Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Doll Head Removal

I have had several people ask me about head removal and head swapping for various dolls, so I will share what has worked for me (and what has gone wrong for me).

The Heat Is On

Plan on using heat to make it easier to remove the head.  Applying heat to the head prior to removal softens the plastic and makes it easier to manipulate.  Methods that I have used include:


  • Use a handheld hairdryer pointed towards the lower part of the doll's head and the upper neck.  Heat from this source will damage a doll's hair, so be sure to cover the hair while the dryer is in use.  Heat for approximately 60 seconds.
Or
  • Place the doll head first into a plastic baggie that can withstand heat (like a freezer bag).  Submerge the doll's head and shoulders into boiling hot water.  For dolls with hard vinyl heads like Fashion Royalty, submerge for approximately 5 minutes.  Make sure that water does not get into the baggie.

Tools

There are some tools that will come in handy with certain head removals.  I have a set of small screwdrivers that I frequently use.  I also have a set of crochet needles - the smallest of which I find very useful.

Barbie and Friends

Barbie's neck post consists of a small plastic disk with 2 prongs just above that.  After heating the head, tug the head gently until the plastic disk is exposed, as in the photo below.
That was the easy part.  It can be a little tricky getting the prongs out, so use care.  Position one of the prongs so that it is pointed towards the doll's chin.  Squeeze the head to elongate the neck hole, and maneuver that side of the prong out of the neck hole.  Once one side of the prong is out, the other side will come out easily.  If you have trouble getting the prong out, use a tool like the ones mentioned above to help you to guide one side of the prong out of the doll's neck hole.

Once the doll's head has been removed, you can use a set of toenail clippers to cut the prongs off so that it will be easier to remove the head next time.  I usually do not remove the prongs, which is why this happened:
The small plastic rod that held the neck post firmly in place snapped, and the entire neck post came out.  I put the neck post back inside the neck, and put the doll's head back on.  You can't tell by looking at her or posing her, but she is damaged goods, which will be an issue if I ever decide to do another head swap with this particular doll.

Mixis

The Mixis dolls are unique.  There is a thick elastic band that extends from the neck and goes through a hole in a flat plastic disk, and the band is tied in a knot on top of the disk.  The disk holds the doll's head in place.  To remove this head, I used my smallest crochet needle.  After heating the doll's head, tug slightly to reveal the elastic band.
Barbie head being removed from Mixis body

Insert the crochet needle into the doll's head through the neck opening, and turn the plastic disk to the side.  Then, grab the opposite side of the disk with the hook, squeeze the doll's head so that the neck hole is elongated, and slide the disk out.

Kenya

Kenya doll heads are very difficult to remove, so use extreme caution if you do not want to do damage to the head or the body.  The Kenya neck post is a set of double prongs that extend like hooks (see photo in the table below).  After heating the doll head, use the smallest size screwdriver (like the size for watch screws) and insert that into the doll head at the neck opening.  Find one side of a bottom prong and carefully guide the doll's head over it.  Do the same with the other side.  Then do the same for the second set of prongs.

What to Expect

For me, one cause of apprehension comes from not knowing what type of neck post to expect when I make the decision to remove a doll's head.  Here are some of the neck posts that I've encountered so far:

American Champions - Barbie heads will fit on this body, and vice versa

Barbie - See instructions for Barbie and Friends above.

 
BFC, Ink - The neck post on this doll is nearly the same as Bratz dolls.
 
Blythe - Barbie heads will fit on a Blythe body.
Bratz - Bratz heads fit BFC, Ink dolls, and vice versa.
 
Bratz Kidz - Bratz Kidz heads fit on Sparkle Girlz bodies, and vice versa.
 
Disney Descendants - Barbie heads will fit on this body, and vice versa
Holly Hobbie & Friends - Mattel - The same as Barbie. Barbie heads will fit on this body, and vice versa
 
Integrity Toys - Barbie heads will fit on this body, and vice versa
 
Jakks Pacific - Other doll heads will fit on this body, but may sit a bit high on the neck.
 
Juku Couture - The head can be difficult to remove because of the small neck hole and the hard vinyl of the doll's head.
 
Kenya - See instructions for Kenya above.  Barbie heads will fit on Kenya, and vice versa.
 
Keyshia - Similar to Mattel's Janet, Todd, and Stacy
 
Liv - Slightly smaller neck post than Barbie.  Perfect fit for Skipper-sized dolls and HSM dolls.
 
Mattel High School Musical, Hadley and Isla - See instructions for Barbie and Friends above.  The HSM neck post is slightly larger than the other 2.  Hadley and Isla have the same size neck post as Janet (Stacy) and Todd.
 
From left to right: HSM, Isla, Hadley
Mattel Mermaid (small) - The head of this doll will fit loosely on the Juku Couture body, but Juku Couture heads will not fit on this body without modification.
 
