A daily dose of creative suspense.

Stringing my porcelain ball-jointed doll.

Stringing dolls
This is how I strung my first doll.

Shows how I strung the elastic in my doll.

Marina Bychkova- (Her last doll sold on ebay went for $7,799.00 US.“The articulation of my resin Enchanted Dolls is the same as my porcelain dolls.  All the joints were altered to improve a movement range and after testing all kinds of stinging up methods and playing with elastics, I realized why I developed a steel spring articulation to begin with: it’s because elastics absolutely SUCK compared to carbon springs. They suck. Sucky-sucky-suck-suck.”

“This is different at least in part from Marina’s method because it is clear from the location of the pins that EDs have two springs in each arm. I doubt Marina uses elastic anywhere in EDs, but the wire would explain a lot.”
“There are pins at ankle and bottom of knee, with spring between. Then top of knee and hip, spring between. the arms are the same (wrist- bottom of elbow, and top of elbow to top of arm).  There are no pins in the body though.”

“Small springs, some fishing swivels, some stainless steel wire for pins and s-hooks, and do some experimenting.

Marina developed her spring-tensioned stringing design based on Martha Armstrong-Hand’s book.”

“Basically, you’ll need a pin at each terminating joint. A terminating joint is a joint that the string stops at (it does not go through it to another joint). Examples of terminating joints are the hands and feet. The string goes through joints like the elbows and knees, so they aren’t terminating joints.

Attached to the pins at the terminating joints are S-hooks. The S-hooks go through the slit in the joint. At the other end, the S-hooks are attached to a spring, or a swivel. You’ll have to decide which is more appropriate for the joint, a swivel, or a spring.

S-hooks go through elbow and knee joints, and slide through the slits in those joints. Martha seems to have used a combination of springs and elastic. She also used wire. Her doll heads did not open, so the head is another terminating joint. You can see hardware on the top of her doll’s heads.

Using springs for tensioning dolls has been around for a long time! Part of the fun of designing a doll is to invent your own spring-tensioning system.”

Epoxy is what is used to secure the pins. Pigments are used to color the epoxy to match the skin color of the porcelain. Epoxy is like resin. Actually, epoxy is resin.

Aidamaris Roman both make Porcelain BJDs and they use springs for tensioning the BJD.

Martha Armstrong-Handalso used springs in her porcelain dolls. Martha Armstrong-Hand had several different designs for spring-tensioning dolls, not just one.

Anyway, if you’re going to cast in resin (which is much lighter in weight than porcelain), you should be able to string your dolls with round doll elastic cord.
1. Evidently, porcelain is a wee bit more abrasive than other materials, and elastic will wear out more quickly.
2. Because elastic is usually strung from the head, through the body, down to the ankles (one loop per ankle – two loops subtotal), and from one wrist, through the torso, to the other wrist (one loop subtotal), for a grand total of three loops in the doll; the elastic goes through several joints. When elastic goes through several joints, moving one joint has the possibility of causing movement in other joints.
3. Using springs and swivels with s-hooks attached to pins inserted through several joints, allows individual joints to be moved without affecting the other other joints. Essentially, each joint is individually tensioned.I understand that using elastic to test joint design is a good idea, during the design phase of making a doll, because it is quick and easy, and gives the designer a good idea of how the whole doll will pose under tension, and how individual joints will work with weight on them.

Joint Padding-
twigling, in her Zen booklet, recommends pliver for sueding:

Socket friction can be added by gluing in
thin pieces of leather, called pliver; or by coating the sockets with a thin
layer of hot-melt glue from a glue gun. Hot-glue sueding is a quick and
dirty method which is reversible and needs to be redone relatively
often. Pliver sueding is more time consuming to do, but also more
durable if the right glue is used. The use of pliver is a throwback to
antique porcelain dolls where leather was glued between the joints to
prevent the sound of porcelain surfaces rubbing together. The pliver
used to suede a balljointed doll is thin and flexible, but a quite fragile.
The flexibility means that it can be stretched and shaped to fit into a
socket without needing to cut it into a specific shape.
Pliver is the top portion of a full grain lambskin after the skin has been split, the bottom half being sold as suede.
It is very thin, and suitable for crafts such as dollmaking, clock and camera repair, leather painting or calligraphy.

