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.
- 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.
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.
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 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:
Barbie - See instructions for Barbie and Friends above.
BFC, Ink - The neck post on this doll is nearly the same as Bratz dolls.
Bratz - Bratz heads fit BFC, Ink dolls, and vice versa.
Bratz Kidz - Bratz Kidz heads fit on Sparkle Girlz bodies, and vice versa.
Integrity Toys - Barbie heads will fit on this body, and vice versa
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.
Mattel Mermaid - 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 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: