Stripping – Part 1


Stripping Bodies and Parts – Part 1

A bare metal casting.

Aircraft Stripper – You’ll find (or have found) a plethora of paint strippers on the market. And asking fellow customizers is likely to yield an equivalent amount of suggestions. One of the ultimate stripping solution , is Aircraft Stripper. Chuck (from Southern Kustoms) and many other contributors swear by Aircraft Stripper. So what is it and where do you find it? Well, to answer the first part of the question, Aircraft Stripper is not always a “brand name.” That is, there are different manufactures selling aircraft grade stripper. But all varieties seem to work well. What to look for are the words “Aircraft Stripper” plastered somewhere across the front of the container. And the first place to begin your search is at automotive supply houses such as: Pep Boys, Autozone, Napa, etc.. The aircraft grade stuff is not usually found in Home Depots or other hardware stores, but it never hurts to check.

Kleen Strip Products – Kleen Strip may not make an aircraft grade stripper, but they offer a variety of other products (available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Wal-Mart). The key with these products is to get the “gnarliest” sounding option offered! Look for words like “Heavy Duty” and “Extra-Strength.” And never think that all strippers are created equal! You’ll find out soon enough when you attempt to strip that Dairy Delivery or other tough casting. POR-Strip is another brand that is also in this category and available in certain markets.  


Caburator Cleaning Products – Chem-Dip is another great product.  Designed to get the “gook” and “gunk” out of that dirty carburetor, it is a very potent cleaner.  New to the Hobbyist is comes in a Gallon can and includes a parts basket for immersing your bodies and parts.  This basket is large enough for a number of piece to be stripped at once and is a great benefit over feeling around in the can with your gloved hand trying to get every piece out.  Chem-Dip works very quickly – average body can be done in a matter of minutes in a lot of cases, however extended periods can minimize the amount of wire brush clean-up later.

Caustic Soda Crystals – The understanding with this product is that it acts similar to an Alka-Seltzer process.  The chemical crystals are dropped into water and produce a chemical reaction that removes the paint.  Although never tried the process is said to be fairly quick generally within an hour or so for a single body and very complete.   It is also said that this process can work on plastic parts and window glass without damage.     

Paint Thinner – Some customizers still prefer to use the age old paint thinner for stripping their cars. But even using a good quality lacquer thinner you’re still looking at overnight soaking as a minimum. And then the car will usually still require a wire-brushing to remove stubborn paint. Seems like an antiquated method of paint removal if a stronger product is available. But if you insist, lacquer thinner can be found in Wal-Mart’s paint section or any automotive paint supply.

Mineral Spirits – Mineral Spirits are not a stripper but is good to have around.  A good wash with this will help “deactivate” the chemical stripping process and clean the casting prior to the final washing.  The Spirits tend to attract the stripper and clean the piece more thoroughly then just a rag or soap and water.

Oven Cleaner Products – Although not designed for stripping an entire body, oven cleaner is the fastest and most complete product for stripping chrome from plastic parts such as grills and chassis.  It is almost immediate with its reaction and strips the piece completely using only a small amount.  On the negative it is fairly uncontrollable, meaning you can’t strip certain areas and not others as it foams and expands extremely fast.  It is recommended that you strip the entire piece and then return with Bare-Metal Foil and replace the areas you wish to have chromed.  

Sand Blasting – This method is fast and [almost] fun. But cost and quality of finish finally convince most hobbyists to look elsewhere. Cost, you say? Well, consider that “aluminum oxide” abrasive  works best for stripping diecast. This abrasive is usually only found at sand-blasting supply houses. The smallest quantity you can buy is a 50 pound bag (at roughly $65). Granted, a 50lb bag will last a while when stripping 1/64th scale diecast, but the initial payout is a little steep. Then you factor in the quality of finish, which can be great for a few cars and then horribly grotesque on the next one (water in the lines causes this… one little drop of water sprayed on a relatively hot diecast surface will cause a “blister” to appear… and preventing all water from entering the lines is virtually impossible). You can try other abrasives in your sand blaster, stuff like regular sand or glass beads.  But these tend to be less effective.  A “blasting cabinet set up” and the equipment needed for this method are generally cost prohibitive for most customizers and make this a less desirable approach. 

Sanding – If it’s manual labor you’re after, then this final method is probably for you. It won’t yeild a better final finish necessarily, and it certainly isn’t the quickest way to strip a car, but there is a concept within this procedure that merits consideration. First of all, it should be noted that removing the paint from finely detailed diecast castings of this scale is not likely to be accomplished solely with the use of sanding. Not to say it’s impossible, just that it’s not easily accomplished. So for the average customizer, a thorough stripping of the car with sandpaper is unlikely and overly time-consuming. 

Wire Brush – Using a wire brush, either by hand or in a power tool, is most always more effective after some degree of previous paint removal (ie-paint stripper) has been administered. Again, you could use a wire wheel in a Dremel to strip your car from start to finish, but it’s probably not the best idea. The wire brush is best used to remove paint from cracks and crevices that the stripper was unsuccessful in. But be forewarned… the wire bristles in a Dremel wheel will come off! And although you may feel safe in your protective goggles, bristles lodged in hands and forearms are very painful! But the real bad part is when you find a few of your missing bristles later… after stepping on them! Be careful!

AN IDEA –  try this next time you begin a simple re-paint: Drill your car apart, remove all the guts from the body, use lacquer thinner, or a combination of lacquer thinner and nail polish remover, to remove any tampos on the body, and then sand the body very lightly with 1500 grit paper. The idea is just to “rough up” the surface. Try not to sand through the paint unless you discover a high spot or casting flaw. Then clean the car thoroughly (acetone works well) and put it on your paint stand. Then simply begin applying primer and color as you normally would! Often times the factory paint will have already filled minor flaws in the body and your final finish will look better than cars you’ve stripped completely! This may sound like cheating, but it really should not be viewed that way. The overall goal of any customizer is generally getting the best finish possible. There’s no law that says complete stripping is necessary for a quality finish. In fact, the factory paint (properly prepped), will give as good or better adhesion than bare metal. But whatever you decide, the concept may be worth consideration to you. The obvious drawback is concern over the “build up” of paint, thus obscuring the fine details found in 1/64th scale diecast. But in the days of 12-coat paint jobs with 10 coats of clear there doesn’t seem to be a lot of concern for obscuring details. And airbrushed paint coats go on so thinly anyway that it’s nearly a moot point.

Please Procede to Stripping – Part 2

Leave a Reply