Thursday, 29 November 2012

Writing to the Manufacturer: The ins and outs.

Yo. (Wait... does anybody even say that anymore?)

Toy collecting readers,
Sometimes a break is so horrible, so ugly, so mushy, so fiddly, that it is pretty much impossible to repair without acquiring... a new part!
In the following paragraphs I will be talking about the most pathetically pathetic figure repair method:
Writing to the manufacturer! :D

I've resorted to this twice and both times it ended well. I got new parts and my toys were repaired in the best possible way.
It is a little awkward and sometimes expensive, but it's also *Arny voice* The Ultimate repair method.

I shall relate my experiences with two Japanese figure companies (most of my figures are Japanese), so you can get a feel for what to expect.
By the way, most contact email addresses can be found buried deep in the bowels of the manufacturer's website. If the website is not in English or anything else you understand, try using Google's built-in translator function to make it easier to find your way around. This can be accessed by searching the page's address on Google.
Episode 1: KAITO's Ice-cream
Writing to GSC.
International contact:

Goodsmile Company is one of the high end figure manufacturers/distributors. They make Nendoroids and lovely scale figures, plus they seem to do a lot of work in tandem with other companies, such as Max Factory (the Figma company) and Phat!... they also have Amaaaaazing customer service. Seriously, they are the nicest company EVER.

So, this is the story...
It was Christmas eve last year and I was mucking around with Nendoroid KAITO.
You've probably seen him before. He's the popular ice-cream loving big brother of Hatsune Miku.
I had posed him with his ice-cream in his hand, but I wanted to put a plain hand on instead, so I went to take the ice-cream out of the hand part, but OH! It was stuck.
"Ha ha," thinks stupid me, "I'll just twist it out."
BUT, it was a hot day (in Australia, December is the first month of summer) and some interesting things had happened to the plastic... instead of twisting out of the hand part, it twisted OFF!
The ice-cream stick is stuck in the hand and the top is broken off!
KAITO is understandably upset. (By the way, this face is from Nendoroid Ika Musume.)
Here's a closeup:
*hysterical screaming*
It's mushy, it's ugly, it's visible and no matter what I do, that stick just isn't coming out. It seems to be somehow fused to the hand! D:
Because the plastic is warped and the paint is torn and broken, even if I glued the ice-cream back on, that fracture would be disgustingly obvious and oh-so-ugly.
... So I spent the next few weeks feeling sad about it, but after that I got up the courage to email GSC and beg them for help.

I mentioned before that they are the nicest company ever?
They apologised to me for the trouble KAITO had caused (I would have thought it was me causing them trouble!) and, after I showed them a photo of the broken part, they sent me a replacement hand and ice-cream for free. 
Does it get any better?
They are not only nice, but they have the friendliest looking letters...!
I was quite lucky with this, though.
When I broke my KAITO, a new version had just been released; KAITO Cheerful ver. which comes with exactly the same ice-cream parts.
GSC say that they generally only stock spare parts for about a year after the figure (whatever that may be) is released, so if your figure is a few years old, you might not be so lucky.
Still, I suppose it's worth a try. The worst they can say is "Sorry we don't have any".

Episode 2: RAH Roy Mustang
Contacting Medicom Toy.
International contact:

Yes. You heard, er, read right.
RAH Roy Mustang broke again. *facepalm* And this time it was really bad.
I was posing his arm when suddenly his shoulder felt loose.
"Oh crap," I thought.
Oh crap indeed. Roy's left arm had broken off at the shoulder. Due to age and stress, the plastic had crumbled and the metal peg which holds the shoulder joint together had pulled out completely. Worse, there wasn't anywhere to put it back into because the plastic had broken into tiny crumbs.

*more hysterical screaming*

After several unsuccessful attempts at fixing it (including hot glue, epoxy putty and a method which somehow ended up with Roy's shoulder still broken and two small holes accidentally drilled in my desk)...
...  I ratted out that international email address and called for help.
(Of course, it was easy to get his arm to stick back on, but the thing about action figures is that they have actual moving parts, so I wasn't happy with my attempts. At best the arm could be moved, but would slowly fall back down under its own weight.)

Medicom were similar in their approach to GSC. They asked for photos and then offered to help me.
They said that installing the new parts was difficult, and that, if I sent Roy to them, they would repair him and install the new parts for me for free!
One catch, though. I had to pay the postage.
Well, seriously, that's more than fair. Roy has been discontinued for years and they still offered to fix him for me free of charge.

I did what they told me, they did what they promised, and it was all extremely cool!
They replaced a bunch of Roy's parts, including the broken shoulder, some parts they thought were at risk of breaking in the future and Roy's previously broken and glued neck.
How awesome is Medicom Toy? I am seriously impressed with the amount of responsibility they take for their figures.
I also asked them to send back the old broken parts so that I could experiment on them, and they obliged.
True, they did forget to include the stand when they sent him back, but after I emailed them, they sent me a new stand for free, so I'm happy.

