A craft I'm interested in is action figure customization. Basically, you can utilize new or old action figures and you take them apart and combine/mix-and-match them while also adding custom sculpts, paint, etc.

One problem I have with some of the joints I'm working with is that they simply won't move. Due to time on the shelf, and often paint application between the joints, they get so stiff that the force it takes to "break" the seal actually breaks the joint.

There's a hot water trick, where you can run the figure under hot running water or dip it in a bowl of hot water, but this process also softens the plastic which can lead to bending and stretching in ways that can be permanent.

I've also tried adding lubricant, such as mineral oil, to the joints, but some times it's so hard to swivel the joint to even get the lubricant into the space that I'm worried that process will break it just as well.

I'd prefer a permanent fix. Most of the frozen joints will end up re-used as-is (for instance, a frozen elbow, but the entire arm is being transferred to a new figure), so a solution to initially free up the joint and then steps necessary to keep it free.

1 Answer 1


WD-40 and similar oils contain solvents, which would most likely strip the paint off your model.

A "dry" bike-chain oil will do well to reduce friction.

However the teflon particles are dispersed in a solvent, so it's hard to say how it might effect the paint.

If you go this route, use a toothpick to apply to the inside of the knuckles, for precision without dripping all over the rest of your model.

A light sewing-machine oil should also be suitable. They tend to penetrate well without any added solvents.


I would think a toothpick would be safer than an x-acto knife because the toothpick would "give" if you apply too much pressure, smooshing down before your plastic does.

If it's not strong enough, you can go the X-acto route, or craft pick; a compass point might do.

My main thought was that the toothpick would hold a drop of oil well, like a candlewick does, plus it's fine enough to get inside.

You could cut the cotton off a Q-tip at an angle and wedge some oil in there that way if you like.

Again, being softer than the plastic, it should bend before damage is done to your model.

Don't expect it to crack instantly. Just keep wiggling the oil in there for a while 'till it gives.

You're right about the hot water trick. If kept low it should be OK. Like 100°F. You know, baby-water warm. Hot, not scalding. If you need it in there for a long period of time, maybe set a pot of water on one of those coffee/candle-warmer pads.

Put model in a freezer-bag and do it sous-vide style, so it doesn't get completely soaked. Put something heavy in the bottom of the bag so it doesn't float.

  • So the toothpick is use as simply an applicator, or are you suggesting prying open the joints with it, too, to open up some space? Part of my issue is that I can't even open up a gap for the oil to move into.
    – user24
    Mar 14, 2017 at 1:24
  • Ah, sous-vide style is a good idea! I meant to ask about parts for figures that contain metal in their joints, and that would solve it. Also, a heads-up on formatting here, extra spaces after lines creates a line break and it was making it harder to read your answer so I improved (I think) the formatting.
    – user24
    Mar 14, 2017 at 2:00
  • I'm dyslexic. It's hard for me to read/write long blocks of text, so I split lines into smaller segments that are easier for me. Sorry if it caused confusion, but it's easier for me to get thoughts out that way. Mar 14, 2017 at 2:09
  • It's fine. If don't mind the changes, you can leave them. Another solution is that if you hit the enter key once for a new line, just once, it won't actually put a new line unless you put two spaces before it. So, you can chunk up your writing in the editor without it being chunked in the final formatting. Whatever helps you!
    – user24
    Mar 14, 2017 at 2:18
  • I assume 100° means 100°F, not 100°C. We are a world wide site, it would be nice to have the F or C with all temperatures here.
    – Willeke
    Mar 14, 2017 at 21:22

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