How to Restore Composition Dolls

Written by louise harding
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Composition dolls, made from sawdust and glue and pressed into moulds, saw their popularity rise in the 1920s and '30s. The composition formula was tinkered with throughout the 1940s and up until composition fell out of favour with the introduction of plastic dolls. Dolls such as Patsy, Shirley Temple, Scootles, kewpie and Dolly Dingle were the envy of every little girl. Today, composition dolls are highly sought after by doll collectors. Only a doll expert should handle extensive restoration to your composition doll, but there are cosmetic measures that you can do to improve the look and condition of your composition doll.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Towel
  • Vacuum cleaner with hose attachment
  • Pantyhose leg
  • Rubber band
  • Water putty powder (such as Durham's)
  • Sandpaper
  • Acrylic paint in the flesh tone of doll or Craze Control
  • Bowl
  • Cotton T-shirt scraps (4-by-4 inches) or small squares of sponge

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  1. 1

    Undress your doll and place it on a towel on a table. Place the leg of the pantyhose over the vacuum cleaner hose and secure with a rubber band. Gently vacuum the wig of the doll with the hose. Vacuum the joints and face of the doll. The pantyhose keeps the suction from sucking the hair into the vacuum, but allows dust to be removed. Don't comb the wig if it's mohair or human hair. Fluff wig with hands and style with fingers.

  2. 2

    Carefully chip off the paint with your fingernail around any damaged composition. Start with a small area such as around the neck, legs or the fingertips. Don't do this for very damaged dolls. Take dolls with damaged areas larger than a 50-cent piece to a doll doctor.

  3. 3

    Mix the water putty powder with enough water to roll the putty into a dough-like ball. Press the putty onto the spot where the composition has flaked or broken off. Mold to the surface or fill the hole. Allow to dry and then use the sandpaper to smooth.

  4. 4

    Pour the acrylic paint or Craze Control into the bowl. Dip the cotton T-shirt squares or small squares of sponge into the paint and rub the paint all over the doll. Start on the torso. Rub the paint into the cracks, known as "crazing," on the doll. Cover any putty repairs you've made. Don't allow the paint to sit in puddles on the doll, rub it into the cracks. Avoid the facial paint and eyes.

  5. 5

    Use a clean cotton square or sponge to polish the surface of the entire doll, removing excess paint or Craze Control. Allow the paint or Craze Control to dry. Craze Control is an oil-based product; acrylic paint will clean up with soap and water.

  6. 6

    Do not oil or add anything to the eyes. Many composition doll eyes are painted on, but eyes were also made of celluloid and metals. If the eyes are very damaged, they need to be removed and replaced by a doll expert.

  7. 7

    Touch up the facial paint or fingernails only if you have the art skills required, and then only lightly. Leave your doll as original as possible.

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