Francesco

Published: 15 articles

Lead Rot Cleaning Pt.1

Recently I acquired some old miniatures and I faced the dreadful curse of all metal minis collectors: oxidation, commonly known as “lead rot”. I’ve done some research and I’m trying different methods for cleaning the minis and restoring them.

 

LEAD ROT – HOW AND WHY

This plague affects, in its worse form, old miniatures made with an high lead concentration alloy (or pure lead). Different alloys and newer miniatures, made of “white metal” and the like, are less affected or totally unaffected.

The metal will be covered by a white or grey substance, that will range in its form form a powder to a crust, depending on the gravity of the oxidation process. Under this layer the metal will be damaged -it transformed into that superficial layer-, in some cases the damage could be so severe it looses its structural integrity and the poor miniature could literally fall into pieces or disgregate.

A bad lead rot case

A bad case of lead rot

Primed or painted minis are less affected or immune, but some factors can cause the lead rot and/or accelerate it anyway: from research and experience wood and moisture are a deadly combination. Specifically it seems that woods (especially hard woods) release the tannins attacking the metals and bad ventilation/air flow will increase the concentration, accelerating the rotting process.

More generally speaking, keep in mind that “rusting” is caused by acids: the metal reacts with the acid, becoming a salt (and usually releasing hydrogen). A lot of common substances have acid PH or can release acids under specific conditions. Let’s at least try to not store the minis in wooden cabinets or boxes, avoiding cold and/or damp places.

 

SOLUTIONS?

To restore the miniatures affected by lead rot is important to remove the oxidation layer and all the “converted” metal. Then, if the damage is severe, it will be possible to restore parts by reattaching them with standard procedures, filling holes and crevices with putty and doing some re-sculpting, if needed.

So I started doing some testing and research…. Removal with “manual” methods is difficult at best, it’s easy to damage “good parts” and almost impossible to completely remove the oxide.

So I started asking myself: how do archaeologists do? I read some articles here and there and the solution seems to be almost always the same: electrolysis and, more specifically, electrolytic reduction! That’s not hard, it’s easy to setup and the required equipment and materials are relatively simple to salvage or acquire.

Electrolytic Reduction - a minimalist setup

Minimalist Setup

After some more articles, blogs and books abstracts, I started thinking about some changes for adapting the process to our small friends: we need to work primarily on pewter and lead alloys and very small volumes, so this is what I used:

Small Plastic Container, better if with a lid or cover that could be cut and adapted to keep the “electrodes” in place, it’s important they don’t touch each other. This will contain the solution and the electrodes (miniature and anode/s)

Demineralized Water for the solution(we don’t want water containing substances that could modify our chemical reaction)

Sodium Carbonate, Na2CO3, for the solution too. You can commonly found it as washing soda (irritant for the eyes, better not to touch it too much with bare hands). It’s also possible to obtain it by heating baking soda, I still haven’t tried it, since it’s so cheap and common, however there’s plenty of resources if you want more info on that…

DC Power Supply, to induce the chemical reaction. Remember, it must output DC, direct current, NOT household AC (that is completely useless for our purposes here)! 12 to 24 V, more are probably worthless, less works too but they will take a bit more time.  If you want to speed up the process it’s better to use a power supply able to withstand 2-3 Amps of current continuously, however smaller currents are working too (100-200 mA), they just take longer if there’s a lot of oxidation to remove. The better solution here is, at least for me, a standard PC power supply.

Old AT power supplies have a nice switch to turn them on, while today’s ATX can be easily powered on by shorting (if your’s standard) the green cable from the main power connector with a black (ground) one. If you plan to use it for other purposes (nice for electronics projects and some less-sane stuff) you can convert it permanently to a sort-of lab power supply (plenty of info on that too).

Crocodile / Alligator Clips or some other cables, to wire the power supply to the electrodes. If you stay on the upside of the 3 A range it’s better to have a decent diameter to not overheat them, the smallest cables used for electronics experiment are too thin. It’s also possible to use more cables in parallel.

