Well, I used to work in a factory doing plastic injection, making medical parts. I had to pull out every piece that had any sort of color flaw because the parts were white. I can tell the difference between a stress discoloration and a wrong color pellet contamination.
You really know your stuff. Thanks for the history lesson!
Hey, thanks. Appreciated. I've put a lot of time and effort into all this stuff. Wow, so much time, so much effort ...and sacrificed my wallet, too, for that matter.
Anyway, this fellow recently came into my possession and he's going to get some much needed love:
U got some problems there? I can fix that!
At the very least, this fellow obviously has trouble holding his cutlery. He's also in need of some attention to get his dorsal crest fixed back in place. All of these features will be re-attached and be fully functional. I'm not going to go to the same length to document all the processes I've done previously. I don't think it's necessary but I will provide critical information on the work that gets done to this figure. Maybe I'll explore some alternatives to what I would normally do.
My next post will be the obligatory assessment of the figure before I dismantle it. That may take a few days or so as I don't have the luxury of all the time Christmas holidays provided me as all that annoying Real Life stuff has kicked in once again since then.
As usual, this gon be fun!
Last edited by windebieste; Apr 27, '16 at 12:14 AM.
OK, it's time to take a closer look at this fellow. This assessment won't be to the same depth as the previous figure. That sample was a special case and really warranted the in depth documentation. I will point out all the important details, though, and explain their significance. This figure won't be anywhere near as involved as the previous one so the assessment and subsequent restoration will be easy.
This figure is in what could be considered to be average condition and when you do find one of these figures they will frequently have the same problems that this one exhibits. In this regard, it's a perfect specimen to become familiar with the issues that these old action figures can frequently possess.
Firstly, the figure is lightly covered in dust. The many small depressions and crevices present on its surface have minor coatings in them and this is especially evident on the tail. Dust is no big deal. It's easily cleaned off and thankfully, there's no stains or other unwanted coatings, including glue residue or additional paint upon the figure. This will aid in a clean presentation when the figure is complete. I'll post a 'Before and After' photo of the tail when all the work is complete and you'll see the difference something as simple as a good clean can make.
Next we look at the head. The head is in very good shape for a figure of this age. The glow in the dark integument on the skull is very good. There's some minor chipping of the coating but it's otherwise in great shape. The trigger mechanism for opening the jaws teeth and migrating the tongue forward works perfectly fine while all 4 pieces that comprise the mouth parts are also present. No need for any reproduction parts in the oral cavity required. There is some degraded chrome on the teeth (other than the missing chrome manufacturing artifacts which are present on all figures) but nothing that detracts too highly from the presentation. The only real concern is the missing smoky translucent carapace that sits upon the head. This feature is often missing from these figures and more often than not, it will be absent as it is in this case. Eventually, I will have to resort to using a reproduction piece to make the figure 'feature complete'. I have absolutely no objection to the use of facsimile parts on the proviso that their presence is revealed from the outset.
The slight variation in paint quality at the edge of the eye socket is common and not really an issue. A small chip in the coating is visible upon the brow. The complete and fully functional mouth is always welcome.
Now we come to the shoulders and this is where the majority of work will need to be performed. There are 2 major issues here that require attention and each of these are common problems these old timers have. Even a casual glance at the figure reveals that the arms are no longer present. Fortunately, they still accompanied it upon purchase. Excellent! Loose arms can be very difficult to acquire - they can easily be missing and nobody I know makes replacement parts for them. This figure has had his rubber anchors snap and the arms fallen free of the figure. Presentation as an amputee is a common problem, becoming more common as time goes by. I've seen figures in unopened boxes with the sealing tape still attached keeping the figure inside secure; but the figure itself had one of its arms fall off simply due to the perishing of the rubber anchor. Time is not going to be kind to these figures over the coming years as the rubber anchors that holds the arms in place continues to deteriorate naturally and eventually break. So, anyway... the arms need fixing. Can do, no problem.
