Celluloid Doll Repair

 

This poor body is in really sad shape as you can see. This is the first leather body I restored and I just figured it out as I went along. The broken celluloid was daunting at first, but I wanted to be able to do celluloid doll repair. This is a good first project.

First I took it apart as you see in the picture, then I started on the legs. I ironed WonderUnder onto some muslin to line and strengthen the leather. Then I took all the sawdust out of the lower legs and turned them wrong side out.

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Then I cut thin glove leather and glued it to the larger holes and the seam lines. Next I cut a rectangle of my prepared muslin and ironed it onto one of the seam lines so I could lay the muslin around the leg and cut it nearly to size. I rolled up a couple paper towels to put inside the leg so I could iron the muslin onto the leather. Next I cut the muslin to size.
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This picture shows the finished inside of the lower leg with the muslin ironed onto the leather. It also shows my firmly rolled up paper towels that I used on the inside of the leg so I could iron the muslin. Then I turned each leg right side out and finished ironing the muslin to the bottom of each torn leg. Then I cut pieces of glove leather to cover any larger holes in the leather and glued them on, but I cannot remember what kind of glue I used.

I wish I had taken more pictures now.  Then I stuffed the legs with new sawdust and tried on the lower legs to make sure I hadn’t stuffed too much. Then I finished filling the top of the leg with a little stuffing so the sawdust wouldn’t leak out the top. There was a torn, oval cardboard piece at the top, so I cut a new one and inserted it into the top of the leg and loosely stitched the opening closed. Then I cut new holes at the top and put a brass eyelet in each hole.

After removing the buttons and lower arms, the leather upper arms were so dirty and fragile that I just peeled the leather off and recovered the wooden part with new leather. I got these from a doll business in NY years ago when they were still in business. I don’t know where to purchase them now. I had to be really careful putting the celluloid arms back so I didn’t break them. Celluloid is so fragile. That is what makes celluloid doll repair so hard.

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Celluloid is very fragile and doesn’t like water, so  I used a barely damp cloth to wipe most of the dirt off the arms and legs. Then I tackled the puzzle of putting the leg together with super glue one piece at a time. There is a great, free celluloid repair guide on ebay. http://www.ebay.com/gds/Celluloid-doll-repair-guide-/10000000000962075/g.html  Then as I progressed, I dipped torn strips of muslin into glue to reinforce the inside of the leg. I found out later, that I could have used Gorilla glue also. When it was all dry, I sanded it smooth. I tried just sand paper, but it was so slow that I used my motorized sand-o-flex to get it all smooth. If I run my fingers over the celluloid now, it is completely smooth with no cracks or bumps.

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Then I pulled the upper body back and reinforced the leather with the ironed on muslin, like I did with the lower legs. Then I glued some leather patches on the upper body. I couldn’t find any way to clean the body, so I just wiped it carefully with my fingertips and hoped the paint would glue it all down (which it did). Then I used Angelus acrylic leather paint on all of the leather, except the label, let it dry, then gave it one more coat. I let the paint dry for a week before putting the body back together. Now I just need to find a head to fit!

Here are a couple pictures of the restored body. I need to take the legs off and air brush them before it is really finished. I just wanted to see it all together.

 

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I recently discovered the book "Celluloid Dolls Toys & Playthings" by Julie Pelletier Robinson that has references to celluloid repair throughout the book and a chapter on celluloid repair. She still sells the book, and answers her emails at celuloid@frontiernet.net 🙂 Now I am certain I will be able to tackle celluloid doll repair.