECW troops I bought on eBay, and generated almost all of what I need to pursue the adventures of the Marquis of Montrose. Good. Thumbs up.
As with all such bulk purchases, I am left with a pile of figures which failed inspection – the original painting is too awful, they need too much rework, the proportion of cat hairs to varnish offends, they are no use for what I need, whatever. Certainly I have the makings of a couple of decent regiments of horse and a few useful generals, but – alas – I’m going to have to strip these to get the best of them.
The gloss varnish they are finished in – apart from the animal impurities - is far too thick, yellowing, smells dreadful (no, really) and is a source of scientific puzzlement to me. What is it? Why would anyone apply it to model soldiers? Just looking at it, I found the whispered words BLEACH PROOF came into my mind from somewhere.
Now, as discussed here before on numerous occasions, I have mixed experience with using thick household bleach for stripping soldiers. I would like it to work, it is relatively inoffensive compared with the alternatives, it is easy to use, you can see what you’re doing (at least a bit), it is only slightly dangerous and you can safely flush it down your indoor drains. The alternatives, in these parts, really come down to just one thing – Nitromors – which certainly strips paint but can also remove your hands and fails pretty much all the criteria mentioned above as plus points for bleach. I once had the experience of being in a room with a mixture of Nitromors and hot water, and have promised my lungs and my eyeballs I shall not do it again. Also – in this particular instance – many of the figures which require stripping are from Tumbling Dice, which means separate, glued-on heads and weapons, and Nitromors will also strip out the glue. I can think of absolutely nothing less enchanting than sifting through the toxic sludge at the bottom of a bean can containing a Nitromors project, looking for the correct number of missing 20mm scale heads and pistols.
|Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the garage...|
So bleach would be a nice alternative if it works, and I’d even saved up some cheeky little, transparent chocolate mousse pots which are ideal for keeping an eye on stripping progress with bleach jobs, but in my heart I knew it wasn’t going to work. The Bold Stryker is a great champion of bleach for this sort of work, but I am beginning to suspect it is partly a question of faith. I have had some good experiences with bleach, and some disappointments, and at the start of each new attempt (I have to confess) I find that I am not as optimistic as I would like.
Since I had a plentiful supply of bleach, the cheeky pots and lots of suitable test samples, I decided to try one out. Definitely the right thing to do. The chap at the top of this post is a Tumbling Dice Covenanter of some sort, and he spent almost 40 hours in bleach – well above the health warning in Stryker’s guidelines. While he was in the bleach, there was no evidence that the varnish was suffering at all – he looked the same as when he started. When I took him out and rinsed and dried him, I’m not so sure. The varnish is still there, but it is a lot less shiny, his hat has faded a bit, but some interesting cracks have appeared in the paintwork.
The alloy hasn’t started discolouring, or turning into anything undesirable. Do I think that another soaking in the bleach would result in some better progress? Not sure. I could try it, certainly.
After all, anything is better than Nitromors. In this case, with the glued-on head problem, simply ditching the remaining figures and – if necessary – buying new ones might be a sad but wise alternative to Nitromors. I guess I should try another bleach session – I could leave him in for an open-ended trial – the worst that could happen is that I write off a scrap figure, which is a trifling matter indeed.
It is a question of faith – I am beginning to see that. I am, I believe, scared of proving to myself, once and for all, that there is no future in using bleach, and my confidence will suffer. It is difficult.
While I ponder the matter, the picture at the top is of the most germ-free toy soldier you will ever see.