About Me

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No Fixed Abode, Home Counties, United Kingdom
I’m a 51-year-old Aspergic CAD-Monkey. Sardonic, cynical and with the political leanings of a social reformer, I’m also a toy and model figure collector, particularly interested in the history of plastics and plastic toys. Other interests are history, current affairs, modern art, and architecture, gardening and natural history. I love plain chocolate, fireworks and trees but I don’t hug them, I do hug kittens. I hate ignorance, when it can be avoided, so I hate the 'educational' establishment and pity the millions they’ve failed with teaching-to-test and rote 'learning' and I hate the short-sighted stupidity of the entire ruling/industrial elite, with their planet destroying fascism and added “buy-one-get-one-free”. I also have no time for fools and little time for the false crap we're all supposed to pretend we haven't noticed, or the games we're supposed to play. I will 'bite the hand that feeds' to remind it why it feeds.

Monday, October 17, 2011

C is for Cautionary Tales

I bought this about a year ago, I had finished a job and felt like a present for myself, so managed to tick-off a couple of the items on my 'wants' list with a bit of judicious eBaying. The purchase produced an immediate response on one of the Forums and I quote;

"An empty box for the Airfix Attack Force Set just sold for a staggering £67.87 on eBay. I shudder to think what that means for the value of a complete set

The seller made no secret of the fact that it was just an empty box, so the four bidders must have known what they were bidding on. The description that this is "easily the rarest of all the playsets" I do not share: the same size Beach-head Invasion Set is far rarer than this one, which - that much is true - is quite difficult to find."

Now, it must be understood that A) The same weekend a common (and fifteen or so years younger) Pontoon Bridge Assault Set went for £170-something, while I also 'ticked-off' one of the Britains Lilliput carded sets for £40-something. B) In the last few weeks; equally common play sets have been reaching anything between one and three-hundred plus. C) The author of the above comment already had one so we can't even blame 'sour grapes' in the traditional sense for the mealy-mouthed comment. D) He almost certainly knew who won it as these guys obsess over eBay, and was making a wider 'point' re. internal forum politics!

The fact is; It's a reasonably rare set, it was in pretty good nick (see below!) and at 70-odd quid a bargain. However - eBay is a bit of a snake pit, you pays your money, makes your choice and have to live with the consequences. The seller has almost no influence these days, the buyer - should he choose - can literally get away with criminality and most national police, postal and consumer affairs organisations will have nothing to do with any problems generated by eBay sales/purchases.

I have been suggesting for sometime that eBay is on it's uppers, and turning into a market place for new goods, and eBay would seem - with every change they make - to agree with me!!

But; that's not the cautionary tale, the cautionary tale is, if you want to share your knowledge with other people, get a blog and they'll come. It's true they'll go back to their own blog and 'discover' the cricketers you've just posted without crediting you, but that's human nature and one should rise above it...if one can...?

Don't go to a locked-down forum with 300 members, 200 of whom want to sell you Italian sandals, Viagra, rubber love-rockets or wholesale toasters, with another 50 having not posted in over a year leaving you with 40 or so genuine members and a few sand-castle builders giving it the big 'I am'.

Rant over; lets look at the beast...and sort it out!

This is the original sales picture, it is clear from the photograph that both the front corners are split top-to-bottom, OK; 'Caveat Emptor', I can see the damage, but it's not in the description, so...polite note to seller along the lines of; "It looks like/Are the corners split, is there any other damage?"

Nice chatty email back; "Seen your blog...really rare set...only selling 'cause I need the money/space/changing scale of my collection...", whatever...but - no mention of the corners or other damage. Well, I'm an easy going chap - until someone riles me (then I'll hold a grudge a thousand years!), so similar eMail is sent off and of course while you hope he's got the idea that you don't mind the damage but just want it packed carefully (resulting in a second reply to the effect that it will be well packed) you end up assuming by now he is just misunderstanding your need for a reply to non-rhetorical questions!

You bid, you win the item, it arrives beautifully packed in a larger box than itself, in all dimentions, with newspaper-twists (the best - and cheapest - form of packing for lightweight items) holding it firmly in place...

But!...to 'help'; he's taped both corners together with what looks like half a mile of crystal-tape (very sticky) AND lined the insides with brown-paper tape!!! Several layers!

Do you laugh? Do you cry? do you swear out-loud and rip it to pieces! Or do you send it back? I laughed a little and swore a little, but knew deep down that I'd half expected something of the sort.

