Refurbishing an RGB pencil topper

So, I got bored and decided to undertake a project I’ve been planning for awhile. I have a selection of the RGB pencil toppers that were put out oh so many years ago, the ones that are little snow-globes. Snowglobes are a simple concept – water, with a thickener, and “snow” flakes inside. And left alone, they’ll last years. However, depending on how they were made, they can lose some of their liquid over time – it could be micro-evaporation through the plastic seals or magic, but whatever the case, the end result, over 20 years, is a serious lack of medium for the snow to swirl around in. Check out my Peter and Slimer. Slimer in particular is missing two-thirds of his liquid.

After some research and plotting, I gathered some supplies;

– Distilled water (you want water free of impurities – even plain bottled water has stuff in it. You just want h20)
– Glycerin (this is optional – snowglobes use Glycerin to “thicken” the water, so the flakes move slower through the liquid. It seems that while water is lost over time, the glycerin doesn’t, so this isn’t as critical. It’s easy enough to find at drugstores however.)
– Syringe (drugs stores usually have little oral syringes for measuring medicine for babies – an eyedropper will work fine too.)
– Drill with the smallest bit you can get (in layman’s terms, nothing thicker than a dry piece of spaghetti.)
– Epoxy (I used CrazyGlue)

Once you have all this, it’s pretty easy. Drill a tiny hole in the bottom – I had a towel on the table, which allowed me to place the globe upside down and not lose any more water while I fiddle with other things. Wait. I forgot something;

BE CAREFUL! You’re using a power tool near your hands. If you’re young, I’d say just skip this project. Or at least, get some parental help. Cordless drills work very well, as they have a flat heavy base with the battery pack. Put the drill on the table, just as it would sit – then using very little power (it’s plastic – it doesn’t need to drill fast. In fact, this will only cause a mess. The bit never moved faster than a revolution per second when I used it.) push the globe against the drill.

NOTE: I drilled a new hole instead of drilling through the original plug. I tried, and it looked like the plug was going to pop out in the globe – then there’d be a big snowball floating around as well, and I didn’t want that.

Clear the plastic shavings, but don’t throw them away just yet.

Using the syringe, draw some water and gently squeeze it into the globe – these syringes don’t have a needle, which would work better, but are harder to come by (and ouchy), but putting the end of the syringe flat over the hole, and slowly moving the water, the water will move into the globe, instead of outwards all over the table. In a pinch, you can use a small bit of plasticine or blue tack to act as a seal.

Don’t completely fill it with water – you want a small dime sized bubble left, in order to help agitate the snow around when you shake the globe.

Dry off the opening and put it down. Take some of the plastic shavings left from drilling, roll them into a bit of a ball big enough to plug the hole, and place in the hole. You can use the drill bit to tamp it in a little, but not too much, or you’ll have blue plastic floating around inside. You just want it to fill in the hole a bit, then cover it with a shot of epoxy.

Then, leave it alone, upside down, to dry for 24 hours. If you’ve done it right, you’ll now have a repaired snow globe!

The one thing I couldn’t fix is the scratches on Slimer’s globe. With all the little plastic flakes floating in the bottom third for 20 years, they’ve turned the inside of the globe all hazy. In theory, I could fix that if I could get inside and polish the plastic – but that’s a project for another day. For now, I’m just happy they work like they were originally designed.

I wouldn’t recommend that everyone try this – I did it because the items aren’t exactly in mint condition. Peter’s pencil was well used and the glue that held him in place had long ago given way. If these were in excellent condition, and thus more collectible, I would have left them alone. Natural wear-and-tear (ie losing some of their water) is more acceptable to collectors than someone drilling a new hole in them.

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