Retr0briting a white PS2 controller

This spring I came across a Japanese Playstation 2. Not just a Japanese Playstation 2, but a white Japanese Playstation 2. For like $50. Normally fat J-PS2s run $80-100 so getting a non-black one half that was pretty sweet. It even came with the original white controller. At least, it used to be white.

Yeesh.
Yeesh.

Yeah. It’s kind of gross. I’m not sure if it’s UV damage or smoke damage, either way it’s pretty nasty. Maybe it’s supposed to be pale yellow? Let’s find out.

Top half of the controller compared to the inside of the bottom half.
Top half of the controller compared to the inside of the bottom half.

Oh no. Hell no! Ew, ew, ew! Not only is it gross yellow, it’s also filled with dirt. Since we’re going to attempt restoring the plastic we’ll need to tear it apart and clean it anyway, so let’s do that.

I'm done.
I’m done.

How? How?! At least this is the last time this controller will ever be this dirty.

After the bath I mixed up some Oxy-Clean and hydrogen peroxide. The peroxide was only 3%, not the recommended 6-12%, and I didn’t have xanthan gum to make it into a easy-to-apply paste, so I just had to dunk the top half of the controller into the liquid  solution (I couldn’t fit both halves in the container) and pray.

Brightened top compared to the yellow and original white.
Brightened top compared to the yellow and original white.
Brightened vs as-is.
Brightened vs as-is.

It looks surprisingly good but it’s still not where it should be. I’m guessing it was because the hydrogen peroxide was too diluted. Time to try a more powerful solution.

The top half of the controller looks yellow because of the lighting.
The top half of the controller looks yellow because of the lighting.

Continuing my testing on the top half I gave it multiple coatings and sessions out in the sun and didn’t see much of a change. Most of the reports I’ve read claim that it only requires 60 to 90 minutes in the sun, but after 2 hours I wasn’t seeing much, if any, change.

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While not being white-white it’s certainly much better than it was (go back and look at the first picture again). I think this is as good as I’m going to get, so time to move onto the bottom.

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It was hard to make out in photos but the lightening on the bottom was a bit uneven. I recoated it and let it sit longer but didn’t get a better result. I think the liquid hydrogen peroxide diffuses the light, lightening the plastic more evenly than using the hair cream. Regardless, the controller looks white at a glance, especially with indoor lighting, and it doesn’t feel like touching it is going to give me emphysema, so overall I’d say this was a success. Maybe in the future I’ll find a really yellow piece of plastic I can chop up and do some scientific testing.

Gameboy Advance Restoration – Day 2

In the last post I had finished taking the Gameboy Advance apart and scrubbing it clean. It made no difference at all but the prep-work was important for the next step: hydrogen peroxide and lots of sunlight. Note: The photos in the previous post were taken with my DSLR; these photos were taken with my phone so they’re going to look quite a bit different.

I wasn't able to get all the air bubbles out so I had to weigh the parts down.
I wasn’t able to get all the air bubbles out so I had to weigh the parts down.

At about 8 in the morning I set the container out in the sunlight. It was supposed to be sunny all day long so I figured this would be a perfect time to test how well the hydrogen peroxide works. What I didn’t realize is that our patio would be cast in shadow around 9 or 10, and since I was at work I couldn’t move it.

I probably should have left it at this state but I figured there was more color to be brought back.
I probably should have left it at this state but I figured there was more color to be brought back.

So this is the result after basically a full day of shade. It looks pretty good (by which I mean it isn’t that greenish black anymore) but I was curious if I could get the purple back if I left it in direct sunlight. I rinsed the parts, replenished the hydrogen peroxide, and placed it somewhere it would get full sunlight all day.

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You can see the richer purple on the bottom of the system.

Once it was done I washed it again and put it all back together. It is purple, but it’s a faded, sort of ashy-looking purple; not quite what I was expecting.

With all the black banished from the plastic it’s time to restore the color. I had recently restored the plastic trim on my car using Back to Black, so I decided to try that on the GBA’s plastic shell. The bottle claims it repairs “light oxidation” but is “safe for all colors”, so why not give it a try?

Top half recently treated with Back to Black.
Top half recently treated with Back to Black.

The initial difference is pretty staggering. I was a little worried about the darker areas, not sure if they were stress marks or what, but it was just from there being a heavier layer of gel on those areas.

After a complete application.
After a complete application.

After treating the whole surface I buffed the remaining gel off and compared it to the correctly-colored plastic. In my mind it was looking a little better but comparing the before and after photos it pretty much looks the same. I noticed that where the gel was applied very liberally the color looked perfect before buffing and drying, so I did something a little crazy.

There's no kill like overkill.
There’s no kill like overkill.

Yes, that is exactly the color I was going for! Absolutely perfect! I knew it wasn’t going to last, but maybe it would at least help.

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Maybe… maybe a 5% gain? I want to believe it looks better but honestly it looks pretty much the same. At this point I have fewer options. I could:

  • Wet-sand the top layer of plastic to bring fresh plastic to the surface, but lose all texture and effectively ruin the shell.
  • Paint it, and ruin the shell.
  • Replace the case with a new one.
  • Live with the faded case.

The unit cost me $15, plus 2 or 3 more for a replacement battery cover, and another $2 for the hydrogen peroxide. Average price for a Gameboy Advance is $30. A new shell is roughly $15 shipped, so if I go that route I’ll have spent the same amount of money, if not slightly more (plus time and gas) but I’ll end up with a basically brand-new unit. Not sure what my next move is going to be just yet.

Gameboy Advance Restoration – Day 1

A few days ago I was out thrifting and game hunting with a friend and decided to buy an atomic purple Gameboy Color. I’ve never owned one, and since I had no other way to play my GBC games I figured I may as well pull the trigger. It was pretty dirty for being bought from a store, but it wasn’t anything a little scrubbing couldn’t fix.

Today I checked Craigslist for a Gameboy Advance, looking specifically for something that needs some work so I could have a little project to work on. Instead I found a working unit for $15 with the only issue being a missing battery cover. With the retro game expos coming up I figured I could get a replacement for virtually nothing. After some typical Craigslist shenanigans I finally met up with the guy and noticed something interesting about the unit.

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At first glance you’d think this is a black Gameboy Advance. In the sunlight, though, it’s hued toward a greenish yellow. And if you flip it over…

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It’s purple. Except for the left side, where it’s kind of black.

It looks like the unit is suffering from some pretty extreme UV damage which gives me a few different options: A) Use a hydrogen peroxide solution to restore the plastic, B) replace the shell and side bumper things with new ones, and C) paint it. While I’m sure I could do an okay job painting it I have a lot of concerns about thickness and feeling of the paint. If I replace the shell I’ll be looking at another $12-15 plus shipping so I’ll be back up to the going rate of the unit, saving me no money at all. That leaves hydrogen peroxide. The typical recipe uses OxyClean (which I had but has since gone missing) but I’ll be attempting it with just hydrogen peroxide and a whole lotta sunlight. The next couple days are supposed to be very sunny so I’ll set it out for a day and let it sit for a second if it seems to be working.

Before that, though, it needed to be cleaned. So with the dark powers of Mewtwo to guide me I set to tearing down the system.

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It was surprisingly clean. Not much dirt, no rust, just typical surface residue and a little button gunk. Hot water, scrub brush, and set it out to dry.

Tomorrow it goes in the hydrogen peroxide bath for about 12 hours and I’ll report back.