D&D Mini repaint tryout | Print |  E-mail
Monday, 15 January 2007
Bill tries to strip an official prepainted D&D miniature and lets you in on the results, offering his thoughts on how they're painted and why things went the way they did.
D&D Mini Repaint Tryout
Jan 15, 2007 
by Bill Silvey 
  
Stubbornly Sucky: Attempts to Redeem a Cleric End in Failure

Let's not beat around the bush: We don't like Hasbro's prepainted D&D minis. The sculpts are junk, the colors are bad, and the paint jobs are worse.

Still, if there's one thing we've learned in our years of fantasy wargaming, it's that a little TLC, some patience and a new coat of paint can help even the most sub-par pieces. So without further ado, let's take a look at what can be done to perk up these less-than-stellar minis.

The question was raised as to what could (safely) be used to strip the paint off the rubberized plastic that Hasbro uses to mold its D&D Miniatures. Our reflexive response was Simple Green Concentrate. Just immerse the miniature for two to four hours, et voila, a quick scrub with a soft toothbrush should remove most of the paint. Any traces in the crevices can be carefully picked out with a toothpick or pin.


The "Dip," as I call it.

However, we'd never stripped a plastic miniature before. What would happen? Would the plastic denature and curdle, leaving a soft gooshy mess that when dried would result in a black blob where a miniature once stood? The only way to tell was to acquire a subject and test!

We were careful to avoid using as a guinea pig a super-rare mini, instead selecting for our experiment a "Cleric of Lagozed," purchased for $1.06 (including tax) at our FLGS, Acme Comics. According to Deities and Demigods, our friend here is a troglodyte, and therefore wholly deserving of a lengthy chemical bath.


The challenger!

The miniature went straight into the dip for two hours, followed by a vigorous scrubbing with the hobby toothbrush (note: keep these far away from your daily-use toothbrushes) ... to absolutely no effect at all. The scrubbing didn't remove a single flake of paint! On the bright side, the plastic had lost none of its resiliency or consistency.

Now, it doesn't take a chemistry major to know that petroleum-based strippers like turpentine will destroy plastic. No need to make a mess to prove what we already knew. So, given the lack of a "plastic safe" caustic chemical, this miniature was going to remain enrobed in its third-rate paint job.

Or was it?

We decided to take a different route and apply spray primer to the test miniature. Would it adhere and allow us to repaint? Or would the combination of primer and paint cause a loss of what scant detail there was? A little overspray on a well sculpted miniature generally isn't a tragedy, unless it's in a finely detailed place, such as the face or links of chain mail. So how would our D&D mini hold up to a little dusting with Citadel Colours White Primer?

The first step in our second test was to thoroughly clean the miniature in running water to remove any trace residue of Simple Green. This is a good general pointer, no matter what solvent you're using: Unless you want to strip the miniature again after priming a second time, rinse it fully before carrying on.

Once that was out of the way, it was time to hit the test lab, a.k.a. the one clean corner on our garage workbench.

We were surprised that no major loss of detail occurred as a result of priming. The area around the teeth seems to have gotten the worst of it, however, those are not very visible. We had to use magnifying goggles to see them.

The question then became, Would the primer bond onto the plastic, dry evenly and allow a repaint?

Sadly, after two days of waiting, the answer seemed to be a firm "no." The primer maintained a general tackiness, as though it were a few minutes fresh, and tended to rub off easily. We also noted that, despite repeated washing, the miniature had the faint odor of Simple Green still clinging to it. We fear that the plastic had been slightly denatured by the Simple Green, making the surface unsuitable for priming. We've used Simple Green to clean other plastics without having this problem, but the long soak was seemingly a bad idea.

Unwilling to accept defeat, we wondered if the miniature would have benefited from a simple prime and repaint, sans soak. Or would the plastic not take priming at all? A trip back to the FLGS and its bargain bin of common D&D miniatures was in order.

This time, our victim � err, test subject � was a hobgoblin monk (yeesh, could you third editioners get weirder?). No attempts to strip the miniature were made.

At first, the results were promising: The primer went on and stayed on, and no orange peel was evident. Unfortunately, later examination showed the same general tackiness to the spray primer, and even hours after priming, the miniature still smelled like fresh paint.

So in conclusion, our quest to strip and repaint D&D Miniatures Game minis proved futile. Is this a huge disadvantage? Probably not to most folks: Re-paintability isn't likely to be a selling point for casual gamers, and serious wargamers will stock their armies with their own hand-painted alloy minis. To this author's eye, there is very little in terms of detail that appeals to me in the D&D Miniatures line; there's nothing there I can't find better of in more detailed alloy, even if I have to hunt down old Ral Partha or Grenadier miniatures to find what I'm looking for.

As for our two test miniatures, c'est la guerre. We wish we could say we'd strip them and restore them back to fighting condition, but we all know what the results of that would be.

Editor's note:
In an attempt to help Bill on his quest to repaint a D&D mini, I went to my work-table�which is not in my garage, since unlike Master Silvey, I do not live in Florida�took a Cleric of Nerull, and set the Easy Off Oven Cleaner on him. I also coated some American Civil War figures that I had painted and did not like the look of. I left the minis for two hours while working on other projects, primarily the next 15mm WWII review, then pulled them out and brushed them down. The ACW figures�metal painted with water-based acrylics�cleaned up nicely, while the D&D miniature didn't change at all. The oven cleaner did not make a dent in his paint job, and in fact, he merely looked angry that I'd foamed him up and left him sitting for two hours with those puny 15mm ACW figures as his only minions�

So that's another tried-and-true miniature-stripping method that failed. I put this brave cleric on the shelf with Lori's and my best hand-painted fantasy miniatures as a tribute to his resiliency. He won't stay there long, and will likely end up back in the "box o' D&D minis," but for now, he gets to stand with the best.
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