Don't paint old lead fittings.

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Nov 16, 2020
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Don't paint old lead fittings.
I just joined here and while reading a post on painting models I was reminded about the problem of painting old cast lead fittings. Namely, if painted they will oxidize over time and disappear.
About 10 years ago or so we were discussing this problem on a different forum. It appears that a coat of paint will not protect lead from oxidizing down to nothing. A nice thin or thick coat of paint will not help since over time, with changes in environmental aspects such as temperature, humidity and even vibration cracks in the paint will occur and moisture will get in between the lead and the paint. With time all you have is the empty paint. A number of museums were having this problem with the rigging of some of their prized models falling down as paint alone could no longer hold the cords in place.
Has this problem been solved yet? Or all we can do is throw away the old fittings and replace them with castings of a different material? Which materials?
Ssculptor
 
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Many metal fittings today are caste using Britannia metal which is an alloy of low melting point consisting of tin with 5–10 per cent antimony, 1–3 per cent copper, and sometimes small quantities of zinc, lead, or bismuth. I have not seen pure lead fittings for a long (late 70s) time but others on the forum may have. Ssculptor is spot on! Thanks for the reminder!
 
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Sounds like Zinc Pest, Not lead. Commonly found with Zamac casting used in the 30's through late 50's. It's the scourge of Model Train collectors and Miniature collectors. Any alloy less than 99.9 pure was subject to it.
Being intercrystalline in the metal structure itself , All you can do is either keep gluing it back together Or cast a mould and pour a replacement in Brittania..I've dealt with it for years. Like what was described in the post, Humidity exacerbates the decay rate . With Zinc Pest, Paint helps slow it down, But degredation is inevitable.
 
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I've been painting lead soldiers for years. I recommend that you pickle the lead fittings first. This involves submerging the fittings in household vinegar for three days. Then you can paint them with high quality modelers' enamel or acrylic paints. Alternatively, you could use a sealant, but that involves a loss of detail.
 
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