Multimeter / Amperometer if you want to check the current flow.

Larger Container with Water, an old Toothbrush, and possibly some Soap. Those are useful to rub away paint remains or similar stuff from the miniatures after the process, if the current is high enough the paint will be nicely removed with the oxide. The toothbrush can be any kind of small-scale brush with plastic bristles, not too smooth.

Acetone or some other extremely volatile, water-miscible liquid that doesn’t leave residues. I usually immerse shortly the miniatures in it, after the process and the manual cleaning, to remove any moisture left. This is another possibly irritating substance it’s better not to touch too much, plus its vapors aren’t good for the respiratory system and are highly flammable.

Anode, the electrode (or electrodes) that will be connected to the power supply’s positive pole (in an electrolytic cell the anode is connected to positive voltage, to attract negative ions, while the cathode is connected to the negative pole, to attract positive ions).

Here the material the anode is made of is very important, because the chemical reaction will rust it and alter it quickly. If you don’t have some spare solid gold or platinum, the best alternative is a carbon rod (graphite), it will last long and the only collateral is the deposition of some carbon particles on the minis. Another alternative is stainless steel, but the reaction will produce small amounts of very bad substances (possibly hexavalent chromium), so I don’t recommend its use. Carbon rods can be bought for science experiments or on Ebay, salvaged from motors (brushes) and from some batteries (zinc-carbon), also some large mechanical pencils use thick leads that are practical for our purposes.

Carbon rods after a few hours of use as anodes

Carbon rods after a few hours of use as anodes*

 

THE PROCESS AND SETUP

Setup isn’t so complex, the miniature to clean will act as the cathode, thus it must be connected to the negative pole of the power supply. The other electrode is the anode and it’s connected to the positive.

They’re immersed in the solution: 5-6% (in weight) of sodium carbonate in water (stir it).

Important things to keep in mind:

-Be sure to have the minis connected to the negative (-) pole of the power supply and the carbon rods, or whatever conductive material you’re using as anode, to the positive (+) pole. If the polarity is inverted, the minis will get oxidized and damaged.

-Be also sure the anode and cathode never touch: that will short the circuit, causing a very high current “spike”, damaging the power supply, or the anode, or the cathode (you miniature), possibly all of them! For this I use some kind of plastic “grid” or spacers over the solution container.

Solution container with cathode and anode support and spacers

Solution container with cathode and anode support and spacers*

-If you want to monitor the current flow, the amperometer or multimeter must be connected in series to the load (so the current will pass through it while working the “circuit”), so use it as part of the cable going to the anode OR to the cathode. Don’t connect it in parallel to the load (our solution), it will short the circuit, probably destroying itself.

-The current flow it’s important, having an high current (2 Amps and up) will heat all the elements, make the solution evaporate faster, etc. If you don’t have a current-regulated power supply (most aren’t), a good way to control the current is by immersing the anode more or less in the solution. Less surface immersed = less current flow (the conductive area is smaller).

-I recommend to keep the cathode (your miniature) completely immersed in the solution during the process, that will keep the oxidation removal uniform. To do this it’s possible to use a metal clip that will get partially immersed in the solution. Remember, the current must pass through the miniature, so there has to be an electric connection from the negative pole of the power supply, all the way to the miniature itself. Metal cables and clips/clamps are the easiest way to obtain this. Just choose something that will not exert a too strong force on the miniature, damaging it!

A clamp for using the miniatures as cathode

A modified clamp for using the miniatures as cathode*

-It’s possible to use multiple anodes to have a higher current and/or to have the miniature cleaned faster and more uniformly. This can be achieved by placing the anodes equally spaced and at the same distance from the miniature. A tube- or ring-shaped anode can also “contain” the miniature and be connected in different parts to the positive pole of the power supply.

-The time it will take to clean a miniature will depend on a series of main factors: current intensity, miniature and anode/s total surface, oxidation depth. Usually 2-3 hours are enough for most pieces and 1-2 A currents.