Second lesson...If a seller doesn't answer questions 'right' the deal is suspect, it doesn't matter what or why, a genuine seller should answer all questions fully within 48 hours of you're asking and supply any extra images you ask for. Indeed it's a good test to ask for extra photographs, as the item should be at hand, having already been recently photographed to put on whatever auction site you're dealing with, and ready for posting? You can't seriously run an eBay seller account without an eMail address, a PC and a digital camera.

So accepting that greed and a pocketful of cash had got me in my own - typically 'eBay' - predicament, renovation was the only choice. I decided that I'd use it as an example for the blog, but my camera was dying this time last year and I still hadn't got the loan of Giles', however it worked a bit better indoors than out, so while they aren't the best shots I've posted they aren't the worst either!

The first thing to do was get the tape off without damaging the paintwork or underlying cardboard. A hot-air paint stripper is the answer, but turned down to the point where you can almost use it as a hair dryer - suggesting that a hair dryer turned up will probably do an equally good job?

The shot on the left shows the tape starting to curl-back on itself, while the little scraps on the right were my entry in this years Royal Academy exhibition!! You can see that there is a slight loss of printers ink as the tape comes away.

Shots showing the dog-ears you'd, expect even if the deal had otherwise gone right, along with the multiple layers of brown paper tape. He's done a good job, and a few years ago I'd have done the same, but having done the inside like this I would never tape the outside? I guess he taped the outside first to get the shape, but you can do that with string or rubber bands...

So - next step; dampen the paper tape and peel carefully, a layer at a time, I use warm water as it seems to penetrate quicker, and a fine mister. Stop peeling every time a tear/peel extends into dry paper or you need to pull harder, go back to the mister, this phase is all about patience. If you over-mist, soak up the residue with kitchen paper.

Once the paper tape is off; undo the box and lay some hardboard on the floor, then carefully, gently using a clean butchers rag (not a duster - it'll dye the whole thing yellow...don't ask, but renovation is a learning curve!) or cotton-wool, and some distilled water (from an auto-parts place) proceed to wipe the whole thing, changing wool/cloths frequently until either of the following happen;

- The cotton-wool/cloth is only slightly discolouring (pale greyish residue)
- The cotton-wool/cloth starts to go pink (or whatever colour the piece you're working with)

Then place a towel over the hardboard, dampen the whole box and then using an iron on a medium setting (not a steam setting - the misting you've given the card will produce all the steam you want), and proceed to iron through a plain sheet of white paper until the whole thing is 'dryish', turn it over and do the same to the other side (to prevent curling).

Once both sides are dryish (the seams and folds will still be dark with moisture), take a new (dry) towel and place an old white t-shirt or sock over the iron, and continue to iron, turning the flattened box regularly until it is absolutely dry...you'll know when that is as it will regain it's full rigidity.

Finally; fold it back up together, and where - a few years ago - I would have advocated the brown-paper treatment, you now only need to bleed a bit of super-glue into the join and hold until it's set.

You can speed-up the setting by huffing on it, like you'd mist a train-window as a kid, the moisture in your breath will activate the super-glue, that's why fingers glue so easily when you're working with the stuff. The hint also works with aerials, photo-etched fret-work and other things on small kits. Indeed - I sometimes set super-glue with a wet paint brush.

The two insets and the circled items in the photograph show a slight discolouration of the super-glue, but you're never going to get it perfect without a three-year museum study course! The arrow highlights the fading caused by eh tape removal, I can live with it, some couldn't.

Was it worth £70 quid?...Of course it bloody was! And nothing some farty little middle-class, middle-aged, overpaid, jumped-up twerp from a country who's military history t'ain't worth writing a book about (yet still managed to do more damage to Africa than us, the French, the Italians and the Germans put together!) says about it, will change the fact.

The vac-formed insert will turn up in a mixed lot of vac-forms at a show eventually - guarantee it, while the vehicles and figures are already in the box! I also disagree with his claim that it's not as rare as the one below it in the above picture, I've seen/handled three of the orange ones (which was later and contained a cross-over mix of early and late type ready-mades), this is my first red one (which being earlier - only contains Attack Force), but those grapes must look so much nicer in his cupboard!

PS - Never, ever, EVER be tempted to use bleach, it eats cellulose and will turn you cardboard to dry papyrus slowly in the cupboard over time, like grapes turn to sultanas if you don't eat them when you see them going cheap!

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