source of pliver on EBay:

http://cgi.ebay.com/Thin-Sheepskin-L…oQQcmdZViewIte


Once you get a design on paper that you think will work, get some springs, swivels, and wire, and try it. After you make the first one, you'll more than likely have another idea of how to do it, even better. You may need some needle-nose pliers, and whatever other tools are needed to work with wire. Don't forget to wear safety goggles, so when you snip off wire to make an S-hook, the pieces don't hit you in the eye!


You don’t need two swivels in a given section (between two joint pins), so maybe you can save a few pieces there? One swivel will give you the full range of turning and keep bad stuff from happening to your spring.

1. Barrel Swivel 2. Crane Swivel 3. Snap Swivel- Martha used the Barrel Swivels to string her dolls with

More Links about Using Springs for Doll stringing:
Cindy McClure taks about how she does it

10 responses

  1. This was the best class. Very well explained. Thank you. I have some questions and I wonder if you can answer them. Please contact me.

    best regards,

    M.Z.

    March 30, 2012 at 12:12 AM

  2. Rachael

    I’m confused about the last two pictures. There’s a very clear example of physical swivels, springs, and S-hooks together, but in the very next picture (which is a drawing) there’s a wire in the hips that wasn’t there in the first picture and no spring in the bottom of the torso.

    September 3, 2012 at 7:26 PM

  3. katdazzle

    I am showing you several different ways to do it.

    September 4, 2012 at 12:29 PM

  4. You are almost there, but your torso mechanism that connects the legs to the body as well as the head will never work correctly. You MUST have independent connections in the torso for each leg separately as well as the head. You must embed strong dowel pins in the torso for independent connections. You are also lacking in the amount of swivels needed for the smoothest articulation. Hope this helps!!! Cindy McClure

    September 10, 2012 at 11:39 PM

    • katdazzle

      Thank you Cindy for your suggestions. I can’t wait to try them out.

      September 11, 2012 at 3:57 AM

  5. Karen b

    I have lots of porcelian doll parts I do not know what to do with all of them. My mother made them and painted also dress them. So gone an I have them ideas

    January 26, 2013 at 6:24 PM

  6. katdazzle

    Karen, If you enjoy making dolls, try finishing them yourself. Or sell them on Etsy.com. Artists could use them to make dolls, or use in collages or jewelry. In fact I have a spare hand right now in the kiln that I am going to wear as a necklace. I’ve seen doll arms screwed to a board to use as a coat hook. Well, a small coat- maybe a scarf!

    January 27, 2013 at 7:26 AM

  7. I started with making steel springs and swivels, but I am now more partial to dritz elastic and swivels. My rationale is that collectors know how to string dolls or will learn how to do it. With springs, the only way to fix it is to send the doll back to the artist who might already be retired or deceased by then. With Dritz elastic, owners can just go to a fabric store to get one. This is fast and cheap. It is very easy for a kid to pull out the spring and it will take a while to mail the doll back and forth for repairs. Dritz elastic is covered with fabric and you loop the connection and tie the ends together, that way you don’t just have a single sting holding the parts together. If the elastic wears off and breaks, the doll would not really fall apart like a pearl necklace, it will keep together until the owner safely restrings it. I’m sharing this tidbit because i realized that the way we sculpt and make dolls differ and art is art and very individualistic. If you are able to make your own doll, then welcome to the club and I’m very happy for you! This art takes forever and needs a lot of patience! Follow me on twitter (valzubiri) and my blog vzubiridollman.blogspot.com – Valentino Zubiri, author of Dollman the Musical and artist

    September 18, 2013 at 8:35 AM

  8. teva joseph

    Couple of (dumb) questions. How long do the swivels and springs last before they need replacement? Do they make a lot of creaking noises inside the porcelain?

    September 11, 2014 at 8:06 AM

    • katdazzle

      I don’t hear any creaks but then my dolls aren’t very old yet.

      September 12, 2014 at 4:57 AM

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