 

SOME AFFECTED FIGURES AND THE RESULTS

Depending on the manufacturer, different alloys are used in the production of the miniatures, some of the most affected seems to be old Grenadier’s figures and Citadel from the 80s. I’ve personally opened a perfectly-preserved 1983 Grenadier shrinkwrapped box, and found a figure (and only one, lucky me!) affected by a bad lead rot case…

Here you can see some different minis and the results obtained


In the next article I will examine more miniatures that underwent the process, the results are generally good, cleaning is complete and in-depth.

For the worst cases , where oxidation is actually keeping together the parts,  I will do some more experiments with changes on the amount of electrical current and type of solution used, I’ll write an article on that when I’ll have extensive data… I will also do some further research on some materials that can be used for the practical restoration of the miniatures (apart from the standard green stuff and epoxies).

Let me know in the comments if the article was useful or interesting, you can also subscribe to get notified when new articles are published!

 

*the white stuff you see in the pictures is washing soda, left by the solution after evaporation.

I’m offering a miniatures cleaning and restoration service, in case you’re interested.

Part two here

Copyright © 2015-2016 Francesco Perratone

 

Further readings and research:

– Metal restoration and electrolytic cleaning –

http://nautarch.tamu.edu/CRL/conservationmanual/File14.htm#ELECTROLYTIC%20REDUCTION

http://www.metaldetectingworld.com/control_voltage_current_p23.shtml

Darkness Elemental miniature – Rackham Confrontation

Rackham produced some of the best sculpts ever… Their Confrontation line is composed by “heroic scale” 32mm miniatures and many characters are hulking figures definitely larger than humans. The company was active from 1996 and unfortunately  liquidated in 2010*. We’ll speak about the factions, sculptors and styles in the future…..

This great mini was sculpted by Stéphane Simon (I’m a fan!), he has a lot of spectacular figures in his portfolio and is still doing great works.

The Darkness Elemental is one of my favorite miniatures, it’s full of (gory!) details and has a nice dynamic pose. The tissues, skins, tentacles, bones and ooze seem to be moving, crawling up forming the figure and entangling themselves.

All those details and parts were really fun to paint and experiment on. Many of them can be noticed only by closely examining the figure. Before painting I had to search the sculpt thoroughly  to figure out all that’s there, so I could define the main tones and color accents.

The miniature is metal (of course), I cleaned it, searched for a pose I like and pinned it. I usually drill holes and use small steel pins on multiparts miniatures, so to better keep them together with cyanoacrylate. I also use epoxy putty to fill holes and do minor sculpting works on bad-fitting parts or heavy modifications (this is not the case).

I also put up some decoration on the base using blue/yellow Kneadatite and solvents: darkness “veins” and some larvae.

I painted the elemental mainly with oil colors, of course I started from black priming 😉

The finishing is matte (spraying 2-3 protective layers), but I varnished some details and elements of the base, to give them a more wet and oozy look.
The Minis Museum - Darkness Elemental miniature, Rackham Confrontation - 01 The Minis Museum - Darkness Elemental miniature, Rackham Confrontation - 02 The Minis Museum - Darkness Elemental miniature, Rackham Confrontation - 04 The Minis Museum - Darkness Elemental miniature, Rackham Confrontation - 05

 

*At least some of Confrontation IP (and maybe some of the original moulds) have been acquired by Cyanide Studio, that is currently producing through Legacy Miniatures and distributing through CMON… unfortunately in resin! There are also a number of other “less official” producers around on the net offering metal minis. From various forums I’ve understood that the quality of the minis offered varies greatly, from cheap recasts with less details, to (almost) the same quality as the originals.

Sources and research:

http://haekel.free.fr/spip.php

http://simonminiaturesculptor.blogspot.com/

http://underthemountainblog.com/athenaeum/aarklash-archive/factions/elementals/

 

Grenadier Miniatures – Comedy Lords Boxed Set (part 3)

Here we are with the last part on the Comedy Lord Boxed Set, if you’re looking for the previous parts here they are: part 1, part 2.

