Fast Shrinking Vinyl Heads

Before taking this on, please make sure you've read the preface to shrinking to make sure that you understand the difference between the fast and slow processes and double check the benefits of slow shrinking to make sure that your project head does not suffer from any of the factors that could cause big problems: http://www.dirili.com/mh/shrinkop.html

So, step by step:

Step 1: Gather materials

Materials you will need:

Glass jars: I use 16oz 3.5"x3.5" ones that I got from Amazon (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00KF5STQC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1) It is VERY important that you use a jar that is large enough. 8oz 2.5x4" jars are NOT large enough and your head will crack at the thinner parts of the vinyl without enough room to expand.

100% Pure Acetone: I have been using ONYX Professionals 100% Pure Acetone Nail Polish Remover from Walmart and it seems to have been working well for me thus far.

Optional: Some sort of springy stuffing: I believe I use polyester stuffing. Test whatever you get with the acetone first to make sure that the acetone won't melt it inside the head. This is for keeping certain heads from warping as they shrink. Many head sculpts are thin particularly at the temples and some will start to cave in a bit, so when a certain amount of shrinking has occurred and the head is a little less fragile, it is a good idea to insert some stuffing in the upper part of the head to keep the temples from shrinking inward.

Prep/Cleaning

To optimize results, you need to reduce as many contaminants as possible so you take the applicable steps. I won't go into detail about how to do each step. There are many tutorials scattered about the internet on each subject so the info is easy to find:

1. - Remove hair if you are going to reroot. This will also reduce the amount of acetone used getting soaked up in the hair, but also there is often paint on the scalp which you will want to remove too if you go this route. HOWEVER, if you have any trouble removing the hair because of the glue, you might want to let the head soak in 70% acetone/30% water mixture for 24 hours first. That softens the glue and lets you dehair your doll much easier. Hopefully you've already read the preface and already know that if the doll's head is just full of thick glue, you should not be fast shrinking it anyway. If the glue is super thick and hard, you may need to soak it upwards of 48 hours in 70/30 solution till it's soft enough that you can squeeze the head without feeling hard lumps of glue inside. I have had 2 strange anomalies with hair in fast shrinking... One was with an older doll that had brittle messy hair. It became even more brittle after shrinking and was falling out just from brushing so I had to reroot that one. The other one was a Venus. I think MAYBE there is something in the glue that they use for the flocking that mixes with the acetone and after I had shrunk her, the rest of her hair got really hard, like rock hard and could not be softened by any method, so she had to be rerooted as well. I think if I had rinsed her after each soak her hair would have been ok though.

2. - Wipe faceup and if possible scalp paint. Fast shrinking WILL melt the faceup off your doll and that paint will also contaminate the acetone and can alter the effectiveness of the chemical. If you dehaired your doll, wipe the paint from the scalp as well. If you didn't dehair, don't worry about the scalp paint. Stripes in the hair will also disinitigrate like the ones on Toralei and the werecat twins.

3. - Wash the head. Just some dish washing liquid in tap water should suffice to get rid of any oils and grime. Make sure that the soap is completely rinsed out. You MUST wait till the head and hair are completely dry because if there is any water left, your soak will no longer be 100% acetone. Even a little bit of water changes the effectiveness. This is why the Prep/cleaning stage adds a day.

Soak(s)

Quite simply you just soak the head in the acetone. Make sure that you put enough acetone in the jar to accomodate for the growth. It will expand a LOT, about twice it's normal size. It takes about 2 hours for the head to be fully soaked through. It will be very soft and fragile at this point and you have to be very careful how you handle it at this stage. Try not to lift it out by the hair, try to get your fingers around the head to lift it out. It will take 22 hours or so for the acetone to evaporate and the head to shrink as much as it likely will for that particular soak. You can dunk the head multiple times for additional shrinking, but subsequent dunkings should be done within 24 hours or so after the last dunk, before the head starts to harden too much. Once the head is completely dry, it's very very hard. I believe I had read that the acetone breaks down something called "plasticizer" or something like that in the vinyl, which is the ingredient that makes the head soft, thus the harder consistency once shrunk in this method.

