Thursday, August 8, 2013

Limb Swap

Well friends, my collection of distressed dolls has definitely grown thanks to the purchases that my mom gave me last weekend. (Yes, they will most definitely be featured!)

However it's time to whittle down what I want to display and what I want to keep in a box. I have many many dolls that have chewed arms and legs and they need to be replaced!

I know many of you have replaced limbs before so can you magnificent Barbie fixer-uppers give a newbie some pointers? I have seen a few methods and I have a few questions.

1. I saw that the best way to remove a limb is to heat water to boiling, pour it in a bowl and let it sit for a few minutes. Then put the Barbie in (not the hair!) and remove the limb. Does this work?

2. And does the above work with both new and vintage dolls? Articulated and not?

3. What's the best way to remove a doll head?

4. How about the best way to smooth rough doll hair? I'm not sure why question 1 says not to put hair in boiling water because I thought that was the best way to smooth. I've also read dipping the hair in Downey? (or other liquid fabric softener?)

Your help will be very much appreciated and I am looking forward to sharing my new creations on this site. And the new additions to the collection will be featured over the next couple of weeks! Stay tuned!


Andrea said...

I can so relate, if you don't sort out your Barbie population, you're head over heels in dolls before you know it.

Limb changing on 80s or 90s dolls is quite a challenge and I never tried it after seeing a picture of an opened 90s body. 80s and 90s doll's arms are connected inside the torso, so if you want to remove one, you have to break that connection which will most likely result in loose arms. Also the knobs of the leg/hip joints are covered by the rubber of the legs "skin", so this would involve cutting if you want to take them off. Guess I'm too lazy for this amount of fiddly work, so I stick to saving the head and getting a replacement body. The boiling water method works fine for vintage and Mod dolls, though.

Joints of articulated dolls are totally different. Gymnast legs and Fashionista legs are held together inside the torso by a piece of elastic, that can be replaced. Same goes for Monster High dolls. I never had to bother with Fahionista arms so far. Gymnast arms have little metal splints, that can be pushed out to replace the limbs, so you can easily give Ballerina hands to a gymnast insted of their usual Karate chop hands.

Removing a head can be tricky at times. I always warm up the head rim and neck with a blow dryer. Keep the hair covered by a towel, because it might melt. That depends a little on the hair fibre. While Kanekalon (the cotton candy textured hair that flies so easily) can stand a little heat pretty well, Saran (more shiny and heavier than Kanekalon) is bound to melt when it is dry and heated. Make sure to put your thumb on the front of the doll neck. This is the weakest point of the neck, as there is a little rod inside, that holds the neck-knob in place and breaks very easily. I take a small screwdriver and get the neck openeing over on side of the neck-knob's prongs, try to do this in an upward move only - no twisting of the head, remember the little rod. Once on side of the rim is over the prongs it should lift off easily. If you ever plan on taking that dolls head off again, just cut the prongs with wire cutting pliers.

Downey has the same effect as hair conditioner. Not every hair fibre can take heat well. If it is Kanekalon, you'll end up with a frizz job, if left too long in boiling water. To set Saran hair, wet it first with cold water and then pour hot but not boiling water over the head.

I hope I explained it well enough to help you and I'm looking forward to see your restored dolls.

Anonymous said...

Hi :)

I have never swapped a doll limb so I am afraid I can't help you with one or two. Like Andrea, I tend to replace the whole body if there's a problem (or sometimes if I just don't like the body she's on).

3. I always trickle water from a just-boiled kettle over my doll's neck joint before removing the head, this makes it much easier. You do have to be careful not to wet the hair though, otherwise the boiling water will reset it to stick straight up! If you can then oil the head upwards so it's loose on the neck but still held by the anchor inside, it's just a matter of getting one side of the anchor prong out.

4. I usually wash my doll's hair through with a intense moisture conditioner, brush it flat and smooth and if this hasn't done the job I pour a just-boiled kettle over it (careful you don't burn your hands) and this sorts it out unless the nylon is very frizzy - in which case not much is likely to work. Boil washing is very satisfying and I'd say it works 90 per cent of the time at Lear. If the hair is very frizzy or broken, you could still use this method but experiment with adding a wave by plaiting I've had some successes this way as it hides a multitude of sins ... The difference between a boil wash as described above and immersing the doll in hot water for example to remove a limb is time. Most materials used to make doll hair from will start to melt if you expose them to boiling water for anything over about ten seconds. I have spoken to people who have melted their doll's hair accidentally by boil washing - a hood rule of thumb is to watch the kettle boil the. Click off, count to three and THEN pour. Good luck with it. It's a fun doll job, you'll love it :)

Forestminuet said...

Thank you both so much! I am realizing that I have much more nicer replacement bodies and heads as some of my dolls have both hands chewed by a dog. So I think that the head replacement would do the trick. I'll definitely have to try! This should be fun.

What to do with the old arms and legs that are destroyed? Recycle? Throw away? Keep?

Andrea said...

I've seen people making dress forms from damaged dolls, so this might be a recycling option for you. Cut off the legs at the length a dressform would have and tape them together. Same for the arms. You can spray paint the body with acrylic paint or use the decoupage method with printed paper napkins. Aside from that use, I would get rid of them.