Mattel Todd and Janet (Stacy) - May or may not have a pronged neck post (see instructions for Barbie and Friends above).
 
Mixis - See instructions for Mixis above.  Do not perform too many head removals with these, as the elastic band will fray over time.
 
Monster High - The tall neck post makes the head even more difficult to remove (see instructions for Barbie and Friends above).
 
Only Hearts Club - Be careful of the doll's eyes when you are removing the head.
 
Sparkle Girlz - Sparkle Girlz heads will fit on Bratz Kidz bodies, and vice versa.
 
Wee Three Friends - See instructions for Barbie and Friends above.  The neck post is about the same size as Barbie's.
 
Doll Heads – From left to right:  Monster High, Only Hearts Club, Barbie, Juku Couture, and Wee Three Friends.
 

Head Swapping Doll Heads to Action Figure Bodies

Here are some items that may come in handy if you want to use a doll head with an action figure body, but you do not want to make permanent modifications:
  • Small plastic grapes from the Arts and Crafts store
  • Flat washers from a tub and shower repair kit


I learned the plastic grape method from Seneschal of Avalon.  It is the method that I used when I put Opal's head on an action figure body.  The action figure body that I used has a cone-shaped neck post, and Opal's head would not stay on.  Use a small (1/2 inch diameter) plastic grape over the neck post.

Once I placed the small plastic grape over the neck post, Opal's head fit perfectly and it has full range of motion.

I used the same method for Tariq when I moved his head to an action figure body.  But in his case, the head was still a bit wobbly after attaching the small plastic grape.  I used a flat washer along with the grape, and the wobble is gone (at least I think that this is a flat washer - someone correct me if I'm wrong).

Tariq after the procedure

Have you found other common household items useful when rebodying dolls?  Tell me what you've used!

Swapping Female Hot Toys Head to Other Action Figure

Hot Toys female figures come with a ball and socket neck attachment, so they are different than other action figures with the cone-shaped neck post. The plastic grape method will not work.
Neck post for a Triad Alpha body

 Triad Alpha head on the left, Hot Toys head on the right

 I asked for help from fellow collector Codename Silent G and he told me about this method. I purchased some vinyl shelf caps from Home Depot. I purchased a pack with large and small caps because that's all they had, but I only needed the small ones.

I gathered the items that I would need:  a vinyl shelf cap, a ruler, scissors, something sharp and sturdy enough to cut through hard plastic (I used garden shears, but wire cutters will also work), and a metal nail file (sandpaper would probably work better).

I cut off the bottom 1/16" of one of the shelf caps with scissors. Then I cut off the top 1/16" of the neck knob of the Alpha body with the garden shears. I used the metal nail file to smooth out the neck knob after I had cut off the tip.

I submerged the shelf cap in boiling hot water for 1 minute, and then I pushed it down on the Alpha neck post as far as it would go. This turned the neck post into a vinyl ball that would grip the inside socket of the Hot Toys head. Then I attached the head, and it is now securely attached and has full range of motion.
Hot Toys Sheva Alomar head on Triad Alpha body

Important:  I am not an expert.  If you choose to remove your doll's head, you risk doing permanent and irreparable damage to your doll, like I did to my Hottiez Kiara doll below:

42 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing these useful head removal instructions, tips, and images. I am always hesitant to rebody not knowing the type head connector used. This information will eliminate my apprehension.

    dbg

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    1. I forgot to mention that I really appreciate the plastic grape tip. Now... to find those plastic grapes. Wish I still had the ones my mother used to display on the dining room table back in the day with the other fake fruit. Those wonderful 60s.

      dbg

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    2. You're welcome, Debbie! I'm glad that you've found this useful. Hobby Lobby has the plastic grapes. Make sure that you get the small ones!

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  2. Thanks for this information - it will be really useful. I have swapped a few Ken heads but was rather hesitant to do more, your pictures and tips will be a great resource.

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    1. You're welcome, Carrickters! I haven't done any swaps with Ken heads, but I do want to eventually.

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  3. Great tutorial, many thanks! The plastic grape tip will be very helpful as I often rebody clones who have larger neck openings on branded doll bodies.

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    1. Thanks limbe dolls! I'm glad that this was helpful. :)

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  4. Hello from Spain: interesting analysis. Very useful. Keep in touch

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  5. Thanks for sharing this, I have broken in the past one of my Barbies's neck as I didn't know how to do it, thanks!

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    1. You're welcome, Barbiecafe! I hope that those Barbie neck breakages are a thing of the past. :)

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  6. As a person who has preformed many-O-headswaps, it is still a change some days. It is something not tackled on daya that you are in a hurry or days that you are already having a bad day! You need to be calm and centered! LOL! I haven't done any Only Hearts dolls! I will keep your info in mind when I do. Thanks for the post!

