The Poe Method of Loosening Stuck Figure Joints

Over on OAFE, a poster asked for advice on how to get stuck joints unstuck. Having successfully unstuck seven hips in my DCUC5 set (only three weren’t stuck) without a single break, I thought I’d share my own method with everyone. This will work on almost any action figure joint, though I wrote it specifically in regard to DCUC hips.

FREEZE Toss the figure in the freezer for about half an hour. The longer you freeze it, the stiffer the joint will get, but it will also get more brittle, so I don’t recommend going longer than an hour at most.

WORK IT, DON’T JERK IT As soon as you take it out of the freezer, very very gently move the hip joint back and forth. I can’t stress enough how gently you have to do this. Work it around a bit–push the hip joint inward, maybe tug it outward just a little bit, to help loosen up the paint or whatever’s making the joint stick. Remember, though, that while the plastic has shrunk a bit and become stiffer due to the freezing, it’s also become more brittle, so if you jerk the frozen joint forward it’s quite likely to break.

BOIL If the joint doesn’t seem to be moving at all, you can try heating some water (don’t let it get too hot–preferably just below boiling) and dipping the hip in for about thirty seconds (don’t let it touch the sides of the bowl!).

RE-FREEZE Then throw the figure back in the freezer for another half hour. All the heating and cooling will make the plastic of the joint expand and contract and, hopefully, sever the connection to whatever’s keeping it stuck (paint, a tiny piece of flash, etc.).

PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT Once it’s been in the freezer for another half hour, repeated the process in the first paragraph. Eventually, you’ll have to start bending the leg further forward or back. You can help minimize the risk of breakage by pushing the peg in at the same time you’re twisting the joint. In my experience, 75% of the time the paint holding the joint stuck will crack and the joint will work fine.

ACCEPT FATE Occasionally, the joint is going to break, and no amount of freezing or boiling will help that. Not often, but enough that you may want to consider whether you’d rather have an immovable leg or have to find a new figure.

I think a good percentage of figure breakages could be prevented just by being patient and careful. I’m impatient in many aspects of my life–too many–but one place I’m not is action figures. I’d rather spend an hour getting my action figure to work properly than spend weeks looking for a replacement.

While breakage seems to be a recurring problem with DCUC, I do think part of that is collectors not taking their time. However, it’s a terrible shame that any kid who receives these toys will almost certainly break them.

If anyone should get on Mattel’s case for these QC issues, it’s DC Comics. Today’s kids who ask their parents for a Superman figure will be tomorrow’s DC comics readers. But if the leg breaks off right out of the package, while their Spectacular Spider-man figure survives being tossed against the wall fifty times, which hero do you think the kid is going to form more positive associations with?

Comments now closed (15)

  • Hey Poe,

    Very helpful guide, but it's just a shame that you need to have a guide at all. Mattel is getting ridiculous with these hips and needs a quick change. I feel like all these figures are elderly with risk of hip injury at every turn.

  • @articulated one….EXACTLY what i was going to say. As great of a guide this is, it's pretty pathetic that some of us have to resort to such methods to deal with Mattel's Crappy Quality.

    In fact, the paint and joints are of LOWER quality than the old vendor…and Mattel says they switched vendors for better quality. THEY SUCk worse than the old vendor.

    For example, if you take a look at all the Aquaman short hair versions that the new vendor has been bringing out…they're all have their eyes painted weird…like Aquaman is rolling his eyes. Or check out the New vendors sinestro…sloppier than the new vendor.

  • I was fixing on Lobo the other day and I was just using a mug so he did touch the sides. I didn't notice anything wrong, what usually happens when the figure makes contact with the bowl?

  • If Mattel doenst fix this problem. Thus, solve the problem of figures breaking when you take them out of the package. People are gonna stop buying them, retail(on-line stores)will stop ordering them. Hence forth, Mattel will not make the money on them and they wont be able to make more. Mattel, if you're reading this and other forums…you better listen. Maybe its best for anotehr toy copmany to produce them but The four horsemen still sculp them.

  • I'm fortunate enough to buy multiples and just return them at the stores.

    I have this funny theory that Mattel does this on purpose so as to increase their sales by letting the customer rebuy the same action figure to find a replacement.

    Heck…I've had a figure break on me 3 times out of the package and I had to get a replacement each time.

    Mattel knows how to HUSTLE!

  • @ You guys who think Mattel's DC line will fold because of breakage… You're nuts!

    You actually have to FIND the DCUC figures in order to even have a chance a breaking them. And that, my friends, is even tougher than finding one with great QC.

  • Thanks alot Poe! I got a Despero right arm that is FORZEN SOLID a the shoulder….Very helpful bro!

  • I usually use that method to swap arms/legs, bit it works well in repairs.

    Whenever I need to heat a part of a figure, I pour the hot (not boiling) water into a teacup, that way I can prevent cross contamination between the figure and the pot, and it will focus the heat on that specific part of the figure.

  • Pingback Toy links : Fanmode

  • This guide is the reason I don't have to take Orion and Lightray back.

    Okay, Orion ended up being a casualty anyway, but a headswap with the series 1 Orion is really all I need to do.

  • Just thought I'd drop this method here since I had a Predator action figure with BOTH mid thigh joints stuck. I wasn't going to use the freezing method or boiling because of the risks involved, no disrespects but they also sound foolish. So I gave it a bit more thought and BAM! Vaseline. 5 minutes later and little work with needle nose pliers and my Predator was fully pose-able. A much better method than freezing or boiling. Also kinda makes sense……lol