ASSEMBLING DOLLS FROM PORCELAIN
I am a novice to porcelain ball-jointed dolls, and there are many things I still don't understand. One thing is the different types of string they can be strung with. I know that many are strung with a type of rubber called elastic string, but porcelain dolls were different. Most ball-jointed dolls are strung with metal springs, and it's hard for me to wrap my head around how they work. Today, I'm still trying to figure out what my best method is for assembling them, but I'm getting close to finding a permanent solution that works well for my need. So push on and keep reading to see how you assemble your own metal-sprung doll.
Porcelain dolls need to have a leather lining inside their joints to ensure they move smoothly and make graceful movements. Leather is typically used, but faux leather can also be used. If porcelain dolls rub against porcelain, it produces the most horrible sound, which is too much friction that needs to be eliminated.
I made a stencil that means I don't have to worry about figuring out basic shapes for lines each time I want to use it.
Attach the fuzzy part of the leather to the porcelain so that the smooth, shiny side of the leather is facing up.
To attach the leather lining, I use super-glue. It's strong enough to hold it in place and dries quickly to avoid any unnecessary mistakes.
I buy most of the materials I need to assemble porcelain BJD figures here. They have everything I need, including steel springs, swivels and strong, stiff wire.
You can also buy these hooks, but I find that I get more control when I make them myself. Usual S-hooks are great for dolls strung with elastic, but I found that if I'm using steel springs, the hooks need to be longer. That way they align with slits and provide easy movement.
Unlike other dolls, every doll is different and will require a different assembly technique. You'll need to figure out your own assembly scheme with the springs you're using. You might need to adjust the tension with more or fewer springs.
In this tutorial, I'll show you how to put together doll arms using S-hooks. The first thing I do is attach the wrist and shoulder joints. After that, I add elbows by getting two different springs to work on them, and finally, I'll attach the hands with smaller S-hooks.
To build the elbow, I'll begin by attaching the lower arm to the part of the elbow that attaches to the upper arm. Once this is done, I'll connect the upper part of the elbow with the shoulder.
The only real difference between a leg and an arm is the size of spring and the addition of a swivel in the lower part of the leg. Swivels keep the tension on springs more even, and they extend their life.
For the upper part of the leg, I don’t use swivels. I make a very long S-hook to attach to the lower part of the hip. You probably know your doll best; experiment with what will work for them. One stiff spring has enough tension to keep the leg straight without rotating or bending when I don't need that.
As I start, I assemble the bottom part of the leg.
This often begins by attaching the S-hook to the left shoulder, adding a spring, and threading it through the torso. When that's done, pull it through the right arm socket and connect it to the S-hook in the right shoulder.
To attach the legs, I made two long S-hooks for the hip joints. Then I attached two small springs to each of them that connects to one swivel. For the torso, I added an additional spring to make it more fluid.
To make things simpler, I thread the whole thing through the torso and connect the legs.
When assembling the body, attach the legs, pull back the springs and thread them through the upper torso. It might be helpful to also attach a metal bar to the lower part of the torso in order to hold up the springs. This way you won't have to go through the neck in order to attach them.
I pull the springs through the neck, attach a small S-hook, then pull it through the head and secure it with a metal bar. In the future, I'd like to fix the metal bar inside the head so it would stay hidden. But for this doll's wig, it will still be out of sight.
Up until now, we have been trying various stringing systems and techniques. All the strings on this Barbie are tied the same way without a knot, but with different lengths of nylon thread for each body part. Definitely check out all the techniques we found below!
If you're interested in a video tutorial on how to put together this doll, consider joining my Patreon.