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Can These Minis Be Saved?

Villains of the Forgotten Realms
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Femeng2 writes:

Priming cures all ills. All oxidation is between an anode material, a cathode material, and a connecting electolyte material: I.e. a galvanic cell. Humidity is a electrolitic solution, so priming will end the corrosion as it insulated the cell. If you don't believe corrosion can be rapid, find something you have made of anodized aluminum and scratch it. You will see a shiny metal appear. This is real aluminum. You can sit there and watch it become dull. It is corroding and forming aluminum oxide, with happens to be non-porous and will prevent the rest of the aluminum from corroding, as opposed to iron rust which is water absorbant and will promote the corrosion of any iron or steel around it. I happen to have gotten my first degree in metallurgy 45 years ago!

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23 November 2004page first published

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Perhaps nothing strikes terror to the heart of the tabletop wargamer than lead rot - the idea that his mountains of unpainted figures might somehow corrode or decay before he can get around to painting them!

I'm certainly no expert on lead rot, but I thought it might be useful to put up some occasional photos of aging miniatures, and get some comments from the TMP readership as to which problems are really lead rot, and which are minor and which are major.

Our First Case

For example, I recently picked up this unopened pack of 15mm scale Villains of the Forgotten Realm fantasy characters on eBay. These belong to the long out-of-production official Battlesystem product line, intended for staging mass battles in the Dungeons & Dragons game system. The figures were produced by Ral Partha, until they lost the license - and according to industry legend, the contract required the molds to be destroyed.

I'm not sure how old the pack is, but the year 1993 is carved into the bottom of several of them - so they could be as old as 10 years or so.

This pack contains relatively few models, since it's a character pack and not a rank-and-file set. I don't know what the figures specifically represent, so I'll use descriptive names:

The Beholder

The Beholder

Big eye-monster with eye stalks growing out of the top of its head. I'm not sure if the bottom part is its body, or if it's just convenient resting on a pile of rocks.

Note that most of this figure has become tarnished, becoming dull and coppery - the exception being the eye stalks, which are still shiny and "silver." You probably can't see this in the photo, but there are two "taps" (bits of excess metal) at the bottom of the "eye" sphere - they are also untarnished.

The Cthulhoids

Two Cthulhoid figures

Here are two tentacle-faced, Manchu-looking figures. Note how the bodies are tarnished, but the arms aren't.

Cthulhoid back, showing the tarnish stripe

This is more apparent in a rear view, where the tarnished area appears as a stripe down the back of the cape.

The Vampire Lord

Vampire Lord - standing (left) and riding (right)

Here are two versions of the same figure, side by side - the standing figure (left) and the mounted figure (right). Note that the one on the right is much brighter than the one on the left. (Both figures have some tarnishing, but the one on the right has a very light dose of it.)

Vampire Lord's horse

Again, the horse for the mounted lord shows interesting patterns of tarnishing. The horse is completely tarnished except for his legs, tail, top of the head, and base.

And now, I turn the matter over to our readership...

Can These Minis Be Saved?

How serious is this tarnishing effect? Can it - or should it - be removed before priming? Will the figures continue to decay? Or is this discoloration no cause for concern?

(TMP members can comment on this article by using the button in the left-hand column of this webpage.)