Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Thick and Thin

If the horses I found Sunday were from the estate sale, I didn’t miss anything: ordinary pieces in ordinary condition. The prices weren’t ordinary, which is why they didn’t come home with me. What did? Just this:

A Battleship Gray Elephant. Good condition, just a couple of small rubs and a small crack on its side, pretty typical of a piece from that era (early 1960s.) I don’t know what it is about this mold, but it’s prone to little cracks and splits in the oddest places. Is it all the bumps, cracks and wrinkles built into the mold that contribute to the problem?

That would make sense, except that there are several other contemporaneous molds with rough finishes that don’t have the same problem. You don’t see it in the Donkey, or the two rough-coated Bulls. The Poodles do tend to get weird little mold flow lines or "squiggles" on their sides that sometimes turns into a crack over time, but that’s not quite the same thing, I believe.

Mold flow lines - which I might have explained before, but I’ll cover here again - are created when the leading edge of hot plastic cools in a mold during the molding process, creating a little wrinkle on the molded surface. It’s not a crack, but it does create a slight weakness in the plastic that could become a crack under the right set of circumstances.

The "right set of circumstances" that leads to cracking include rough play and handling, and storage in an uncontrolled environment (extreme changes in heat and humidity). Neither situation is likely to happen in my house, or in any of yours most likely. To put it plainly, you really shouldn’t be too concerned about finding mold flow lines on your vintage pieces. The odds of them becoming a structural problem are very, very slim.

The problem with the Poodle stems from his weight: he weighs nearly a pound! (For comparison’s sake, the Brahma Bull weighs a mere 12 ounces on average - almost a quarter pound less.) When you’re injecting that much hot plastic into a mold, you’re going to have the kind of cooling issues that lead to mold flow lines.

I strongly suspect that the Elephant’s issues stem from too little of the material, rather than the too much. If there’s not enough plastic to compensate for day-to-day changes in heat and humidity, it’s more likely that the plastic will simply split at its thinnest points, whether there are mold flow lines present or not.

I haven’t been brave enough to cut open a spare Elephant to prove my theory, though. I haven’t run across that many body-quality Elephants, either. Plus, body box Elephants are already a tough sell; cutting them in half wouldn't improve the odds.

I already have one of these fellas, so on the saleslist it goes. He shouldn’t be too expensive, when I finally put him up for sale. Battleship Grays are a bit unusual, but not particularly rare.

1 comment:

Tanaqui said...

Oooo that one wants to come live with the rest of my menagerie!

I really miss Breyer hunting in the antique malls. Each time I come back to the US for a visit I end up doing the rounds. I rarely find anything, but the thrill of the hunt is such fun.