This week I’m not doing a figure review, but a tutorial!
A lot of people have been asking me these days how to fix leaning figures.
There’s several ways how to do that, today we’ll be looking primarily at hot/cold baths, because that’s what I’m most comfortable with and it almost always works.
First of all: What causes leaning?
Most figures (except GK’s and such) are made out of PVC. PVC is the perfect material to manufacture flexible and detailed figures and it’s relatively cheap and easy to work with.
The downside of this is, that PVC is a thermoplast. When subjected to heat, thermoplasts will soften.
Over time, this might cause leaning, either because the figure has a really dynamic pose or the overall weight of the figure is not distributed evenly. The base-design also plays a role in this. Another problem that, sadly enough, seems to increase in popularity amongst figure manufacturers is, that Quality Control isn’t carried out as thoroughly as it once was. So you might get a figure that’s leaning straight out of the box :/
If the latter isn’t the case, there’s a few things you can do to prevent leaning:
- Make sure that the shelf/showcase/wherever you display your figure is level. Get a small water level and adjust your shelves accordingly.
- Make sure that the temperature of the room or of the inside of your showcase doesn’t increase dramatically. It might be a good idea to avoid direct sunlight or you should at least make sure you can close the curtains around that area. All 3 of my showcases are placed near a window, so I half-close one of my curtains on sunny days.
- What’s also really useful is getting tiny thermometers to put besides the figures. I’ve got those and they are a real (figure)life-saver. I try to keep temperatures below 25°C (~80°F). With everything above I’ll just open the doors to let hot air escape and let fresh air in. You could also just get a fan.
This is what you’ll need:
- Containers that can take some heat and are big enough for the figure
- Dishcloth / Microfibre cloth
- Fridge :D Clear out a shelf and spread out the dishcloth. You’ll need that later
- Sink (You could also use containers with cold water but a tap is imo the better method because the water will stay cold. In the container it will just absorb the heat and get warmer and warmer…)
Make sure you choose containers that are big enough to hold the figure. They should fit in loosely. If you have to squeeze them in to fit, they’ll change shape in unwanted directions once you put the hot water in it and the pvc starts to soften. Parts of the figure which should stay unaffected of the hot water need to stay outside (like Masane’s hair in the picture above).
If, until now, you didn’t know what leaning looks like (you lucky bastard)…
this is what leaning looks like.
We’ve got Kotobukiya’s Amaha Masane from Witchblade:
As you can see from my mad photoshop skillz, she’s leaning backwards a little. The weight of her hair is pulling her in that direction and the base (although it’s a pretty cool base) is not helping either. Due to it’s linear shape there’s little to no support and it has started to get a bit whobbly itself when the figure started to lean backwards.
Then we’ve got Megahouse’s Lancer from Fate/Zero:
I strongly believe that the whole Quality Control Department of Megahouse was drunk the day he got his okay to be brought out on the market. He’s got several issues but we’ll just look at one right now: He was leaning right out of the box.
Third figure for today’s pool party is Organic’s Jimmy from Gangking Jimmy:
He’s my favourite figure.. and I CURSE the day Organic decided to make him, instead of a better known figure manufacturer. I love him to pieces but the PVC he’s made of is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. The only way to (probably) stop him from leaning is displaying him in a freakin fridge. I have to do this anti-leaning treatment every couple of months *sighs*
First thing to do: Get rid of the base.
Start playing around, tilt the figures to angles that seem right to you and get a feeling for how severe the leaning is and at what degree this should be fixed. Try to find out which parts of the figure are responsible for the leaning, which parts need bending.
In this case it’s quite simple: It’s the legs (and Lancer’s feet).
Next step: Get rid of everything else.
Take off everything that might be in the way, that might come off when moving the figure around. Tiny parts, parts that might break easily, overall every removable part that doesn’t need to get in contact with the hot water. Take them and put them aside where they’re safe.
Place your figure into the container and get everything that’s not supposed to be in there out of it.
I don’t want Jimmy’s chain and wallet to be in the water because it’s a really thin part and I don’t want to soften it or it might come off. Make sure those things are put away securely so that they can’t slip back in again.
Lancer’s right arm is not detachable and his lance is not removable with mine anymore. As I said, everyone was drunk, quality control issues, lances both broke in 2, had to glue them back, ANYWAYS, keep that stuff out of the water.
Now get dat water boiling!
As for how much water to use, it depends on which parts need to be bent.
I want to bend the legs, so this is what the hot water will cover. Jimmy’s and Lancer’s crotches are safe :D (The horizontal line indicates more or less to which level I poured in the water)
I can’t really tell you about the temperature of the hot water. I’ll just let the waterboiler do it’s thing, wait a couple of seconds when it’s finished and pour it in. This has worked for me so far. If you’re not comfortable with that, just let it cool down for a while. There’s not really a fixed temperature at which figures will start to soften, which brings me to the next step.
Always, always, always check the softening process! The hotter the water, the faster the figure will soften. Don’t be afraid to take the figure out after a couple of seconds to check on how soft the figure has already become. Until you’ve already had that exact figure in hot water, you won’t know how long it will take. Even figures of the same company don’t follow a pattern here. Thin parts usually soften faster than thick parts, but that’s about it.
