Monday, February 14, 2011

Restringing tutorial, part I: the torso

The perfect hand!, originally uploaded by alington.
This is the first in a series of two parts on how to restring your BJD. Every BJD owner needs to know how and be comfortable with restringing. It can be intimidating at first; but if you have the right tools, and some good instructions, you'll be able to do it on your own--even the first time. My model is a Jollyplus Jise.

Supplies. Click to enlarge.
Supply list:
  • Elastic cord (1/4" or a little thinner - I buy mine in 10 yard lengths from Kemper DollsMint on Card also carries elastic and S-hooks, and their shipping is much better than bulk orders from Kemper.)
  • Hemostats, at least one pair
  • Chopsticks
  • Stringing tool or pipe cleaner (if needed)
  • Glass of wine, legally prescribed Xanax or Valium (if needed--and I'm only partly kidding)
Start with an unstrung doll. It's wise to label the parts--or make sure you can identify the left and right pieces--so you don't have to restring the doll more than once. You can label each piece with a small L or R to identify them before unstringing the doll.

Most companies make it easy to unstring their dolls. Do this by removing your doll's hands and feet. (You will pull out two loops of elastic.) If your doll's hands and feet are on o-rings, you will need to remove the doll's head (open the head cap, and twist the S hook to the side, and slip it through the neck opening) first. Then, slip the elastic off the S hook. You should be able to pull the elastic cords.

The elastic you remove may still be in usable condition. Signs of wear include extra stretchy elastic, worn places in the elastic, or elastic that has been discolored or stretches unevenly. I usually replace the elastic. The loop sizes will give you an idea of the length you need. Don't cut to size yet, though.

Next, we'll get started with the actual stringing process.

Make a loop with your untied elastic, and push the loop through one upper arm piece. If you need to use a stringing tool, use it. Push the tool through the arm, hook the elastic loop through the tool, and then pull the elastic through the arm. If you don't have a stringing tool, try threading the loop with a pipe cleaner, and pushing that through the canal.

Now, push the loop through the lower arm. If your doll has double-jointed arms, there may be an elbow piece in between. Don't forget to check that the pieces fit together, and they are right side up before threading them together.

This is what your work in progress should look like now.
Now, push the wrist joint onto the loop. I've tightened my elastic a bit here also.
For now, use a chopstick as a placeholder for the hand. This will make it easier for you to adjust the tension later.

Thread the elastic through the torso. The longer side of the elastic will go through both arm sockets.

The shorter piece of elastic is threaded through the torso only, and down to the bottom of the torso.
On the opposite arm, make a loop with the remaining elastic, and thread the longer piece of elastic back through the unstrung arm socket.
Both pieces of elastic should meet in the torso. You'll have one arm strung with pieces, and a loop on the other side.

At this point, take the hemostats and hold both elastic ends and clamp them. They don't have to be tight--just so you don't lose them while you're stringing the other arm.

Now, push the elastic through the unstrung arm pieces, just like you did the first arm in the above photos.

(You can see more photos on my Flickr photostream.)
Now comes the exciting part: adjusting the tension.

I use an "inchworm" method in order to save on elastic. Basically, you'll be pulling only one side of the elastic to tighten.

Keep one side of the elastic clamped with the hemostats to keep it from slipping.

Feed one side of the elastic through the entire length of the doll's stringing to tighten.

See how it looks like an inchworm?

This is the most time-consuming part of restringing, but it's important. Too-tight stringing can risk chipping resin and really kicky dolls. If you string too loosely, your doll will be floppy and won't hold a pose.

So use a trial and error method to get a tension that feels right.

A doll that is strung well will be able to hold a pose without feeling too kicky.

Some kickiness is good--it's a sign of fresh elastic. And you can suede a doll to help this a bit, too.

As soon as you have a tension that feels good for you, tie a knot. Surgical knots are great. Or, slip the ends through the arm hole and tie a square knot. Then gently pull the knot back through arm hole to the torso.

Trim off extra elastic, but leave some ends, just in case you need to re-tie.
Now, attach the hands, carefully removing the chopsticks.

If your doll has hands with S-hooks, you'll want to use the hemostats to hold the elastic while you hook them on.

If your doll has resin hooks, be very careful not to snap the hooks off while stringing. Superglue can fix most resin breaks, but not hooks. They hold too much tension.

The newly strung torso! Great job, guys!


  1. Thanks so much for posting this, Alison. What great information for a beginner. I think I'd like to try it!

  2. I think you should, too. Especially if you're comfortable boiling vintage Barbie parts. ;)

  3. Does this work on hopscotch hill doll

    1. Hi, I'm not familiar with this brand of doll, but restringing elastic works pretty much the same for jointed dolls, as far as I know. :)


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