The only, ONLY beef I have with the whole thing was that they sent Roy back to me via FedEx which cost me JP¥5500 (which at the time was the same as US$70). AHHHH! MY PRECIOUS MONEY! What's wrong with EMS? EMS is great! I love EMS! (and money!)
But Roy is, like, the best figure ever so I'm okay with the costs.

Here's a shot of Roy now (and KAITO)...
Roy demonstrates that his left arm is now fixed.
KAITO is on an ice-cream induced high.
I have only tried this with two companies, but doubtless there are other toy companies out there who would be just as good. It's always worth sending an email, even if they do end up saying no.

That's not to say you should heckle them about every little thing that goes wrong, though. I would always advocate doing your best to fix the problem by yourself first!
It's guaranteed to be cheap and it's pretty satisfying too! ;D

Just note:
When I contacted both of these companies, I wasn't all like,
you a**wipe My damn figure broke an sh*t you suk fix it or you totaly gon to hell yellow moneky a**hols,,1
   ... OK, so it's unlikely that a person with grammar liek dis would know an ugly 1940's style racist slur, but I've seen everything else in that 'sentence' repeated over and over by a lot of people who make themselves look like idiots.
I'm guessing that most toy collectors aren't like that (come on, we're a good breed), but I'm often surprised by people's lack of tact~~

Rule No.1 of wanting someone to help you with something: Don't be an arse.
In fact, be as respectful as possible. Nobody has any obligation to help any of us. They just do it because they're awesome! :D

I sent both messages asking for advice on how I could fix the figure myself, because I wasn't really expecting the kind of service I got.
With KAITO, I asked how I could remove the ice-cream from the hand or if I could purchase a replacement. With Roy, I wanted to know whether parts from a Medicom RAH Naked2 figure could be used to replace the broken shoulder.
I also began both emails by complimenting the figures of the respective companies and saying how beautiful they are, how much I love collecting them and expressing my dismay that I was unable to repair them myself. This is of course, an effective suck up the truth.
No, really. It is the truth and it doesn't hurt to say the nice things you think about people ^__^

Honestly, I don't know if this really makes a difference at the end of the day, but it certainly can't hurt. At one point I actually had a bit of a conversation with the chatty GSC staff member, and if I had sent an email with a negative tone to start with, it would have been a much less pleasant experience.

Well, I guess that's my stock of information on this topic exhausted, so as always, Good Luck!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Small Paint Touch-ups ~made INVISIBLE!


So, today I will be popping in briefly to my poor neglected blog to talk about minor paint touch-ups.

It happens so often...
You have a lovely shiny new figure. It's pristine and beautiful right out of its box... then, in an instant, lost in your excitement, your hand slips; that momentary, involuntary movement which sends your new treasure flying. For a few moments, your heart is in your mouth as the figure falls to the floor (or worse, onto the sharp edge of one of those Apple ergonomic keyboards)... Thunk. The sound rings coldly in your ears.
Next is the horrible sinking sensation as you realise that beautiful new shiny paint is chipped. The chip is small, but horribly obvious. You know the shining white fleck of raw plastic will catch your eye every time you look at your figure and the regret will live on inside you forever! You must do something!
Well, you have two fairly obvious options. You could put the chipped figure on the shelf and feel sad, or, you could paint over the blemish and be happy.

Today I will be explaining the unthreatening task of covering up the all-too-common paint chip.

Meet Chogokin Aegis, who is beautiful:
Some people claim that Chogokin Aegis has trouble standing on her own but they are obviously just naysayers who lack creativity. She can stand just fine! ... you only need to adjust her center of gravity forward a little...
So anyway, Aegis had a relatively small blemish on the bow around her neck. I think she came out of the box with it.
Here it is, in all its shining glory:
Okay, so it's not THAT bad, but it's annoying. (Besides, I like painting.)
So... tools.
I will be using the following things:
A tiny paintbrush.
I know it's a lot to remember, but try to stay focussed.

Now... This is the part where I explain with unnecessary detail tricky part.
It's time to choose the right colour.
The paint I use for this kind of thing is good old cheap and readily available acrylic. It doesn't matter what grade. Student or artist both seem to be fine.
If you want to do touch-ups, I suggest keeping a good range of colours so that mixing the right shade is easy.

