Your Home for Toy News and Action Figure Discussion!

FGC: A Beginner’s Guide to Affordable Customizing

FGC: A Beginner’s Guide to Affordable Customizing

[Editor’s Note – FGC refers to the Guide to Customizing]

I, like a lot of others, couldn’t afford to spend a lot of money to get into customizing. So I decided to put together a little bit of information to help others get started. I’m not going to lie to any of you; down the road it does get pricey (there is always layaway), but it can be worked around. If by chance you have a collection and no funds, I suggest that you wait (I used to have a decent ML collection until I got into customizing); this is a habit-forming hobby.

In the world of customizing there are many methods one can use to create a quality custom. As with any art, you will need supplies and general knowledge that will give you a leg up in customizing. I started out customizing desperately trying to learn. This was and is a very slow and painful process that included ignored e-mails and posts, and a lot of frustration. So without creating any more frustration for you, I’ll begin.

I. The essentials

There are a few things that you absolutely MUST HAVE in customizing:

  • Razors: Although Exacto blades are nice, they are not essential; you can do just as well with break away utility razors (I did it for a year and a half). Multi packs of this type of razor are sold at almost any dollar store or local hardware store for $5.00 or less. Remember; cut away from yourself; skin is a lot easier to cut through than tough plastic.
  • Sandpaper: A very important tool that you can never have enough of; an assortment of sandpaper is definitely needed. The rougher pieces are to take off major layers and to change the general shape of pieces, whereas the smoother pieces are more for fine tuning some rough scratches or glue spots. Sandpaper can also be found very cheaply at a hardware store. There are sanding sponges that prove very useful because these sponges allow you to get inside grooves and divots without having to fight the flimsy sandpaper, but these are a little bit pricey and we are working on "affordable."
  • Putties: An essential part of your toolbox for adding new details and pieces to your figures. There are many sculpting products out there, so try a few and see which one works best for you. Popular choices include Kneadatite and Apoxie Sculpt. We’ll eventually cover this in more detail in its own section of the guide.
  • Rotary Tool: I never realized how useful these little guys are until I got one. There are many different kinds from Craftsman, Dremel, and other (less well known) companies, all of which are great tools and will do the job (after all it’s only plastic). I would suggest picking up the Dremel Minimate; it’s a battery operated rotary tool that is only $20.00 and is rechargeable. It’s a good idea to wear safety glasses when using one of these tools, as they throw a lot of hot plastic into the air.
  • Toolbox or Tackle Box: It is important that you start off with organization in mind, because it is harder to get organized later (trust me on this one).
  • Glues and Adhesives: There is a wide variation of glues and epoxies you can use and this is usually on a personal preference level, but there is an assortment at your local dollar store.

II. Household items

In this section we will be going over tools or items that can be found around the house or at a flea market for fairly cheap.

  • Screwdriver: I usually use a medium-sized flat head screwdriver, for popping joints apart.
  • Pliers: A regular pair is good and if you can get a pair of needle nosed pliers that’s great too. I have found out in recent days if you squeeze a figure’s thighs with a pair of pliers it is really easy to take off legs without damaging the joint.
  • Jars, Tins, Containers: These are always useful and help keep track of all the tiny pieces you’ll have once you start disassembling figures.
  • Pot: You will need a pot reserved to use for boiling figures. This way there is no plastic taste in your mom’s green beans.
  • Imagination: Never think a tool has one purpose. Always be open minded about uses of common objects like paperclips or nails.

III. Paints and Accessories

I’m not the best painter in the world but here is a small affordable summary for you all to go by.

  • Paints: Although Citadel and Tamiya paints are very nice, they don’t work well if you’re trying to keep costs low. Your local Wal-Mart or crafts store has small bottles of acrylic paint from a company named Apple Barrel. These paints are usually in the price range of two bottles for a dollar, with a wide variety of colors.
  • Paint Brushes: I have found that when it comes to brushes, you get what you pay for. (Though the same is true for paint, you can work around cheaper paint much more easily.) In this case, the dollar store brushes are horrible. Spend a few extra bucks here and save yourself a lot of aggravation. One thing to look for is nice straight-flowing bristles.

IV. Miscellaneous

In this section we will go over other things that are nice (but not required) for making things a little easier or cleaner.

  • Paper Towels: Any kind of paper towel will work; these are handy for paint cleanup.
  • Hot Glue Guns: These come in three different sizes and have many uses. You can usually find an inexpensive hot glue gun at the dollar store.
  • Rubbing Alchohol: Rubbing alcohol is good to have on hand as it can be used to clean anything from brushes to figures. It also cleans up superglue almost instantly.
  • Lighters, Matches, or Candles: If you are a minor please, ASK YOUR PARENTS FIRST! Sometimes, a heated razorblade makes it easier to manipulate plastic. If your figures have cloth pieces, you can also use a flame to burn off loose threads (be very careful, though).

V. Safety

Remember that safety is very important; be careful, especially when using cutting tools or open flames. This section will go over general safety standards and materials.

  • Safety glasses: these are important to have during use of dremels.
  • Gloves: a standard set of working gloves is useful for dremel and exacto work.
  • Paper breathing masks: These are very useful when dremeling, heavy sanding and or primering (or using spray paint) figures.
  • Common Sense: Cut away from you. Keep your fingers away from edges or fast moving objects (we want you to be able to type on the forums). Use spray paint in well-ventilated areas (its good to have a fan running in your work place). Most of all, don’t set a speeding dremel in your lap to chat with a friend.

I would like to thank you for checking out my article this month. I hope you all like it. I would also like to thank the staff for helping me with this article (2 years and counting!)

Discuss this article in this thread at the Fwoosh: