07/20/02-- Jimbob's Even Quicker and Dirtier Restring Job The format of the original article below is unchanged from how it first appeared at Leo Sutedja's "Another GI JOE Page", back in 1997. (I'm a sentimental kinda guy.) The basic information is still accurate since Hasbro hasn't gone back and retroactively redesigned all the Vintage Joes they produced in the '60s and '70s (ha ha). In fact, their more recent "Masterpiece Edition" and "Timeless Collection" figures are nearly exact reproductions of that great design. So the original information will be useful if you've never taken apart one of these kinds of figures before.

However, in the intervening years, I have "refined" my restringing strategy. It's not as pretty, but works as well and is much quicker, easier and doesn't really require any tools (although tweezers or hemostats will make it even easier). In a nutshell-- Using 1/4" elastic, thread the parts together (this is where the tweezers come in handy), bring the ends out the back opening between the hips and torso and tie a knot (A shoelace knot works well and will make it easier to disassemble the figure). Trim the excess elastic and stuff what's left back into the body. That's it. You don't need to fuss with pullers or gluing. You can do both the arms and the whole body restringing like this, but you may want to double the 1/4" elastic for the whole body restringing. Maybe the arms too, if you're not getting enough tensioning from a single run of elastic. Also, you may want to clean up vestiges of the original contruction first-- the crimped rings which attach to the leg pins aren't necessary and will just rattle around. All this may make more sense if you read the original article to see a more formal way of doing the same thing.

There's one very important concept that you should understand-- it seems that a lot of people don't appreciate the importance of friction in elastic tensioned figures, and look at "floppiness" mainly as a problem of how tight the elastic is. In fact, with enough friction between interlocking parts you can get a figure to stand without even using elastic. (Of course that doesn't apply to the arms and the figure would fall apart if you moved it...duh.) Treating the problem of floppiness as strictly a matter of elastic tightness can have some undesirable consequences: Too much tension can cause the plastic parts to deform or leave impressions, split the plastic, or possibly bend the anchoring pins. Without friction, increasing the tension really doesn't do much to prevent a figure from doing the leg splits: Visualize a marble attached to a stick mashing downward onto a Teflon or Silverstone surface. Increasing the downward force doesn't lessen the tendency of the ball to slip (it just makes it happen faster and more violently). But if you replace the Teflon surface with foam rubber, you don't even need to apply downward pressure to make the marble stay in place. If you understand this concept, you can see why commercial restringing kits which use heavy duty bungee elastic may not be the best solution-- the heavy elastic just isn't necessary, and you can probably get better results using common 1/4" or 1/2" flat elastic. If you've ever had an elastic tensioned figures whose arms move in tandem, you can bet it's because the elastic is too heavy and there's not enough friction between the contacting surfaces of the parts. You can increase surface friction (reduce slippage) by roughing up the surfaces with sandpaper or steel wool or inserting a shim made of an appropriate material. Increasing the surface area where parts contact also increases friction (if you're up for heavier modifications).

Have fun!



another GI JOE page.
Jimbob tech tips

Restringing Vintage Joes
(a.k.a. Jimbob's Quick 'n' Dirty Restring Job)

This is how I restring my Joes, and it works for any vintage-style Joe. This means it works for the newer Masterpiece Edition Joes too. It's not pretty, but I think the same could be said about the insides of most humans. Most importantly, it works-- my restringings have stood a test of time, for at least 5 years. Also, it's cheap and fairly easy if you've got the right tools. A word of caution though: Be careful! Anytime you're around things held under tension, stuff can suddenly snap and go haywire. Usually it happens so quickly that you're not able to moderate your force in time, and may end up with skinned knuckles. If you don't feel confident about your mechanical skills, don't attempt this.

- scissors
- diagonal clippers
- pliers
- locking hemostats, available at Radio Shack
- Zap-A-Gap (thick superglue), available at hobby shops
- Zap Kicker (if you're impatient)
- 1/4" elastic, available at clothstores
- a coathanger, from your closet

Study the diagram for a moment. You will note that there are two separate sections that can be restrung:

1) The two arms are tensioned with hooks which snag pins embedded in the arm balls, and are joined by a simple elastic hoop which runs horizontally through the torso.

2) The legs, hips, torso and neck are tensioned by an elastic cord which connects to a thigh pin, through the body, around a neck hook, and back to the other thigh pin. In an original issue Joe, stamped rings are crimped to both ends of the cord, and pins secure the closed ring to the thigh section. In original Joes, the pins and rings are made of steel; in Masterpiece Edition Joes, these pins are made of aluminum. In both issues, the hooks are made of spring steel.

Before you begin, you will need to make a specialized tool: the "Puller". You will use this to snag the hooks to thread the elastic through the body. You will also use it to stretch the elastic while you attempt to reconnect hooks.

Basically, the puller is a coathanger with an acute angled hook at one end, with a loop at the other end. It doesn't need to be long-- maybe 6". The end loop does need to be strong -- you will be looping it over a nail or screw fastened securely to a solid, stationary object. Rather than pulling the hook (and torturing your hands with a makeshift handle assembly), you can attach the loop end to something solid, tug on the body and use your free hand to connect things up. Makes sense, huh? The hook end should be short, with a fairly acute bend-- it needs to connect to one of the Joe hooks, and be thin and closed enough to fit through the arm or neck holes, and not snag.

Having described this tool, I'll leave it up to you to make one. I will give you a clue though: use pliers instead of your teeth to bend the coathanger.

