Sunday, November 27, 2011

Step One Complete

Hey folks.  Its been a busy Thanksgiving week and weekend.  My best friend Matt came to town.  He is a resident doc at a Big Deal hospital on the East Coast.  He and I met in college, and despite being one of, if not the smartest people I have ever met, he is completely down to earth and cool.   He is a giant video game nut and we spent plenty of time (when we weren't stuffing ourselves silly with too much food) on the playstation, hanging out, and just having a good time.  It was great.  I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving too if you celebrate it, or a good "lets celebrate the help that the native peoples gave starving strangers in a strange land, only to have those strangers decided to take over and kill the people who helped them" weekend, or, if you are not from the USA, a good "oh jeez, those crazy Americas are getting even fatter this weekend" weekend.

Oh shoot!  All my fellow readers from the USA are gone!

Anyway, for the 30% (now 100%!) or so of the readers from outside the USA still here...

When in doubt, read it out.
First announcement- my wife Laura, Matt and I ran to the mall at some point this weekend.  Laura picked up a present for me: Acrylic Painting for Dummies.  I'm a huge fan of the For Dummies series.  I've gone through at least a dozen of their books for IT related stuff, including Excel 2003 for dummies, Networks for Dummies, PCs for Dummies, Photoshop for Dummies, TCP/IP for Dummies, Unix for Dummies, etc.  They are great books written for beginners but have a tremendous amount of information in them and can serve as great references later on.  Each chapter is pretty well self contained, so you can skip the sections you aren't interested in reading or don't need to read without screwing yourself later on.  I would love to take some classes on acrylic painting to learn some brush techniques and just general tips about painting, but what I have found doesn't really fit into my schedule.  We have an extensive community ed program in St. Paul, MN where I live, but the classes tend to be at night, and I already go to school at night, or, since I work as a life skills worker with teen guys, tend to have my client sessions at night, and thus, those classes don't work.  Between Acrylic Painting for Dummies and the book mentioned grabbing in my last post, How to Paint Citadel Miniatures, I think I'll be able to teach myself plenty in the weeks ahead.  It makes me feel like I'm going to have the know how to pick up my figure painting game and make some progress detailing my figures.

Yeah, that was a pretty intensely dorky sentence.  Moving on to the real meat of the update.

So where am I with the current project?

Revisions with the master plan have already taken place.  I was originally planning on dremeling down the rub zones, such as the knee, shoulder and elbow joints, on the figure, and then taking it apart.  Well, I tried that but the dremel had a hard time getting the joints without rubbing on the rest of the figure.  I didn't do much damage, but I noticed that things were not going according to plan.

So an alteration is in order:


1. dremel down the the rub points in the shoulders, elbows, hips and knees. 
2. disassemble the figure, including removing the lower legs/arms from the upper legs arms through the use of a hair dryer. 



1. disassemble the figure, including removing the lower legs/arms from the upper legs arms through the use of a hair dryer.
2. dremel down the the rub points in the shoulders, elbows and knees. 



Score one for the The Corps action figures:
They are easy to take apart.
The good news is that it is really, really easy to take apart action figures from The Corps line. A single screw in the back holds the figure together.  That screw is easily reached by a Phillips head screw driver (sorry, don't remember the size, but it isn't an exotic gauge or incredibly small or anything like that- I had the right sized screw driver in my work bench.) Once the screw is removed, the front and back torso of the action figure come apart, and the waist, arms and head are easily removed.  Besides the screw itself, there are no other methods of fastening the figure together. No body cracking with a vice like you evidently need to do with modern GI Joe figures is necessarily, which is kind of nice.  The less opportunity for screw ups, I think, the better I will do at this point.

My wife's hairdryer to the rescue!
At the same time, this level of disassembly does not make it any easier to actually dremel down the knee, elbow or shoulder joints.  More work needs to be done to separate those parts.

Thankfully, I have done enough research about taking action figures apart to know there are two good and worthwhile methods to use here: either heat a joint with a hairdryer or put the pieces in a cup of water that has been in the microwave for a minute or so.  Because it seemed the hairdryer method would be easier to use if I needed to reheat the plastic, I went with that. 

Protect your digits.  Don't put them in front
of  streams of super hot air from hairdryers. 
Instead, put  plastic held by clothespins in front
of steams  of super hot air from hairdryers.

In order to keep from burning my fingers, I used a clothespin to hold the plastic limbs.   This kept my fingers from getting fried and allowed me to hold the plastic in front of the hairdryer set on hot for about 60 seconds, which is about what it seemed to take to get the plastic warm enough to pop the various joints.  While holding each joint in front of the hair dryer, I slowly turned the limb so that the joint was heated on all sides.

Another tool that helped to pop the joints apart was my Eklind multihex key tool.  These are great little tools that can be found for about $2 or $3 at the hardware store.  I used the smallest hex key on my foldout set to pry into the spaces of the joint and push the hot, flexible plastic apart.  The smallest tool on my kit was 5/64th inch or thereabouts, and the metal on plastic gave me a lot more leverage than I could have mustered using my fingers and fingernails alone.

And this little piggy pries plastic
joints apart all the way home.
The key to this step was patience.  The plastic is pretty malleable after 60 seconds of hot air from the hairdryer, and I was worried that I could tear it with the hex key if I got too rough.  Also, the plastic becomes cool fast.  I found that I had a good 20 seconds to work with the plastic after 60 seconds of heating.  Using my fingers alone didn't seem fast enough to take the joints apart.  If I couldn't get the joints popped in 20 seconds, I applied another round of 60 seconds of hot air to the joints, and tried again.

Eventually, everything worked just fine.  I went to school on the first few joints, and applied what I learned to the rest.  Each joint in this action figure was held together by a little peg.  The pegs had big end and small end, which will be nice later on because when I reassemble the figure, there is only one way for the pegs to be put back into each joint.  I learned quickly that trying to pry the small side of the peg from the joint was a much faster way to take the joint apart than by trying the big side or trying to pry both sides at once.  In a few minutes, I had all the joints popped apart.

Woo hoo!
I gotta say, it was pretty satisfying to see Shinto-San all taken apart without any parts broken or other mistakes made at this point.  I could have tried to break the figure down even further: the pin joints of the elbows have pegs in them that attach them to the upper arm, allowing the joint to rotate in 3 dimensions, and the hips are connected to the lower torso by peg joints as well.  In both of these cases, I didn't think there was much give going on there to pop the joints, and I also didn't think these were vital areas to pop to make painting easier or dremel work look better, so I let sleeping dogs lie.

Because there were so many parts and because my wife and I have two loving, wonderful, sweet, and completely ADHD cats who will play with *anything* they can get their paws on that isn't nailed down, I have put all the pieces of the figure into little compartments to keep them secured. Each of the joint pegs are unique to the joint they fit into, so finding the correct peg for each joint should not be a deal later on, but I still separated the parts by portion of the body.  Even without cats, I didn't want to throw all of the parts into a drawer or something; they are small, and I figure the work I am putting into this project make taking a little care of accounting for all of the parts well warranted.  I would *hate* to get nearly done with all of this only to realize a forearm or knee joint was missing.

So that is where I am at the moment.  Finals are coming up, and I've got a ton of papers to research for and then write, but I hope to have at least all of the rub areas dremeled down and have an update on the project inside of a week.  Take care.

Until next time,

David D.

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