How to Install Sleep Eyes in Bisque Dolls

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If you need to reset or replace the rocker eyes, also known as sleep eyes, of an antique doll completely, the materials you need are simple enough. What's not so simple is doing the job right so that the eyes move properly. It may take a little practice to get the feel of how to install sleep eyes, but once you master it, you may find yourself hanging out a shingle, with customers breaking down your door for this specialized skill.

Things You'll Need

  • Terry cloth towel
  • Plaster of Paris
  • Water
  • Yogurt container, 6 oz., clean
  • Plastic spoon
  • Artist's round paintbrush
  • Mineral oil
  • Steak knife
  • Place the towel on a table and set the bisque doll's head, with old sleep eyes removed, face down on it. Bunch the towel around the head to hold it in position.

  • Mix 3 parts plaster of Paris with 1 part water in the empty yogurt container. Stir quickly until plaster is dissolved in the water and smooth. Wait for the plaster to become the consistency of thick malt. Rinse the spoon with water.

  • Dip the brush in water and wet the inside of the bisque head at the outside corners of the eye openings, where you will eventually apply a blob of plaster. Dry the brush and dip it in mineral oil. Paint the outside surface of both of the doll's eyes. The mineral oil keeps the plaster from sticking to the eyes.

  • Position the replacement eyes in their openings. The weight attached to the eyes should be hanging down and in contact with the cork glued inside the bisque head. This places the doll's eyes in the open position.

  • Check on the consistency of the plaster. When sufficiently thickened, pick some up with the plastic spoon and place a small amount on either side of the outer eyes, touching the eyes. If the plaster has reached the right consistency, it will flow slowly down the inside of the bisque head where it was soaked with the water. Plaster should not flow out of the eye openings; if it does, that means the plaster is too thin and needs to set up longer.

  • Insert the tip of the knife through the upside-down u-shaped bridge that connects the two eyes. Rest the knife on the neck rim of the doll head. Place part of the towel under the handle to support it. The knife should lift the eyes up slightly so that they are not touching the inside edges of the eye openings in the bisque head. If they stay touching, the eyes won't open and close properly.

  • Wait for 10 minutes, and then check the consistency of the plaster in the yogurt container. If it feels like hard ice cream, carefully remove the steak knife from the doll's head, and gently lift up the weight and bring it upright ever so slightly. Watch for any cracks in the two plaster blobs inside the bisque head.

  • Pull the towel away from the doll's face. With the weight positioned properly, the doll's eyes should be closed. Set the doll's head back down on the towel and move the weight down so the eyes remain closed. Wait another 10 minutes, and then work the weight back and forth again to ensure the eyes do not freeze up in the plaster. After 30 minutes, the plaster should be hardened, but it will need a few days to cure.

  • Set the doll's head upright. If you need to clean up any plaster around the eyes or in the lashes, wet the clean paint brush and gently work the plaster off the face and out of the lashes.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you don't succeed at getting the eyes to work the first time, simply start over after cleaning the fresh plaster out of the inside of the head.
  • Don't pour unused plaster down your sink drain, because it will harden and you'll have to call a plumber to remove it. Put unused plaster in a plastic bag and throw it in the garbage.

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