Thursday, 18 April 2013

Safely Removing Paint Blemishes from Bare Plastic

G'day, Readers!
(Do I actually have "readers"?)

I seem to have been writing on this blog a lot recently, but I'm not quite done yet.

This time, I will be addressing a truly fearsome, yet common blemish: THE PAINT BLEED.
You know the one; Your lovely new figure is all shiny and perfect except for that single spot where the paint from one part has been, for no obvious reason, liberally applied to the part next to it as well. 
If the erroneous colour lies on top of another painted surface then the perfect solution is just to blot over it with a dab of (you guessed it) more paint.
... but what if the splodge is on a bit of unpainted plastic?

In figures, skin (along with occasional other parts) is usually made from unpainted plastic, sometimes with a light gradient applied to it. Painting over blemishes on these bare plastic areas doesn't really end up looking all that nice, because, let's face it, the textures just don't match up.

So what do you do if you've got a figure where paint has bled onto bare plastic?

Surprisingly, I'm going to tell you in an extremely longwinded manner.

As in my last post, my subject today will be one of the Lucky Star Nendoroid Petits! This time, it's Tsukasa Hiiragi B!
Have a look:
Isn't she cute? I love all the colours in this set! ^__^
If you can't see any paint bleeds, that's probably because I took the picture after I had already fixed it... but if I had taken the picture before fixing the bleed you probably wouldn't have seen it anyway.
Luckily, none of my figures are suffering from any major bleeds or smudges at the moment, but I still wanted to write about this method, so I will be doing it on an itty bitty teeny weeny little bleed which I noticed on Tsukasa's hand.
Here it is:
The orange paint from the chocolate pastry thing she's
about to chow down on has bled onto her hand slightly.
This is an infinitesimal bleed.
It's about 1mm across – barely visible – and I usually wouldn't have bothered to fix something this small, but I wanted to write this vexatious post it was surprisingly eye-catching...
This method is just as applicable to larger blemishes, however.

So... The tools for this job: 
From left to right: A big needle, a regular needle,
super fine sandpaper. (It is so fine)
Yup. Pretty sophisticated machinery, this. Not like, some stuff I found lying around in my house or anything...

I mentioned in a previous post that you should not use regular sandpaper on figures and I stand by it. Regular sandpaper will make your figures look like they've been attacked by a platoon of small, angry porcupines, and, in many cases, this is not desirable.
"Super fine" or "polishing" sandpaper is usually safe. You could also use very fine files or other dooverlackeys which serve the same purpose, if that's how you roll. I myself have several miscellaneous sanding tools in my collection. You can usually buy them at hobby stores.
The sandpaper I will be using in this job is a sort of rough sponge which was given to me by a friend who collects ball jointed dolls (that's right, kiddo. When you get too far into this sort of hobby that's the kind of creepy, wacked-out thing you do... swapping sandpaper squares like hippie freaks...). I included it in the picture so you can get an idea of just how "fine" it really is. As you can see, it barely looks rough at all... YES. IT'S THAT FINE. (So very very fine.)

It even says "super fine" on the back!
(Just in case you'd forgotten that it's fine...)
I used the two needles to remove most of the excess paint.
It would have been better if I could've used the large needle by itself because, as needles go, it's fairly blunt and doesn't scratch figures very easily. Sadly, it just wasn't breaking up the paint, so I swapped to the smaller needle to scratch up the surface of the blemish (taking care not to go though the paint to the figure underneath). I then chipped off the bulk of the scratched paint with the large needle.

At this point, I would usually show a blurry picture of my purple hands, but I think in this case it would be more constructive to actually explain to you how to use the needle;
1. Hold it as you would hold a pencil (or a scalpel, if you fancy yourself as the surgeon-y type). You'll have maximum control this way.
2. Always start gently, applying minimal pressure, making very light scratches. Gradually increase the pressure until the paint starts breaking up. You don't need to go any harder than this. If you plough in at full speed, you'll probably just scratch your figure.
3. Be patient! Proceed slowly and carefully. It takes a bit of zen to remove paint cleanly.
4. If it's just not working, try a different sized needle.
This may be a good time to mention that the reason I am painstakingly using a needle to remove the paint instead of just sanding the whole lot off is because I want to make a nice sharp edge where Tsukasa's hand meets the pastry (I assume it's a pastry).
If I had a splodge in the middle of her face, away from other painted parts, I would probably get it off with sandpaper alone (much faster and easier), but it's hard to make clean edges that way.
If you have a large bleed, you may want to try removing the paint around the edge with a needle and then gently sanding the rest off with fine sandpaper.
In my case, though, the area is so small that the whole thing is edge.

Here's what it looks like after the needle treatment (that sounds so scary – I just noticed):
Most of the erroneous paint has been removed.
You can probably see that there's still a little bit of paint left.
Most of this can be sanded off.
Although the super fine sandpaper won't scratch the plastic, I still use it gently and with caution. I don't want to grind away actual plastic from Tsukasa's hand, and I also don't want to remove any of the paint from other parts of the figure (sandpaper is a gun at removing paint).

