Tag Archives: prepping

Adventures of a First Time Stripper

Is there any blogger who can resist a racy title when talking about stripping paint off model horses? I obviously cannot.

Before this recent foray, I had never needed to strip off a previous paint job from one of my bodies. I was usually working from an original finish horse, and the few times I wasn’t I just sanded down the original paint job until it was smooth enough to re-prime.

But I recently found myself with three models in need of stripping: a Breyer SM with a thick lumpy acrylic coat, a multi-media Schleich with layers in acrylic, pastel, and modge-podge, and a resin with a mediocre acrylic paint job. So I finally started paying attention to all the discussions of technique.

After a little research, I decided to try to Oven Cleaner technique. And of course, to chronicle my trials here for whoever else might want to give it a go!

To strip a horse using oven cleaner, simply stick the horse in a bag, spray liberally with oven cleaner (I used the recommended brand Easy Off) and wait. After an hour or so, remove the horse and scrub with a toothbrush under warm water. Repeat until clean and add time in the bag as needed.

Tools of the trade

WARNING: Oven cleaner is made of nasty chemicals. It is smelly and if you get it in a cut it will burn. Avoid inhaling it, getting it on your hands, etc. Keep away from children and pets, and wash your hands!

First Victim: Breyer Stablemate

This guy was easy to strip. His acrylic coat was so thick it was begging to come off, and after only about an hour in the oven cleaner he was ready to go under the sink.

I barely needed the toothbrush- the power of the oven cleaner and the pressure of the running water did most of the work. I used the tooth brush in the crevices, but my model was soon restored to near OF condition:

Victim Two: Schleich Pony

I was a little bit worried that the oven cleaner would eat away at the soft rubbery plastic of a Schleich horse, so I didn’t leave him long in the bag the first time.

He was soon back in the chemical bath, however, because even with some serious scrubbing this is all the progress I made at first:

I got a little braver and left him in for longer, reminding myself that if I’m gonna ruin a body it might as well be a cheap one that I have no specific plans for. It ended up taking quite a while to get him relatively clean- I estimate that he spent 5-8 hours in his chemical bag total. I don’t know if the issue was his modge-podge sealer, or the multi-media coat, or what.

He didn’t clean up quite as well as the Stablemate, but certainly well enough to reprime and repaint. I stopped using the oven cleaner on him when I noticed that I was actually stripping of his original finish paint. But the plastic itself seems fine, with no evidence of the melting or warping that acetone can cause.

Ready for a new identity!

Victim Three: Resin Stablemate

At first the paint job on my newly acquired “Roll” resin seemed nice and smooth, and I considered sanding and painting him over without a full strip. But upon closer examination I saw that the thick acrylic on him was obscuring some of his detail, particularly in his feathering. So into the oven cleaner he went!

His first foray yielded promising results:

Besides the toothbrush, I found my fingernails to be useful tools.

Although the main areas of paint came off easily in big pieces, he needed a lot more chemical therapy to get down to primer and into detail areas. Even when I declared him stripped (after maybe 8 hours total in chemicals, and multiple scrubbings) he still had some residual paint and primer in cracks and crevices, which I’ll just have to get in the prepping stage.

But happily, he’s now much cleaner and ready to start his next adventure. And to my great relief, I don’t seem any damage at all to the resin from all the chemicals. Despite assurances from other hobbyists, I had worried.

Overall, I’m pretty pleased with my new technique. It’s definitely nice to start afresh, and the oven cleaner makes it pretty painless, albeit somewhat time consuming. The price was right, too- Easy Off ran me about $6, and the can is still pretty full even after all the liberal spraying on these three horses.

Next time I think I’ll be braver with the soaking times, and invest a few dollars in a hard-bristled toothbrush to use instead of the soft used ones I have.

Priming Textured Models

My early customs had base-coats of painted-on gesso, but as soon as I discovered the joys of spray primer I abandoned my gesso for this fast, smooth, easy alternative. Recently I’ve only dug out the gesso for use in making messo to use for wrinkles and veining.

For most models, you can’t beat spray primer for smoothness and ease.

There is one situation in which I prefer gesso as my primer, and that is when the model in question has a textured coat (such as many Schleich and Safari horses or the Breyer Stablemate Donkey). Unless you want to spend hours sanding, customization of these models requires embracing all of their fuzzy glory.

The main reason I quickly moved away from gesso is because the application left the model with brushstrokes and showed plainly under pastels. But when you’re starting with a textured horse, brush strokes in gesso can enhance the existing texture and add further hair detail while still providing a nice base coat. Plus, you avoid the smelly spray primer, which is always nice.

For this textured Schliech Shetland Pony, brush strokes only add to his cute fuzzy look.

It’s lovely to not have to worry about brush strokes as you work. The only thing you really need to remember is to reflect the hair patterns- you want most of your brush strokes to go vertically down the horse, not horizontally, always following the hair growth around areas like the flank and belly. The muzzle should be smoother to reflect the shorter, softer hairs, and of course the hooves should be as smooth as possible.

