Saturday, September 24, 2011

First Custom Figs!

As easy as this was to do, they look pretty sweet.
Well, I did it.  I made my first custom figures (using processes that involved altering figures in ways that do not include repainting the figures) today.

Yeah baby.  I'm in it thick now.

Ok ok, its nothing too exciting- one of them was just a head switch, and the other is a head switch with some dremel work.  But I think they turned out pretty well.

I ran over to TRU today while doing some errands to see if the Renegades wave was in yet- I haven't had any luck all week finding the new figures, even though it sounds like there are out in a lot of other parts of the country.  The TRU I visited did not have them, but they did have almost the entire first wave of the 30th anniversary Joe figure line except for Hazard Viper, but that was cool because I already have that wave.  But I got to thinking... man... that Iron Granadier is one cool looking figure.  His head is cool, his armor is cool, his weapons are cool... wouldn't it be awesome to see if I could hollow out his helmet and put a Joe head under there so they could run around in an Iron Granadier disguise?

Sgt. Stalker was there too, and I gotta say, this guy has one of the best head sculpts going.  He just looks badass.  I knew that something would have to happen with his hair to get the idea to work- I'd probably have to use my xacto knife to remove it, but what they hey.  So I picked up two Iron Granadiers and one Stalker.  I had a Rise of Cobra Duke sitting in a box of figures I had picked up at TJ Maxx not long ago to be used for parts.  And say what you want about the movie, I really like the head sculpt of that Duke figure too.  I figured I'd try making a Duke in IG costume and a Sgt. Stalker in IG costume, both with removable helmets, and see how it went.  Ideally, both would work out, and if I screwed up with one helmet, I'd still have the one more to work with.

Here they are: after the win but before the fall.
Ok- I got home and got the packages open.  Bad news. There is no way I was going to be able to get the IG helmet over the Duke or Stalker's melon. I had noticed that it would be tough to get Stalker's beret in there back at the store, but once I had the figures out and the heads popped off, it was pretty clear that even though the helmet looks huge on the figure, it is almost exactly the same size as the heads for Stalker or Duke.  Just hollowing the helmet out was not going to work. Time for a new plan.

Yo Joe!
And one came.  When I popped Duke's head on the IG figure, it looked pretty sweet.  Really.  The details in the armor and the details in the head worked well together.  The color pallets were completely compatible.  Even without a removable helmet, this was a pretty cool looking figure.  It would look even cooler with the helmet, but that would take some work. I'd need to make the helmet longer- perhaps that would mean hollowing the thing out, then cutting it into a front and back half and adding some apoxy or whatever to lengthen the thing.  And that would take a bit of work, not to mention supplies and expertise that I didn't have at the moment.  I was looking for a simple win with this project.  My first first custom figure was a situation where I bit off a bit more than I could chew, and I didn't want to repeat that adventure.  I'll be honest- this was a confidence building exercise.  I wanted it to work out, I wanted something that looked cool, but I also wanted to do something that was within my competency level.

I may be an E5 and Duke
an O4, but he WISHES
he looked this good.

When I put Sgt. Stalker's head on the peg to get an idea of how it would look, I was impressed.  Again, the detail of the head worked well with the detail of the rest of the figure, and again, the color pallets were complimentary.  Sgt. Stalker has a much more hardcore look than ROC Duke, and if I could get this to work, I thought this would look like the much nicer figure.  I could not put the head all the way down on the peg however, because the back of the collar of the Iron Granadier was in the way of Stalker's dreadlocks. It would have to go, and perhaps, the handle on the back of the armor would need to go as well, since Stalker's dreads fall down along his back.

Mini Sanding Tool is a go!
I purchased a Black & Decker Dremel from Target a few weeks ago knowing that if I kept things up with this little hobby of mine, I was going to need one sooner or later.  I also grabbed some additional dremel bits because the actual kit came with very few on its own.  I threw the 'light' sanding tool into the dremel and figured there was a first time for everything. I really hoped I wouldn't destroy the figure.   But I had a plan- I would start using the tool on the "low" setting and go as slow as possible.  Kind of like starting a drilling project with the smallest bit; you can't blow it too bad if your bit is smaller than the screw you want to put in the wall (or whatever.) Same deal here.  If I needed more umph, I could always dial it up. 

