Fixing/Upgrading a Toy [Rocketship]

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About: I make stuff. Mostly video game stuff, sometimes other stuff. Come make stuff.

Have you ever come across a toy with interesting features that's begging for a fix up? Maybe some dusty toys left to be forgotten in the basement? Or maybe you just want some painting practice... Well, this is an Instructable for you.

I had hold of this old toy rocket ship from a playset that's been in pieces for a couple years now; it screamed potential. It has hinged doors, sound, awesome detail on the inside and an amazing shape in general, but it's a little rough around the edges and the colour scheme is unflattering to say the least. Time to give this old toy a new lease of life!

Step 1: Supplies

Tools/Materials

  • Dremel
  • Milliput/Body Filler
  • Needle Files
  • Sandpaper
  • Lighter Fluid [Butane]
  • Primer
  • Painters Tape
  • Scrap Plastic Parts
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Various Spray Paints and Hand Paints

Step 2: Breakdown & Parts

So here's the rocket in question. The structure is in pretty good shape but had some pieces chopped off and is covered in dirt and grime from its previous use. (this was originally used in my old college class for a moldmaking demo as a form)

To start, we need to strip it down. I removed whatever screws were still present in the rocket and popped out the doors and internals. This toy is made for kids so the plastic is really durable, you can be heavy handed with this.

To clean off the shmoo, I used paper towels for most of the removal and butane lighter fluid with a piece of rag to ensure all surfaces are clean. I also surface sanded every piece with 400 grit sandpaper to remove the glossy factory finish that comes from the molds, this helps paint stick at a later stage.

Step 3: Patching Gaps & Filing Seams

Originally, this rocket ship had these odd 'winglets' that protruded from the sides of the ship; [seen in example image] these were removed long ago for its prior use. This left behind some cavities that need patching. For this I used Milliput, a 2 part epoxy clay.

Milliput has a long working time and sticks to pretty much anything, giving plenty of time to patch each side. I patched one side first, let it cure, then patched the other and lined them up to touch to form a new seam, using plenty of water to make sure they don't bond to each other.

After every patch is cured, sand with files and sandpaper. Milliput sands like a dream and only takes a few minutes for a smooth, uniform surface. After that, a spritze of primer shows how the seam would look once painted.

One feature that's unavoidable in toys is seam lines. Manufactures will do their best to make them as small as possible but they're always present. To remove seam lines, simply run a file along the edge until it sits flat with its surface, just like with the Milliput. Wet sanding smooths it out.

Step 4: Modifying Parts

If there's any features you don't like, cut it off! Owning a Dremel is perfect for these kind of jobs. I didn't like this bump that sticks out at the base of the rocket so I sanded it down with a drum sanding bit.

Step 5: Paint Pt. 1

With the original shape dealt with, it's time for paint! Depending on what you want out of your object you may want to surface prime to ensure paint will bond, however from experience this kind of plastic grabs very well to standard acrylic spray paints when lightly sanded.

Part 1 is what I deemed as "accent pieces" that will contrast with the main body. I used silver for the doors on the outside and the inside, the central internal pieces a mix of grey and black, and the rest got a metallic red treatment.

On top of the base coats, the top internal piece and the red door got silver highlights and the doors got a light pass of black weathering to bring out some surface detail.

Step 6: Paint Pt. 2

My main colour of choice for this rocket was an aircraft green but before spraying it on, I wanted to keep some parts red. The rocket, fortunately, was already red, however I wanted to add more of the metallic red spray paint to ramp up the hue and to directly contrast with the green. A little colour theory can really bring out a wonderful finish.

To keep my red accents, I taped them up with 3M painters tape. I do NOT recommend regular cheap masking tape for this, most masking tapes will tear off and leave residue, so for crisp lines use quality painters tape.

Apply the base coat. A general rule for spray paint is always spray a few light coats instead of one heavy coat, lighter coats dry consistently and the paint won't drip. repeat light coverage until the colour is completely opaque.

For some extra visual flare, adding silver 'scuffs' with model paint around edges where metal can wear really sells the idea that an object is made of real metal, and that it looks like it's been used for some time.

Lastly for an extra touch to break up the monotony of the main colour, a paint brush with some thinned paint can be tapped from above the surface, depositing small droplets of color that blend around the green, but still stick out when closely observed.

Step 7: Fabricating New Parts

That's the main painting done, but there's still more to add!

This rocket has a sound module with a rocket countdown [5...4...3...2...1...BOOM!] but it's missing its button! A quick easy way to fix something like this is to use a plastic rod that can fit in and push the switch on the inside.

I used this styrene rod, filed it to match the angle of the rocket, hit it with some lovely metallic red and superglued it right onto the board switch; it ain't ever gonna fall out now!

Another addition that honestly surprised me wasn't already part of the ship was domed windows. The rocket was begging for some so to fabricate that look I used 1 inch acrylic baubles. (every hobbyist should have a pack!)

I used my rotary tool with a cut off wheel to carefully remove the excess, sanded it flat with a sanding board and tacked it to the inside with hot glue; the results speak for themselves.

When everything is done, it's time to re-assemble!

Step 8: Complete

This toy is just a really fun example of how such a simple toy can be given new life! This approach to modifying toys can be applied to all kinds of things [Nerf Gun, anyone?] and can extend to so many possibilities, limited only by imagination.

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    4 Discussions

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    Riffifi

    2 months ago

    there's a serious "Fallout" game feeling in this rocket! love it!

    3 replies
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    Brian M VRiffifi

    Reply 2 months ago

    yea! exactly what i was thinking! The bottle rocket souvenirs @ Novac!

    Rocket_souvenir.png