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Points of Articulation

yo go re
Boil 'n Pop

Hi, folks. This is a tutorial I wrote for the site I was on before we started OAFE. In honor of our annual "Old Toys Month" (and the sudden realization that we didn't already have this info on the site anywhere) it just made sense to repost it here for your edification. Enjoy!

There are lots of times when you'll be looking for a base figure for your latest project, and see a figure whose head perfectly suits your needs, but whose body just won't work. And further down the toy aisle, you'll find a figure with the perfect body but the wrong head. The options in this case seem few. Either you can use one of the figures and try to make the most of it, or you go home empty-handed and curse.

But there is a simple way to swap heads between action figures. All it takes is two figures, boiling water, a dish towel, and a knife.

In this example, we'll be using an animated Superman figure and a Bruce Wayne as demonstration figures. I did this for the Captain Marvel figure that I made. Captain Marvel should have a different look than Superman, so I want to use the Bruce Wayne head instead. In theory, we could just lop each head off at the neck with our X-Acto and glue each head in its new proper place, but to the customizing connoisseur that's both sloppy and inelegant. This method of head swapping allows the heads to keep their articulation.

First, we'll boil some water. I use a coffee mug filled to about 2/3 and put it in the microwave for three minutes. Incidentally, since we're using scalding hot liquid, it's important to take safety precautions. You might want to wear gloves and even safety glasses to keep boiling water from getting in your eyes. And when we're handling the figure, we'll take care to use our dish towel to wipe away drops of hot water and keep the warm plastic from burning us.

Once the water is nice and hot, we'll take Bruce (be sure to remove any accessories before doing this - in Bruce's case, his rubbery red overcoat) by the feet and dunk him in the water. If you used the right ammount of water, his feet should still be poking out, so you won't have to scald yourself to retrieve him. If it seems the figure is going to completely submerge (for instance if you were using Star Wars figures), then just hold it by the feet. Keep the figure in the water for at least one minute. Wipe the figure dry with the dish towel, and wrap the towel around the figure's head. Then pull really, really hard (the neck of the figure will stretch quite a way before the joint actually pops out; keep pulling). If the head doesn't detech easily, wrap the head in a second towel and grab your pliers; the towel will help keep the pliers from scarring the softened plastic. If it still doesn't work - and hasn't broken by this point - dip it in the water for another minute.

We'll repeat this process with our Superman figure. When we're done, we'll have two headless figures and two heads. After letting the plastic cool down, the next step is to attach Bruce Wayne's head to Superman's body.

Now let's take a look at the structure of the head. Beneath the part of the neck that we can see, there's a peg, ending in a disc that holds the head in place on the body. That's why we call it a "peg joint." We're going to cut that disc down from its circular shape to make it easier to attach to the Superman figure. We'll take our X-Acto and carefully cut away the sides of the disc at an angle, leaving the front of the disc slightly wider than the back.

Then we'll take our Bruce Wayne head and twist it into Superman's neck socket. Just take the head and place one end of the disc inside the socket. Slowly turn the head in a circle; this will "feed" the peg and disc into the socket. As you turn, the head will pop right into place in the socket, seamlessly giving our Superman figure a brand new head - which will come in handy when we turn him into Captain Marvel. Shazam!

Note: although this article talks about head swapping, the Boil and Pop method works for other joints as well. Also, not all figures' neck joints are the same size, so sometimes additional work is required. In those cases, you can cut off the pegs, drill a small hole in the peg and the head, insert a tiny piece of paperclip or something similar for additional support, and glue the whole thing together. One new head, one old peg, and one step closer to a new figure.

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