If you don't like it put a black dot on it.
I also checked out the part of the collar where it seemed to intersect with Sgt. Stalker's hair and marked it with a black felt tip art marker. I figured I could use that to tell where I should be focusing my sanding work and give me a visual.  Being the safe guy that I am, I also threw on some plastic goggles.  It would turn out I didn't really need them, but this was my first run and I wasn't about to risk my eyes on a project.   I also took the armor off the figure itself, as I figured I could damage the body in some way if I kept it on there, and didn't want to risk that.

Dremel work in progress.
 And then I just jumped in with that dremel.   The goings were slow.  The kind of plastic the armor is made out of just did not give much on the low setting.  So I pulled the tool away from the figure and decided, 'here goes nothing', and set the speed adjustment to 'middle'.  And then it was a whole new ballgame.

The dremel tore threw the plastic like a smart phone enabled scalper threw a fully stocked toy store. I used short, brief motions to dremel small portions of the plastic away because I figured that if I held the dremel on the plastic for more than a few fractions of a second, it would slash right threw it.  After some progress, I would put the armor back on the figure, and then try Sgt. Stalker's head on the thing, to see how it lined up and where I needed to do additional work.

All in all, it worked out really well.  I got the collar chiseled out just right so the hair passed through it where the hair is bound up, and even better, the way the dreadlocks spread out covered the gap int he collar.  I also did some dremel work on the handle-looking section of armor that stands out from the back of the figure below the collar line so the hear could rest closer to the back of the figure. Again, I would dremel a bit, then test with the Stalker's head to see where more dremeling was needed, and after a few iterations had a nice set up.  Stalker can't really turn his head too successfully in this set up, but he looks pretty cool standing and looking straight ahead.

And that's it!  Both Stalker and Duke look great in their new Iron Granadier customs.  It didn't take much work to do, but I'm calling this a win on account of the fact it was an original idea that I came up with and it ended up looking sweet, and because I was able to accomplish what I set out to do, and because I got some experience with the dremel and didn't destroy any action figures to the point that I couldn't create what I set out to create with the items I had when I started the project.  So- success!  Woo!

Until next time.

David D.


  1. I certainly don't want to come off as snobbish, but I just want to point out that Dremel is actually a specific brand of rotary tool. Since yours is made by Black & Decker, it is not a "dremel" as such. This is kind of the same sort of thing as people referring to all adhesive bandage strips as "Band-Aid".

    I really jumped in feet first on the customizing with a Dremel thing. The first project I did was to cut the head off of a POTF Luke Skywalker figure and hollow it out to fit on a G.I. Joe 25th figure. It was a Duke figure that I since named L'duke. Since then I have used my Dremel tools (yes, plural) almost more than my paint brushes. Absolutely indispensable tool.

  2. Knomadd- lol. I found out about the dremel thing not long after I wrote this post. I actually refer to me figuring this out in my post labeled "Old Man Dremel Has Come And Gone".

    Re: L'Duke- love it. There is a project that I am going to start (well, continue) as soon as my figure repaint is over that used the dreme- er, rotary tool a bit. Can't wait to get to it. :-)


  3. I noticed that after I posted that comment. This was in the "catching up" phase of my reading. That'll done learn me good for postin' comments afore I's done readin'!

    As for "L'duke" what I meant to type was "D'luke" which is far easier to say phonetically, in my opinion. This is the trouble with reading blogs and posting comments at 4:30am (atomic facepalm). However, the corrected version should still be spoken with the same over-the-top American version of a french accent that I'm sure one might have associated to the previous one.

  4. LOL. Either way is pretty good. Especially with an over-the-top heavily American accented attempt at French.

    I do love those rotary tools. I did not grow up in a home with a lot of tools- I was much more handy than my parents were. I wish I had known about them back then; there are a lot of little projects around the house that I would have been able to fix quickly if we had had one.

  5. I know, right?!? Those little buggers are amazing in their versatility. Mine has replaced my need for most smaller power tools altogether. If I could find a way to get the damn thing to take saws-all blades, then that would be pretty much curtains for the power-tool box.