Both arm anchors are snapped internally and the arms need to be re-attached.
As both arms are broken free, it's easy to inspect the upper torso cavity through the openings. Here we can see all 4 socket pins (Red Arrows) are present with lightly worn surfaces inside the right shoulder. The left shoulder is similar with all 4 pins present. If 3 or 4 of these pins were missing, then we would need additional work to be performed on the figure to prevent the arms from collapsing into the torso. Wow... The blue arrow indicates the snapped rubber anchor stump for the arm. The presence of an unremoved stump like this one indicates to me that the likelihood of this figure being dismantled previously is very low.
Also frequently missing from these figures is the dorsal crest that sits between the shoulders. Once again, I'm lucky that the piece is still present with this particular figure. Figures missing this part are common and from my experience are in the majority. A figure with the dorsal crest present will add value to it. The problem in this case is not the crest/spike itself, it's with the mounting slot that the crest is seated in. The plastic at this point on the figure is very thin and any pressure applied to the crest will risk breaking the plastic and enlargening the slot. Once the slot is broken, the crest will simply fall out. As the damage to the slot cannot be repaired (unless you have been able to retain the broken shard and glue it back into place on the damaged slot) any attempt to return the crest without additional attention will fail. It will just fall back out again. This can be a real problem but there are a number of work around techniques that can restore the crest onto the back without the need to use glue. Generally speaking, I only ever use glue as a last resort to solve problems with these figures and this one will not require any at all.
The enlarged slot with a broken upper edge...
...and the dorsal crest/spike/thingy that will no longer sit in place.
The rest of the figure is pretty good but once again the remaining issues it does exhibit are common to many of these old toys. The tail is slightly warped out of shape and can easily be fixed. This condition can frequently be attributed to having the figure lying on its side for many years. Another issue with the tail is it's looseness. Loose tails are also very common and can also be fixed. Other notable looseness is present in the legs where they join at the hips. This annoying condition prevents the figure from confidently standing upright resulting in it toppling over, either forwards or backwards. This condition is also easy to fix.
All the other features of the figure are good to excellent. The quad dorsal appendages are all in place and sitting correctly without rotation or wobble implying that they are still fixed to their interior mounting plate without any breaks. Despite the broken rubber anchors, the arms are both in relatively good condition. The hands move firmly at the wrist without too much looseness and all 12 fingers are present on them. There is no damage to the blunt spike that sits at the elbow and the arms can be considered complete for the purpose of presentation. The tail is complete for its entire length and the blunt barb at its extremity is present and undamaged. These barbs can sometimes be broken off but that's thankfully not a problem with this figure.
There are no other warps, dents, stress points, chips or any other significant damage on this restoration candidate other than light to mild wear and tear. These are normal for a figure of this age and are mostly minor to be considered of no consequence at all. Other than the missing carapace all the parts are present and only the arm anchors and rear torso half display any significant damage. Certainly, the arms and dorsal crest need to be re-attached, but that's what this exercise is all about. Once those items are all in place and a few other details are tended to, the figure will become display worthy in just about anyone's collection. I'll get started on those tasks in my next post, after I've given this lovely old gem a good thorough cleanse in the kitchen sink. That won't happen until tomorrow.
Notwithstanding any issues that I may find once I dismantle it and look inside the figure, this initial assessment is complete. (One figure I opened up had a decade worth of spiders living and dying inside of it. errrk... Yet another had all of its internal mounting posts and flanges removed and the repurposed material was then melted down and re-applied to hold the broken crest internally in place in lieu of a functional mounting slot.)
Last edited by windebieste; Feb 25, '16 at 2:29 AM.
Very informative and interesting. These aliens are cool, are all of the markings the same on most of the aliens you have besides the one you noted missing copyright information?
To all intents and purposes, every one of these figures were manufactured to be exactly alike. Kenner only made a single production run of the figure in 1979 and they were mass produced to be exactly the same without any variants or alterations.
