Figure Assembly

I'm asked all the time on how to replace / repair heads, arms and legs of these wonderful figures. This page is an attempt to show my technique on how to assemble these figures. The most important thing to consider is the figure you are actually working on... The caramel colored figures are notoriously fragile and often your simple repair job will turn out worse than if you just left it alone.

The reason for this is lost to history. Since we don't have a time machine, we can only guess at why the caramel figures suffer so. After many hours of conversations with other collectors, we believe it is caused by the colored pellets used when the plastic was getting ready for the injection molding process so many years ago. It really has to be the color because the other colored figures using the same base plastic don't suffer from the dreaded 'Crumbling Disease'. Heat, humidity and other factors may play a role in this as well. Another point to consider is that the UK and Canadian caramel figures don't seem to subcumb to this problem. One tell-tale symptom of the onslaught of this 'disease' is the figure will start to smell like old crayons... If this happens, just leave the figure alone! No repair will last and you'll likely just make it worse. If you want to restore your crumbling caramel figure to display shape, I suggest hot-glue. Just glue the joints together and display him.

If you think your guy or gal can weather the storm, here is how to reassemble your figure....

If you are going to try this on a caramel figure, I recommend you practice on a cream geronimo or a cavalry figure first - they really are the strongest.

  • Click on images for a larger version


Your tool kit is pretty simple. You will need a flat bladed (steel) implement - I use a butter knife from the table-ware drawer. Some folks use a spackle spatula, but I like the heft of the table knife. Next you will need something to pull on the spring hooks. I really like this pair of curved tip needle nose pliers. Noah Coop and others use a heavy guage wire (coat-hanger) with a little hook bent into the end. I like the pliers because I can do other things with them that crop up from time to time like squeezing the wire hooks a little if they got streched out, plus the non-slip grips really come in handy.

Figure / Springs
Next, you're going to need the figure and the right springs for the job. Here I've picked an early edition Capt. Maddox for my demo. You can see that his right leg has the attached 'perch' spring assembly, so I won't need a separate hip spring. Also, you can see the two part shoulder spring that I prefer.

Regardless of how your figure is constructed, he/she will always have a hip and a shoulder spring. They may have clevis pins instead of the plastic loops shown on the figure here, but the techniques below are the same.

I'm assuming that you can take the figure apart - it's really very simple, just pull the shoulder or hip away from the body and detach the spring from the part.

The Legs

I always start with the legs. If you start with the arms then you might accidently put too much pressure on them when you are doing the legs.

If your figure has a separate hip spring, just attach the end with the smallest opening to one leg loop/pin and turn the body over so you can see down into the hip hole. If your figure is like mine with the perch spring just start there.

Using your spring tool (pliers) reach into the hole and grasp the free end of the spring and pull it out. I find using the body as a pivot / lever point really helps - these springs are tight! But be careful not to damage the body.

Once the spring is out far enough (you'll know) grab the other leg and hook its' loop/pin onto the spring end. - sounds easy... well it can be but it can also be a real pain! I try to rotate the spring so the open end is toward the bottom of the figure - this gives you a little more room to work with... A third hand would be great now too! ;-) - Oh, now would be a good time to check if the feet are pointing the right way....

The Arms / Head

Now the tricky part... Not really, just take your time. Read this whole section first, and then try it.

Take one arm (doesn't matter which one) and attach the spring to it. If you are using the 2 part swivel springs, put the swiveling end on first.

Lay this aside.

The Head

Put the head into the neck hole on the torso. Now's a good time to look inside to see how all this magic works. You should see the notch in the bottom-back of the neck post... This is where the spring goes through to attach the shoulders together. Make sure the figure's face is facing straight to the front to give the maximum clearence for this neck notch.

The Arms / Head Cont.

Take the arm with the spring attached and feed it into the correct shoulder hole so that the spring goes into the notch on the neck. Holding that arm tight to the body will allow you to turn it over so that you can see the 'free' end of the spring - like in this picture.

Now, you don't want to go waving this around showing everyone in the room how talented you are, because the spring will eventually slip off of the arm. Just be careful. If it does fall off, just reattach it and put it back into the neck hole.

The Arms / Head Cont.

Now is when that third hand will come into play. Remember that butter knife? Have it within reach! Looking into the hole, firmly grasp the free end of the spring and slowly pull it out of the body until 4-5 coils are fully exposed. At the same time, slip the blade into the spring, wedging it next to the BACK of the body.. This is where this picture is taken. Why the BACK? Because if you wedge it against the front the spring inside is curving arount the neck post and is not straight. This will make it harder to hold in place.

While holding the blade firmly in place (exposing part of the spring), get your other arm and work it onto the free end of the spring - see where that third hand would be really cool now??

Once the arm is attached, don't just pull the blad out - letting the arm SNAP into place - this could damage your figure, dislodge the spring or catch that skin on your fingers you've been so careful about....

Just hold onto the shoulder of the arm flopping there and gently pull out a little more spring and let the blade fall out and then ease the arm into the shoulder hole.

The Finale

TAA-DAA! You're done! Another figure restored to his fighting shape. The only other word of caution I'll give, is not to stretch out the shoulder spring too much. Especially on the kids. In fact I don't use the blade on the kids because their springs are only a few coils and are real easy to over stretch. I just hook the spring end to the other arm using the pliers....