As I already mentioned, Jimmy’s pvc is super prone to heat. 10-30 seconds is enough for him to be able to get fixed.
Lancer took 1-2 minutes (again, Rin was also a QC-leaner and he’s also from Megahouse, but that one I could throw into hot boiling water for 15minutes before he softened up enough to get fixed… <- no.exaggeration.)
Masane wouldn’t bend at.all! I have absolutely no idea what kind of pvc Kotobukiya used for that one but it wouldn’t budge and I left her in boiling water fresh out of the boiler for 10-15 minutes and NOTHING happened. The only things that were a teenytiny bit soft were those 1millimeter blades on her shoes…
Her leaning wasn’t too bad to begin with, so I’m trying to fix her with another method now, which iiiis… putting her back into the box. The blister in which a figure is delivered in is usually (always?!) the shape of the figure itself to hold it securely in the box. So if the leaning hasn’t advanced too much, you can just put it back in the box. That way it is naturally squeezed back into it’s original shape. This might take some time (again, this probably depends on the pvc used and the leaning itself). As soon as Masane get’s better, I’ll update it on the blog.
Now for the bending TECHNIQUE >:D (that I use..)
For my leaning figures, I’ll bend the entire legs backwards (because they’re leaning forwards, remember?). Always keep in mind that the pegs from the base have to line up properly with the corresponding holes in the figures feet! You’re changing positions of the legs but the distance between them has to stay the same. To ensure this, I place all of my fingers (minus the tumb) on top of the legs to apply pressure evenly. This has worked perfectly with me so far, but don’t worry if something goes wrong, because you can always go back later and fix that.
With my right hand in place, that pushes the legs back in its original position, I counter-push with the thumb on the left hand on the figures back. The rest of the left hand rests on the chest of the figure.
Arrows in the pics indicate in which direction I apply pressure.
While the right hand bends the legs, the left hand has a tight grip on the figure (tight, but without damaging small parts. Only touch solid parts of the figure, like the torso). That way the figure won’t slip out of my hands and I can adjust the degree of bending easily. This is one of the hand-positions I feel most comfortable with.
Don’t be too brutal. You don’t have to fix the figure in one go. You can always go back and straighten out things step by step.
As you can see in this photo, I switched positions of my left hand: The thumb is now resting on the chest, while the rest of my fingers counter-push. Once the figure has softened and without applying cold water it will stay flexible for a while so you can play around a bit and find the grip that works best for you.
Once you’ve found it, get the cold water running, bend the figure as you see fit and hold it under the tap. Make sure the cold water is distributed evenly on the parts you’ve heated up. Stay in that position without changing the pressure until the parts feel cold again. Rotate and tilt the figure to cool it from both sides.
The same goes for Lancer. Notice how I make sure not to touch the lance with any of my hands. Only solid parts.
After bending back Lancer and checking on how he would stand now, I noticed that part of his feet wouldn’t touch the ground anymore. As this is a bad thing (remember: pegs of the base and holes in the feet have to line up) I went back and heated him up again in the container with the hot water. After that I simply put him in the sink with his feet on the ground and applied pressure from above. Cool everything down with cold water and ta-da! His feet are fixed.
As I already said, you don’t have to fix the figure in one go. Just repeat the hot and cold water baths until everything seems okay to you. It usually takes me 2 or 3 repetitions until I’m satisfied. You can see the progress in the picture above.
Left: First treatment made things considerably better. Jimmy wasn’t able to stand on his own without the base. Now he can!
Middle: Okay that’s almost straight. Could use another bending.
Right: I was satisfied on how things turned out. The final step: Always check if the figure fits on the base properly and if it still stands as straight as without the base.
Left: Yepp, that’s pretty much okay. Maybe leans a bit backwards too much.
Middle: Putting him on the base, I realized that his feet were hovering. Back to hot/cold baths.
Right: Yepp, his feet made him lean backwards too much. Now everything is in place again and he looks great!
Yes, I did tell you that you’ll need a fridge.
It’s really up to you if you want to include this finishing step, though.
Although the figure might seem cold and solid to you after the cold water treatment, there’s no way of knowing if the pvc on the inside of the figure has also cooled down completely. To make sure of that and that the figure will stay in the shape I just bent it in, I put in in the fridge for, let’s say, 10 minutes. That should be enough to get the last bit of heat out of it.
Now get that microfibre cloth and make sure that your figure is completely dry before putting it back on display. Pay special attention to holes in the feet and little cavities in the design.
And you’re done!
Looking good, ey?
Another method, which I never tried because I’m just too scared and I’m already too comfortable with the water-method, is doing the same hot and cold treatment not with water, but with a hairdryer. Has anyone of you tried that method? I’d be interested in how well that works!
I hope that this tutorial will be helpful to some of you! Just take your time, experiment a bit and take things easy. Every figure is different! As long as you keep that in mind, I don’t think there’s a lot of things to go wrong.
As always, your opinion is highly appreciated, so just leave a comment in the comments section! Any questions unanswered? Did this tutorial work for you? Do you want me to do more tutorials? And on which topic?