How to Repair Bisque Dolls

Written by louise harding | 13/05/2017
How to Repair Bisque Dolls
Bisque dolls have been popular since the 1840s. (doll image by Lyudmila B from

Bisque dolls are also known as china or glass dolls. According to Diane’s Dolls, “China is glazed, whereas bisque is unglazed.” Bisque dolls began production in the 1840s and remain popular today. Bisque dolls are fragile and often need repairs. Some common repairs are wig replacement, pate replacement, gluing broken limbs, and/or reattaching flange neck heads to cloth doll bodies. If you have an expensive or rare antique doll, it is best to allow a professional to complete repairs.

Remove the damaged wig by pulling it away from the head a little at a time. Your doll’s head will be a solid-dome head, meaning the head is formed with no opening in the top or the head will have a pate. A pate is made from rubber, cork, paper, or foam.

Examine the pate. According to All About Dolls, “If the pate appears to be in good condition, do not remove it. If the pate needs to be replaced, remember the shape of the pate will directly affect the way the wig fits.” Remove the pate by inserting a knife under the pate edges, prying away from the head.

How to Repair Bisque Dolls
You might need to try several different pates before exactly matching the doll's head. (doll image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from

Measure the opening in the doll’s head. The hole usually ranges from 2 to 5 inches in diameter and can be semicircular, circular, or shaped like a capital D. Pates can be hard to replicate exactly--especially antique pates--so replacement may involve experimenting.

Center the replacement pate over the head opening. Squirt glue around the hole’s edges. Press the pate against the glue. When the glue is dry, proceed with wig replacement.

Measure the head to determine wig size. According to All About Dolls, “Wrap a cloth tape measure around the circumference of your doll's head just behind the ears and across the forehead. Measurement should be in inches.” For example, a head measuring 13 inches in diameter wears a size 13-14 wig. Wigs are made of human hair, synthetic and natural fibres.

How to Repair Bisque Dolls
Wig caps are a little stretchy, but proper sizing is important. (small doll image by StephenD from

Use your fingers to “paint” glue over the pate/crown. Pull the wig cap over the glue. Allow the glue to dry.

Match the broken pieces of the bisque limb. Apply glue to the broken edges. Press the pieces together and allow the glue to dry. If the breakage has a missing piece of bisque, proceed to the next step.

Hold a lit candle above the missing piece/hole. Allow wax to drip into the hole until it's filled.

How to Repair Bisque Dolls
Use white school glue for repairs. (glue bottle image by Bruce MacQueen from

Wipe away the excess wax with finger. Allow the wax to dry. You may require multiple applications to fill the hole.

Remove the cable tie/thread previously used to connect the head. A Flange Neck has an indention around the neck for attaching to a cloth body.

Position the head within the cloth neck. Pull the casing (the tunnel where the cable tie/thread is fed) into position.

Feed the cable tie into the casing end, wiggling it through until it emerges from the other side. Hold the tie’s “buckle” while pulling the right end of the tie tight. Insert the end into the buckle, pulling tight. Cut off the excess. If your head is sewn, proceed to the next step.

How to Repair Bisque Dolls
Flange Neck heads are attached to a cloth body by cable tie or sewing. (Vintage doll image by Victoria Schaad from

Work a needle/thread through the casing until you reach your starting point, and complete three stitches to lock thread. Repeat for strength.

Things you need

  • Dinner knife
  • Tape measure
  • Replacement pate
  • Replacement wig
  • White school glue
  • Scissors
  • White candle
  • Match
  • Cable tie
  • Needle
  • Button thread

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