Thank you. These old Alien action figures are more common than people realise. There's a lot of myth surrounding them regarding how rare they are but that's just not true. Good condition figures like the one you probably own are uncommon, yes; but the beat up versions like this one I am working on are relatively easy to find. Anyway, onwards with the Goods.
The original arm mounts Kenner used to fasten and apply tension to the arms were manufactured out of cheap rubber. On top of that, the toy was not designed to last for decades and it's been 36 years since the figure was released. Its no surprise then most of these old figures have lost a lot of tension in their arms due to the rubber perishing or becoming fatigued. The undesirable result is the arms hanging loose and languidly at the figure's side. In many cases, that fatigue goes well beyond simple limp arms and culminates in the breakage of the rubber anchor occurs. The net result being the arms fall away from the figure completely.
This particular figure exhibits instances of each of those problems. The left arm is broken away from the figure while the right limb remains attached. The remaining limb is so loose that it hangs freely. Any movement of the figure reveals how pendulous it actually is and the limb casually swings from side to side. The first task I performed on these arms was to remove the perished rubber band that served as an impromptu anchor inside the left arm.
One arm is broken and while the other can still be attached to the figure by the 36 year old rubber anchor it was manufactured with, we will be ignoring this connector now. Both limbs will undergo the same repair.
Repairing a broken arm needs some careful consideration and for the repair to be optimally successful, it needs to be able to fulfill all of these criteria:
- It has to be tight. The repair needs to provide adequate tension so that the arm will hold a confident pose without dropping and swinging loosely to the figure's side.
- ...but not too tight. It has to hold the arm in place without being over tensioned. The repair should not be so tight that it pulls the arm into the shoulder socket recess.
- It has to be repeatable. In the event of an error, the entire repair process is easily abandoned, removed and attempted once again until it works successfully without leaving any additional debris inside the arm or otherwise damage the figure or the arm in any way.
- It can't interfere with the figure in any way. It has to be accomplished in such a manner that no modifications are made to either the shoulder socket, arm ball joint, existing rubber anchors or the mounting post inside the torso.
- It has to be mechanical in nature. This repair has to be done without the use of glues or adhesives or any additional chemicals that may leave residue or film on the figure or it's arm or otherwise alter or mark the figure in any way.
- It has to be easy. There's no point trying to achieve this goal if the tools, materials and methods are outside the reach of anyone wanting these results. Mind you, patience that you bring to this repair will influence the result dramatically.
On one level, it's a difficult set of goals to achieve; but on another, the arms are actually reasonably easy to fix. I've used the following method successfully many times and it will work effectively on both broken and loose arms. It can be a fiddling process and more than one attempt may be required to hit that 'Goldilocks sweet spot' but it's worth the effort. Before we begin, some preparation is necessary. Here's the tools and materials you will need to gather in order to conduct this repair.
Stuff wot u need: A length of neoprene rubber strip, an old coat hanger, 2x pairs of pliers, a craft knife, a hole puncher and a pair of scissors.
The 1mm thick flat neoprene rubber strip is relatively easy to come by. It can be purchased from the swimming pool department of your local hardware store. Or maybe try your local swimming pool supplies store. It's relatively cheap, costing only about a few dollars per meter and a common product in these retail outlets. A meter may seem like a lot of material; but if your first, or second attempt fails, you will be grateful that you still have more than enough material to work with in order to repeat the repair. (If you can't find a strip of this stuff, go visit your local bike repair shop. If you ask them for a discarded bicycle tire inner tube you can use that instead. Usually, damaged inner tubes are just thrown out with the rubbish but you can still extract the necessary material you need from it and apply the same instructions below. Further experimentation on your part may be required to achieve the same result.)
A wire coathanger. This should be easy enough for you to acquire. Really. If you don't possess one, maybe you should move to a more civilised part of the World.
A sharp pair of scissors. The sharper the better.
2x pairs of pliers. These are basic tools and easy to come by. At least one of them should be capable of cutting wire.
A leather hole puncher. Once again, easy to come by but you may have to ask around for one of these. Someone you know is bound to have one.
A sharp crafting knife. Optional, but if you need to repeat the procedure, you will need this item. Once again, it's an easy tool to come by.
Now, we get down to do the work.
For repairing these arms, I cut a pair of 40mm lengths from the 1mm thick neoprene strip and marked a pair of points on each of them with a marker pen. The 2 points were 24-25mm apart. Using the hole puncher, I selected the smallest hole choice and punched a hole on one of the marks. Then I selected the largest hole choice and punched the other mark with a large hole. I did this with both pieces of rubber so that they both had 2 holes of differing size apiece punched into them at either end. The scissors were then used to cut and taper the rubber at the end with the small hole.