The figure I initially used for the purpose of documenting a restoration has minor changes thoughout as documented on this thread. It is anomalous in this regard and I'm still curious about how these minor changes upon the figure fit into the figure's production run. It's either an early production sample or a late one. My tendency right now is to lean on the possibility it's an early production sample. One thing is certain though, it wasn't part of Kenner's mass market run. I just don't know where it fits in.
Currently, I own 30+ of these Kenner Aliens and this is the first time I've seen one with these unique characteristics present. What's totally blown my mind is how I decided by absolute chance that it should be the first candidate I share restoration work.
I've done as much chasing up on the figure as I can, in particular, contacting the vendor for as much details as possible. The vendor lives in England and was clearing out his deceased father's belongings, amongst them was this Alien. Apparently, it was purchased in the condition I received it in, unchanged in any way. It was purchased on Ebay about 15 years ago from a previous, now unknown source, in the US.
I'm hoping someone who has some knowledge of the departmental infrastructure and manufacturing procedures at Kenner during the late 1970's will be able to shed some light on this item.
Thanks for asking. Every time time I walk passed that particular figure, it winks at me. Well, not literally; but it's teasing me with those silent hollow eyes. It knows a secret; and it's not telling.
Running a little behind schedule on all of this stuff; but hey, that's perfectly fine. I'm not driving a bus and have to be at each destination along my route at a specific time.
Anyway, the figure has been dismantled and cleaned. All went well and there wasn't anything abnormal inside the figure. No one has stashed a thousand dollars inside it, either. Pity that. It more or less was the same as every other 1979 Kenner Alien that I have previously dismantled. A good bath in hot soapy water did the trick and then I laid the pieces out to dry in the Sun. No, I don't think I need to post photos of it sitting in my kitchen sink. Once was enough. You get the idea, right? The pair of broken rubber arm anchors fell away from the internal mounting post without any ceremony once the figure was opened. The interior was just a little dusty.
These are the broken arm anchors. The earlier figure had been opened previously by an earlier repairer and removed the one broken arm anchor.
So, yes. This is what you would normally find when these are broken.
The serrated steel washer that holds the tail in place is mildly corroded. I've seen better. I've seen worse. It's in average condition. A little tightening will help it hold the tail in place with more confidence and eliminate the loose fitting. I'll go into the details on how to repair this minor issue later in the course of this restoration.
The serrated washer that clamps the tail into the torso. Once again, this had been removed from the earlier figure restoration by a previous repairer.
This is what you can normally expect to find fastening the tail into place.
Other than that, nothing of any considerable note to be found inside this figure. Just your bog standard, 36 year old Alien with a few small issues that are easily tended to. Kind of an anticlimax and disappointment, really, after my last effort; but it's kind of reassuring to see that this figure is what anyone purchasing one of these can expect.
Anyway, I'll get started on returning this figure to its former glory. that will happen either tomorrow or the next day or so. Got a lot on my plate at the moment so this kind of indulgence is taking a back seat for a couple of days. Also, I gotta buy some more materials for this one. I've run out of that wonderful neoprene rubber strip - having that stuff on hand is critical to successfully returning those arms to the figure.
As for the work that actually needs attention on the figure, it has already been cleaned so that's the first item crossed off the list. Beyond that, it's a small set of tasks:
- Return both arms to the figure and tension them so that they can each hold a pose.
- Return the original shoulder crest to the figure so it no longer constantly falls out.
- Tighten the tail at the base of the figure so it doesn't lazily flop around from side to side.
- Straighten the tail so that it no longer has multiple unwanted warping curves along its entire length.
- Tighten the legs at the hips so the figure can stand up without toppling over.
- Add a carapace to the figure's head. This will have to be a reproduction piece. I don't have any spare genuine pieces at the moment but I have a few repro parts so I will use one of those.
That's it. The rest of the figure is in a very good state. Just a nice, easy routine restoration of a handful of common problems you'll often find present on these Little Old Darlin's. Nothing I haven't done before. Many times, too, for that matter. Once we're finished, this figure will have terrific presentation value.