I will take a look at the last 4 Grenadier miniatures shown in the leaflet found inside the box, plus the mysterious Invisible Stalker figure (we shouldn’t forget):

Grenadier Comedy Lords - The Minis Museum

Onward!

 

Wererat

Poor thing!

_DSC1970_1_elab _DSC1969_1_elab

Undoubtedly  an original miniature, maybe more a weremouse than later skavenesque creatures look like.

The careless guy equipped with leather armor and cap has been caught in a (rather large) mouse trap. It seems his long tongue still tries to reach a generous slice of cheese, held by his now cold fingers.

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER”, “© 1988″ and “F.F.1″ and it seems originally written with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool).

 

Halfling in Full Plate

Probably a very nice guy:

_DSC1980_1_elab _DSC1981_1_elab

That’s the only mini of the set I got already painted, I will eventually strip and repaint it when the time comes. Of course  it could take years or forever, I got a HUGE amount of minis, that’s the reason for The Minis Museum itself. Oh, and I would like to paint all of them…

Funny note: the Halfling in Full Plate is the only figure facing the wrong direction in the leaflet picture

Basically is a large close helm containing an halfling, equipped with an halfling halberd (probably an hand axe from the point of view of other type of characters…).  What can I say, this relentless fighter has its charm too.

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER”, “© 198″ stamped, last year’s “8” and “F.F.4″ seem originally written with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool).

 

107th Level Fighter, Paladin & Used Sword Dealer

Probably the most serious-looking miniature in the set, hand in hand (well, ooze) with the Half Orc Slime from the first part:

_DSC1971_1_elab_DSC1972_1_elab

A walking armoury by itself, he displays an impressive list of equipment, weapons mostly:

  • two daggers in the left boot
  • shortsword and flanged mace at the belt, left side
  • another dagger and an haversack at the belt, right side
  • a mace and axe crossed at the belt, in front
  • utility belt on torso
  • composite bow and quiver on the back
  • a long, long chain with a flail head is also attached to the back and the head rests near the fighter’s left foot
  • full chain mail armor and partial upper body plate armor (pauldrons and gorget)
  • an uncommon multi-part helm
  • a knife between the teeth (yeah!)
  • left hand: “Bad Boy”-signed kite shield with skull and crossbones
  • right hand: Swiss multipurpose halberd with additional functions and tools just below the blade

Impressive!

It’s probably a quote of the common behavior for a lot of roleplayers – the Power Gamers type, that tend to amass a lot of equip. All that stuff cannot realistically be carried around by a person while doing something else. They’re usually waiting for someone with enough money or magical items to sell them.

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER”, “© 1987″ stamped, “F.F.7″ seems originally written with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool).

 

Pizza Deliveryman

He’s the good companion of the Gamers from part 2:

_DSC1983_1_elab _DSC1984_1_elab

Nice deliveryman hat and skeletal features, but the best part is the long sword at the hip and the schynbalds (lower legs armor). The pizza is also carried on a round shield!

It possible to feel, from pose and equipment, that the guy is ready for everything that could wait for him at delivery….

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER”, “© 1988″ stamped.

 

And finally, the centerpiece:

the Invisible Stalker

_DSC1973_1_elab _DSC1974_1_elabYes, it’s a base… with marks of some human-sized bird of prey…

Detail is very good for being just a base, at least it’s enough to start to imagine what  kind of foul creature could be there, invisible, awaiting to strike.

Plus, what else could you expect from a “Comedy Lords” box? :-) It’s also a bonus!

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER”, “© 1988″ stamped, “F.F.5″ seems originally written with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool).

 

Conclusion

Detail is very good and quality of casting is in line with the other products from the 80’s. As I said already, Grenadier’s miniatures have a characteristic look, thanks to their sculptors and their history.

