Wednesday, February 23, 2011

You Don’t Have to be a New Guinea Warrior to Shrink Heads


About a month ago, I read a discussion in Flickr about shrinking doll head with acetone without damaging the face paint and hair. When I first read this story, I thought that it was a myth. Acetone is the chemical that we use to remove the factory paint on dolls. Submerging a doll head into a bottle of acetone without damaging the face paint sounds impossible to me! Shrinking a mold is possible but shrinking a finished product? I doubt it! However, after seeing the experimental pictures of Cholo (previous article on Cholo, please click here), then I realize that we could shrink heads like New Guinea Warrior.


(1)    What inspired you to do the head shrink?

---- Never really warmed up to Tonner body and their articulation so I decided to gamble on changing the body into an AG, even though I know for a fact that it will never be a perfect fit.

(2)    What dolls have you tried?  Are the procedures different?

---- I’ve tried to shrink bigger Barbie heads before and it worked (though I must credit Anj, my fellow doll customizer and artist who gave me the tip before (Gabooche in Flickr)

(3) What would be the attention points before, during and after the “operation”?

---- Always do tests... have practice heads around so you wouldn't ruin the project itself. Get familiar with the process and results.


(4)    What equipment, tools, materials, working environment that are needed?  Any idea where to get the equipments and measurement? How to judge how long time is needed?

---- Its basically just acetone, a bottle with tight lid and a well ventilated space. I should warn you of the fumes created by acetone, you don't want to inhale much of it.

About the bottle, make sure it is as small as possible so you would easily submerge the head totally in acetone. The acetone is actually just you over the counter nail polish remover. But different brands carry different strengths, so ratio here is the higher the concentration, the faster the results... and faster doesn't really help on zooming in to the size you want. You should check frequently by taking it out of the solution, running or stagnant water to rid of the acetone (don't touch the face if you want to retain the face paint) and letting the fumes evaporate, and when your not satisfied still, do the process again.

(5)   What are the procedures?

  • Prepare the vessel to place the head, and pour in acetone until completely submerged.
  • Soak for 12 hours first. or more if you wanted a smaller head. (refer to #4 answer for tips)
  • After soaking, wash head with running water to get rid of the acetone.
  • Maybe just enough time to wash it off... 2 mins or so face down the pouring water.
  • Let the fumes evaporate in a well ventilated space, under the sun is best though. but after 24 hours, most of the fumes should have been long gone.

(6) Doll head materials are vary, some are soft vinyl like Barbie, or harder one like Tonner. How long should it take to shrink each of them?

----- There is no golden numbers to follow actually, while a good 24 hours would make a Bratz head shrink into Barbie size, for Tonner heads to AG size, i suggest just 12 hours or overnight (it worked for mine) or if still uncertain, check every 6 hours or so, then let the fumes evaporate completely... if not satisfied you could do the process over again. Its better to not over do it for the results are irreversible.

(7)    After the head is shrunk, if it is not small enough, could we repeat the procedures again?

---- Yes. (refer to #4)

5459547943_611da7dcb0_zCompare: The two heads are almost the same size, though Joan's chin is prominent compared to AG.

(8)  Would the materials (vinyl, plastics) be damaged, like cracks etc.?

----- be careful not to shrink heads too much. The smaller the head gets, the harder it becomes, and the more fragile it becomes too... too hard of a head can crack along the hairline.

(9) What if the shrinkage on the neck hole is too much?

---- About neck holes, have an exacto knife ready for scraping. As for the Tonner head to AG body experiment of mine. I scraped off some around the hole area, just enough to accommodate the knob of the AG body which is bigger than the former body. I did NOT push the knob all the way in actually. As for 1;6 scale bodies, since most of the neck knobs are similar, and the neck holes hard after shrinking, a simple heat application (like a blow dryer or hot water) will soften the hole and simply attach it. So, just observe if there is tightening along the neck ring. If so, just remove it again and scrape some off for movement.

5459549541_d8fa807004_z5460158182_793df73e51Tonner had a smaller knob and a thicker neck... while AG had a bigger knob and thinner neck. So that’s a lot to deal with.

