Compo Dolls – keep them wrinkle free! – Dr. Noreen

 

 

 

 

Hi Friends, My surgery went well and I am back in the doll O.R.  ready to give up a few secrets about composition dolls. You know those…they show fine lines and wrinkles like a 90-year-old in the desert without sunscreen. These were the common dolls of the 20′s, 30′s and 40′s that show their age with peeling complexions, dull skin, and usually plenty of cracks and missing paint. Below is a collectors beloved 1930′s” Paw-Paw Baby” made of composition (wood pulps and glues) and is quite typical in condition.

All of the paint that is lifting around nose and chin was removed and those areas sanded right down to the compo. Acrylic paints were blended to match and sanded areas were painted to match rest of complexion. The sleep eyes had the fractured areas filled in with small amounts of epoxy putty which hardens quickly and can be sanded smooth and painted just like the original eyes. Although I like to seal compo with a matt sealer…many collectors prefer a slightly glossy look. Once she had the rest of her paint touched up–she was sealed and sent home.

There are a few things to remember if you collect dolls from this era. Make certain they were stored in a climate controlled area as they respond to moisture much like particle board..(remember compo is like sawdust and glue). Any humidity changes cause expansion and contraction. Hopefully your dolls will only show minor crazing and no lifting or missing paint. If so…let me tell you how to make those fine lines disappear and preserve the finish–without the botox! One product on the market is designed to erase the craze, and that works well…but if you want to make your own–purchase some scratch out car wax that is a creamy liquid. To that add a small amount of acrylic paint that matches the skin tone of the doll. Using a soft cloth test on the back of neck or feet first. Rub on and wipe off before totally dry. You will see the fine lines disappear while leaving a light protective coating on the compo which will help preserve the finish. This does not work on the very matt finishes of paper mache type dolls which are often confused with compo. Please make certain to go very lightly around brows, lips and areas that have detail painting as you do not want to remove paint! Now I know what you are thinking….but no–I do not think this will remove the lines on OUR faces…so I do not think we should even try it!

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About Dr. Noreen

Dr. Noreen Morris is chief of staff at the state of the art Tonner Doll Hospital located in Kingston, N.Y. She has over 20 years experience in the repair and restoration of antique bisque head dolls right on up through modern dolls of today. She is often referred to as the "Plastic Surgeon"..but operates on vinyl, composition, hard plastic and bisque dolls too.

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  1. Thanks Noreen! Is the idea that the car wax/acrylic paint mixture makes the compo expand slightly and thus the surface cracks move together/disappear and then the wax seals them up?? Don’t know if I’m brave enough to try this or not! Thanks again, Roberta

    • Hi Roberta,
      The wax acts as a safe but deep cleaner, while the small amount of flesh tone paint mixed in settles into the fine lines. The wax also acts as a sealant and barrier against humidity. Unfortunately…the insides of the dolls are never sealed so expansion and contraction can still occur.
      The main thing to remember is to keep them in climate controlled areas and away from kitchens and baths where humidity can sporadically become very high. Never store them in attics or basements–and display out of hot lighted curio cabinets or direct sunlight.
      The wax will help considerably…but sadly these doll will still age–just slower.

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