Tuesday, 10 June 2014

From the Dettol it rises...

Dettol has long been my stripping agent of choice: cheap, clean and safe, and as long as you obey the rule not to bring in soapy water until the model is fully cleaned (otherwise your toothbrush gunks up), your model will be fully restored.

Dettol strip paint from miniatures
I live again!

(I guess the *other* rule is that you should use an old toothbrush, not your current one, but I hope that's evident).

But I've never really tested its limits. The majority of my restorations have been metal miniatures with water-based paint (often with no base and no varnish - the whole reason they were getting stripped was because the paintjob was rubbish) - and with metal, you could really throw any substance at it, scrub hard as you like, and still get the paint off without damaging the miniature beneath.

But what about plastic? Some of the early paint strippers I used were so strong they would melt away anything that wasn't metal. Dettol seemed to be okay (having tested it on a few slottabases), but would it remove a stubborn paint job, and still leave the model beneath intact?

So I gave it the ultimate test: the first fantasy miniatures I ever painted:

Heroquest Ogre
The challenge.

Drawn in by the Heroquest box art, I once attempted to paint the entire set. These were the days before I'd heard of Citadel paints, fine detail brushes, ink washes and drybrushing. All I had was an extensive range of Humbrol Enamel paints, the kind you'd use for an Airfix kit - or a bathroom sink.

And not being one for half-measures, even at the age of 10, I painted each miniature with the works:
  • An undercoat of white enamel paint
  • A topcoat of coloured enamel paint
  • A covering of wood varnish.
So the Dettol was going to have to get through all these layers, and still leave enough of the model beneath to be worth painting. I wasn't hopeful.

Heroquest Ogres
Two layers of enamel and a varnish - that's got to be a 3+ Armour Save at least

The first problem I encountered was that, unlike the lovely pewter models, the damn plastic miniature floats. To ensure a complete covering, I had to fill the tub* all the way to the lid, so there was nowhere for the helpless to swim for air. Bond villain wisecracks were mandatory at this point.

*I use an empty hummus pot for holding the Dettol. A tub of guacamole, taramasalata or anything from Waitrose Finest would also be acceptable.

I left it to stew for 24 hours. Upon inspection the surface had, promisingly, cracked and bubbled in the tell-tale way that says it is ready for scrubbing. Toothbrush time.

Heroquest Ogre
Free at last!

The results were far better than I expected. The vast majority of the paint just peeled away with the first brush. There were a few stubborn spots (a lot of paint had originally pooled around the feet, so formed a solid base), but nothing that a toothpick couldn't remove.

The original brown plastic seemed to be have been discoloured into an off-white (like ET did when he got sick), but the model is no worse for that, and all the details are still intact.

So aside from the fact that the kitchen now stinks of Dettol - a complete success.

"Let's have a big hand for our Weightwatcher of the Week!"

The good news is that I no longer have worry about the 25th Anniversary remake to get my nostalgia fix (they have since been kicked off Kickstarter and moved to a different crowdfunding platform, which didn't fill me with confidence anyway).

The bad news is I have just added 34 more models to my painting backlog. Now I know I can restore and repaint them, I really have no choice...

Heroquest miniatures
Time to wash away your sins, friends...


  1. You mentioned some old chaos warrior swapsies at some point previously - now, if you're aiming to renovate the old HQ, no worries at all. But if you'd like a bunch of HQ ogres as a swapmeet, let me know!

    1. Damn, so I did. Afraid I'll have to renege on that promise, as I'm determined to restore the old board game (I figure I have about 10 years before Stylus jnr sits down to play - most likely forced away from whatever electronic media he'd rather be playing with).

      By way of recompense, can I interest you in an old lead Palanquin of Nurgle?

    2. Why yes, yes certainly you can. Which of the splendid riders does it have? And can I play heroquest with you guys when you sit down to it?

    3. Ah, well that was a cruel bait-and-switch on my part. I don't have any riders, or the throne - just the platform and the nurglings (it was originally bought as a platform for my Ork Freebooter Bad Doc - the fluff told me they rode around in a sedan chair and that was the best my conversions got in those days).
      But if you still have a use for it, I'll pop it in the post.

    4. And yes to Heroquest - that wizard DM screen could easily be substituted for a laptop.

      Mind you, I'm still hoping for a WoffQuest session on the Saturday evening of some future WoffBoot...

    5. Platform and Nurglings is plenty to work with, I reckon! Perhaps some HQ tribute furniture conversion might be in order...