5459552857_8f46596f65_osince the head had shrunk, I could not accommodate the larger knob of the AG body, so I scraped some around the ring just enough to hold the knob, it would shrink more in time as the acetone evaporates and harden it back to its texture (it became soft after the soak, like Barbies) and eventually tightening the grip to the knob. I scraped off some too along the chin and jaw areas for up and down and sideways motion since it fitted like a Ken Doll before.

5460161410_be49c3168c_zNot Perfect, but on studio pictures, its tolerable. Not snug, I just placed the AG knob which was bigger compared to Tonner just enough to hold it, Not all the way

(10) Could we enlarge it back again?  Or if we could enlarge AG’s head to Tonner’s head size?

---- I have no idea. But I don’t think its possible.



1. if you can handle the acetone fumes after soaking, this is the best time to re-root a Tonner head (which is hard and thick than usual heads)... the head is actually soft and manageable after the soaking and rinsing process. Re-rooting needles bore in effortlessly to the scalp, and as the fumes evaporate, the head comes back to a harder form, sealing all the re-rooted hair in place.

2. Practice makes perfect. Practice with thrift store heads, and try on different strengths of acetone that you feel you are comfortable with.

3. Be familiar with what your working with. There are tones of comparison pictures online like in this page . Remember, not all heads would work with just any body.

4. And most of all... have FUN! (While wearing a gas mask of course) LOLs.

===========================================================Cholo’s Contacts:

To learn more about Cholo, please visit Cholo's personal blog and Cholo's Flickr Link.

Cholo’s email: mailto:

Picture credit: Cholo

All rights reserved. Please do NOT reuse any materials or write-up without prior writing for permission.


smidge girl said...

This is fantastic! Thanks for doing such a thorough interview! I've heard about this before too, but never in enough detail to fully get it. I'm definitely going to give it a try! :)

D7ana said...

Wow! Thanks, Cliff! This is sooo tempting. Questions though ...

1. Can you dispose of any excess acetone by pouring it down the drain or should you re-use the acetone for removing nail polish?

2. Has anyone tried shrinking Sideshow heads?

Thanks for sharing.

Oh, and I like how you have a link to your Doll Community Feedback Board positive feedback. Would you mind if I borrowed that idea on my blog?

djeweler said...

1. Can you dispose of any excess acetone by pouring it down the drain or should you re-use the acetone for removing nail polish?--- actually you can. because in the process there is no actual chemical reaction, more of the vinyl absorbing the acetone and changing texture and consistency...

as for your second question, i really have no idea what sideshow heads are... but for as long as its vinyl, it would work. hope that helped.


djeweler said...

1. Can you dispose of any excess acetone by pouring it down the drain or should you re-use the acetone for removing nail polish?
---> you can actually. the process is more a physical reaction than a chemical one. the acetone is absorbed by the vinyl, thus changing texture and consistency. but the rest of the acetone, you can reuse it for you nails and repainting work.

as for your #2 question,since i have no idea what sideshow heads are, all i can tell you is that for as long as its vinyl, it would work.

hope that helped diana. :)

Cliff - Hong Kong said...

smidge girl: Be brave and try it, then tell us what the result is!! Good luck!

Cliff - Hong Kong said...

D7ana: You are most welcome. Cholo has kindly helped to answered your questions!

Sideshow is a plastic head as well, so I guess it would be able to do so. The question is how long should the head be submerged in the acetone before it shrinks to the size that your desired!

However, as Cholor mentioned in the article, use some other dolls with similar materials to do test first. We don't want you to ruin your favorite doll! :-P

Good luck and please share your result with us!

Cliff - Hong Kong said...

D7ana: Oops, sorry I have forgotten your request on the Positive Feeback Link...Of course, you are most welcome to use the same idea!!!


Anonymous said...

Hi Cliff,
It`s been some time now since your procedure. Could you tell me if any side-effects had occured, like discoloration of the vinyl or hair, or anything else?
Thanks in advance!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this great blog! Exactly what brand of acetone did you use? Could you possibly post a picture of the kind you used?