Skip to content
Home » Purple Power

Purple Power

Remove paint from plastic

It’s easier to remove paint from plastic than it may seem. The trick is knowing the right chemical to use. The method to apply it will vary, depending on whether the item is too big to soak.

This method works for toys and virtually anything else made of plastic. I learned the trick from a hobbyist who restores vintage plastic models. It works on every type of paint I’ve tried: oil and water-based? Check. Enamel, acrylic, and latex? Check. Both brush-on and spray paint? Check.

Read More »Remove paint from plastic

Restoring Marx 6-inch frames

Marx 6-inch cars in beat-up condition are cheap and easy to find, but you can dramatically improve their appearance by repainting their frames. If the body is scratched up it still won’t be a showroom car, but you can halve the number of scratches on it and it will look nicer. Here’s how you go about restoring Marx 6-inch frames.

Read More »Restoring Marx 6-inch frames

6 options for removing paint from model trains

It’s not uncommon to find model trains with unwanted paint on them, or original paint that’s damaged beyond the point of being able to rehabilitate it. Fortunately, the price is usually low on these trains, and there are numerous household chemicals that can strip the paint off these trains and give them a fresh start.

These tricks also work with other toys and plastic models, but while some of these methods seem to be unknown in the train community, some of them are very well known among collectors who restore vintage plastic model kits. This is an example where knowledge across disciplines can be very valuable, so I hope the car and airplane modelers won’t mind me sharing their secrets.

Read More »6 options for removing paint from model trains

Painting model figures in five easy steps

Painting model figures for train layouts is a task that few toy train hobbyists relish, but we can borrow techniques from other hobbies to solve that problem. The model railroading and toy train hobbies have solved a lot of problems for hobbyists in other fields, and I don’t think we borrow knowledge back from those other hobbies as much as we could.

One problem the miniature wargaming hobby has solved is painting large quantities of figures rapidly while getting acceptable results.

Read More »Painting model figures in five easy steps

How to remove paint from a tin litho toy or train

It isn’t terribly rare to find old tin lithographed toys or trains that have been overpainted. Boys will be boys, after all, and have you ever met a boy that didn’t love paint?

When it comes to restoring these toys, there are no guarantees. Removing the paint without damaging the lithography beneath is tricky, at best. And, of course, there’s a pretty good chance that whatever lies beneath that paint is scratched up or otherwise damaged. Generally speaking, it’s the well-worn toys that get painted, not mint-condition ones.

But if you’re feeling brave and at least a little bit lucky, you can remove the paint, see what’s under it, and maybe, just maybe, it will prove to be salvageable.

Read More »How to remove paint from a tin litho toy or train

Garage sale adventures: The treadmill

Earlier this year my wife asked me to look for a treadmill. So I started keeping an eye out. A month or two ago I spotted one at an estate sale, but everything was wrong about that deal.

Today, I pulled the trigger.Unlike the last one, this one wasn’t a hulking beast of a machine, and it looked like it would come apart fairly willingly. At $45, the price was in the neighborhood of what we were willing to pay, and the owner was willing to let us test it out. I called my wife to ask her to come look at it.

She liked it. Then she tried it out and still liked it. I whipped out a couple of twenties and a five, and the previous owner’s husband and I set about disassembling it enough to fit in the back seat of a Honda Civic.

They had mentioned to another patron a willingness to come down to $35. I didn’t try to talk them down. Why? I knew I’d need his help getting it apart and getting it into the Civic. If I nickel and dimed them, he probably wouldn’t be nearly as willing to help me out.

It wasn’t a good fit. After some manhandling, we raised up the machine, rolled down the window, put a towel over the window, and I drove home with about three inches of treadmill sticking out the rear window.

I reassembled it right after lunch. I wanted to get it back together while the memory of disassembling it was still fresh, since some parts of it weren’t quite obvious, at least not to me.

Once I had it all together I cleaned it up. Sometimes a little dish detergent and an old rag is all it takes, but this one had some black marks that required Purple Power. The Purple Power did a nice job for me for the most part.

But there were a few black marks (probably from shoes) that the Purple Power didn’t do so well on. For those, I pulled out another trick. I rubbed metal polish on them. The polish actually removes a bit of the surface of the plastic, so it can affect the texture or sheen, but the slight difference in texture or sheen will almost definitely look better than the black marks would. I’ve used this trick numerous times to restore old plastic train cars, computer cases, and video game cases.

There are some scratches on the painted surface that would require some touch-up paint if I wanted it to look new, but at least I got it clean. A sunny day, a willingness to either take it apart or drag it outside, and a can of Krylon primer and gloss white paint is all it would take to get the metal parts looking new again. It might be a while before we get that sunny day.

Now we have a machine that should last several years and that I know how to take apart if and when the motor dies. If that happens, a new set of brushes should be all it will take to get it going again. It may be time consuming but the parts will cost less than $5. A new one would probably cost $200 or $250, so I think we got a pretty good deal. And while it doesn’t look completely new, I think it certainly looks presentable now.

Don’t paint on Mondays (or any other bad day)

I should have stayed away from the model kit.

I was looking for a way to unwind after a long day. I don’t know why it was long or hard. It’s not like I got jinxed by hearing "I Don’t Like Mondays" by the Boomtown Rats on the radio today or anything.

But I don’t need to tell any more of the story than this: I got in a hurry, and I got burned.The correct way to paint with a spray can is to spray a light, almost translucent coat onto your work, from a distance of about a foot. It helps to aim a little bit away from your work even.

Krylon commercials say no runs, drips or errors, but guess what? Shoot too much from too close, and the paint will run like Carl Lewis every single time.

So what next?

I’m going to go find a zipper bag, pour some Purple Power or Castrol Super Clean into it, drop the piece in there, let it sit overnight, pull it out, rinse it off, and be presented with clean plastic. Then I can start over.

So there’s good news. At least starting over is an option.

In the meantime, I need to keep telling myself that you can enjoy a well-built model for decades, so it’s worth putting a few extra hours into it.

Easier said than done.