Here's my attempt at a step by step guide on how to do it - a really simple task, that seems really daunting. All you really need is a little confidence in what you are doing. But be warned - once you've done a few, it becomes quite addictive.

First clean up your figures, removing any mould lines and flash. This is especially important for the head, do this whilst still attached to the sprue. (As it is much easier to do now.)

Next up the scary bit. It's only scary the first time you remove a head. Grab the head with a pair of pliers and twist. Try and twist in one smooth motion, and keep going until the head comes off.

In case you are wondering, those are really small pliers,
not an extreme example of 15mm scale creep

By doing it this way you should have a nice clean break, the twist often leaves a small indentation on the torso - a great help locating where to drill! Next up you need to put a pilot hole for the hole you are about to drill.  I find using a needle easiest.

Update: I found an 0.3mm RC fuel line cleaning pin (approximately 12cm long steel pin, which can be sharpened using a needle file) which I have found to be absolutely perfect for the job.

Once you've made a pilot hole, it is time to start drilling with a 1mm bit using a pin vice. Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, you find you have drilled slightly in the wrong spot, a sideways facing head can sometimes disguise such an error, if it doesn't look right fill the hole with greenstuff and try again another day.

As you drill deeper, drill slowly, a bit of water to lube the drill bit helps.

The 'stalks' of the replacement heads are closer to 1.5mm, either widen the hole with an X-Acto blade point (quicker but riskier) or drill again with a 1.5mm bit (safer but slower). I've found it easier doing it this way rather than drilling straight off with a larger drill bit - the few times I have completely stuffed a figure up I have tried to drill straight off with a larger drill bit.

Caution - I've noticed that some head packs have thinner 'stalks' - check what size hole you need before you drill!

Cut the head and stem from the sprue. Dry fit it first, you might need to carefully use a needle file to help it fit /clean up the torso at this point. Replacement heads with beards require a small notch filing/cutting into the torso so that they fit flush, some poses also benefit from having a notch cut for the chin to fit into (I'm thinking in particular of some of the loading musketeer poses).

If you are drilling more than one figure I suggest wrapping the figure in Blu-Tack - easy to grip, no slipping, and most importantly you don't get sore fingers from the figures digging into your flesh. 

Update: using Blu-Tack to hold the figure really does help, I can knock headswaps out and drill hands for pikes, so much quicker, easily and safely using this method.

Zoom in to see hot Blu-Tack action

Top tip: sideways looking heads look more 'unique'.

If it is a good fit, time to get the superglue out. I find using a cocktail stick as a brush helps (and reduces the likelihood of me gluing my fingers together.) If it's a bit of a loose fit, try a little bit of Citadel liquid greenstuff in the hole - works wonders, and makes a superstrong bond too (plus it's readymixed so you don't waste loads as you'll only need to use a tiny amount).

Here's the completed command group for my Scots lancers.

As I have reorganised all my casualty markers so that they are unit specific, I decided that the generic harquebusier casualty figure (that I assign to my cavalry units) just wouldn't cut the mustard. Yes, you guessed it - a headswap. Warning, this one had the potential to involve the local A&E, stitches and lots of blood. So if you are so inclined, be really careful, always make sure the X-Acto blade is going away from you; use plenty of Blu-Tack to keep the figure in position; and, however tempting it is to pare the head down towards you... just don't!

No matter how good a the sculpts are, there is always the odd figure in a range that we just don't get on with: headswapping is a really good way of fixing this problem (although it probably isn't a problem for lots of other people). My own personal bugbears are the marching command pack - the drummer in a morion is much better with a montero or wide brimmed hat; the officer is better, but he too benefits from a different head. Possibly my biggest bugbear is the halberdier in morion (I think there might be a theme developing here), he looks so much better with a different head, anything but a blooming morion!

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  1. Looks a bit brutal, but very effective nonetheless :-)

  2. Agreed. I think the brutality is what stopped me from doing headswaps. Once you have got over that bit, it is a really simple and easy way of adding uniqueness to figures.


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