Easy RetrOBright – for restoring Retro computer cases.

Now, as a collector of home computers of yesteryear, more often than not, I happen to add to my collection a few computers that have yellowed with age to point that they simply look hideous. Even after a good scrub, nothing can shift that yellow discoloration…or so I thought!

Early home computers, especially those that were originally white or beige coloured such at early Commodore’s, Acorn’s & Atari’s are prone to this yellowing. To fire proof these early computer cases, manufacturers would add flame retardant chemicals to the plastics mix which over a long period of time can cause this discolouration.

I first heard about ‘Retr0Bright’ at Retro Reunited in 2009 where, through another friend, happen to get chatting with Dave ‘Merlin’from Amibay who had perfected a product for restoring old computers cases. However, I was initially put off by the chemical ingredients and the difficult process involved to get the correct mixture. In addition, these weren’t off the shelf ingredients and some appeared to be quite hazardous.

Fast forward a couple of years and another chat with a friend and fellow member of the Retro Computer Museum. He’d been experimenting himself and had found a single product that appears to do the same job. Not only this, it’s an off the shelf product and require no  gelling agent or booster.

Having been blessed with a weekend of glorious sunshine I thought I’d test this stuff myself.

The actual product is called Jerome Russell Cream Peroxide 40 vol 12%.

One of my prized computers in my collection is my beloved Commodore 128 and like many others, is starting to show quite a bit of yellowing. However, as this is the first time I’ve used this stuff and not wanting to ruin my C128,  I’ll be testing this on heavily stained machines I can afford to loose.

I will be using a very yellowed Commodore Vic-20, a heavily stained Commodore 1541 floppy disk drive and an Acorn Electron (which is practically orange!).

First thing is to remove all of the internal electronics, sockets and keyboard membranes.  – My friend assured me that lettering on the keys and case logos would be perfectly safe with this product.

With just the plastic cases, I gave them all a good scrub in hot soapy water.

This 1541 Floppy Drive should be as white as the centre logo!

Making sure that they’re dry, I’m ready to begin. You will need, a bowl (for the peroxide), an old paint brush, newspaper, clingfilm, rubber gloves & plenty of sunshine.

This has got to be the ugliest Vic-20 in my collection :-)

Peroxide, as you know is bleach, so try not to get any of it on yourself, clothes or furniture. Use plenty of newspaper to protect tables tops etc.

Here’s me, just about to start ‘painting’ on the peroxide with the brush.

After giving the Vic-20 a good coating, I wrapped the whole case in clingfilm, making sure that all of it was covered. This will prevent the Peroxide from drying out too quickly in the sunshine.

Next up was this very yellowed Acorn Electron.

With all of the cases prepared and wrapped, the next step is to take them outside into the sunshine for a few hours.

Keep checking on them from time to time and occasionally turn them so that all areas have direct sunlight. After an hour or so, you should start to see some of the yellowing begin to fade.

In total, it took my samples about three hours until each case was back to its original color. The last step was to take off the clingfilm and give them another scrub to ensure that all of the Peroxide residue is washed off.

I really pleased with he Electron after just one application. All of the case yellowing has gone and the keys are looking much better. I’ll probably remove the keys and go over them again.

Likewise, the 1541 has really come up clean compared to how it originally looked.  To get it spotless, I might give it another coat.

Case now restored to the original color and matches the Commodore logo.

….but the biggest surprise was the Vic-20 which had surpassed my expectations. It’s easily the cleanest looking Vic-20 I have now :-)

Using two of the images above and MS Paint (which reminds me, I really need to install Photoshop on this Netbook!), I’ve created a rather crude before and afterwards composition so that you can see the difference.

O.k, so Retr0Bright might actually be a better product that requires only one application but for ease, I’m sticking with this this method.

My thanks go out to Mike (1200xl) for telling me all about this – Cheers mate!

I’d love to hear about/see your own results if you decide to try this. As always, feel free to post any questions you might have.

Commodore 128 is next!

 

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30 responses to “Easy RetrOBright – for restoring Retro computer cases.

  1. Yeah thats about right but it depends on the weather/cloud coverage and may take longer if your subject dips in and out of the shade.

  2. Thanks mate for the superb tutorial. I did it on a 1571 disk drive case with a similar product of 12% peroxide hair lotion and it worked like a charm on a typical greek sunny day. I did though a minor modification as I found out that clingfilm, if not well stretched, may leave linear stains that require reapplication of the peroxide lotion. So, if you get a sunny day with low temp (winter, early sping) that does not get the lotion evaporated then the clingfilm is not that necessary. Thanks again

  3. Hey Dimitris, glad it was of help to you and thanks for the tips too.

    I could do with some Greek sunshine here, all this fog, frost and snow can become tiresome. Besides I need the sun, I have a very yellow VIC-2o that need to sunbathe

    Kind regards

    StiGGy

  4. I’ve got a c128 that I want to retrobrite, but your method sounds very much like the retrobrite method, without the gumming additive to make it more viscous… is that the only difference? If so, how did your c128 go with your method?

