How to Make Your Own Action Figure Ball Joints

By Josh Turner
Cut a slit in the shoulder so the arm can move up and down on the post of the ball.
Cut a slit in the shoulder so the arm can move up and down on the post of the ball.

Action figures have been a favorite toy of children since the late 1950s. Today, action figures have become more than simple playthings. People of all ages enjoy collecting, selling and even building their own action figures. One of the major challenges for those who build action figures is making the figure as lifelike as possible, and the key is in making the joints move freely and naturally. By creating your own action figure ball joints, you can give your action figure’s appendages a more natural and unrestricted sense of movement.

Separate the action figure's arm from its torso.

Connect the arm and torso so they fit together naturally.
Connect the arm and torso so they fit together naturally.

Use a razor knife to shave off any old joints or protruding pieces of plastic. Sand the connection areas on both the arm and torso until they are flat and smooth. Continue shaving and sanding until both pieces fit together tightly.

Mark the center of the joint on the torso.
Mark the center of the joint on the torso.

Mark the center of the joint on the torso where the arm will attach. Mark the center of the corresponding area on the arm.

Drill a 1/8-inch-diameter hole, 1/8-inch deep, into the mark on the torso. Place a drop of super glue inside the hole.

Screw the pointed end of a 1/8-inch-diameter 1/2-inch-long rounded head screw into the torso hole with a cross head screwdriver bit. Leave 1/8 inch of the screw sticking out.

Pack sculpting clay around the head and stem of the screw, creating a 1/4-inch-diameter ball on top. The sculpture should resemble a lollipop.

Add or remove sculpting clay until the sculpture protrudes from the torso 1/4 inch. Make sure the diameter of the ball stays consistent at 1/4 inch. Let the sculpting clay dry for four hours. This will be the ball portion of the ball and socket joint.

Drill a 3/16-inch-diameter hole into the mark on the arm; this will be the socket. Make the arm socket 3/32 inch deep.

Heat up the socket with a heat gun. Press the arm onto the torso while the plastic is still hot and gently move the arm back and forth so the socket begins to contour to the ball. Allow the plastic to cool for one hour.

Cut a slit in the top of the shoulder on the arm. Make the slit the same width as the stem of the ball and move the arm up and down, making sure the stem of the ball locks into the slit. This slit will allow the arm to move up and down on the ball instead of just around in a circle.

Remove the arm and paint the ball and inside of the socket to match the figure.

Heat up the socket with a heat gun to make the plastic pliable and easier to work with.
Heat up the socket with a heat gun to make the plastic pliable and easier to work with.

Heat up the socket with a heating gun and press the arm back onto the torso. Add additional sculpting clay to increase the diameter of the ball if the socket seems too large.

Repeat the entire process for the other arm, both legs and head if desired.

Things You Will Need

  • Action figure
  • Drill
  • 1/8-inch drill bit
  • Super glue
  • Cross head screwdriver drill bit
  • Five 1/8-inch-diameter, 1/2-inch-long rounded head screws
  • Sculpting clay
  • Razor knife
  • 1/8-inch-diameter drill bit
  • 3/16-inch-diameter drill bit
  • Marker
  • Tape measure
  • Heat gun
  • Clay sculpting tools

Tip

When drilling the socket, drill in 1/16-inch or 1/32-inch increments and routinely check the arm to torso placement until you are satisfied with the attachment. You can always drill deeper if necessary. Most drills have a gauge that allows you to set a predetermined depth. This will come in handy when drilling the socket. Use the lowest drill speed possible when drilling the action figure. This will help prevent burning the plastic or drilling through.

Warning

Make sure to wear safety glasses when using the drill. Be careful with the heat gun and melted plastic they can severely burn you.

About the Author

Josh Turner started writing in 2001. He wrote ad campaigns and business materials for Carpetland U.S.A. and his work has also appeared in his campus newspaper, “The Correspondent,” and “The Wellhouse” magazine. Turner is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in mathematics with a minor in journalism from Indiana University.