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Removing Body Parts
Describes how to remove body parts from your older figures using the Boil 'N Pop method. Also talks about the 2 different kinds of plastics used in action figures and why you should get a dremel-tool.
(by Dr Nightmare)   Update Tutorial

Boil 'N Pop

This is a relatively simple way to take off the arms, legs, head of action figures without damaging the pegs that keep the appendages on the fig. This method is best if you want to repaint a figure and put back on all the body parts when you're done. It works by throwing your figure into boiling water so the heat causes the pegs, that hold on the arms, legs, etc., to become very soft. Once they are soft enough, you can pop out the appendages easily without damaging the body at all.

The simple steps are:
  1. Boil a pot of water. Make sure the pot is deep enough to submerge the entire figure.

  2. Once the water boils, throw in the figure you want to disassemble. Let it sit in there for a few minutes, maybe 3 or 4. The point is to let the hot water seep into the chest/body cavity so it can heat up and soften the pegs inside.

  3. When you think the pegs are soft enough, take the figure out of the pot and, with a twisting/turning motion, begin pulling out some body parts. If the figure has joints in the knees/elbows, then grab the figure by the thighs to pull out legs and by the biceps to pull out arms. Metal knee/elbow joints will tear through the body parts if you aren't careful, while plastic/rubber joints will simply pop out of their sockets or simply tear.

If the body part doesn't come out in the first few attempts, then stop and throw it back in the pot a little more. If you start pulling on the body part and the peg is still stiff, then you're just going to rip the part off and leave the peg in the body, which will infuriate you and waste your time. Practice on something you don't care about first to get familiar with how the peg is supposed to feel when it's ready to pop out.

It is important to remember though that toys are made of 2 kinds of plastic, the soft kind and the hard kind. "Hard plastic" is the kind of plastic that cannot be bent. "Soft plastic" is the kind that you can bend and doesn't break, it gradually goes back to its original shape instead. If you have a Batman from the B:TAS line, you'll notice that the bodies are made of hard plastic while the arms, legs, head, are made of soft plastic.

Telling the difference is pretty easy...
  • Usually the hard plastic is glossy and shiny, while the soft plastic is a little more dull in color.

  • Soft plastic can be bent slightly, hard plastic cannot be bent at all.

  • If you strike hard plastic with a spoon you'll usually get a "clack" sound, since most hard plastic molds are hollow inside. If you hit soft plastic, it usually sounds like a dull thud since soft plastic parts are not hollow.

Why is this important? Boil N Pop only works if you have some soft plastic in the area you're working on. What does that mean? In order for Boil N Pop to work properly, one of the following must be the case:
  • The body is made of hard plastic and the appendages are made of soft plastic.

  • The body is made of soft plastic and the appendages are made of hard plastic.

  • Both the body and the appendages are made of soft plastic.

If both the body and the appendages are made of hard plastic, then do not try Boil N Pop on it. Boiling water has no effect on hard plastic at all, so you'll just end up snapping the pegs anyway if you try it. From what I've seen, most of the Marvel Legends figures are made entirely of hard plastic. If this is your situation, then your only option is to use a dremel to open up the body and remove body parts that way.

What do I do if the peg still tears off? How do I re-attach them?

Sometimes the pegs will still tear off despite your best efforts, do not blame yourself, this is only a cruel trick played on you by Lex Luthor. Damn you, Lex Luthor *shake fist* If the peg still tears, don't fret, there are many ways to fix it. I'll list a few, if these don't work, then get creative.

If you're going to put the body parts back on the same body then it is best to use the same peg. You're going to need to get that loose peg out of the body somehow, and unless you can pull it out through an arm, leg, or neck hole, or you have an extra peg somewhere, you're going to have to crack open the body to get the peg out. Usually the bodies are 2 halves snapped together and you usually you can see the seam along the sides of the figure. If you don't want to be violent about this, use a dremel to neatly grind through the seams. Otherwise, your goal is to pry apart the 2 halves with a screwdriver or some sort of wedge. Sometimes the figures pop apart without trouble but most of the time they end up damaged somehow. Any customizer knows it is a good idea to have some sandpaper, files, and some sort of sculpting putty or clay handy to repair figures in case you accidentally scratch, mar, or damage them in any other way.

After you have a suitable peg, you can super-glue the peg back onto the body part. Use a VERY strong glue, something strong enough to glue Superman to his toilet seat. Glue is good to use if you're just making a "display only" custom since you wont be putting much pressure on the figure anyway. If you think glue isn't enough, then use screws with very thin, flat heads. Glue the flathead to the body part and screw in the threaded part into the arm/neck/leg hole. Make sure the screw is thick enough to fit in the body hole securely.

If you wanted to take the body parts off to use them on a different body then remember, different figures require different sized pegs to hold the body parts securely. Odds are you were going to have to cut off the pegs and replace them with different pegs anyway...

Deal With The Dremel

Some of you may want to remove your figures' body parts by a slightly less scalding method than Boil N Pop, for you folks, there is a nifty little handheld power tool called a dremel. I think Dremel is the name of the most popular company that makes the device, not the name of the actual tool, but go to any hardware store and they'll know what you're talking about. It's a palm-sized powertool that works like a drill and so much more. At the tip of the tool is where you can fasten different types of "heads" depending on what job you want to do. You can buy almost any kind of head you can imagine, from sanding/grinding disks, polishing stones, drills, precision saws, etc etc. The tool averages around $40 - $100 depending on the RPM (speed that the tool makes the heads spin) and manufacturer, and the different types of heads are decently cheap as well. Most dremels come with a free "head starter kit" so you can start working right away. Try to get a cordless dremel, the kind that uses a rechargeable battery pack, that way you'll have a larger range of motion when you use it.

Since the dremel is small, it's perfect for hobbies and small repair jobs around the house as well. More importantly, modifying your figures is so much easier with a dremel. Remember all the times you wanted to remove a boot or ring from a figure and cut yourself using that sharp knife? Remember having to sand your figures by hand, to paint them, and having your fingers cramp up? All these problems, and many more, go away with a dremel.

What if I can't afford a dremel?

If you can't buy a dremel, borrow one. If you can't borrow one, steal one.

What if I don't want to steal a dremel?

If you refuse to steal one, then good for you. You can join me and the rest of us few who still use a flaming knife to cut through hard plastic. Oh yes, it works, but leaves horrible burn warping and wastes your time as you try to fix that. Get a dremel. If you want to have clean cuts and crisp, precise detailing on your custom action figures then you're going to have to get a dremel.

Make sure you have read the disclaimer before attempting anything mentioned in the tutorial. - Thursday, July 25, 2013
damn lex luthor broke poor namors wrist the other day
stevecw - Thursday, August 23, 2012
does the boil n pop work on marvel universe pegs in the shoulders
vincerules - Thursday, August 9, 2012
thanks this really helped
CB2001 - Monday, October 17, 2011
I think it should be best to specify what you mean by "older figures." Because depending on the individual, you could very well mean within the past 5 years, and hearing "older figures", sounds more like figures that are 10/20/30 years old.
batman883 - Friday, February 25, 2011
nice choice!

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