After sanding, the former blemish looks like this:
In the picture it doesn't look much better than before sanding, but
in person it's a noticeable improvement.
And... we're done!
Now Tsukasa is free to enjoy her pastry (or whatever it is) in peace!
Om nom nom!
I use needles for this sort of job, but really you could use any small, sharp object. Triangular-bladed craft knives, pins, thumb tacks and extremely sharp cactus spines are all suitable candidates.
Just remember, you're trying to remove the paint without damaging the plastic underneath, so be gentle.

Well, that's all from me for the moment!
As per usual, if you have any questions, feel free to ask! I usually reply within a day or so.
Good luck with your repairs!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Using Heat to Fix Warped Parts

Hello, everybody!
Now for another of my erratically timed and possibly helpful posts...

Today I will be looking at a problem exhibited by Nendoroid Petit Izumi Konata:
She's super cute!!!! ^__^ (I just got her.)
There's one little thing which bugs me, though... her ahoge (the bit of hair on top of her head) looks a bit too floppy.
The picture on the box has it sticking up a bit more, but on my figure it's flopped down so it's touching her head. Have a goosey:
The picture on the box – It's so cute!!!! ^__^ (Yeah, the novelty hasn't worn off yet...)
Hmmm. It kind of lacks impact. (But her face is so cute!!! ^__^ )
This is a really common problem, and sometimes it's much more serious.
Slight warping of parts is really common on new figures, even from the best of manufacturers. A lot of the time, the warping is unnoticeable, but sometimes it messes up the visual impact of the figure (as in this case) or, worse, it causes parts to be incapable of fitting together. I have this problem sometimes, particularly with Figma accessories – they're so small that even a couple of millimetres of bending means they just don't fit together at all! (Oh no!)
Another common issue (this one shows up most with Nendoroid Petit stands in my experience) is when a peg or ball joint is just too big for the hole it's meant to fit into!
Yet another issue is when parts are so stiff that you're afraid they might break when trying to put them together. For example, if a Figma's changeable hands are very hard to swap.

Luckily these problems can all be fixed with one simple method!

(Now for the unnecessary explanation, in case you're interested... if not, skip to the next section...) 
Nendoroids, Figmas and most other figures (and most toys in general) are primarily made from PVC, which is a thermoplastic – that just means it melts when you heat it up. If you heat PVC up to about 120ÂșC, it turns into a nasty burny liquid which sticks onto your skin and burns the shit out of you. It is this sticky lava of death hot liquid which is injected into moulds to make figures and toys.
I won't be melting Konata's ahoge until it becomes a liquid today (very messy), but I will be heating it.
PVC becomes soft and pliable long before it melts... so I'm going to warm up the plastic and reshape the ahoge so that it looks more like the pic on the box.

This method is great for reshaping slightly bent parts or pieces that don't fit together properly!

You do it like this:
1. Heat up the part a little bit with a WARM hairdryer. Remember, we don't want to melt our figures (unless you want to make them into some kind of halloween-themed diorama) so don't make it super hot. The part should feel nice and warm to touch.
Keep your hand in the air stream from the hairdryer when heating figures.
When you feel like the dryer is making your hand a bit too warm, switch it off.
You'd be amazed how fast little figure parts can heat up. I only need to use the hairdryer for a few seconds.
If you don't have a hairdryer, you can put the part in a basin of warm water for a couple of minutes.
Swapping Figma hands / Inserting a peg which is a little too large for its socket:
In these cases, gently heat the arm/socket but not the hand/peg itself. Do this by the method described above. Then just push the peg into the socket as normal. It should be much easier when the plastic is warm.
HYBRID LOVERS TAKE HEED! This method changes the shape of the socket (permanently in most cases) to fit the peg you are pushing into it. If you are hybridising parts from different figures by this method, be aware that the original peg that the socket was designed for may be loose afterwards.
Now, back to reshaping warped parts...
2. While the plastic is warm, bend it into the position/shape you want.
How hard this is will depend on what the part is. For Konata's super cute ahoge (So cute!!! ^__^ ), I could do it with gentle pressure of my thumb and forefinger, but for bigger parts you may need to use both hands. It depends a lot on the exact plastic used and the size of the part.
In general, I only do this with fairly small parts.
Remember to be careful! Don't force parts! If the plastic won't bend, then it may need to be heated more.
If it's uncomfortably hot to touch and it still won't bend (you shouldn't even make it that hot in the first place), chances are the part is too big or is not made of thermoplastic. In this case, you should stop before you damage your figure!

3. Hold the reshaped part in the new position until the plastic cools down again. If you're feeling impatient, you can run the part under cold water to cool it down faster, but PVC cools down fairly quickly by itself.
Why do my hands always look purple in photographs??? >:@
4. ....... just kidding. There is no step four.

The Ahoge is Fixed!

So cuuuuuuutteeeee!!!!!! ^__^
Just note: Sometimes parts like this bend back a little bit after cooling. If this happens, you may want to repeat the process of heating and reshaping 2–3 times, allowing the plastic to cool in between.
Though of course, sometimes near enough's good enough.