They’re a milestone in the miniatures industry and some of us will remember buying those as a young lad or seeing them in some model stores…

I love the set, the figures have got plenty of personality, of course they’re not the most epic or “heroic scale. Nevertheless there are very few funny miniatures examples around, especially focusing on the geeky behavior of their users and fantasy worlds/RPGs situations.

 

 

Grenadier Miniatures – Comedy Lords Boxed Set (part 2)

let’s continue with some more miniatures from the set from Comedy Lord Boxed Set from Grenadier (here you can find part 1 of the article):

 

Undead Gamers (and gaming table)

Grenadier Undead Gamers - The Minis Museum Grenadier Undead Gamers - The Minis Museum

Interesting bunch of nerds, one is probably the game master, not sure which one. The chubby one seems more bossy, but his hand is in the air, as if asking permission for something, he’s also ready to roll some dice kept in his left hand. Nice t-shirt, by the way!

The other figure has a soda can in his left hand and keeps the right one on his cap’s visor. It’s also easy to imagine him on a beach, shielding his eyes (well, dark and empty sockets) from the sun.

The table has on it an open book (1st edition D&D), some rolled dice, a small unidentified box and the drawings of a map can be seen. My version doesn’t seem to have the pen near the unidentified object, like the one seen on Lost Minis Wiki.

A funny piece, the figures are caught in the act of playing and their poses aren’t too static.

Under the base  of the soda skeleton there’s a light text originally written with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool) “1988 GRENADIER F.F. 3″

Under the base  of the table same kind of text: “GRENADIER C 1988″

 

Half Elf

Grenadier Half Elf - The Minis Museum Grenadier Half Elf - The Minis Museum

The half can really be identified as elf’s, with a chain shirt and a dagger… Nice thing is, there are innards details along the “cut line”:

Grenadier Half Elf - The Minis Museum

…other unusual details to paint, especially because it will coexist with normal skin, clothes and accessories and there will be a strong contrast line dividing the two. Those should be painted as “good” elf organs, and not as those of a demon or some horrible monster, not even a zombie’s!

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER” “© 198″ all stamped, the last symbol for the year seems originally written with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool), it’s not very clear but could be a “5” (or also “8” for congruency), is also visible a “F.F. 11″, probably.

 

Armoured Idiot

Grenadier Armored Idiot - The Minis Museum Grenadier Armored Idiot - The Minis Museum

hmmm… the idiocy here is tangible, a blank stare, tights +1 and a Double Bent Spear of the Doomed, accompanied by a toothless grin, but let’s take a look at the heavy armour:

-ACME “Ice Plane Raider” Breast Plate (stove )

-Heavy Buckler of Pestilence (trash can’s lid)

-Ridiculously Heavy Helmet of Void Resonance (cauldron)

-Very Soft Cloth Shoes of the Fakir, left one with a big toe hole, a priceless feature

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER” “© 198″ all stamped, the last symbol for the year seems originally written with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool), it’s not clear but could be a “8”, maybe, there’s also a “F.F. 6″ or something similar.

 

F-19 Fighter Bomber

Grenadier F19 Fighter Bomber - The Minis MuseumGrenadier F19 Fighter Bomber - The Minis Museum

A Pegasus ready for an air strike, the wings accomodate double-barreled machine guns and more air-to-air and air-to-ground armaments can be seen underneath:

Grenadier F19 Fighter Bomber - The Minis Museum

The horse itself has nice proportions and a muscular body, some smoke and dust clouds can be seen near his back hooves, ready to take off…

Grenadier F19 Fighter Bomber - The Minis Museum

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER MODELS” “© 1988″ all stamped, the last number for the year seems stamped later. Originally written with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool): “F.F. 8″

 

See you later with the third (and last) part and more awesome Grenadier miniatures!….

 

Link to Part 3

Grenadier Miniatures – Comedy Lords Boxed Set (part 1)

I’ve been lucky enough to put my hands on this very nice Comedy Lords Boxed Set from Grenadier Models Inc. from 1988 (code 6009):

Grenadier Comedy Lords - The Minis MuseumIt contains 12 miniatures, plus the bonus “Invisible Stalker” (?!) figure, credits for box design to Raymond Rubin, for figures design to Andrew Chernak.

