Why would you want to remove old bases from your miniatures?
REPLACEMENT: In my case I find old miniatures basing, often handmade with cardboard or cheap plastic, quite ugly… I don’t like it, maybe because I prefer to see thicker, wooden bases with interesting profiles, like those on exhibition minis, or just something more “consistent”.
Common black plastic slotted bases are better than a thin layer with fragile corners, they’re also nicer when painted and completed with accessories. I think a good base has to show clean and sharp edges (or be round), and it’s better to have a clear distinction between the miniature’s feet level and the plane where the mini is placed. …Unless it’s possible to have the mini’s feet level the same as the surrounding “environment”, like in a diorama.
IDENTIFICATION: Sometimes, I just want to see under the original base or on the metal strip side if there’s some manufacturer/year indication, to help me identify the miniature. This is the case when the cleaning process described here will be most useful.
Anyway, here is an example of some (in my opinion) ugly bases:
Old miniatures (preslotta) are more easily affected by bad basing jobs, mainly because the original bases were kept as small as possible to limit metal costs. This, of course, doesn’t help the steadiness of said figures, desperately needing larger bases to keep a firm standing position.
I’ve found preslotta Citadel/GW, Grenadier, Alternative Armies, etc. etc. attached to plastic, cardboard, thin wood, papier-mâché and other similar materials.
The removal and cleaning process is easy and straightforward, those are some of the tools you can use, plus Acetone:
-a Toothbrush: an old one you’re not using any more or a new one you will not use for your personal care. Any plastic brush will do the job, better if the bristles are short and rigid, to better scratch the surfaces to be cleaned. Materials other than plastic could also do the job, of course they have to be softer than the pewter or lead the minis are made of, not to damage them.
–Cyanoacrylate Debonder: practically all bases I have removed are glued with cyanoacrylate, so the debonder is a must. I am talking about the commercially available specific debonders, not containing acetone or solvents. Should be mainly constituted bu gamma-butyrolactone (GBL) and have a lot of different industrial and commercial uses (plus other, less healthy ones). They will transform the cyanoacrylate into a transparent/yellowish rubber-like substance, easy to remove.
This alone will make easy to remove slotta bases, it will also make those bases plastic soft and brittle.
The few bases I’ve found glued with polyvinyl acetate (aka PVA or white glue) were easy to detach, if you have problem you can try (in order): – Putting the mini in warm water for a few minutes to a few hours, depending on the base size/material (water should soften the glue). – Use acetic acid or vinegar. -Heat the base, at some point the white glue should become brittle. Use caution and an hairdryer before trying an heat gun or flames…
-some other Precision Tool: for lifting broken bases parts or (with caution) clean the individual manufacturer’s letters; it’s mainly used for removal of “converted” cyanoacrylate from difficult places.
–Acetone: used for cleaning thin layers of hard cyanoacrylate or large quantities already “converted” by the debonder.
-A rubber mat or something similar, like the bottom of some mouse pads, a piece of a tire’s air chamber, an eraser or just your finger. This will be used to rub off thick layers of converted cyanoacrylate.
The process is easy:
1. Remove the larger parts of the bases (normally by breaking it). For old cardboard or plastic it’s usually sufficient to lay the mini on a side and apply pressure under the mini’s original/metal base with your thumbs, while holding the unwanted base’s sides or corners. This will break the “bad” base and leave the original one. If the unwanted base is too hard you can use a pair of pliers or some other tool to help, just be careful not to damage the mini and the original base.
2. Under the miniature metal base there will be remains of cardboard, wood, plastic or whatever material the old base was made of. If these remains are very thick, or if the material isn’t porous (like plastic, for example), try to remove what you can by hand. It’s better if you’ll be able to see the cyanoacrylate layer, or the original base, at least in a small portion of the area to be cleaned. Place the mini upside down, with the bottom of the base as horizontal as possible. This can be done by using two boxes, old books, packaging material, or other small items of the right size. Keep in mind that they could be stained or damaged by the debonding agent if it will drip. Put a drop or two of debonding agent on top of the base to be clean and leave it there for a few minutes (the debonder will not dry up, so you’re not in a hurry).
3. The “converted” cyanoacrylate should now have a rubbery consistency. Now it should be possible to remove almost all the old base’s material by hand or gently using your tool of choice. After that, rub the base with a rubber object (or the finger) to remove all the cyanoacrylate you can. If the cyanoacrylate is still too hard, repeat step 2.
4. Use the acetone and the tooth brush to remove what’s left of the cyanoacrylate and you should be able to completely clean the surface and read the original manufacturer’s name and/or other relevant info. Be careful with acetone, don’t inhale the vapors and use some gloves, if possible (many materials will not last long and your skin will get irritated).
To sum up, here there’s an image showing the different cleaning steps:
I hope this is useful, let me know if you want more info in the comments section!