Replacing or Installing Eyes

If the doll has eyeballs, remove them first. Take off the doll's head and slice the back of the eye socket using a small scissors or exacto blade. Try not to do too much cutting-- no more than necessary. Take out the eyeball or push from the front to push it into the head.

Sometimes you can remove the eyes without cutting the vinyl. Dip the face of the doll in boiling hot water for 30 seconds or so and pry the eyes out with a screwdriver, being careful not to damage the vinyl. Warm the doll's face again and push the new eyes in. Then reposition as necessary: a screwdriver can help with that. When you heat the doll's face, just be careful to keep the doll's hair out of the hot water.

This method is easier if it's possible to do it this way. It depends on what kind of eyes the doll has, what material the doll is made of, and what kind of eyes you intend to insert later.

Doll eyes come in different styles such as oval (which has been popular with the porcelain doll crafters) and they come in round. Round eyes are shown in the photo below.

MEASURING EYES. Eyes are measured by diameter, across the middle. I have one of those little metal sewing gauges with the slide on it. I bought mine in 1974 and I think Dritz has made them for years. The slide has millimeters and inches on it.

My sewing gauge is nearly essential in working with doll stuff because shoes and eyes are both sold by mm sizes. That's because the measurements are too tiny and precise for inches.

I sell doll shoes that are 68mm, 72mm, 82 mm, etc. People get aggravated because my descriptions don't always give the shoe size in inches, but inches are not the same thing; it's only a rough estimate by comparison. When you're fitting doll shoes it really is important, so I encourage ladies to get yourself a nice little metric/inches gauge. You'll sound like a doll Pro if you know how to talk metric, and all you need is a sewing gauge.

When you take the eyes out of your doll, measure across the center of the eyeball, the diameter. Berenguer eyes are installed in halfs, they are a half round of a ball. So you just measure across the flat half with your metric ruler and that gives you exactly the size that was in the Berenguer to begin with. Then buy the same size and style of course, for replacements.  

You only need to use the front half because that's what is in the doll, but you can leave the entire eye in one piece if you would rather. It doesn't matter, in fact it might be better to leave the eyeball as one piece rather than separating it but that's up to you.

Baby Face dolls by Galoob use a size 20 mm
and you will use whole eyes.

MANEUVER INTO POSITION. Sometimes I can put the new eye in the doll's head by maneuvering it with my fingers but sometimes it is very awkward or perhaps the doll is too small, the neck is too narrow. Then I use a small doll sock to help get the new eyeball in place. I use small cheap tube socks for dolls, they are almost as thin as nylon and they are small tubes for doll feet. I suppose you could rig something similar using nylon stocking material.

I put the eye in the tube sock and then put it inside the doll's head. Use a tweezers to grab the sock (from the front, through the eye hole in the face) and pull the eyeball into the socket. The tube sock makes it easy to pull the eye into place. I use some kind of small stick to poke at the vinyl flaps. I poke from the front, through the eye hole, to push the vinyl flaps out of the way as I pull the sock (and eyeball) into position.

Arrange the vinyl flaps of the eye socket in back. Then cut off as much of the sock as you can (from the back) and work the rest of it out by pulling on it from the front with the tweezers.

POSITION THE EYE. I turn the eye into position using a crochet hook (for yarn not thread) so it's not a sharp one but it seems to work for turning the eye inside the vinyl socket. I also use a very small flat blade screwdriver to adjust the eye position. It is very important to adjust the eyeballs so they look natural: not crosseyed or cockeyed.

GLUE THE EYES IN THE SOCKET. Then apply glue compound to the back of the eye socket to seal it shut. I use the Liquid Nails glue from Home Depot, regular formula (not the clear formula). You can buy Liquid Nails in a toothpaste style tube or caulking tube so I buy the small tube. It's thick like putty and adheres very well to vinyl so it forms a tight cap across the back of the eyeball.

I use a popsicle stick to apply the Liquid Nails putty, or if there is enough room inside the head then I wear a disposable glove and spread the glue with my fingers. Leave the head face down overnight so the glue putty can dry. I pile quite a bit of glue around the eyeball socket in order to make a cap or casing around the back of the eyeball.

To clean up your hands afterward and get the glue off, use a solvent of some kind. Paint thinner is good, or Goof Off, WD40 etc.

Then mount the eyeball behind the eyes using a thick glue such as Liquid Nails. I don't recommend clear formula adhesives (such as E6000) because it doesn't last on vinyl. Vinyl is made of petroleum and has oils in it, which work against most common glues that are out there. I use Liquid Nails or Cove Base Adhesive by Henry. The Cove Base Adhesive is nice to work with because you can cleanup with soap and water if you do it while the glue is still fresh.

The almond shaped flat eyes would most likely be a better choice for this project. I used round eyes on the doll I was working with, but she was made a little differently than the sleepy Berenguers.

Do not clean up excess glue with acetone,
you can ruin the eyes using
nail polish remover as a solvent.

Do not use Super Glue either:
it ruins the eyes.

Allow the eyeballs to dry thoroughly for hours before doing anything else with the head. When you pack the head to weight it, be careful not to knock the eyes loose since there isn't a protective eye socket around them.

REPLACING HALF EYES IN BERENGUER DOLLS. There is an easier way that works with some dolls but not all of them. The Berenguers have soft vinyl, so you can heat the vinyl around the eye using warm/hot water or even a hair dryer. Then pop the eye out of the socket by pushing from inside the head. While the vinyl is still warm, pop the new eye in. I'm not sure if it's possible to position the eye as carefully using this method but it certainly is an easier method.

You may purchase the half round eyes for this method, or you can pop a whole eye in halves as shown in the photo below and just use the front half of the eye.  

Copyright (c) 2002, 2012 Cynthia Stevens All Rights Reserved