This is a broad method and the principles can be applied to many different problems!
When I bought my Figma Nanoha, the wing things on her feet (sorry, I haven't actually seen the anime, so I don't know the names of any of the things... or if the things even have names), didn't fit on at all. A little heat applied to the attachment parts and a bit of bending, however, and Nanoha flies again!
The background is a calendar of "Scenic New Zealand" which I bought cheap in March one year.
Cheap old calendars make great (and cheap! Did I mention cheap?) backdrops for figure photos.
... by the way, when I took the photo, Nanoha was hanging from a Figma stand which I blu-tacked
to the top of my desk, but I photoshopped it out. You can tell I had fun today, can't you?
Anyway, that brings this post to a close!
Happy Repairing!
Best of luck!

Misc. Figma Care – If a Figure Seems Disappointing

To my long un-updated blog,

This will be a landmark post, ladies and gentlemen!
That's right.
I am finally writing an article in which my subject will be A FIGMA! :O

Today I will be sprucing up Figma Araragi Koyomi, because he's a bit unappealing, and has been ever since I bought him.
Here he is:

Okay, so there are a couple of things you might notice right away.
Araragi had three main problems and because of them I had never really liked him, but it's really not his fault and all he ever needed was a bit of TLC.
Since I fixed these minor issues I've started to really like him! He's actually really cool!
So... The Actual Problems:
1. His paintwork is really dull and unappealing.
It looked cool on the prototype, but my figure looks kind of flat (it's a bit hard to tell from the picture, but he was really boring compared to my other Figmas).

2. He has a smear of ugly glue on the front of his shirt. :(

3. There's a slight chance that you've picked up on this already, but his arm keeps falling off.

The Actual Solutions To The Actual Problems:

1. The Dull Paintwork.
Many Figmas seem to suffer from a phenomenon I'm going to call "Factory Dust". It's not very noticeable, but they have it straight out of the box and it really dulls the paint, especially dark colours.
I think it's probably caused by a coating of fine dust or powder, but luckily, it's still easy to get rid of.
Just rinse the figure under running water. No soap required.
That's it. No tricks (apart from keeping the plug in so that small parts don't go down the drain if they accidentally fall off). Plain, cold, running water straight from the tap. 
It works on Nendoroids too, and doubtless many other types of figures which just don't seem as bright as they should. 
If your new figure looks a little dull, try giving it a cold bath!
(Somehow it took me about nine months to think of this...)

Araragi's colouring came up really nicely after cleaning. It's actually really surprising how much better he looks. I didn't realise he had that much "Factory Dust" on him!
    .... I have no idea what the stuff actually is, though... I'm guessing it's something to do with the packaging process, but I will probably never know.

An effective yet impractical method of washing figures.

OK, next!
2. The Ugly Smear of Glue.
First up, a photo:
When I got Araragi, there was more glue on his
shirt than shown here – I only remembered to take
 a picture half way through removing it.
Damn! So ugly!
Like so many of its smudgy conspecifics, this blemish is small but super visible and super annoying! (... it may even be super glue........... heh.)
I don't know how many figures come out of their shiny new boxes with horrible glue smears on them, but I figured I'd write this up in case anybody else is having this kind of problem.

To remove the ugly smear, I used a really big sewing needle to chip away at the glue:
An embroidery needle? It's fairly sharp but it's huge – nearly 10cm (4") long!
Very gently chip away at the glue, taking care not to damage the plastic underneath. In my case the glue was on one of the "flexible material" (AKA rubbery) parts of the Figma which meant it came off quite smoothly.
I say the glue came off smoothly, but there were still a few little bits left over which wouldn't come off with the needle.
Because I am a very obsessional person, I carefully filed these off with a fine grade emery board type file. It's meant for making PVC jewellery and I think it's officially a "polishing" file.
Seriously, some of these files are so fine that you can file the surface off paint without scraping through to whatever's underneath. It's fishsticking amazing!
I highly recommend getting some because they're also great for removing paint smudges (and they're cheap. I got a pack of three for ≈$6.00).
    ~ yeah, you know I didn't really mean "fishsticking".
An equally good alternative to a file would be fine grade polishing paper (like sandpaper but
super fine. Regular sandpaper isn't much good for figures because it leaves noticeable scratches).
On a side note, Araragi's colouring has heaps more impact now that he's clean!
Right. The glue is all fixed! On to the next problem...

3. His arm keeps falling off.
Yes... um... it does keep falling off.
Ever since I got him, it's been fairly loose. It stays on okay most of the time, but when I try to pose him it pops off with very little provocation. The socket in his shoulder just seems a bit too shallow.
To be honest, I haven't managed to fix it yet. I tried a few things and none of them worked, but if I manage to repair this loose joint, I'll write a post about it.

For now, Araragi's arm will have to stay loose, but he still looks WAY better than he did when I got him!
... and his arm isn't too bad anyway...

             ... at least, Mayoi doesn't think so.


Anyway, I hope this post was at least a little bit helpful, even if I didn't end up fixing Araragi's arm!

As always, best of luck with your figures!