Using a pair of pliers, 2 pieces of short wire material was cut from the wire coat hanger about 15mm long apiece. Then both pliers were used to bend the pieces of short wire at about 15-30 degrees at their midpoints. Then I inserted a piece of wire into each of the small holes on the tapered end of each of the rubber pieces. At this stage, I now had a pair of improvised arm anchors ready for use on the arms. Following so far? It's not hard.
The neoprene rubber strip coil, a cut and shaped piece of neoprene rubber with a piece of trimmed coat hanger wire next to it and an assembled improvised arm anchor.
Then the wire end of the improvised anchor was inserted into the figure's arms and pulled taut to ensure it was in place without coming back out. The large flappy rubber pieces were left hanging out. It didn't matter if the original rubber anchor was present or not in either arm as it's an easy task to squeeze the tapered end of the rubber with the wire attached to it into either the broken or unbroken arm. Of course, it's a little bit more of a squeeze to get the wire inside the right arm which still has the original anchor in place; but it's still an easy operation. Then I attached the other end of each rubber piece to the central internal post on the front torso half. After this is done with both arms, it's time to test.
Both arms are now ready to be tested. Note the original anchor on the right arm is still present. It can just stay there.
Testing is easy. The rear torso half is added to the front and they are clamped together using the screws. They don't need to be super tight, just enough to seal the halves completely and see if the arms will hold a pose. I'm not concerned about adding the head or the legs or other parts just yet as this assembly is only needed to assess how well the arms will hold a pose at this stage. If successful, I would normally pull the test assembly apart and add the missing parts to the figure and screw the whole thing together. Job done and ready for display.
If not successful, as was initially the case with this figure, and the assembly was too loose and the arms just sat there by the figure's sides; meant I still had more work to do. I had to dismantle the test assembly and start again with cutting a fresh set of improvised rubber for the anchors.
Once the arms are ready, partially assemble the figure and test the posing ability of the figure. The arms holding this position without dropping is the desired result that passes the test.
The test initially failed and the sharp craft knife was used to cut the wire free from the neoprene rubber strip. Once cut free, the wire will be loose inside the arm but you can invert the arm and shake it until the small length of wire falls out. Sometimes it falls out straight away, sometimes it takes a few minutes of shaking the arm around. This is true for both the broken and unbroken arms. Either way, recover the small length of wire for re-use and discard the now irreparably damaged rubber pieces and cut a fresh pair. For the next attempt, reduce the gaps between each hole on the improvised rubber anchors by 1mm and repeat the above process. Then test again.
After a couple of attempts, (actually, this figure took me several attempts. I've done this many times now and I am familiar with the process and can usually get it right the first time but this particular figure gave me quite some amount trouble. Multiple attempts were required before I was satisfied with the result.) the arms attached to the figure should now be able to hold a pose during testing. The figure can then be assembled properly with all parts in place and made ready for display.
When finally assembling the figure, (after all the other work that remains to be completed) both improvised rubber anchors will be attached to the internal post. The previously loose arm anchor that the figure came with is still intact and it is not going to be removed, nor will it participate in the restringing of the figure. It's just going to sit there, still attached to the arm and float inside the torso but remain unattached. It will effectively be Officially Retired after its 36 long years of service and hard work. I have a number of figures that still have both sets of original anchors present inside them and I use this method to bypass those original anchors and let them stay floating inside the figure. This way, the original anchors are still intact, kept internally and will permanently remain unbroken. They are still present and are no longer in any danger of snapping now that the load of the weighty arms has been taken off of them. Technically, those figures are still complete despite the original mounting systems are now no longer being used and I can re-instate them if I ever(?) need to do so.
Note the original anchor is still present but is now abandoned. Disabling this original anchor in this way will preserve it.
I hope this is detailed and helpful enough for you Guys. let me know how you go - I'll be happy to help if necessary. Please post photos of your results here sometime in the future if you choose to use this method. Sometimes it can take a few attempts to get it right but it is repeatable process and persistence will be rewarded with an impressive looking figure with both arms attached and holding its pose. It did take me a while to perfect it.
This particular figure took me about 5 (or more) hours (much of this time, of course, also includes taking photos and writing a lengthy post about it) but I recommend you put aside an evening and be prepared to repeat the process any number of times. Don't be surprised if that long piece of neoprene rubber strp ends up being shorter than you expect.