Ack... My apologies. This update took longer than expected. Waaay too much on my plate at the moment. Rest assured, I haven't forgotten my pledge to finish this restoration. I do finish everything I start - I just started too many 'Projects' at once this time. That's all. lol.
Let's get those arms back onto this figure, shall we?
I've already documented how to do this with the earlier figure, but I wanted to try a variation on that technique with this one. For me to do so, I had to go and purchases some more materials. I needed some more 1mm neoprene rubber strip and while I was at the swimming pool supplies store, I thought "Hey, I've been using this 1mm thick stuff since I started, how about I try the next size up?" True, I'd had terrific success with the 1mm stuff and never thought of using 2mm thick neoprene strip. As it turned out, the store was having a 30% discount store sale. So I bought a meter of each, 1mm and 2mm thick neoprene strip for around $5. This should keep me going for a while.
Anyway, the principles are the same but the difference in thickness brought all kinds of changes to the technique. So let's take a look at how this minor thickness change affected the technique. We'll get the visual documentation outta the way first:
Once again, similar material sources were used: A wire coat hanger and a neoprene rubber strip - 2mm thick this time.
Here the strip has now been cut and 2 short lengths will be used. The holes had been punched into each end - one is small, the other is large -
of the rubber strips with the leather hole puncher. Also seen here is a length of wire cut from the coat hanger.
2 separate pieces have been extracted from the coat hanger length, each about 15mm long and bent in the middle using 2 pairs of pliers. One of the rubber pieces
has been shaped and tapered with one of the wire pieces fitted into it.
Now the wire end of the improvised anchor has been inserted into the left arm and the anchor fixed into place on the front torso mounting
post via the large hole. The remaining arm anchor is still unassembled and ready for use on the right arm.
Both arms are now complete and the test assembly shows a successful application of the new improvised anchors.
Needless to say, this method worked using the 2mm thick strip, but it did need some changes to the basic method. The 2mm material is a lot less elastic due to its doubled thickness but stronger and this definitely worked in its favor. That test assembly has the arms being held in a pose without the screws being present in the figure's back. It's a nice result. When fully assembled with the screws in place, it will be even better.
The reduced elasticity meant that the distance between the mounting holes present on the material had to be increased. The previous 1mm rubber strip only needed 25mm distance between both holes. For the 2mm material, I found I needed 2 different measurements for the assembly to work. One length needed to be 33mm long for the first anchor to be attached to the figure's internal mounting post. Then 2 factors had to be catered to. Firstly, these anchors are mounted on top of each other inside the figure on a single post. This means that the 2mm thickness of the first anchor attached to post added some length to the 2nd anchor when it was mounted on top of the first one. The innate thickness of these new anchors along with the reduced elasticity meant less negotiation with them in regards to them stretching. So the measurements had to be more exact with the repair this time 'round. (I've often found that these lengths can sometimes vary between figures - this can be attributed to a number of things, for example, the angles that the wire anchors are bent may differ thus altering the length needed on the rubber. ...and so on.)
To this end, I found the the sweet spot for each individual anchor was slightly different. The first anchor to be mounted on the post had to be 33mm between punched holes. The 2nd anchor had to be 34mm. That extra millimeter meant the the anchor could be slightly longer and the tautness of the repair match the tension on both arms.
It took me a while to figure out the different correct lengths and appropriate measurements for both arms. This seems to work well and the arms hold a very secure pose, even more confident than the 1mm material; and that's a good thing. I did use up quite some material in order to actually get this right - and some time, too. The neoprene strip got whittled down to almost half its length on this repair as multiple attempts were needed to get those results. I'm definitely going to have to try this out some more.