Like spray primer, gesso is sandable when dry, so don’t be afraid to redo an area if it looks wonky. Gesso texture will show under pastels, so make sure you like what you see before you start adding colors.

Fuzzy ponies in various stages of priming with gesso

Palpable Pony Progress

I’ve been spending a lot of time working on the seven horses I hope to have ready for the show on March 25. They are all moving along at a lovely pace and it’s rather exciting to see so much progress.

Yesterday I spent the afternoon customizing and came to a place I don’t think I’ve ever been- done. Of course I’ve got a whole box of bodies and put-aside WIPs, but in terms of the six I’m focusing on, I was truly at a Stopping Point. Doublet and Troy Soldier (the earless twins) were both drying with new paint-matched acrylic layers. Kettil and Liam were both sanded and sculpted and wet with primer. And Lilah, Alpo and Typhoid Mary had fresh fixative over pastelled coats.

Lilah’s dark liver color is coming along nicely. This is about her third or fourth layer. I think she’s ready for some acrylic detailing before I go further with color development and shading.

Meanwhile, the feisty Fjord stallion Kettil (and his buddy Liam too) are just about ready for pastel coats. Ketil finally has his expressive mane, tail, and forelock added.

Taking photos is a great way to find trouble spots- when I’m working on him I’m mostly looking down from above or holding him. Here, at eye level with him standing on a flat surface, I can see how his hooves need leveling. One more thing to do…

Wrinkley Fun with Messo

Thanks to Jennifer Buxton’s cleverly titled post about messo, I’ve discovered a wonderful new material and technique. I made great headway today on my two in-progress sculpts using my new toy.

Messo is a mix of modeling paste and gesso. Jennifer uses Liquitex brand, but my local art store didn’t have it so I went with Golden’s Hard Modeling Paste.

The paste was about $12, which is pretty affordable considering how much you get and long it’ll last you. And I assume (and hope) that the airtight seal will keep it fresh. Since I work on small scales and I’ll be mixing this with gesso, this one bottle will probably last me about thirty years. I’m only sort of kidding.

I already had gesso on hand, from back before I discovered the joy and ease of spray on primer. I had my tools, but pretty much no clue how to start… so I just did.

For my mix, I used about two parts modeling paste to one part gesso.

Then I stirred it up with brush and let it sit for a bit to set up. This was on recommendation from the guy at the art store, who always knows his stuff. But I’m not that patient, so it didn’t set for long.

I first used the messo as a prepping material to fill little divots where I can be hard to work with epoxy. Like Jennifer demonstrated, the messo fills in little holes nicely and can then be wiped away and sanded smooth. It was surprisingly nice to prep, sand smooth, and still have a white surface- unlike when I used epoxy, which makes little grey pock marks all over my horse.

Next I tried using the messo to make the delicate skin wrinkles on my Fjord stallion reference. In my first attempt, I put down a thin layer of messo and then used small sculpting tools to put lines in. The remaining raised messo represented the wrinkles. This was great practice, but it didn’t really give me the result I wanted.

For one, I felt that sculpting down into the messo resulted in the wrong look- I’m trying to illustrate raised areas of skin, not lowered ones. And while this method (with careful drawing and sanding) can make nice little wrinkles, it didn’t make the big folds that my horse’s position dictates.

So I sanded it off and tried again. This time I used paint to show the contrast, both for myself and for the pictures.

First I painted a base color (brown) and then in red I planned where I wanted my big wrinkles to be. Then I used a brush to apply linear blobs of messo over my red lines, trying to keep a smooth shape down the whole line to make a raised wrinkle.

After I had all my wrinkles painted on to my satisfaction, I used broader, wetter strokes over the edges to sort of blend the wrinkles gradually into the neck.

Then I did an even thinner layer (mostly gesso, really) over the whole neck to blend things, fill in any little divots, and to give it a more uniform tone so I could admire my handiwork.

Time (and when I say time I mean primer) will tell, but I am much happier with the results this time. There’s plenty of sanding to do, but I wanted to make sure my thick blobs of messo dried fully. When messo is applied thinnly it dries wonderfully fast and is quickly sandable, but not so when it is thick! So while I waited I built up his mane and tail armatures and added a bit of epoxy. Here he is at the end of the day:

He also has a name, as of this evening. I was looking through lists of Norwegian names and found “Kettil,” and remembered that I’ve long wished to name a model Kettil Blacksmith after the ridiculous character in the (ridiculous) movie Erik the Viking. So here he is!

Basic (but Super Useful) Tips from Other Bloggers

Never loose the “trouble spots” again! Karen Grigson of Bluebird Studio circles spots that need more prep work so she doesn’t loose them. This is simple but brilliant.

Find your seams with Amanda Brock of Rogue Horse Studio. She demonstrates on a resin, but this wisdom holds true for other makes too.

Don’t forget the chestnuts! And if you do, here’s an easy fix from Jenn Danza at Cool Blue Studio.

I am constantly impressed by how generously people in this hobby share there tips and tricks. Speaking of which, I hear that Anna Kirby/Dreamflite Design’s stablemate saddle tutorial is almost ready for release. Be excited!