March 7, 2012
Vintage TMNT figure repairs!

So it probably comes as no surprise to SC readers that I remain strongly attached -- and you might even say loyal to -- my childhood toys. As in, the actual toys I owned when I was a kid. There are probably collectors who would replace their old, played-with toys with collector-grade or MOC versions, but not me. For me, the fact that I owned and played with that very toy when I was a lad is probably the most important part of its appeal.

Which isn't necessarily to say that I want that toy to always remain in the condition it ultimately ended up in as a result of our years together. I do, admittedly, have an aversion to restoring my childhood toys in some respects -- with the exception of certain details, I would never repaint a childhood toy, and I largely leave the scuffs and marks they've accumulated over the years. These I regard as sort of being akin to an old soldier's scars: just as they serve as reminders of the battles the soldier has fought long after he himself has forgotten the details, these marks are part of the toy's history. And sometimes I do remember the source of those marks, and so observing those "scars" trigger memories of great TMNT/Batman crossovers and towers made of children's encyclopedias and injuries incurred by the Batmobile's engine missile (that thing fired with force) that I might otherwise find myself unable to access.

But while some of my figures also ended up broken during those play sessions, I do find myself wanting to fix them now -- probably because I've always wanted to fix them. As a child, I wasn't quite as concerned with articulation, and when limbs broke off I'd reattach them with krazy glue or my own super-sticky mixture of tacky glue and tissue paper. When glue failed, I constructed elaborate wraps and casts made of scotch and double-sided carpet tape to secure those detached limbs to the bodies of their owners.

Since I started customizing, however, I've learned more sophisticated methods of fixing action figures. But while I've used those methods to repair numerous broken current figures and custom fodder, I hadn't actually used them to fix my old toys.

Well, that's not quite true. I did repair Metalhead a while ago (you'll see him at the end of this piece), and, as seen way back in one of the old Crayon Haiku dumps, I repaired Sabretooth by way of magnets. ((I don't recommend that, even though it is a very easy and safe method. I just kinda wanted to play with magnets. Also, Sabretooth is one of the few toys I own that was sort of defined by his deformity -- I never could get that leg to stay on for very long, so its detachment became a frequent theme in my play sessions. As such, the magnets are strong enough to keep Sabretooth standing but weak enough to easily restore his detached leg functionality.)) But I meant to repair Bebop in a more permanent manner, and I never did... despite having dug him out a while ago and having had him sitting on my customizing table for what's felt like ages. The same can be said for my vintage Foot Soldier, although that was actually a more recent break -- he lost his leg sometime last year when I dug him out to photograph him next to one of my custom Foot Ninjas.

Anyway, a few days ago, I finally decided to bring them under the knife... or drill, as it were. Yeah, while you can do this without them, I recommend using power tools for the task. You don't need to shell out for a capital-D Dremel, though -- any cheap rotary tool will work just fine, provided you have drill and dentist's burr attachments. ((When I first started out, I used a tool that a family friend got free, and I've often seen the same kit at Harbor Freight Tools on sale for $6.99 to $8.99. Now I use a Black & Decker RTX-B, but I still use the attachments that came with the free tool.))

Bebop's new wrist peg!

So really, the process is pretty simple -- you're looking to replace the peg that broke, usually with something similar to a mushroom shape. Screws are ideal for this! You'll want to test fit your screw in the receiving end to make sure it fits, of course -- but once you've done that, you just drill a hole in the smaller, detached part (making sure not to go all the way through) and screw in a screw to create the peg. You can put glue in the hole or on the threads to make the screw more secure, but this is optional. If the fit is comfortable (or loose, though if it's too loose you'll have other problems), you won't need the extra security -- and if the fit is too tight, the glue won't be strong enough to keep the bond from breaking. Glue can be helpful, however, if the hole you drill is a little too large (which can happen, especially when you're working with really small screws). In that case, the glue helps to fill the hole, and then you'll have a tight fit even if you need to remove and replace the screw for whatever reason.

Bebop's arm, re-hollowed and ready!

