Monday, December 17, 2018

The Terror Of Lead Rot!

 A couple of weeks ago I read someone talking about the horror of lead rot, I myself had never heard of it and in a naïve way thought it might be an American thing to do with their leads etc. Anyway, this blog post stayed with me and started to haunt my darkest dreams. So, after a few days of worrying I thought I would check for this made up terror and to my horror It had found my collection. While I had been sleeping, Chaos had crept in to the upstairs bedroom and started to decay my Dark elf army right under my nose. I was horrified and quickly searched the Inter net for more information on this figure curse.

 I mean lead rotting...rotting, who has ever heard of such a thing? Well it turns out quite a lot of people actually and most of them tend to be the professional collectors of larger scales of lead soldiers. I have gathered a small army of notes and remedies from the net and I will let you know more once I have tried some. What a horror!

Anyway, let me tell you a small bit of what I have learnt over the last couple of days.

There are two factors to Lead rot, firstly moisture and the second is air tight boxes. If you put your old figures in air tight boxes then any moisture trapped in there will start to react with some of the alloys in the lead and it will start to 'rust'. This only affects old figures made during the eighties for us fantasy heads and it's due to the huge boom in fantasy figures back then. The Nottingham lead belt companies struggled with the massive demand and with high lead costs started to mix their lead with other alloys. It's these 'other' alloys that cause the problem. One company's gain is another mans it many decades later. I have some Pure gum spirits of turpentine and some Highly refined medicinal mineral oil on order, once these two are added together in a 50/50 mix it should stop the rot. Luckily I only have a few figures that are beyond repair and the others are just starting so I'm hoping this elixir will stop it in it's tracks. I will report later on this.
 Here we see the Dark elf collection has rejected the infected and is attempting to push them off the cliff to save the greater good. Lead rot is not contagious so don't worry it won't spread, but once you find it in your collection, change things or the rest will soon succumb.
 The infected cry out for mercy but the mob are too scared and are in no mood to listen. ( note the wizard that has had his hand and staff rotted off)
 This was the reason for the out break, I had stored them here in a plastic box that with other boxes stacked on top, made an airtight seal. Some of the bottom figures had crumbled, leaving piles of lead dust, the odd hand and weapon too. It was sad for me as I had always been quite proud of my old collection and to see them ruined was a bad moment.
 This picture shows my knee jerk reaction as I read more info on the net, I placed the collection in a cardboard box wrapped in tissue paper. To stop them sliding around and wearing away I placed small wooden boxes in there. On further reading I changed this again, as some woods can give of gases that can start the rotting process. Where will it end???
 Below is the final choice for safe figure collecting. Acid free Really useful boxes. I have ordered some Silica gel sachets to spread around to soak up any moisture and the large box should stop any build up of gasses. Well that's my scary journey so far and it's not quite over yet. However, after learning all this stuff I do feel like a better figure collector and I have gone up two experience levels at least. Also the story is bad but not as terrible as it could have been, yes I lost a few figures but the bulk can be saved and the main horde will be survive through their sacrifice.

IRONMITTEN TIP#466: If you have old Citadel collections or anything from the lead boom in the Eighties and they are up in the loft where temperatures can be extreme. Get up there quick and check them over. Otherwise you could be the proud owner of a box of poisonous dust instead. Also be careful not to put them in anything air tight...let them breathe.
I have also put a  rubber anti-slid mesh on the bottom of the box, again to allow air to circulate better. After this I rushed to my other ancient old Eighties collections and although much better, there was a slight hint of rot so these too will be dipped in the elixir, just in case

. The good news is that around 1990 the Nottingham companies changed their lead formula and the later mixes do not rot...thank god eh.


Phil Curran said...

A few of my older figures succumbed to lead rot.Not pleasant. One of my old RPG characters from 1980's Ral Partha, a norman man at arms with adouble handed arms had his face melt and a champion from Throgs Hobgoblin despoilers will despoil no more.

Secundus said...

I hear ya, painful isn't it. I had never even heard of it.

Khusru said...

