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O curse ye, dagnabitable lead rot!


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So a few days ago, by purest luck and coincidence, I was wandering around on-line and came upon a miniature that I have always wanted and have already painted, a Kenzer Hackmaster Female Gnome Illusionist that I had been wanting to get a second copy of now for years and there it was at a wonderful price.  Out there as well on the same web site were a few old TSR miniatures, and I grabbed some TSR elves and dwarves, only three bucks per set, so I snatched those up as well.

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I was pretty thrilled because I'm aficionado of old and wonderful miniatures, and they came quickly, but when they arrived, they were in less than optimal condition. Lead rot seems to have set in, or at least I think this is lead rot. I'm pretty depressed about it, but at the same time it's provoked me to want to go down to the dungeon and check out all my lead figures to see if there is anything else that I haven't seen lately that's maybe been collecting rot. Or at least I think this is rot. The dwarves have just a tad, but the elves are covered with chunks of some kind of nastiness.

 

So with this all in mind, I imagine I'm going to try to remove it. Has anybody out there ever tried to remove lead rot from figures and afterwards, did you have to do a lot of repair or rebuilding?

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Edited by 72moonglum
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Yeah those old TSR figures were prone to rot, though that's not as bad as some I've seen.  I have read that there is nothing you can do once the chemical reaction sets in.... and I have read that you can try to save them by cleaning them up with a knife and file and coating them very well with an acrylic sealer. 

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Wow, those are TSR minis, all right. I remember those eyes.

 

Please bear in mind that I am not a professional conservator, just an artist with a little education.

 

The Victoria and Albert museum how to clean lead page ( http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/caring-for-your-lead-coins-medals/ ) recommends cleaning with a cotton swab dampened with a little white spirit (odorless paint thinner, I think). Wear gloves, of course, and work in a well-lit, well-ventilated area. If anything more extreme is needed they strongly urge you to talk to a conservator.

 

Here are their basic guidelines for cleaning metal, also very useful: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/cleaning-metals-basic-guidelines/

 

There's this interesting page from Texas A&M University about cleaning lead objects, mostly recovered from shipwrecks:

http://nautarch.tamu.edu/CRL/conservationmanual/File14.htm

 

There are some recommendations for various chemicals to soak lead artifacts in. They sound pretty hairy to me, certainly the sort of thing you want to leave to a professional conservator.

Edited by Pingo
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The detail is gone underneath, its rotting away. Best to follow the advice on the link that Pingo gave you. I'm sure exactly why this occurred. While the conditions to promote lead rot do require a sealed environment like a sealed blister pack the other elements necessary to start the chemical reaction are mostly missing. I wonder if cardboard has enough "wood" left in it to start the process, or perhaps the foam. What else was in the package?

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 Yeah, the fairly old cardboard is definitely on the suspect list - and maybe even the ink they use to print it.

 

 The dwarves should be fixable, although ya might end up with a tiny bit of pitting, but that's minor repair once they're cleaned. The elves are probably a lost cause - it's pretty much everywhere on them.

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Okay, I'm going to be the safety bee for today. That white stuff is lead oxide and is real easy to get into your household environment. It's also real easy to get into your body. Worse yet animals and small children will find it slightly sweet. Please be careful.

 

Safety lesson over. I have had some success with stopping the lead rot by bathing the mini in a solution a of water and baking soda to promote an alkaline environment, then washing with mineral spirits and then sealing. On that note I also sprinkle a little baking soda into the boxes of my old lead, again to promote an alkaline environment. Remember, if you can neutralize the reaction the actual oxides are stable, so anything you can bind into the mini will stay put.

 

Good luck with those. I love the rust monster from that series. Very classic rendition of the one from the original monster manual

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Yikes, after reading about lead rot, I now realize how very lucky I was that the small box of AD&D figures I got were in such amazing condition. They were stored in a cardboard box, but had foam between them and the box, and between each other.

 

I'm sorry your figures were afflicted, moonglum, but I'm glad you posted about them, because now I will know what to look for in the future! I'm new to the hobby, so I've had little experience with older figures.

 

Huzzah!

--OneBoot :D

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 Probably 98% of the time, any old box set or individual minis you pick up are going to be fine. Lead rot requires a fairly specific set of conditions to set in...

 

IME, the number is quite a bit higher than that. I have ... many high-lead-content miniatures that I started buying in the '70s and haven't seen a problem. Much the same is true of the other long-term miniatures collectors I know.

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I have a few lead figures from the early 90's, no rot.

 

Read up on the conservation and recovery, it is my understanding that if done properly there will be no ongoing problem, apart from whatever it's eaten already.

 

That fluff is the most dangerous form of lead you're likely to be in contact with. Ordinarily it's hard to get lead poisoning; not with that junk though. Treat it with care, and clean up the area afterwards with a phosphate-containing detergent.

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Probably 98% of the time, any old box set or individual minis you pick up are going to be fine. Lead rot requires a fairly specific set of conditions to set in...

 

 

IME, the number is quite a bit higher than that. I have ... many high-lead-content miniatures that I started buying in the '70s and haven't seen a problem. Much the same is true of the other long-term miniatures collectors I know.

This is true for me. Collector since the late '70's. Thankfully no problems.

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