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    1. You're welcome, Ms. Leo! Whenever I have a head swap in mind, I do a google search to see if I can find someone who has done it before and what their results were. I've sometimes come across images of your past head swaps, and they have helped me. I remember specifically finding your GI Joe Ripcord rebody helpful. Thanks!

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  7. Great tutorial! I have removed several Mattel heads, but thus great for various other dolls. Thanks!!

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    1. Thank you, Georgia Girl, and you're welcome!

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  8. Great post. That first picture is hilarious! It's nice to see all the head connectors. The plastic grape is a nice tip. I have a ton of them on my kitchen table.

    Love your background picture.

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    1. Thanks, Vanessa! In that first photo, I tried my best to get the entire "Waiting to Exhale" phrase to appear in the photo, but couldn't quite make it. :)

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  9. Very helpful tutorial, Roxanne! Thanks for sharing it. I especially appreciate reading how to rebody the Mixis dolls. Yay! Although I do like their bodies ... in spite of the posing limits ....

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    1. Thank you, D7ana! I like the Mixis bodies, also, and I'm glad to have mine back in rotation.

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  10. Great post, I like doll head removal.

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  11. Yes, that plastic ring thingie is a washer. Cool. So you use that. I'm overdue getting one that will fit my Flavas P Bo doll who I rebodied onto a Johanna Dark body.

    Thanks for sharing these tips.

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    1. Thanks D7ana! When I saw the washers in that tub & shower kit, I knew that I had to confiscate that from my husband and add it to my dolly tools drawer. :)

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  12. I'm getting a Fashion Royalty doll rerooted soon and I may need to remove her head myself, so I'm glad I found your blog! Did you need to use the tools pictured above to get the head off or did it come off easily? I'm so nervous and I don't want to ruin an expensive FR doll.

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    1. Hi Talolili, I was nervous too when it came to removing the Fashion Royalty head, but actually it was one of the easier ones! Once you heat the head sufficiently, the vinyl becomes quite a bit softer and it is pretty easy to remove the head. I submerged mine in boiling hot water in a freezer bag for 5 minutes as described and pictured above. The neck post does not have any prongs or anything like that, so it's pretty straightforward. I've read that it can be difficult to re-root a Fashion Royalty doll because of the hard vinyl that the head is made of, but I've seen it done. I'd love to see yours once it's finished!

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  13. Have you ever removed the head of a Hairspray Doll (Tracy or Edna Turnblad)? Thanks!

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    1. Hi Nikia, I have a Tracy Turnblad doll, but I have never tried to remove her head.

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    2. This is wonderful information thank you so much the ever after high dolls are the exact same method as the monster high dolls i hope this comment helps those wanting to find out about the ever after high dolls

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    3. Thank you, Lucia! I don't have an Ever After High doll, so thanks so much for sharing the information that the head removal method is the same as it is for Monster High dolls.

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  14. Your most welcome im happy to help anyone who may need it

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  15. Lucia, your comment that the head removal process is the same for Ever After High dolls as it is for Monster High was *exactly* the info I was looking for! :) Thanks so much for sharing!

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    1. Thanks for visiting, Amy! I'm glad that you were able to get the information that you were looking for. :)

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  16. Roxanne you do not know how usefull this post has been. Thank you so much.
    Rafael

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    1. You're welcome Rafael! I'm glad that I was able to help! :)

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  17. Will Monster High doll heads fit on a Barbie/Ken doll? I'm trying to make a doll, and I have the perfect Ken head, but I need a thinner body than the muscled Ken ones. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Emily, I have not done any head swaps with Ken dolls, so I don't know if Ken and Monster High heads are swappable. As for the female dolls, Barbie and Monster High heads are swappable, but sometimes the fit is a bit tight or loose. I swapped Clawdeen Wolf's head with Isla's and Clawdeen's head was loose on Isla's body. You can see more about that on this post: http://roxannesdolls.blogspot.com/2011/01/isla-rebodied.html.

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  18. Have you swapped heads of Mattel Chelsea/ Kelly dolls? I want to swap my favorite Chelsea head onto a Barbie in a Pony Tale articulated Chelsea body.

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    1. Hi HeatherC, no I haven't swapped any Chelsea/Kelly heads. Good luck with your swap!

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  19. Thank you for your helpful tips! My wife does not care to remove and install doll heads, so guess who gets to do it? :)

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    1. You're welcome! I'm glad that you've found the information here helpful. :)

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  20. Hi. I was wondering if it's possible to swap a Barbie evolution head onto a gi Jane body? Or maybe onto a triad body?

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    1. Hi mz.mew, I'm not familiar with Barbie evolution - do they have the same type of head as Barbie? If so, then their heads can go onto a Triad body using the plastic grape method above. I've never swapped a GI Jane head, so I'm not sure how that would be accomplished.

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