Also of note: the additional thickness of the 2mm rubber made it difficult to bend and squeeze it along with the wire anchor into the arm hole. Yeah, I guess it was easy enough to do so but I would regard 2mm to be the maximum thickness for this task. I've seen 3mm thick rubber available at the store but I am doubt it would be useful as the arm hole may not accommodate the buckled rubber of that thickness and wire with any great ease. The 2mm stuff worked well, holds the test assembly arms in place and generally appears to be more effective than the 1mm thick material I've been previously using. This is a good result and is probably the optimum thickness for its strength and ability to hold a very confident pose.
I'll be doing this again to refine the technique on future restorations but at this stage it is a great starting base for this repair. I am very excited about the longer repercussions of this repair. You'll see what I mean. ...if it all works out, that is.
Finding time to continue with these posts has become a little challenging of late. Way too many Projects on the go, all at once. So, apologies for the delay. I do finish what I start.
Anyway, this figure has a very loose tail. It just swings lanquidly to and fro in a pendulous manner. It's too loose actually but at least the repair to be conducted is nice and simple. This figure is complete inside with the serrated washer still in place upon the tail's stub. It's had over 30 years to work itself free a little, hence the looseness of the joint. The tail stub itself is in good and clean condition and the washer itself is only a little corroded. Nothing too bad, just showing its age, too. It's certainly in good enough condition to continue its task for another 30 years.
In this regard the parts that hold the tail in place are all present and in great shape. They really don't need much attention. We just need to re-secure the washer back down on the tail, narrowing the amount of play within the base of the torso. Easy peasy.
A 1/2" socket seated on the tail and washer assembly; and an extension bar. Push down on the washer to tighten it. Simple.
Normally just pushing down on the extension bar is enough to shift the washer back down into place on the tail thus tightening the limb once again. Sometimes this activity may need to be accompanied by a light tap with a hammer upon the end of the extension bar. You may have to get someone to give you a hand if a hammer is required as you will need to hold the figure, hold its tail, hold the socket and bar and be able to use the hammer. Just light taps to the bar should be adequate. You may want to secure the dorsal crest in place with adhesive tape before you attempt this. The impact shock of the hammer can transfer the force through the figure and cause the loose crest to shake and break its mounting point. You don't want to trade one problem for another if you can avoid it.
Once the tail has been re-tightened, its lasting success can vary. Sometimes the tail will remain firm and well connected to the torso regardles so f how many times you turn it. Sometimes it will come loose once again if you twist it so much as a quarter turn. It depends on a number of factors, among them, the quality of the tail stub and the washer. Before you commence the repair, it's best to rotate the tail to your preferred orientation when the figure is going to be displayed and leave it there.
If you are conducting other internal repairs it's a good idea for the tightening of the tail be the last repair made on the figure before it is re-assembled.
Almost done. Just got a couple small issues to address now and this fellow will be back on his feet in no time. Well, metaphorically speaking, anyway.
OK, moving on right now. Public Holiday today so I have time to complete the last item I want to document on this particular figure. It's not the only other task that's been performed on this item, but the other repairs have been documented while working on the earlier figure - I don't see the point of duplicating them here.
Anyway, today I'm going to show you how I re-attached the dorsal crest to this figure. Firstly, the crest itself is in good shape and it's an original piece. The problem with the piece being free of the figure has nothing to do with the crest itself but rather the plastic in the torso back which is thin and easily broken. This is a common problem and frequently these figures have often lost their crest as a result. There's a number of ways to address this problem.
As the damage to the back torso half is irreparable (in most cases) I need to address the spike itself. These are the options worth considering:
- I could just ignore repairing it, and keep the piece separate. That's a valid action - but it is prone to the piece being lost. I don't want to risk that and besides, it's counter to restoring the figure as much as possible.
- I could modify the crest and fix it in place from the interior of the figure. I really don't want to do this simply because it's an original piece and it's more valuable in its complete state. If the crest had been lost and I wanted to make the figure 'feature complete' by using a reproduction part, then yes. I would definitely 'ruin' a facsimile part to this end - but not an original piece like this.
