I have two LEGO keyrings from the mid-1980s, an ambassador (looks like a ceremonial guard) and a castle figure – I probably brought them from my two trips to Legoland in Billund, Denmark. Parts of the castle minifigure might come in handy in building the 6080 King’s Castle minifigures, so I decided to look into separating the pieces. (In the middle of the picture is a regular minifigure for comparison.)
In a past blog entry I discussed minifig surgery and indeed can remove arms and hands from the keyring figures using those techniques. Removing legs does not seem quite as simple, as the studs seem larger than most and I fear breaking them. I imagine the legs would come off normally if need be, but with a higher risk of breaking than with some minifigures. The biggest problem in reusing these figures, though, is the fact that the entire figures – aside from arms and legs – are bonded together and there is a giant keychain and ring sticking out from the back of their heads.
Here is how I removed the keychains and rings. This works for the older stapled LEGO keychains, the modern ones use screws that require a different approach. Be careful, this process will break the keychain and might break more than that. I started by first pulling out the arms and the large keyring, which come off without any tools. See the minifig surgery article for how to pull the arms out.
Next step was to use the cutting edge of regular flat-nose pliers to test the strength of the actual keychain. The keychain is made of small metal rings. I first cut the last small ring of the chain to test and to avoid any damage to the minifigure. The metal was fairly easy to cut and break (it does require using some force), but the pieces also fly everwhere. I recommend using eye protection and a plastic bag or other container to keep the pieces from flying into unfortunate places. After test cutting the last small ring of the chain, I proceeded to cut the keychain ring closest to the minifigure head. Once done for both, I was left with just the metal staples sticking out from the heads.
Using the flat-nose pliers, I then proceeded to simply pull the staples out. The staple in the castle figure came out very easily, the ambassador took a bit more time and effort because the staple was longer. Don’t wiggle, just keep pulling. On the upside, after the staple came out from the ambassador, it also freed the head (but not the hat). The head of the castle minifigure remained stuck. (Note: You can click the images for larger versions.)
Here are the minifigures, free from chains!
P.S. I also attempted Brick Blogger’s hot water process to try and remove the remaining bonded parts. In total I soaked the minifigures in hot water (up to 75 Celsius) several times, for maybe a total of fifteen minutes each, but none of the bonds loosened, not even slightly. The 1980s LEGO keyrings must use a different bonding mechanism than the modern LEGO magnets or perhaps the hot water process is not sufficient to break torso bonds. The hot water, while unsuccessful, did fortunately not damage the minifigures. Suggestions are welcome! (This Eurobricks thread has some ideas.)