How to put a Ball Jointed Doll BJD together by Cindy McClure

There are a lot of theories floating around out there about how to put a Ball Jointed Doll together, the truth is that each doll created will be put together differently because of her measurements. But this might help. The construction and engineering of the inner workings of a BJD will consist of:
1.dowel pins epoxied into each joint of your BJD.
2. Line each joint with leather (soft side glued to the porcelain, shiny side of leather out, very important)
3. Assemble your springs, swivels, and s-hooks.The picture below is a sample of how one portion of the Ball Jointed Doll (BJD) assembly is constructed; each section will be different:

The size and tension of your springs are key. I can’t tell you what size to use because each doll is different so you will have to purchase several sizes and test them for each joint. After purchasing about $600 worth of different sizes with different tensions I finally came up with the combination that works for my doll. It’s a pain, but worth it. I was, however surprised at how tight the spring tension has to be.

Each s-hook for your BJD will most likely be custom, there’s just no getting around it. Be sure to use round nose pliers so that the side connecting the joint is perfectly round. Round nose pliers are used by jewelers and look like this:

4. Assembling your Ball Jointed Doll starts with the hands and feet first. You must assemble each extremity separately before connecting it to the torso.
5. The most important step is to document each spring, swivel and s-hook combination you try, lay it out and take a picture. I am a professional at Adobe photoshop so it was easy for me to take a picture of my doll (actual size) and then when each section was figured out I took a picture of those combination’s and overlayed them so that I ended up with a detailed diagram of her assembly. Here is a sample of what I’m talking about:


I detailed the exact size, tension, and where I purchased each piece. Many of the pieces were special ordered because few places will carry enough of each spring that you would need. My doll consists of 17 springs, 12 swivels, and 25 s-hooks.

Is a Ball Jointed Doll worth all this work? Absolutely!! Nothing compares to the flexibility and ease of posing these dolls, and they hold a pose. Here are a few more pictures I thought you might like, the first is from the original sculpt after I cut her apart to joint her:

 

I’m sure there are lots of questions, please feel free to ask! In the mean time, I’m working on the costume design for the next one.

 

 

 

I detailed the exact size, tension, and where I purchased each piece. Many of the pieces were special ordered because few places will carry enough of each spring that you would need. My doll consists of 17 springs, 12 swivels, and 25 s-hooks.

Is a Ball Jointed Doll worth all this work? Absolutely!! Nothing compares to the flexibility and ease of posing these dolls, and they hold a pose. Here are a few more pictures I thought you might like, the first is from the original sculpt after I cut her apart to joint her:

46 Comments

  1. Your work shows perfection in Toy Engineering

  2. crystal bernard

    Wow I thank you! I’ve been working on a ball jointed doll and I want to use springs instead of elastic. These pictures are very interesting and really help. What a beautiful doll!

    • cindy

      Thank you for the compliment! I can appreciate the “I’ve been working on…..”, it takes a LOT of time and precision so don’t rush it! I’ve been working on doll two’s costume design for quite a while and will be posting step by step pictures in a couple weeks of what I’m doing.

  3. Hi, Your doll looks very beautiful and well made. I’ve only recently decided to try and build one myself and my question is, how do you hollow out the limbs in order to get the elastic or springs inside the arms and legs? I’ve attempted some limbs in Sculpey but, I’ve been unable to hollow them out, they get chipped, brittle and tend to fall apart. Is there a special drill or some other tool that would make this process easier. Thanks for your examples.

    • cindy

      Good question, thank you for asking. Making a BJD (ball jointed doll) strictly in sculpey is not a good idea. It would be virtually impossible to hollow the pieces out in order to joint a sculpey doll and the sculpey would not be strong enough to withstand the tension of the springs. I used sculpey strictly to sculpt the doll, then I made plaster molds from the sculpey pieces. After the plaster molds have been made then you would pour liquid porcelain (commonly called “slip”) into the plaster molds, wait for approximately 4 to 7 minutes depending upon how small the pieces are, then you would drain the porcelain from the molds. After the molds have been drained, you would let them sit for approximately 45 minutes to an hour, and then you would open the molds and take the shells out. The hollow insides are created by draining the molds which just leaves the outside form of the doll parts. If you have never worked with porcelain I would suggest you take a doll class just to learn the basics. If no classes are available then you can still learn to do this yourself, that’s how I did it, I just dove right in, one step at a time. Because there are so many parts to a ball jointed doll, you can expect to pay around $2,000 to $3,000 (or more) to have the molds made from your sculpts. However, if they end up needing adjusting, which they most likely will if it’s your first attempt, then be prepared to spend a lot more. Ball Jointed Dolls are extremely costly to make and are labor intensive. I’m not trying to discourage you, I just want to prepare you so that there are little surprises once you get into it. I think this is a good discussion so I will take pictures of the process of mold making as well as the pouring process in future blogs.

  4. Wow! Thanks for such an in-depth reply. Yes, this whole doll making thing sounds very involved but, also intriguing….and fun!! So much to learn.
    Good to know that the Sculpey can’t handle a lot of tension so I will have to stick with string or elastic. I will have to work my way up to using porcelain and will focus on sculpting before I’m ready to pour anything. BTW I read about a way to have the hollow limbs in polymer…you form them around drinking straws, and then pull the straws out after they’re baked. I tried this the other day and it does seem to work so that should help me for now.
    Thanks again for sharing your knowledge on this process and for the encouragement to dive in. I will keep checking your posts to keep informed.

    • cindy

      Let me know how you do with the drinking straws! Hope it works for you. I know what it’s like to start a project. When I started making dolls it was a good thing that I didn’t really understand everything involved or I probably would have quit. If your doll is tiny, and the joint balls are strong enough to hold up, you might give the springs a try. Elastic makes your dolls do crazy things in regards to holding a pose without effecting other joints at the same time, I’d like to see this work for you!

    • cindy

      One more thing, just remember that you will need a LOT of room in the body so that each joint is connected separately. If the hole in the top of the lower torso isn’t roomy, then you won’t have much mobility in the upper torso portion. Hope that makes sense to you. The same stands for the upper leg and upper arm portions. You will need plenty of room for the stringing mechanism to slide down through the slits in the joints in order for the leg/arms to bend at a 45 degree angle.

  5. Surprise! You truly covered this subject well. Are there other choices that i will have to verify out?

  6. So that’s why the slits are so big…had been wondering about that. Okay. I will make multiple limbs to figure out what works…I still don’t have my mind around this process as a whole but, that’s what learning and discovering is about. For my first attempt I’ve cut the torso as well. I think it will be easier to put the doll together, but we will see.
    Thanks Cindy! I’ll let you know how this comes along.

  7. Hey, thanks for the awesome posting. I’m having troubles with subscribing to your blogs feed. Thought I’d let you know ;)

    • cindy

      Thanks for the heads up, I am very new to blogging so I’ll find out what I need to do from my web designer!

    • cindy

      Thank you for the heads up, the RSS feed has been repaired.

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