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Question about vintage models

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I bought a collection of vintage models a few weeks ago. They are from the 1940's and 1950's. I've noticed that some of the parts are made of lead. Oars, Figureheads, etc . Is it safe to work on these models or should I try to fashion the lead parts out of wood ? I've attached pics. Thanks.







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Hi Carmelo,

Wow, those are collector's items. Nice find. If you are going to build them, the lead parts should be no problem. Just use gloves when handling them and stay away from your mouth.


Vince P.

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Hi Carmelo & Vince,


No disrespect meant to you, Vince but lead fittings used in ship models can undergo very nasty corrosion. Many years ago the US Navy did a report on models in their holdings that were experiencing lead corrosion. It appears that this corrosion can strike lead rather haphazardly--in other words, some fittings may be fine and others will go "south." Here's an article on this: http://www.thenrg.org/resources/articles/Lead%20corrosion%20in%20ship%20models.pdf


Given the inherent toxicity of lead and also it's potential for corrosion, you may be better off replacing the lead fittings with Britannia (contains no lead) replacements and or fabricating your own, Carmelo.




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Lead won't be a problem, just don't grind it into small particles or suck on the pieces. Pure lead will last forever, it was the lead nickel alloy that turned into a white powder and was more common in the 50's through the 70's.  Depending on the condition of the boxes, if they are in mint condition, then look at possibly selling them since anything is good to great condition is worthwhile for collectors, may even contact collectors about trading since you want to build.  if stained and battered up boxes, open parts packages, then build them. 


Ideal, Monogram, Renwall, all produced millions of these models during the war for kids to build as identification models for the war effort.  After the war, they continued to market and sell these until the styrene came about in the late 50's.

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