Did you cringe at this post's photo of the severely yellowed Shetland? Don't worry... She found a new home where she has been restored and is now beloved again.
There's no better feeling than taking a sad, beat-up model and making him or her gorgeous. Not only will you end up with a great model (which you got at an amazing price!) but you'll have the pride of knowing you saved a model that might otherwise have met a terrible fate.
In this blog post, I'll go over how to brighten yellowed models. In future posts, I'll cover everything from chips to breaks, and even some customization tips for completely changing a model from sad to fabulous.
It takes a caring eye to see the beauty in a model that has had a rough past. If you give them some tender loving care, though, they'll reward you for your efforts! These are my favorite examples... Would you have bought them if you'd seen them for sale somewhere?
They are the old alabaster Running Mare and Foal... Their bodies were originally white. When I bought them, they were this awful yellow and covered with dark marks. Poor things! Luckily, the Running Mare mold holds a dear place in my heart, so I couldn't leave them to be thrown out as rubbish.
They came to Eleda's Horse Spa: They got a good bath, a rub-down with a Magic Eraser, and then several weeks of sunbathing, with a few bleach baths thrown in because they were SO dirty. In retrospect, I think I could have skipped the bleach. The Sun did a wonderful job on its own. So, are you ready for the "after" picture?
Ta-Daa! All they needed was a chance and some TLC over time. This really is the same pair, as hard as it is to believe. Check it out, under all that nasty yellow, they had lovely muzzle and inner ear pinking, and unpainted eye whites!
We were so delighted with how they came out that we gave them away as our Holiday Giveaway for 2014. We hope that they continue to bring joy to collectors for many more decades.
Here are some tips for whitening yellowed models:
Bath Time! Remember your Mom yelling, "Don't touch that! You don't know where it's been?" I do, so we always start with a good bath of room-temperature water and mild dish soap. Don't use hot water, as it can damage some finishes. Use only a soft cloth and go gently to avoid causing any rubs or scratches. Avoid getting water inside their air holes (located inside the nostril or corner of the mouth) because if it doesn't drain out, it could remain and cause mold. We keep their heads above water and gently wipe them with a cloth.
And then a massage... With their bath done, allow them to completely dry. At that point, if there are marks that need to be removed - in white areas only! - gentle use of a Magic Eraser can make them disappear. Be careful, though - Magic Erasers don't know model paint from marks, so don't use on painted areas, unless you test the finish first in an inconspicuous area. I've also used a soft pencil eraser on a glossy model that had Sharpie marks all over him and it worked perfectly. (As with all the techniques I mention, though, use at your own risk. If you try them, start in a small, inconspicuous area like between the hind legs, and keep a close eye out for damage.)
Here comes the Sun! Sunbathing is the best method of restoring yellowed models, and it's free! We have Low-E glass in our windows, so around here, the models have to actually go outdoors to sunbathe. We give them a nice spot on the front farmer's porch where they lie on soft towels and enjoy the sun. We keep them safe from curious dogs by fencing off their area, and we turn them over every day to insure even lightening.
There are only two things to be careful of during sunbathing (other than making sure they're safe from the weather, theft, and animals): Temperatures and pink areas. Models with air holes can usually stay out in most temperatures, but older models without air holes are sensitive to temperature changes, which can cause the air inside them to expand and contract, sometimes resulting in seam splits. We only allow them to play in the sun when temps are between 55 and 80 degrees Farhenheit (13C - 26C). This goes for models standing in windows as well as outdoors. It's great insurance to place a cheap thermometer next to them.
Models with pink areas (muzzles, inner ears, etc) need special care. Pink can fade quickly in the sun. We cover their pink areas with small bits of easy-release painter's tape (like Masking tape), trimmed to shape, to shield them from the sun. If the model needs to sunbathe for more than a week, remove the tape and apply fresh tape - If left on too long, especially in the sun, it may become hard to remove safely. Doing it this way, it's always worked perfectly for us.
Most models will brighten noticeably within 3-4 days, and that may be all they need. This pair, due to the severity of their yellowing, took several weeks. I left their pink areas uncovered for one week, then covered them after that, changing the tape 4 or 5 times during the process.
Here are a couple of other models that cleaned up:
Bucky just needed some sunshine ~ What a difference a few days makes!
The Old Man got a gentle pencil eraser treatment to remove what looked like Sharpie marks all over him. Since he's the original "no muscles" Clyde, I was thrilled that he was able to be restored. He lives in my personal collection. I used a soft pencil eraser on this guy, and it worked well on his high-gloss finish.
Magic Erasers are now a standard part of my restoration kit for taking marks off unpainted white areas of models, but you must remember that they don't know Breyer paint from stray marks and will remove both. Only use a Magic Eraser on unpainted white areas. As with all techniques mentioned here, results can vary depending on the situation and the model, so approach each with care, testing on an inconspicuous area first, using as light a touch as possible, and increasing force only if necessary and you see that you're not causing any additional harm.
Here is a sweet old Family Stallion that Roy bought in a lot recently:
He and many of his friends had obviously been tossed into a box together at some point, as they all had paint marks from other models rubbing against them.
Poor guy - Most would toss him in the body bin, but check him out after a Magic Eraser cleaning:
Woo hoo! He's beautiful again!
I hope I've inspired you to rescue some models. Have fun, and we'd love to see before and after pictures! Maybe we'll even post them on our Facebook page!