Before you can start even the most basic of customs, you have to understand the way an action figure is made. Luckily, when Hasbro created G.I. Joe, they chose a construction method that would make our work much easier.
- A small screwdriver - Most people report that what are often sold as "Glasses Repair Screwdrivers" work. Find a size that fits well into the figure screws and tightens/untightens easily. A magnetized tip helps to pull out screws.
Before You Begin
First, it is important to recognize that there is more than just 1 type of body construction. Figures such as Deep Six (v1), Golobulus, and many of the figures from the later years of G.I. Joe have rather unique constructions. This article will cover the construction types that the majority of figures share. The best way to tell if you'll be able to take apart your figure by this guide is to flip it over and look for a hole in the center of its back. Looking into this hole, you should be able to see a screw. If you do, then you're ready to proceed.
Removing the Screw
Here you can see the screw located in the back of most G.I. Joe figures.]]This process, for the most part, is extremely easy once you know about it. Problems come up only if the screw is rusted, stripped, or otherwise stuck. Simply insert the screwdriver into this hole and loosen the screw. Something to learn now if you don't already know; turning a screw in the counter-clockwise motion (or turning your wrist to the left) loosens it, turning a screw clockwise (or your wrist to the right) tightens it. You should feel the screw loosen and come up out of the hole as your work, until you can turn the figure over and let the screw fall out with a little shake. Now, using the head or an arm as leverage, pry the torso open. Note that if you're attempting this on Zartan(v1), Zarana, or Zandar, you'll have to use an alternate method.
This figure has had its torso disassembled.]]Now you're left with the 7 parts of body construction, and the screw. From top to bottom, you've got the figure's head, front and back torso pieces, arms, waist, and legs (including the rubber band and connector, or "metal hips"). As you're taking the figure apart, notice how the legs are connected to the figure by the thick black rubber band that hooks onto the metal hips and goes through the waist piece. From the top of the waist piece, it loops around the screw peg in the back of the torso to hold the figure together. Just a little more work and the figure will be completely dismantled. Look on the inside of the figure's thighs. There, you should find another screw on each leg. Untighten each one just like the main screw, and the thighs will come apart.
The legs are made up of six parts, in addition to the rubber band and metal hips. Each leg has a right and left thigh piece as well as foot. Keeping track of which foot is left and which is right can be difficult if your parts get jumbled, something to keep in mind. So now, we have a total of 12 figure parts: the head, 2 part torso, 2 arms, waist, 2 thighs (2 parts each), and the 2 feet. We also have 5 other pieces: 3 screws, the rubber band, and metal hip. Thighs and torso are usually only useful as a whole, and often considered as one part because of this. The key to customizing, though, is understanding that there ARE no absolutes or concrete rules... and if you can make the back of one torso work with the front of another, by all means do it.
Putting it Back Together
If you've got 2 disassembled figures, you're ready to start the most basic of customizing skills... part swapping. Many customizers started this way, mixing and matching figure pieces for years before they got into painting and more. Many 'experts' still just like to go through pieces, randomly putting them together, for inspiration for their next project. Simply follows the disassembly steps backwards, keeping a few things in mind. The figure doesn't NEED its screws to stay together for a short period of time. The rubber band can hold the torso in place most of the time, and usually the thighs are tight enough to hold together for viewing without the screws. Obviously a figure isn't complete and isn't going to hold up for long without these screws, but ignoring them while you're part swapping saves a good deal of time (and sanity).
Modern Construction (25th - 50th style figures)
- Screw driver
- Hair dryer or pot of boiling water
- Large Socket
- Hobby knife
To crack, or not to crack
If you want to do a full figure break down to sand every joint or switch out the arms including the shoulders, then you will want to crack the upper torso. If not and you just want to switch the arms out, you can slice the shoulders. It all comes down to what you are tryng to accomplish. If you do open the upper torso you can remove the arms and make sure you get the little cap that fits onto the top of the bar sticking out from the lower torso. This cap is what allows the torso to slide left or right and without it will make the upper torso move too freely.
Cut to the chase
The lower torso is glued/welded together. The only way to separate them is to cut them apart with an Xacto knife.
Much like the o-ring construction above, the modern thighs are held together with a screw and attach to the metal hip ball and peg through the knee. The only major difference is that modern figures use a small circular rubber friction pad where the metal ball meets the outer thigh. This keeps the hip joints tight. If you ever see a modern figure with wobbly legs, chances are it is either missing this friction pad or the pad has been deformed in the thigh. When opening up the thigh be careful not to loose this very small pice. It is usually a off-white to tan color (as seen in the exploded view above), but can also be black or grey. The only other difference is that some of the modern figures have the thigh screwed into a holster or sheath on the outer thigh. The holster or sheath is a separate piece from the thigh and can be removed for full disassembly.
Boil and pop
Putting a figure in boiling hot water will soften the plastic making it easier to pull pegged parts out, "popping" them loose. The process, borrowed form the Star Wars customizing community, is aptly named Boil and Pop. However, you can also use a hair dryer (on high temp setting) or a heat gun (on a low temp setting) to achive the same results. We've also found it to be useful if a figure has stuck joints to unstick them. On a modern figure, the following parts can be removed easily once the plastic is softened:
- head form the neck (if it is too difficult to simply pull off)
- lower arms from the bicep
- wrist frm the forearm
- foot from lower leg calf
- Additionally, while the screwed together thighs house the upper knee peg, th lower knee joint is attached to the nlower leg via a hard pvc peg. This peg can be removed by heating the lower leg.
Boss Fight Studio HACKS
- Screw Driver
- Hair dryer
Marauder Task Force
- Hair dryer
- Hobby knife
- Ziplock bags (to hold all the pouches)