Chernak was head sculptor at Grenadier and one of the founders with Rubin, from a fast web search I think he’s still working as sculptor (bronze statues), artist and military historian, I couldn’t find more info on Rubin.

Grenadier was one of the biggest miniatures producing companies in the 80’s and 90’s and was in business from ’76 to ’96, they laid the foundations for all the other producers that came after them. Some of Grenadier miniatures have a very distinct look and pose and you can identify them immediately (for example Nick Lund’s orcs and dwarves, we’ll speak about them in the future….).

The company was really prolific and has very different ranges, Terence Gunn has also written and published a book on it: The Amazing Worlds of Grenadier, I’ll try to get one, it’s a must-have for minis fanatics…..

Curiosity: Grenadier got his name from the first figure sculpted by Rubin.

 

And now… to the minis!:

This is the presentation text found inside the box, to let you “feel” the subject:

Grenadier Comedy Lords - presentation - The Minis Museum

the minis pic from the same sheet of paper:

Grenadier Comedy Lords - The Minis Museum

 

Now let’s take a closer look at each one:

 

Half-Orc Slime

Grenadier Half Orc Slime - The Minis Museum Grenadier Half Orc Slime - The Minis Museum Grenadier Half Orc Slime - The Minis Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice figure, not the best “heroic” sculpt, but the sliminess is tangible, in the  back there are some impressive, waxy drips, from right arm and legs. Good to experiment some oozy effects when painting it!

He’s armed with a sword and protected by a breast plate and an helmet, probably the orc-half needs some protection from hits….. guess is there still are some bones inside to keep him standing and some internal organs aren’t completely jellied. The sword-wielding arm is elongated and enlarged, almost shapeless, pouring out of the right pauldron, while left arm is more defined, there’s a hand on the scabbard and a cowter (elbow protection).

The half slime part is obvious, if the other half is human, orc, elf or some other antropomorphic type isn’t so immediate, in my personal opinion the head could have been created a bit more orcish, if the original intent was a jelly greenskin (just slightly more jaw!). At the time the rpgs didn’t offer a lot of half races alternatives and the most common combat-oriented was probably the half orc anyway…

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER” “© 1988″ all stamped, except for the last “8” that seems originally written with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool). There are other symbols, very light, could be an “F.F. 7″, it’s also possible to identify a “W” letter (or a “M”).

 

Napoleon Boneyparts

Grenadier Napoleon Boneyparts - The Minis Museum Grenadier Napoleon Boneyparts - The Minis Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Very nice figure, statuesque pose. A clear Napoleonic mark, the hand-in-coat is present, as well as a spyglass (I think) on the left hand, suggesting an ongoing field action…

Boneypart is maybe a bit meaty on the back and seems to have something (heels?) under his skeletal feet, but  those details accompanied by a slight asymmetry on the head and shoulders give him (a lot of) presence.

Under the base  the text is: “GRENADIER” “© 1988″ all stamped, except for the last “8” that seems originally written  with some hand tool (or small and light rotary tool).

The first reference I’ve found about the idea for this miniature (well, at least his name), goes back to Grenadier Bulletin number 10, where the top skeleton miniature in the following picture is called, in the joking text, Napoleon Bony-parts: Grenadier Bulletin 10 Napoleon Bonypart - The Minis MuseumI’m pretty sure those are from Skeletons Raiders of the Undead boxed set (6002). Or, is the left one Pizza Deliveryman from this set? …naa, just his “dad”…

 

…END OF PART 1, the rest will follow!

Link to Part 2

 

Sources and more info:

http://www.andrewchernak.com/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grenadier_Models_Inc.
https://www.cs.cmu.edu/~tpope/sol/grenadier/history.html
http://www.stunties.com/wiki/index.php/Grenadier_History
http://www.miniatures-workshop.com/lostminiswiki/index.php?title=Andrew_Chernak