Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Anatomy of a Walker Doll


Madame Alexander's "Margot" ballerina from around 1950.

I've spent the bulk of this afternoon painting dolls in my windowless office and as a result I'm a little high now from the fumes. I also discovered I have a paper cut when I got turpentine in it just now, so I decided I would take a little break! I needed to eat lunch, anyway, as it's almost 3PM and I've only consumed about 300 calories all day. Another reason for the wooziness!

Anyway, over the life of this blog there has been much discussion on the subject of "walker" dolls and their repair. They are complicated mechanisms. A walker doll has legs connected in such a way that when one moves the other will also move in a walking motion. Some also have heads that turn from side to side as the legs move. The idea was that a girl could pull her doll along by the hands and it would appear to be walking. They never really worked all that well, but most collectors want their walker dolls to function as well as they did when new.

The walker mechanism
As I mentioned in my last post, I have been trying to repair a Madame Alexander Margot ballerina and had to split her completely in half to remove a stuck spring in her walker. I decided having her apart like this would be a good opportunity to show the construction of a walking mechanism and how to repair it.

I replace the original spring with elastic cord.

Usually when I get a walker doll who isn't walking it means one or both of the hip loops have slipped off the "t" bar that connects the legs to the head. They usually also need to have the elastic band between their legs replaced with new cord. It is very tricky to repair this when the body is intact; I rely on surgical hemostats, doll stuffing tools, and anything else I can get in there to manipulate the  mechanism. I replace any old rubber bands and especially springs with elastic stringing cord. The old springs are troublesome due to their tendency to become stiff. The stiffened spring puts all sorts of pressure on the doll's fragile seams and forces them apart, as happened here.

This particular doll will not turn its head from side to side because the head is connected to the walker with a rubber band and hooks. Instead the head will bob a little. If the head will turn it is connected to the "t" bar with a metal clip like a staple in the top of the head. The arms are strung separately on hooks and a band as shown and they move independently from the legs and head.
 
I still haven't decided if I will actually restore this doll as a walker. I think the flexibility gained from stringing her in the traditional manner and the easing of pressure on the old plastic joints is of more benefit than the walking feature. I'm still thinking about it. If I string the doll with elastic then she will be strung as I show in my Posie doll restoration, except the cord will also go through the legs as well: http://mandalineartfulliving.blogspot.com/2012/08/adventures-in-stringing-tutorial.html. You make a loop connecting the head, arms, and legs, with the knot in the doll's side so it doesn't interfere with the hooks.
 
Besides this doll, since my last post I completed another Kitty Kapers Barbie cat replica, as seen in my post of the same name. I also have two tiny Betsys on the way, which another eBay member asked me to repair for her. So, I now officially have a doll hospital as well as a shop! Right after I wrote my last post I got a call from my aunt to say she and my uncle were visiting from Ohio, so we had them and my cousin and her family over for dinner. We had a wonderful time! Then we took a short trip home for Easter, with the requisite mountain of laundry before and after. I was glad to go home. I didn't get to see everyone I've been missing, but it was great to get to walk with my best friend and visit with family. We have so many demands on our time when we go home it's hard to fit everyone in, but as my mother pointed out, it's better than it would be if we returned and no one cared to see us!
 
I'm frustrated in my fitness level right now. As you know from my last post, several things have upset me lately and I've been running to cope, but I overdid it and now my foot is killing me. I've had to ground myself to just walking and trying to add other stuff. Jerry and I did the P90X yoga the other night, just half of it, and it about killed me! We completed the whole three months of P90X two years ago, and thought we'd try to get back into it. At the time I was strong enough to do one-armed push-ups and stuff but I actually gained four pounds over the course of it, while Jerry lost over 30! I was furious! I obviously have to find another workout to do though, because my feet are a mess. I am practicing telling myself "Let It Be". Worrying about problems doesn't solve them, and neither does running myself into the ground, or into a cast. I just have to let things unfold as they will.
 
I repaired the arm with Kwik Plastic epoxy.

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