Now, I need red. You'd think red is red, right? No. Wrong.
You see, paint manufacturers are not normal people, and to them "red" is anything which even kind of vaguely resembles what we, in the real world, would term "red". (Like "indian red"? Not even close. Sorry guys. It's brown no matter which way you look at it.)
I, personally, have three shades of "red" on hand for just this reason. Usually, at least one of them matches or can be mixed to a colour which will match:
From left to right (note that label colours are often wildly inaccurate and names vary a lot):
"Cool Red": this is a pinkish colour similar to the magenta used in CMYK printing and is good for making purple but not orange. When added to yellow it makes a colour I like to call "poo", but purples made with this shade have a lovely depth and clarity. Added to a spot of white it makes "hot pink".
"Warm Red / Brilliant Red": This is a bright, slightly orangey colour and cannot be used to make purple, but it does a very nice orange.
"Red": Miraculously, this artist's paint is actually a good medium red which can be mixed to purple or orange, though it doesn't make as good a purple as "cool red". I searched for many years to find this colour.
Unfortunately "cool red" and "warm red" seem to be the most common in shops, but if you keep both of them in stock you should be able to manage. Who knows? Maybe mixing them together will make a proper red (though for some reason I never felt like trying that...)

Please note that no other primary colours are this stupid.

So, to choose the right shade I opened the tubes and compared the colour of the actual paint inside with Aegis' ribbon and luckily the "red" on the right was very close, so I didn't have to mix colours.

Mixing colours really isn't that big of a deal if you have to do it. Just keep fiddling around with small amounts of paint until it's right.

On to the actual painting:
It's a very small area which I'm painting. Just get a tiny bit of paint on the end of your brush and gently paint over the blemish.
If the paint is a bit lumpy, wipe your brush and use it to smooth over the freshly painted surface (before it dries!) until it's nice and even, removing excess paint if necessary.
You don't need much. I dipped my brush once for this job.
This picture shows approximately how much paint I used.
(And how tiny the brush is!)
If the area to be painted was a bit larger, I might consider thinning the paint with a bit of ethanol or metholated spirits to make it spread more evenly (no, vodka probably isn't good enough). I wouldn't recommend thinning with water because it tends to stop the paint from sticking to the plastic.
When thinning, just add a teeny drop of ethanol/metho to your palate (which in my case is the lid of an old ice-cream tub – classy!) and thin the paint little by little, as you go – invariably some sections will want thicker paint than others.

Sometimes, the colour isn't as much of an exact match as you expected it to be! \(O.O)/
If this happens, don't panic. (o.o)
The human brain seems to be trained to notice sharp edges, so, using a very thin layer of paint, make a gradient (see below) over the edge of the touchup. This will make it extremely hard to notice the colour difference. Sometimes you have to paint quite far to make it work, but that's no problem.

If you really stuffed it up, then quickly wash your brush and then use the wet (but not dripping) brush to loosen the paint (this must be done before it dries), then dab off the mushy paint with a tissue.
I have done this plenty of times and I've never wrecked a figure.

If worst comes to worst, you can just paint over your touch-up once it's dry. (I end up doing that pretty often, actually...)

And... We're done!
I always write a lot, but once you actually get down to it, the job only takes about 40 seconds.
Aegis' Fixed Ribbon!
The "red" paint didn't quite match the original colour, so I made a gradient.
Can you see it? It even extends onto the left side of the bow at the top.
(I can't see it.)

More info on gradients:
Introducing Real Action Heroes Baoh Renewal ver!
Doesn't he have a pretty face?

These are not before and after shots. Unfortunately I forgot to take a before shot >__<
These pictures just show how he looks in different light. Left: Under a horrible desk lamp. Right: With a flash.
Can you see where I painted? It's more obvious in the picture on the left.
When I got Baoh, he had a little bit of a mark on his nose and I also didn't fancy how dark the lines/cracks around his mouth were.
That's totally personal taste, so I suppose you can consider this a mod and not a touch-up, but I thought those lines looked a bit messy and not true to the manga, so I PAINTED OVER THEM!
Naughty me. He was a collectable. Still, I love disgusting 1980's manga so I doubt I'll ever part with him.
I made a colour I like to call Baoh Blue by mixing the cool red from earlier with a colour called "cobalt".
I have included Baoh in this post because he shows a visible example of a home-made gradient.
You can see in the image on the left that there is a slight discrepancy between the colour of the middle of Baoh's face and the colour between the black lines on his cheeks.
This is because I couldn't get the colour exactly right (and I like the variety anyway) and I also couldn't extend my invisible blendy magic gradient as far as I would have liked without painting out details... but the point is, do you see how the new colour gets thinner and thinner until it's hard to see it? There's no "edge".
This is achieved by using less and less paint the further out you go.
That's what you have to try and do if you want your touch-ups to be relatively invisible.
Try it on a scrap of plastic like an ice-cream tub lid. It's not as hard as you think!

Happy Painting!