Doll Restoration

Question: I'm a young ventriloquist and I am very interested in the art of restoring vintage ventriloquist dolls, and one day hand carving my own. I recently ordered and recieved a Dapper Dan (below) which I believe to be from the 1920s or '30s. His description said that he was composition, and I was wondering if you might know what kind of composition? There is some damage on his head, face, and one of the hands. I was also wondering if you can recommend a wood-filler and/or advice on how I can restore my vintage buddy. Here is an example photograph of his current condition. After cosmetics, I'm going to make him a new suit identical to his original. Thank you for your time.  -Tony
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From Mr. D: I still have some Plastic Wood dough from the '70s that I use to patch the vintage composition dolls.  I'm sure there's some similar product on the market today - try Home Depot.

The "wood composition" from the era of which Dapper Dan came seemed to be some sort of pressed sawdust or similar.  It is bound together with a glue that is water soluble, so clean with great care.  And be certain the head is well sealed before you repaint.  Use Gesso (or similar) to seal the head.  I've also used several light coats of "spray on" shellac to seal these heads.

Two more requirements:  Time and great patience...

1 comment:

  1. Barbara La Belle12/29/2011

    Mr. D,

    Another source Tony could use to repair his vent figure is "The Handbook of Doll Repair and Restoration by Marty Westfall". It has a section on composition and papier-mache heads and how to restore them.

    Doll maker in Texas,
    Barbara La Belle