Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ultrasonic - stripping miniatures with SOUNDWAVES! (Part One)

Now, don't get me wrong - I'm all for dumping a handful of models into a jar full of caustic liquid and letting them sit for days on end, waiting for the paint to slowly slough off. My weapons of choice are Super Clean, which comes in a big purple jug, and a couple of glass jars. Drop the models in, dump in enough Super Clean to cover, and let science handle the rest. In 3-7 days, I return and scrub the offending paintjob away. But sometimes I'm in a rush and when I want to work on some models, I want to work on them now! Besides, I have a lot of Warmaster stands that I need to clean off and I don't want the job to stretch into weeks or months.
It's purple and it will take your skin off.
There are options for the less patiently minded - one I have used in the past is a jelly-like substance that works extremely well for removing paint. In fact, the paint strips almost as quickly as you can apply the goo! The down side is that it will eat plastic and is extremely toxic - in fact, I think it may be the inspiration for the Gelatinous Cube from D&D. Therefore, I try to use this stuff as a last resort.
I have heard a little anecdotal evidence of ultrasonic cleaners being used to clean miniatures, but the examples are few and far between. After doing some asking around (and not getting any responses) as well as a little bit of research, I decided that I'd like to give an ultrasonic cleaner a shot myself.I found some models on Amazon, and while they seem like they would work, they are all pretty small - well suited for some rings or a watch, but not so much for say a Space Marine Rhino. I was able to locate a larger capacity unit for $80 at Harbor Freight that also included a heat option. Would heat be important? Who knows. Sounds like it might be important though...
Not actually made in Chicago

Using a handy-dandy 20% off coupon, I purchased the cleaner. Note that I did add the warranty option onto the unit, as I am not exactly using it for its intended purpose. Don't tell anyone. I also picked up a jug of Simple Green to use as a cleaning solution. In theory, you can use ordinary tap water, but I am under the assumption that you're going to need to use a solution that would actually affect the item you're trying to remove. Tap water will remove paint, but it's going to take a long, long time. I didn't use the Super Clean because I wanted to try something less harsh - I could always up the ante later. I figured the Simple Green and high-frequency soundwaves would do the job.

Not this Soundwave. Though he could probably do the job as well.

When I arrived home, I set up the unit, dumped in half a jug of Simple Green, and got to work... Stay tuned for the exciting continuation! Part Two - Results!

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