Basic Training

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Welcome to Basic Training. This is's version of Customizing 101. Anybody, whether you've ever customized, frankensteined, kitbashed, or painted a figure before in your life or not will be able to jump in and try out some of these techniques. Watch the videos and give them a try. We'll try to add to these on a quarterly basis.


Head Swaps

One of the first kinds of customizing anybody does is part swapping. Take a part from figure A and put it on figure B. The easiest place to start is with the heads of the Rise of Cobra/25th Anniversary figures. While this might not be the most time consuming level of customizing, with a good eye for parts you can make some really cool looking figures.

Modern figures

Head Swap video

Using Hot Glue to make heads fit better

Hot Glue video

A head swap after adding some hot glue for a tighter fit.

The Fridge

Hollowing out heads to fit on 25th/RoC figures

After the previous videos were shown, some people asked how to make an RAH head work with a 25th style figure.

Hollowing Heads video]

O-ring construction figures

For the old school customizers part swapping is still pretty simple. All you need is a screwdriver, possibly a fresh o-ring, and some parts to swap. We'll stick with the head switch-a-roo for right now.

O-ring video

Boil and Pop

Boil and Pop is the customizing term used to describe the softening of plastic joints by inserting a figure into boiling water and then popping or pulling the parts out of the socket. It is essentially another way to do some part swapping for a figure.

You will need some parts to swap and a way to boil water. While I used a microwave and a bowl, you could also use a stove top and pot.


Per SNAKE - If you boil water in your microwave be careful and maybe throw a chopstick or something in it, cause a microwave can cause water to boil without bubbles and that can lead to almost an explosion of hot water when you drop something in it.

Boil and Pop video

Spray painting

Spray painting is great to give a base coat, tends to put up with wear and tare better then most other paints, and essentially the same technique can be applied to a spray on protective clear coating.

WARNING: Only spray in areas with proper ventilation, but don't just take our word for it...

And Knowing is Half the Battle!

Ask 10 customizers their favorite brand of spray paint and you're likely to get 6 different answers including some of the, "This for that and that for this" variety. TI alll comes down to proference, cost, and convenience. Here are just a few examples.

Some different brands of spray paint that work best on plastic.


Overview video

Matthew/Grandslam straw method

Spray paint method video

Finished images

Spray paint finish 1.jpg
Sometimes spray paint won't stick to soft plastics.

Removing Stripped Screws From RAH Figures

Stripped screw removal video

Cracking open Modern Era torsos

Hammer, Socket, and Chisel method

Lance Sputnik and HynoHustler have demonstrated this technique numerous times and the speed and success rate is by far the best of all the methods we've tried. Place one arm in the square hole end of the socket. Wedge the chisel into the opposite arm's armpit and whack with a hammer.

Lance Sputnik torso cracking method

Hammer and blade/screwdriver method

Using a hammer and an X-acto knife or a small flat screwdriver to whack open the torso. In the event this fails, just smash the torso with a hammer. It will be therapeutic.

Cracking modern torsos method 1

Hasbro's Richard Woodhouse method

Richard used a specially designed plastic block and a mallet. By wedging the point of the block into the arm pit and whacking the other side with the mallet, the figure's torso came apart easily.

Image of Richard Woodhouse's woodblock courtesy of beav.

Quick shoulder surgery

One of the biggest concerns I hear from GI Joe customizers today, new and old alike, is cracking open the modern era torsos. Well, what if I told you, you could swap arms without any of that trouble? But first, a little back story.

In Atlanta in 2007, Hasbro designer Richard Woodhouse, the person behind the K-reo brand, showed us how to crack open those new fangled 25th using a special woodblock.

Image of Richard Woodhouse's woodblock courtesy of beav.

You see, when the GI Joe design changed from the o-ring construction to the modern construction, Hasbro left out the easy to remove back screw. I heard from John Warden this year, the Joe line's head designer, that when they customize at work they use the vice method* for opening the torsos because Richard was the only one who could really make that work. (TRUTH!) The other reason they use the vice method is because at this point in the line, there are different internal setups for the torso, increasing the likelihood something will break if blunt force fails. Resolute Storm Shadow is a perfect example of what to watch out for. His chest is reinforced with plastic on the inside. I broke a sweat trying to crack him open. If only I knew then what I know now.

Ratfink might not have been the first person to show how to do what I'm about to show you, but he was the first person in the GI Joe community I saw doing it. Instead of cracking open the torso to switch the arms we can use an X-acto knife (kids, please ask for adult ninja assistance) and slice the internal peg inside the shoulder.

Shoulder 1.JPG

Once sliced all you have to do is pry the shoulder off the peg. With the softer plastic it is a snap.

Shoulder 2.JPG

The shoulder joint remains connected to the torso.

Shoulder 3.JPG

To put new arms on, simply slide the internal peg through the shoulder joint. You might need the tip of a screwdriver or something to guide the peg through, but for the most part you can manuever the shoulder accordingly.

Shoulder 4.JPG

That's it. Done. I know what you're thinking. No glue? No pinning? Nope, you won't need any of that. You could, but you don't have to at all. That shoulder connection is sonic welded together. Combined with the shoulder socket on the torso, the joint will always have a nice snug fit. If you are concerned about paint rub, you can always sand down the shoulder joint to avoid friction.

Shoulder 5.JPG

This method is quick and easy and takes away one of the most daunting tasks about customizing today. I recently dissassembled a dozen figures this way in a matter of minutes. The same amount of time it use to take to get one torso cracked. Because Hasbro uses this same shoulder joint on virtually all of their figure lines like Marvel and Star Wars, it works on those figures as well.

Skip right to the video

Shoulder Surgery video

Cheap diorama trees

Video and tutorial for creating cheap trees for dioramas

Thumb repair

Video and tutorial for fixing ARAH style broken thumbs

ARAH figure rivet repair

At Joe Con in Indy, nova showed us how he's been repairing broken rivets for o-ring style figures. The tool he is using is a custom made bicycle chain punch. The rivets are entirely custom made.

Rivet Repair

Dry Brushing painting technique

joemichaels70 and his sidekick assistant show how to do dry brushing to bring out more details of the sculpt with your paint.

Direct link for Dry Brushing video

Hot Glue Effects

Darko's technique used for flame effects and electricity effects.

Flame Effect

Electricity Effect

Foam Dungeon Walls/Floors

drbindy shows how to create dungeon or castle walls using insulation foam.

Part 1: Carving


Part 2: Painting


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