To remove the arms, pull one of the arms away from the body, far enough so the hook is almost totally exposed. This may be difficult. Once you can see the end that attaches to the elastic, use your locking hemostats to snare the end of the hook--as far in as possible. What you're trying to do is relieve the tension of the hook-arm pin connection, so you can unhook the hook! Study the diagram to see what I mean. You've got to leave enough clearance between the hemostats and the ball to be able to unhook it. (The diagram is not accurate regarding the unhooking direction: you'll find that it's not as easy as I make it look, and you'll need plenty of clearance to unhook the arm.)

Once it's unhooked, you can just unclamp the hemostats and the hook will shoot into the body, letting you to remove the other arm easily.

Now you need to make an elastic loop to replace the stretched-out one. Since I eyeball everything, I can't give you an exact measurement-- your replacement needs to be roughly the same size as the original one; my guesstimate is about 3/4", inside diameter. The replacement loop is made of flat clothstore elastic, about 3 winds/layer thick: Superglue both ends flat against the adjacent layer of elastic. You only need to use 1 drop at each end. I use Zap-A-Gap with Zap Kicker, which cures the glue instantly. It really does produce a strong enough bond for this application!

Once you've made the loop, attach the hooks-- you should be able to get them back on without much trouble. As far as I can tell, the direction they face really doesn't matter. Next, attach one of the hooks to one of the arms; using your puller to snare the unattached hook (inserted though the opposite armhole), thread it through the body. Now, attach your puller to a stationary object, pull down on the torso until the hook is as far out of the body as it will go, and clamp it with the hemostats. If you've got it securely locked into place, you can remove the puller, and hopefully not struggle too long and hard trying to snag the arm pin with the protruding hook. Once you've snagged it, you can release the hemostats and the arm should pop back in, hopefully tighter than it was before. If not, you've made the elastic loop too big! Go back and try again...

This is a more challenging job, but a lot of the steps are similar. Again, the first step is to remove the old cord. Although you could just stretch the body apart and cut it, we'll do it the more elegant way and disassemble it. It'll give you practice for the reassembly job.

This time, pull on the head to expose the neck hook and clamp it with your hemostats. This is to release the tension so that you can unsnag the hook from the neck pin. It's a similar to the arms in that you need some clearance to be able to unhook it. Once you've done that, you can unclamp your hemostats and the neck and torso should separate from the hip and leg assembly.

Now you'll notice that the thighs and balls are connected through the openings in the hips by the cord, with the neck hook at the center. Make a mental note of about how long the cord is, by observing how much play there is in each thigh/ball/hip assembly. Also notice that the ends of the cord are terminated with a crimped ring, held in place by the thigh pin. You can't just unhook them. This is where it gets ugly. Ask yourself: "Do I want to re-pin the thighs?" Heck no. Soooooo....why not just lace the elastic around the pins? That would distribute the stress along a greater area of the pin, unlike the ring's single contact point. It also eliminates the need for recrimping elastic.

So now, we've got to get rid of the old crimped rings. The only way I know of to do that is to get your diagonal clippers and nibble through the ring. Mine are dull, so I use the pin as leverage to bend the rings back and forth in opposite directions, guided by the diagonal clippers, until they weaken and open. Then I bend them back and slip them off. This puts some wear on the pins, especially the soft aluminum ones used in the Masterpiece Edition Joes. But as long as you don't overdo it and watch what you're doing, it will work.

Once you've got the rings off, it's time to lace the new elastic. Again, I can't give you a measurement, since I always just eyeball it. What I do is thread the elastic through the parts and around the pins, twice. This means that you have 4 layers of elastic going up through the balls. You can use your hemostats to help you with this process. For the length, I figure that if I have enough slack to work with the parts comfortably, then everything's okay. This should correspond to the amount of slack that you made a mental note of, a couple of paragraphs ago. If you make it too short, there's still a "fix" you can do that will make the final step easier-- I'll explain that in a moment, though.

Now that you've threaded all the parts to exactly the correct length (ha ha), what do you do about the elastic's ends? Just like with the arms, you Superglue them flat against the adjacent layer of elastic. I think this works because the stress gets spread out along the whole length of elastic, instead of just stressing the superglued points.

The next step is to reattach the hook. This shouldn't be a problem, because you can slip all four layers of elastic through the small opening, one at a time. Again, I don't think the direction is important, but maybe I'm just lucky and always instinctively get it right (grin). You're now ready to start the big pull.

Insert the puller through the neck opening, behind the elastic used to secure the arms. Snag the neck hook, observing the direction that the hooks are facing: You don't want them to snag on the arms' elastic when you're pull them upwards, back through the neck. Now, attach the Puller's loop to that secure fixture and pull the torso down until most of the neck hook protrudes through the neck opening-- then snag it with the locking hemostats. Next, do what you did to connect the arms... Note: you really have to have a lot of the hook through that opening to be able to snag the neck pin. If it's too easy, then your elastic is too long, and you should go back and shorten it. It shouldn't be too much of a problem, since you can just clip one end of the elastic, readjust the stringing and glue it back down.

No doubt you're cursing with frustration by now. "I can't get the @#$%#!!! hook to snag the @%#&!!! neck pin!!! The @#$%#!!! hook isn't long enough!!!!" (If not, congratulations!) Well, of course not! That's one of the problems when you eyeball measurements! What you need is an extension hook! Huh?

Trying to snag a pin that you can't really see and with so little clearance is... foolish. You should make an 'S'-shaped extension hook out of your scrap coathanger. That way, you can snag the neck pin first, and then connect the clearly visible part of that hook to your original neck hook that you've got clamped with the hemostats. Of course, it's got to be short so you don't add too much length to the elastic. Although this is clearly an error-recovery tactic, it makes sense to "plan" for it by stringing the section just a little bit shorter than the original.

So there... easy huh?

11/06/97-- Jimbob


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