Customizing Tips From The Buzzy Cave: Eliminating Paint Rub From DC Universe Classics Customs – Part 1 Shoulder Discs

Passing on some tips, tricks or minutiae that will help make action figure customizing easier for someone out there.

Howdy all! Buzzy Fret coming at ya with another tutorial from the dark, dank Buzzy Cave.

Paint rub! The bane of customizers that wish to maintain the poseable part of the their poseable action figures! There are a lot of tips and tricks out there to try to keep the oh-so fragile acrylic paint clinging to the plastic of your customs but, in my experience, nothing works like breaking the figure down and attacking those rub points with a Dremel and sandpaper. I know, I know, it’s time consuming, it’s hard, it’s not as much fun as painting and sculpting. Well maybe I’m mental, but I just can’t see why anyone would spend so much time and effort trying to make a beautiful looking custom out of a poseable action figure just to see the paint scrape off when you move a limb on it.

As you can see above, I’m working on what will be a custom Green Lantern Hal Jordan in his modern togs. I’ve gotten the parts all together >

  • DCUC GL Upper Body
  • DCUC Black Manta Lower Body to the knees
  • DCUC GL Lower Legs & Feet

and now it’s time to start prepping the parts. I’m going to show y’all the hardest and perhaps scariest part first – Shoulder Discs. Kids, don’t try this without adult supervision! By the way, if you’re wondering how I break down bodies in the first place, I have a little tutorial for that over on the Fwoosh – Buzzy Breaks DCUC Bodies.

Every customizer knows the absolute worst paint rub spots are shoulder and hip balls. Luckily DC Universe Classics figures give us lots of color options for shoulders and no hip balls. Whenever possible I try to use shoulder balls that have discs that are the same or close to the color that the figure will be, but that’s not always an option. So what do ya do? If you paint ’em without treating them, the paint is just gonna scape off the first time you move that arm and that’s no good!

Here’s how I handle it…

First I warm up the shoulder ball with a hair dryer for about 25 seconds. This softens the plastic of the shoulder ball which helps immensely in step two…

Now that the plastic is warm and pliant, I carefully slide the tip of a small tool (in my case here, a sculpting tool) between the shoulder ball and the swivel disc to make some space…

I insert the blade of my Exacto knife into the space, extract the sculpting tool, and carefully cut the connector that goes through the center of the swivel disc. Take your time and make sure you’re not cutting too deep and into the shoulder ball.

In the first thumbnail below, you can see what the inside looks like after it’s been cut. At this point, I give it a blast from the hair dryer to soften up the plastic again so that I can extract the swivel. (Thumb 2). The disc is only 3/16ths of an inch from the outside edge to the inside and you don’t have to sand much off to give it the clearance needed, say about 1/32 of an inch at most.

pt 1 shoulder discs 005.jpg pt 1 shoulder discs 006.jpg pt 1 shoulder discs 007.jpg

Tip: If you don’t own some calipers, go get some! They will take a lotta guess work outta your customizing.

Big Tip: If you don’t own a Dremel – Go Out Now And Buy One! I can’t imagine customizing without one.

As for the pic above, it’s pretty self explanatory. I’d suggest using a 120 grit drum to do the major sanding and then a 240 grit to smooth out any rough spots. Also it’s a good idea to wear some kind of filter mask over your nose and mouth as sanding the swivel disc will make a lot of plastic dust. Eye protection isn’t a bad idea either. And the pic is erroneous in one aspect – use a tool with gripping teeth so the swivel doesn’t go flying across the room the second you touch it with the sanding drum. Sorry,this isn’t easy to do and take pics at the same time. Results below…

pt 1 shoulder discs 010.jpg pt 1 shoulder discs 011.jpg pt 1 shoulder discs 012.jpg pt 1 shoulder discs 013.jpg

After I sand and clean up the swivel the only thing left is to put it back together. For this I use Gorilla Super Glue, a scrap of wax or parchment paper and a Superfine MicroBrush. (MicroBrushes are the bomb for applying glue and zip kicker) I heat up the shoulder ball again, slide the swivel back into place, put a small drop of glue on the parchment paper, dab the microbrush in the glue and then paint the glue onto the side of the connector sticking through the swivel >

It doesn’t take a lot of glue to get a good solid bond. If you put too much it might very well inhibit the bonding of the parts. Be careful not to slop the glue onto the swivel.

After applying the glue, I gently press the shoulder together between my thumb and finger, being careful not to squeeze too hard and distort the shape of the shoulder. I usually hold it for about 30 – 40 seconds and then gently test the bond. If it doesn’t come apart, I slowly work the swivel to make sure it didn’t get glued by accident. If a little glue got on it, working the swivel should break the bond without undoing the connector. If it does, just wait a couple minutes and try gluing again.

Now there’s plenty of clearance between the swivel and the shoulder ball and paint will not get scraped off when the shoulder is moved.

pt 1 shoulder discs 015.jpg pt 1 shoulder discs 016.jpg

I know this seems like a lot of work but when I’m not taking pictures and trying to think of how I would write a How-To article for this operation, it only takes me about 15 – 20 minutes to do both shoulders.

Hope this helps someone out there! I’ll put together Part 2 soon.


7 thoughts on “Customizing Tips From The Buzzy Cave: Eliminating Paint Rub From DC Universe Classics Customs – Part 1 Shoulder Discs”

  1. One thing I do if I disassemble a joint like this is to rub a tiny amount of oil around the inside of the disc. This way, if I’m too sloppy with the glue it won’t foul up the articulation. Generally I use less than a drop of oil, applied using a q-tip. As long as you thoroughly clean the joint afterwards you shouldn’t have any problems painting on top.

  2. I really admire the folks who go through this level of effort to keep their customs playable. Buzzy, you may have gotten this down to a 20 minute endeavor, but that doesn’t include the torso cracking and reassembling, right?

    I’m just too lazy to do that all. we need customizing tips for lazy customizers like me. 😀

  3. good tip, Discogod, thanx!

    Ron > the amount of time cracking the crotch and the upper torso is all too dependent upon how fused together the parts are. I’ve cracked bodies apart in less than 5 minutes and I’ve had some that were a little tougher to deal with.

    to do a full prep on a figure – cracking the body, sanding shoulders, shoulder swivels, ab crunch, hips, elbow, knee and ankle joints – and being able to bust on through it without any interruptions would probably take me 2 – 3 hours. reassembling still wouldn’t happen for another day though because I wash out all those parts to make sure there’s no dust or crap left behind. then they need to dry before they can be reassembled/glued back together.

    depending on the character I’m making and the fodder I’m using, sometimes steps can be skipped. like if the character has a black shoulders, I’ll use shoulders with black swivels and then I don’t need to sand them down.

    thanx for the comments guys!

  4. Good stuff. At first I balked at what seemed like a lot of effort but, in the end, it’s clearly worth it. After all, I work on some customs for months before they are finished. What’s few more hours?

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