I thought most figure manufacturers went over to white metal in the late '70's. Does it affect these also?

The Angry Lurker said...

Good info all the same!

Secundus said...

All I know is there was a dodgy time in the Eighties where companies mixed alloys with their lead to save money. In the end it made the figures a little unstable in time and the wrong conditions. White metal and perter are all safe from what I can glean.

Дмитрий Фомин said...

There is also such a thing - "tin plague". Shapes may crumble from exposure to low temperatures. Plague is contagious. In contact with other miniatures, they also die. But in modern tin alloys, where there is bismuth, such a "disease" is not terrible. My pieces survived a temperature of minus 65 Fahrenheit. There were such cold weather, and the figures were in the trunk of my sedan. Lucky, not a single miniature died.

daveb said...

Yikes! This sounds like the fear one gets hearing about bed bugs. I have a lot of my collection migrating into really useful boxes. Your post suggested that might be safe, but I wanted to clarify...
Do I need to drill ventilation holes in the sides?

Secundus said...

I thought about that too but then thought it might let moisture in. I think you will be all right with the boxes, it’s only really tight spaces you have to worry about. I’m buying some silica pouches to help with moisture.

rhingley said...

I lost a few figures to lead rot back in the mid-1980s. It was identified for me by a friend who was an art conservator. Nothing since.

~ Tom T said...

That’s a very interesting observation about moisture. I’d say you’re a +3 Level Collector. And Thank You ~ I didn’t know that Really Usefull boxes were acid free. That’s hugely helpful to me right now!

Silica pouches are an great idea! (Not sure I can remember to replace them periodically.) From my research, as you said, beware of (unsealed) wood, as well as nonarchival cardboard and paper because of possible off gassing; which can contribute to lead rot. (Don’t wrap yer figs in paper towels and throw ‘em into the attic in cardboard boxes!) My understanding and experience is that once a questionable ‘lead’ alloy figure is primed it should be safe from the dreaded plague. The alloy’s surface isn’t exposed to the atmosphere. (Remember to prime/paint the bottom of the base too!) Of course most of my Collection is still naked lead . . .

Air circulation is an interesting question/discussion. I’m not sure about the answer . . . Most of the conservation articles about lead rot that I’ve read were about naval models made of lead, wood and paper displayed in sealed wood and glass display cases. Is it an iffy alloy, or wood/paper pulp gassing, or the lack of air circulation that’s really to blame? Or some combination of the above??? I really don’t have a clue!

I’ve been storing most of my Lead Collection in those old hard plastic see through shoe boxes from the 70s since, well, erm the 70s. They’re not air right but, judging by the lack of dust, I don’t think there’s very much real air circulation; especially when they’re stacked. And, horror of horrors, many of those plastic shoe boxes have lived in cheap pressed “wood” bookshelves for at least three decades now. (I Know that’s not an ideal long term storage method but I’ve been able to see and appreciate many of them every day for a few decades now!)

The only actual lead rot that I’ve ever had to deal with were a few figures I bought on eBay. Most I just threw away, a couple I’ve kept in isolation. So I am looking forward to hearing more of your experiments with The Elixir Of Lead Rot!

David Wood said...

I had a similar escapade last year......not fun....a lot of my collection is pre the metal change :(

Anonymous said...

In my experience figures with a higher percentage of lead are the most vulnerable to lead rot or"the creeping crud". Back in the early 1970s we used to cast our own figures (God forbid we should copy anything!) and the percentage of lead varied wildly. A dark easily animated figured had a very high percentage of lead - and most of those have long ago been discarded or melted down again.

In contrast figures with a higher percentage of tin - such as some made from an alloy that included type metal or Linotype slugs still solder on in my armies with no sign of the rot.

I also had some copies of Hinton Hunt 20/25mm figures that were made by a prolific company based in Illinois, and later Texas. Of those 24 mounted hussars 7 still remain with me, while 17 caught the rot and had to be given to a friend who nowa days casts his own troops in Prince August molds.

Jay Stribling - Brandon MS - USA