Sunday, October 18, 2015


The first big box lot is in the house and it was…challenging. Everything was dirty, one horse was partially filled with sand (!) and many of them are a very entertaining and/or distressing shade of yellow. This Alabaster Family Mare and Foal set is a perfect illustration of what I was dealing with here:

The snowy-white FAF next to them is there for comparison: he was a previous restoration project who turned out almost perfect. (His muzzle is unretouched – it really came that way, that gray!)

At this point, I’m not sure if I even want to do any work on this pair. In fact, I’m seriously considering keeping them “as-is” (dust and all) for any demonstrations I may be called in to do in the future: they are such perfect examples of the grungiest Breyers can be.

They are textbook candidates for restoration, too: in excellent condition, underneath the yellow and the grime. (Aroma-free, too. Thank goodness.)

I don’t even see many significant rubs or scuffs in the gray areas, which is very unusual for Breyer Alabasters of this age. For some peculiar reason, Breyer often painted the gray areas of their Alabasters after glossing and not before, leaving them unprotected and very susceptible to rubs.

Cleaning those gray areas is one of the biggest Breyer restoration challenges: a little bit too much pressure with a cotton swab or toothbrush, and you can kiss that beautiful shading goodbye!

One technique I’ve found that keeps additional damage to a minimum is a variation of “power washing”: warm water, mixed with either a high-quality dishsoap (like Dawn) or a degreaser like Lestoil, repeatedly applied with a squirt bottle at close range.

I usually do it on a towel or in a shallow pan to contain the mess, rubbing and blotting only when absolutely necessary, if at all. I managed to clean a very dirty Horse-Over Clock this way, keeping the super-delicate “patinated” mane and tail intact.

I love doing this kind of restoration work – making the once beautiful, beautiful again – but that box lot took a lot out of me. I sure hope the next batch is a little less intense.


Anonymous said...

Any suggestions for cleaning the world's yellowest smoke Running Mare? She's in lovely condition apart from horrific tobacco yellowing. No smell, but she's VERY yellow.

ANDREA said...

The first thing I would do is give her an overnight soak in a high-quality dish soap with a mild bleaching agent and/or an enzymatic solution (to help break down organic compounds). This might lighten her up a couple of degrees. My go-to dish soap is Dawn - good enough to clean up greasy/dirty wildlife, good enough for greasy/dirty plastic horses!

Then it's your choice to either put her in a sunny window or a mild bleach solution (hot water plus a splash or two of bleach - doesn't take much.) The bleach solution is quicker, but might cause milkiness (turn the clear topcoat opaque) and some of the solution may leak inside the model itself, which can be a pain in the rear to remove.

Sun bleaching is more easily controlled and doesn't involve harsh chemicals, but it's slower, you may lose some of the pink shading on the muzzle and ears, and you have to constantly monitor for bloating.

Anonymous said...

Would she still have a clear top coating if she's matte?

xyzzy said...

I've had a lot of luck de-yellowing Breyers (except certain** G2 Stablemates) by using a very mild form of the Retr0brite formula vintage-tech geeks came up with. I don't bother measuring exactly, so here's my approach at Stablemate-scale:

-- Put a pinch or two of oxygen-based detergent (e.g. OxyClean) in a zip-sealing sandwich bag
-- Pour in a cup of warm water, massage until all grains dissolve
-- Place model inside
-- Add between a 1:1 and 2:3 mix of water and grocery store-strength/3% hydrogen peroxide until you can manage to find a way to fully submerge the model.
-- Place bag (with model fully submerged) in direct sunlight.
-- Check & turn model every 1-2 hours so all parts get sunlight until you're satisfied (the more yellowed the horse is, the longer it takes).

So far, I've done old-plastic G1 Stablemates, late-80s Little Bits, late-80s Classics, and haven't noticed any changes in shading or color distortions from my "lite Retr0brite" approach.