Remember how I mentioned test fitting the screw earlier? Usually that's easy, since the piece will already have a hole -- you just heat up the piece for 50 seconds or so under a hand-held hairdryer and then pop the screwhead in -- though you might have to use a flathead screwdriver or something else to pry the broken-off peg out of there first. If that doesn't work for whatever reason (supposing, like me, you first attempted to glue the piece back on, and the glue is holding the dead peg in there firmly), you'll need to drill into here as well. Usually you won't need to do much. The motion of the drill itself will work to break the dead peg free, and then you can easily remove the hollow portion that remains in the hole. To get more stubbornly clinging bits of the mushroom cap, you might have to go into the hole with a dentist's burr -- which is what I did here.

Pegged hips that break are more difficult to work with -- what I've discussed above is good for broken wrist and forearm swivels with respect to vintage TMNT toys -- but follow the same basic idea. ((Note that what I've discussed thus far also works well for repairing calf, bicep, and thigh swivel breaks on newer figures and any older figures that had them... and it can also be used to add that articulation to them, which is really how I first learned the method.)) This was actually new territory for me, since I've never tried to fix a hip in this manner before; usually I'll crack the crotch (easy to do on most figures, since it's such a small area) and try some method of reattaching the original hip peg.

Here's your hip replacement, old soldier!

But since the old TMNT figures lack waist swivels and the plastic halves of their torsos are so solidly connected that you run the risk of destroying them in attempting to crack them open, I wanted to do something else. And since the crotch is much too small to receive a peg, I went with the above method. It was tricky, since I couldn't go too deep in without risking damage to the working hip, but I was ultimately able to pull it off. ((I did, however, avoid using glue here. While everything looked and felt fine, I couldn't be entirely sure how deep my hole was or if putting glue in there would gum up the good hip peg. But like I said, if you get a comfortable fit you won't need the glue to keep the screw in there.))

Looks painful, doesn't it?

But the trickier part was making a new hole in the hip/leg piece, since I was worried about boring through the outside of the hip when making the mushroom peg cavity. As it turns out, however, there is a surprising amount of space in there! So much, in fact, that I ended up making the interior a teensy bit too roomy for the screw I'd originally planned to use. No big; that's why I keep screws of multiple sizes on hand (though there are ways of bulking up a screw head if you need to, from coating it with superglue to wrapping it in tape). The larger screw ended up attaching to the body more securely, too (since it was that much thicker than the hole I'd originally drilled), so... win.

Take these bad boys off the injured list!

After the above steps, I just heated up the holed pieces and popped the pegged pieces in -- or popped the leg onto the peg, in the case of the Foot Soldier -- and here are the figures in their repaired glory! Bebop hasn't felt this good since 1989, and the Foot Soldier no longer has to hear that squeaky creak from both of his hips. Hurray!

Ready for reattachment!

And here's that Metalhead fix I mentioned earlier. Judging from eBay auctions and what I've seen at comic conventions and toy shows, it is very difficult to find a Metalhead figure whose removable forearm hasn't ultimately ended up with a broken peg. Again, easy fix -- you just replace the peg with a screw of appropriate size -- and since the arm was designed to be removable it doesn't take much effort at all to pry the broken peg out of the elbow. (Though you'll have to use the more advanced removal method if it's been glued tight in there.) It's also pretty roomy in there for that reason, so you shouldn't have trouble finding a screw to fit. You will, however, probably want to glue this screw peg, since (insofar as you want to continue making use of the removable feature) you'll be tugging on it forcefully and want it to stay attached to the arm this time. 🙂

Aaaaand that's about it! I didn't really intend for this to be a proper tutorial, per se -- more of a documenting of the methods I undertook to fix these toys -- so I might not have mentioned everything you'll need to know if you want to try these fixes out for yourself. So if you have questions, please ask! I'll help as best I can. 🙂

Anyway, thanks for reading -- and stay tuned to Scary-Crayon! We've got some actual reviews and a DVD contest/giveaway coming up very soon.

-posted by Wes | 8:59 pm | Comments (4)
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