Sunday, 4 April 2010

15mm Headswop Tutorial

Here's a quick tutorial to encourage those of you who may have fancied doing headswops in 15mm but put off by the thought of it being fiddly or needing tools/materials that are costly or not easily available.

That was me. I read a lot of tutorials espousing pinvice drills, pinning with brass rod etc and you come away wondering if a) you have the skills and b) whether the effort/cost is worth it.

In this tutorial I will show you that you don't need any special tools or materials beyond what's already in your model toolbox and will have a model you will be proud of in only 5 minutes.

I love GZG's new separate heads (SG15-XH1 & XH2) and thoroughly recommend them - you'll see a lot of conversions using them on Dropship Horizon over the next month. For the purpose of this exercise I will use separate heads from Peter Pig's Heads & Odds range.

In Sci Fi terms, my favourite heads from P.Pig are L-R below: No.45 French Beret FFL Modern, No.49 Tank Commander IDF and No.46 German WW2 Combat Cap.

Peter Pig 15mm Heads and Odds

A word of caution. Peter Pig heads are 'small' that is, they are designed to fit Peter Pig models which are closer to 15mm than most Sci Fi/Modern ranges on the market. However, they work surprisingly well with most but not all of the 15mm Sci Fi figures.

Having said that. Whilst you may not be able to get away with the Peter Pig heads on the same base with other miniatures that have bare heads/open helmets, but as individual minis or elsewhere within the battleforce - they'll be fine. I tend to use the Pig separate heads in circumstances where the rest of the force are wearing closed faced/full visored helmets such as GZG's New Israelis, FSE etc.

The GZG heads are larger as they are designed to fit the 'larger' GZG figs - but as a result they have far more character in their faces. Used judiciously they fit well on many other manufacturers miniatures including Peter Pig/Rebel Minis etc. See my previous 'Arnie' figure.

Before we begin, a note on hobby knives - if you follow this tutorial you will kill your expensive X-acto knife blades in short order. I bought a blister pack of 8 'snap' blade knives from Poundland - for a pound. Fantastic - they are used all the time.


  • - Inspect the miniature carefully to determine the best line of attack. Use a quick wash of GW Badaab Black or similar round the neckline to see the details clearly.
  • - Clean the chosen miniature and separate head (especially the head) of flash and any mould seams before going any further.
  • - If I want to keep the original miniature's head to use again, I cut round the neck with the point of my knife, then try to twist the head off. If this doesn't work I'll use firm but limited downward angled cuts. Carefully trying to avoid any detail I want to keep, though not always possible.
GZG 15mm FSE miniature
  • - Sometimes, you just have to get the snips out and cut the head off in chunks, using a knife to pare down the remaining metal.
  • - TAKE CARE at all times! Cut away from you and if using snips, point the head away from you/family/pets.
  • - Now clean up the neck and surrounding area, but don't expend a lot of effort at this stage.


  • - Once again take a good look at the miniature to determine where you will be attaching the neck spigot, the angle of the head etc.
  • - Cut the neck spigot of the separate head to 2-3mm in length and use Blu-tack to attach the head at various angles/attitudes so you know what works best for the mini and looks good to you.
  • - Now make a small pilot hole using the tip of your knife. This will help prevent the knife slipping. When ready 'Drill' downwards using a circular motion. Make sure you apply pressure downwards to avoid injury. NOTE: The miniature is on the cutting mat for demonstration purposes - you will need to hold it firmly, keeping fingers away from the blade.

  • - You will be surprised how quick and easy it is to create a perfect dip for the spigot. Keep the angle of the knife high otherwise you will have a wide but shallow pit, perhaps unintentionally destroying detail that you wanted to keep. This is what you are aiming for:

  • - Clean off any excess metal round the rim with the edge of the knife/file, leaving a clean edge (above).

  • - Try the fit of the head/spigot at the angle you're aiming for. Cut the spigot/make the hole deeper as required.
  • - To give yourself greater control when attaching the head, plus preventing yourself from gluing your fingers together - to the miniature - to the head - et al, stick the head to a coffee stirrer using Blu-tack (see below).

  • - Happy? Drop a blob of your preferred brand of superglue into the hole. I use a GEL superglue for greater application control.

  • - Attach the head and hold it steady. In my experience GEL superglue takes that little longer to set, maybe up to a minute. Don't rush this bit!


  • - Revel in your brilliantness! You have just created a unique miniature in 15mm!

  • - If you just want to 'make sure' the head stays on - a collar of epoxy resin or Miliput/Greenstuff will provide the extra resilience you are looking for and also repair any small details on the miniature. You'll be surprised what you can get away with once the figure is painted though, including globs of errant epoxy! So don't sweat it.

Seriously, it only takes 5 minutes once you get the hang of it. That's a Sci Fi platoon in an hour.

But what if the head comes from another miniature and doesn't have a spigot? No probs - a quarter of the headswops I've done over the past 5 years or more have been heads taken from other figures. All I do is make a hole in the bottom of the head so that the glue has something to purchase. I also make extra effort to create a small dip on the miniature just under the jaw so that the head rests more firmly on the miniature.

I've not lost one head from one of my headswops over the years, so I know this works. Go on, have a go - it's easy and fun. I garuantee you'll be looking at every miniature now for potential beyond it's nominally intended role - and will even reconsider miniatures that you passed up or discarded in the past.

If you have tips or tricks of your own about headswops in 15mm - feel free to share in the Comments section below.



  1. Your tutorial is a credit to the hobby.


  2. This tutorial looks really helpful! :)

  3. Nice tutorial. Think I might try some head swops myself. Seems less daunting after reading this post.

  4. I usually leave about 3 or 4mm of the stalk the head comes on and drill a suitable sized hole with a pin vice. Then I can drop it into place and try it at several different angles without it falling off. My pin vice is one of the most useful tools I've got - always handy fopr drilling out large gun barrels or making a hole for a guitar string comms antenna!

  5. No offense intended, but this makes me cringe. You describe some very good ways to have a knife slip and cut up your hand, or to snap a blade and send little bits of sharp metal flying in every direction (including toward your eyes). If you can't afford a pin vise, those hex-shank drill bits can be found in any hardware store. They go as small as 1/16", can be easily turned by hand, and are much cheaper than eye surgery.

  6. DH,
    I have to agree with Bill, I like the tutorial for the most part, but you could use the knife for the head removal and the initial cut, but the rest? I'd use a pin vise. There's another good tutorial on the Battlefront site. They pin their heads, but yours makes sense in so far as working with PP or GZG heads. I like their point though about choosing figures with the heads somewhat separated from the body.