  5. Hey there, well so far I’ve been really pleased with the results although I’m not sure how this stacks up to a proper batch of RetroBrite. So far, all of the computer cases I’ve done have all turned out perfectly apart from a very orange VIC20 which needed a second session and another full day of sunshine.

    I think the best thing is to see how it goes with my method and if the results aren’t as expected maybe make up a batch of the proper stuff?

    If you’re removing the c128 keys individually, be very careful as they are very easy to break and not as robust as c64 keys for example.

    You’ll have to upload some pictures and provide links so we can see how you get on, would be great to see.

    Kind regards

    StiGGy

  6. Hey Ben, I owe you my thanks then mate because its fantastic stuff.

    I’m always interested in seeing other people’s results so look forward to seeing yours.

    Regards

    StiGGy

  7. Hi Ben

    Great job you have done with your computers ;0) i have a question. What is the trick about the commodore vic-20 logo, did you pulled it of before the treatment?
    Best regards

    Bjoern (Denmark)

  8. Hey Bjoern,

    I was concerned about the logos and lettering on the keys myself so I tested it on some damaged cases first. All turned out o.k without any issues whatsoever so now I just brush it on everywhere.

    All we need now is some sun!

    Kind regards

    StiGGy

  9. Thanks for your reply.
    In Denmark is the sun a rare thing ;0) so i will try with a face-sun(solarium).

  10. Yeah that’s about the same here too, certainly until around April.

    You will have to let me know how successful your sessions with the lamp turn out.

    Kind regards

    StiGGy

  11. This is the best idea ever: I restored a Commodore C64 C with only a 3% peroxide because I couldn’t find anything stronger at the time (I’ve now a bottle of 12%), and even that was working: the Commodore is as new!

    Thanks a lot!!

  12. Glad it worked out for you mate and hope you’re enjoying your nice clean C64. We could do with a bit more sunshine here but it won’t be long before RetroBrite season is here too.

    Happy gaming.

    StiGGy

  13. Great stuff indeed, those early Mac’s sure do scrub up nicely with a spot o’ the good stuff. I’d really like to add an SE to my own collection some day purely for nostalgia as i used to use these a lot at college.

    Plans to RetroBrite anything else?

    Kind regards

    StiGGy

  14. I’m treating a Color Classic right now, and man, I need sunglasses!

    One suggestion though: instead of wrapping the parts with cellophane, which is sometimes messy and can also leave ugly spots at the creases, I’m now using a water spray to moist the parts when needed.

    It works perfectly, and doesn’t leave marks and spots.

  15. Hey Jeroen, that’s for sharing your tips, I’ll certainly give that one a try. Do you have a link to any pictures?

    One of my VIC-20 is ready for treatment, I’m just awaiting the elusive summer sun to appear.

  16. I myself have stopped using the clingfilm for quite some time and I get even better results, I agree with Jeroen.

  17. Excellent, many thanks mate. To be honest, I’ve never had any problems with streaks and spots using cling film but I can certainly see how advantageous your method would be. Bring on the sunshine already!

  18. My Mac SE/30 before and after:

    My Mac Color Classic before and after:

    @stiggyworld: please correct or remove this post if something goes wrong: I can’t edit the post myself.

  19. Fantastic Jeroen, they look awesome my friend, look at them shine! I’m not sure where the sun is around here just lately but as soon as it comes out of hiding, I’ll be BriTing away.

    Thanks for sharing these, much appreciated.

    StiGGy

  20. Thank you StiGGy :)
    The sun isn’t present here atm. I need some sunlight as I’m restoring another SE/30.
    Got two of them, but I’m searching for two working mainboards on the net.
    (those are quite rare unfortunately)

  21. Looking really nice there Jeroen. I do like those desktop SE cases. Kinda reminds me of the Vectrex.

    I haven’t used one for some years myself, so maybe i’ll look into getting another at some point.

    A little sun here today so if it keeps up, my Vic-20 might get a dollop of the good stuff this weekend.

    Regards

    StiGGy

  22. I have a Vectrex too: it’s really old (1983 I think), but strangely entertaining…
    I found a multi-rom cartridge a few years ago with all the available games on it (the overlay sheets are not supplied though…).

    Good luck with the Vic-20! Let the sun shine: it’s summer, jeez…! ;)

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