Between each soak, it is a good idea to RINSE the hair just in case, to avoid things like what I mentioned a few paragraphs ago about that Venus doll I shrunk. Don't think it could hurt anything. I'd hold off on actually washing with anything like shampoo and such till after you're done your final soak, just to make absolutely sure there are no unanticipated chemical reactions.

Also beetween soaks, if the temples or other parts of the head are sinking in too much, that's where the stuffing comes in, put some of that in the head after it shrinks a bit, to keep the sculpt from caving in. Remember to take it out again before the next soak.

You CAN reuse the same solution several times, but the effectiveness depends on how much contaminated it has become. There is no way to really know this just by looking, but some good indications are discoloration and if you see a lot of sediment on the bottom of the jar. Neither of those factors necessarily means that the solution won't work well, but they MIGHT hint in that direction. Conversely, even if the solution is still crystal clear, for some reason it may not work as well as the first dunk anyway. Even if the solution has become contaminated and weakened, usually the worst thing that will happen is you won't get much shrinking out of the soak and you realize it and prep a new batch. The only thing I would definitely caution against reusing, is if you are shrinking a Venus McFlytrap head, I believe it is the glue from her flocking that mixes with the acetone and makes her hair hard and brittle if you don't rinse it out pretty much right away after removing her from the soak.

Final Drying:

There are a number of things that you can do during the final drying stage, all of them optional depending on what you want to achieve with your doll. Before you do any of them though, wait at least 8 hours so that the head is more stable and the acetone is completely evaporated and won't do anything to any plastic pieces that it may come intact with. Personally I like to try to do finish everything I can and get the head on the body before it's fully hardened so that I can position the head just a bit lower on the neck so that and it can dry and harden more stably in that position where the neck won't look absurdly long.

- Rerooting Can be started on as soon as the head is no longer super fragile. If you plan on not widening the neck hole so that the head is pretty much permanently on the body, you definitely have to reroot first if your doll needs a reroot. Most of the time when fast shrinking, I've found you have an average of 36 hours before the head is really hard, so if you want to reroot in time to get the head on the body before it hardens, it's a bit of a race since rerooting usually takes some time. Don't panic if you can't be quick though! You can still reroot just fine in hardened vinyl. It's surprisingly easy to pierce still even in it's hardest state. Read the next paragraph about getting the head on the body after hardening:

- Widen the inner neck hole If you put the head on while it is still somewhat soft, you can squeeze it on just fine, however, it will be VERY difficult to get off again if you ever want to take it off again for any reason. So, you can take an Xacto knife or something similar and carve out that inner circle a bit more so that the head can be removed again without breaking the anchor or the neck itself. You can also use flush cutters to trim the wings and base of the anchor for easier manipulation as well. I like to do this even if not shrinking a doll because I've had anchors break on unmodified dolls before. Of course if you waited too long and the head hardened off the body, you'll have to do this anyway just to get it on. Even with the widening, it's still a good idea to use a hair dryer to warm and soften the vinyl some before you put the head on. Makes the process even easier and safter still. Do NOT open the neck hole all the way like in the picture below, or the head will just fall down as far as it can without the ledge to keep it up farther on the neck.

- Pressurized reshaping You can alter the shape of the head by compressing it any way that you can think of. I've been big into altering Ever After High doll heads, and they are super round, so I like to make them more oval and give them a more pointed chin. I also don't care for many of the chubby cheeked Monster High dolls, so I like to squeeze their cheeks while drying too lol. I like to use a mini-vise, rubber bands, small boxes and some sort of padding to make various arrangments. Makeup triangles make nice padding against any marks that pressure points could put on your doll and you can usually pick up a pack of them pretty cheap just about anywhere. You can get pretty inventive trying to arrange a setup for your doll's new head shape. Make sure to check back every 3 hours or so to make adjustments as the head is shrinking. If you don't check on it, you might find the head head tilted or something because of the extra space and you might end up with an uneven sculpt. So be careful!

Here's a few of my finished fast shrinks:


If you have any questions, you can email me at drkne@yahoo.com and please make sure you put something in the subject that won't make me think it's spam.