- I could glue it back in place. HAH! That's not even within the bounds of what I would consider appropriate. Neither should you. Adding adhesives to the figure further removes it from its original state. Besides, most glues have a limited longevity. Before too long, it will perish, weaken and fail. The crest will come free once again and leave you with the additional burden of unwanted residue on the figure that you may not be able to remove. Only use glue as an absolute last resort; and as there are better options available for this repair, it should be dismissed completely. No glue. OK? You got that..? No glue. No adhesives. No weird gooey black stuff... It's just not necessary.
OK, so those are the immediate options available to me but the final option that I will use will not be either of these choices. A 4rth option is appropriate here but I will have to go into some back ground first:
When I first started repairing these vintage toys, I did a lot of experimenting with materials for repairing the arms. I used a bunch of stuff - mostly rubber materials to secure them back in place. Eventually I settled on the neoprene rubber as the most effective. It could repair the arms, have the figure hold a pose and was completely reversible without marking or modifying the figure in any way. To fix the crest, I needed a similar philosophy to the solution. Amongst the various materials I tried (including strips cut from bicycle tire inner tubes along with other easily acquired materials) to fix the arms, I used sponge rubber. The sponge rubber is available in similar lengths to the neoprene and was available from my local pools store. But the sponge rubber was way too soft and pliable. It also stretched way too easily and the arms wouldn't hold a pose. So it was abandoned in favor of the neoprene variety.
Nonetheless, the sponge rubber did make a handy comeback to repair these figures. It turns out that the material is easily compressed and will spring back into its original shape instantley. When it is placed into the gap on the back of the figure along with the crest, it will fill the damaged area and expand to keep the crest in place securely.
The loose crest/spike/thingy and a narrow piece of compressible sponge rubber. I guess any spongy material will work - but I already had this stuff in long strips,
so I will use it. Besides, It's black - and that's important.
The crest is now secured to the figure once again. The small strip of sponge rubber is barely even detectable between the figure and the crest. It's there alright,
on the upper contact points between the torso and the crest but the color helps to conceal the addition.
It's an easy repair and does no alteration to the figure. I just pushed the spike back into the hole along with the sponge rubber. How easy is that? The rubber is positioned along the damaged edge on the torso hole. The compressed sponge then pushes against the pegs on the crest and forces the slot on the lower peg onto the undamaged edge of the mounting hole. It seated there, very securely. It looks very good despite a very small edge of the strip being visible but due to its black appearance it matches the figure and is not easily observable.
There's some movement in the piece, too, as it would normally have had some amount of play when it was new and it's good to replicate that. It's also a repair that needs no disassembly of the figure, which is a bonus. You just wedge the rubber into place with the spike. Simple. This technique does come with some caveats, though.
Sometimes, the spike will not sit straight and will appear to be at a wild angle due to the fact that some foreign material is present and acting upon it. This can be altered by removing the spike and sponge rubber; then repeat the procedure - usually by using a smaller piece of rubber. Some experimentation usually results in a good finish.
Another problem you may encounter is both the top and the bottom of the mounting slot may be damaged. This repair still works, but the finish is wildly dependent on how well the figure and crest will accept the rubber in place. You may need to place 2 pieces of sponge rubber into the figure. Of course, the more you have to add, the chances of success are reduced.
- - - - -
There were a couple of other repairs needed on this figure that have also been performed. These include the re-tightening of the legs at the hips and the straightening of the warping on the tail. Both of these repairs were also common with the earlier figure and are documented there - I don't see the point of duplicating those processes with this figure as they are exactly the same. You can easily read back through these posts to see how they were done.
This figure is now 'feature complete'. It looks great, can hold a pose and I am very happy with the result. There isn't much more to be said about it except for one final post rounding up its 'Before' and 'After' status - and I will do that sometime during the next week to complete its documentation. Once again, it's quite a dramatic rehabilitation and was totally worth the time, effort and $5 it took to restore the figure to a state where it can now be proudly displayed.