Sunday, May 25, 2008

Easy Off... not just for ovens, anymore...

I started out scratch building galleons but didn't get too terribly far. However, not too long ago I acquired seven old plastic models--a couple of assembled Pyro/Life-Like/Lindberg Golden Hinds, Santa Marias, etc., at a toy soldier show in Indianapolis. They'll work. But it appears as if they've been sitting in someone's attic, uncovered, for about 30 years. They're filthy. I've been cleaning them up but would like to strip the paint. In fact, I'd like to disassemble them if possible.

I took after them with hot soapy wanter and cotton swabs. That got off a surprising amount of filth. But not enough. Hmmmm... what to do? I trolloped around the Internet for a while and came across a couple of suggestions on some plastic modeling sites. Two solutions looked like they might work. One involved using a purple degreaser from an auto parts supplier. The stuff apparently did wonders on paint. It was also removed from the market for health reasons. Drat. The second solution, which didn't seem any healthier was to use oven cleaner.

I soaked one model with a goodly spritz of Easy Off Oven cleaner and
let it sit for a few hours. Meanwhile, I came back upstairs and read up on paint stripping with oven cleaner. Most of the sites make quite an issue of protecting your skin and eyes when using over cleaner. But of course I hadn't paid any attention to that. So when I headed back to the scene of the crime I paid a bit more attention to the instructions on the can. It didn't have any warnings, whatsoever! It then occurred to me that most of the internet sites were dated around 2002/2003. The oven cleaner advertised a 'fresh lemon scent'. So I think the stuff has changed over the years and may not be the health risk it once was. Though of course, don't take my word on this... I may become a raving lunatic in a few weeks and I'd feel bad if anyone followed me down that path!

The paint peeled off fairly well... maybe 75% of the paint dissolved in a few short hours. I did don a pair of latex gloves and used toothpicks to clean out the grooves and details. As far as I can tell there was no degradation of the plastic. Being encouraged, I took the advice of one of the sites and put each ship in a zip lock bag and liberally sprayed oven cleaner into each bag. After letting them sit for 18 hours I started to pull them out. Ninety percent of the paint simply fell off the ships. A little bit of scraping and several rinses with hot soapy water provided nice results.

While the oven cleaner did not remove the plastic model glue (it appears to be the old Testor's stuff) it does appear to have softened it somewhat. I was able to carefully remove some of the parts, though not all. The cleaner certainly made short work of the decals. They dissolved in a matter of minutes. Some paints peeled off easier than others. Red, yellow, black and white were easy and mostly dissolved into an icky soup. Some brown paint wasn't affected at all and while the green paint cleaned up some, it left the ivory colored plastic quite stained. The only oddity I noticed was that after several of the ships dried they developed a pearl-ish sheen. This was only apparent on the ships molded in yellow/ivory plastic. The dark brown plastic ones didn't do this. I'm still not quite certain what's going on here and it will be interesting to see if it adversely affects the new paint job.

All in all, though, I consider it quite a success. The ships are out in the garage right now with the first coating of primer.

Once again I've neglected to take before and after pictures. Would have been a good project to document. Oh, well, maybe next time.

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