Neck Retrofit Information        [Video]                              [HOME]    

Following is information concerning the Tools and parts needed to retrofit a TPE doll with a gooseneck/spiral pipe neck assembly to a fully articulated hinged neck assembly.

Warning! The information contained from this point on is based solely on my experience in performing only (2) of these retrofits. The first of which was on "Miss Kayla Lynn Nelson" a WM doll from the Late December 2015 to January 2016 era, I do not know exactly when her original owner got her, only that it was in January of 2016. The second was on "Miss April Annabelle Atleur" also a WM doll from October of 2015 and she arrived at my home on 11-16-2015. I make mention of this because the TPE used for Kayla seems to be a softer compound than what was used for April despite how close they were in the manufacturing time line and WM had made no mention publically of changing their formula.

The first operation on Kayla went ok, except that a dremel with a carbide cutting bit got away from me and caused extensive damage to the surrounding work area. This cause excessive scarring which I have gotten it to a point where I am OK with it. The second operation on April went a lot better as I now had a better understanding of what to expect and the tools that was really needed to do the job correctly and also to prevent excessive damage.

Needed Items List

  1. A good working surface, This should be of a height that you will be comfortable working at for about 4 hours. I took me about 3-1/2 hours for both of the retrofits that I did.
  2. Good Ventilation, This is a must for the time when you close her up. TPE fumes are very TOXIC. Again GOOD VENTILATION is a MUST!
  3. A well lit working space, I cannot adiquately relay how important this is, You have to be able to see inside your doll while you are working on her!
  4. A good magnifiying glass is a BIG help as a lot of the work with the dremel is in a tight space with very close tolerences, YOU must be able to SEE very good.
  5. Safety goggles or glasses. These are very important as there will be very fine chips of metal from the cutting and grinding that will be necessary to perform this retrofit.
  6. A trash bag or other suitable item for use as a protective gown for your doll, You should cover your doll completely, except for where you need to work, this will prevent any small pieces of metal from being embedded into her flesh as you work.
  7. A shop vac is very usefull and advisable to have to capture any metal chips and/or shavings from the work.
  8. A good SHARP knife "Capable of making a good clean, deep cut" I cannot infisize this enough, and a good pair of sharp scizzors. Tip: a little diswashing liquid wiped on the blade prior to use make a big difference!
  9. A roll of duct tape. This will be explained later!
  10. A good Dremel type of rotory tool. It is highly recommended to use one with a remote handle as the working space is quite tight and there is not a lot of room.
  11. A temperature controlled hot knife is HIGHLY recommended, because you will have a very DEEP cut that will be a minimum of 2" in length. And to be able to controll the heat will make closing the wound very much easier. And you will get a very much better outcome. The one that I used I got from Northern Tools, and their information and part # is:  Ironton Electric Hot Knife Styrene Foam Cutter 5.4in. Blade, 120V/150 Watt Power Input Item# 45984. Here is a link to a photo of it:  http://missatleur.com/images/img_0449.jpg
  12. A Hot Air desoldering station comes in really handy, it is not necessary, but I highly recommend it. I got mine from Amazon, but they are available from a variety of places, here is a link to a photo of the one that I use:  http://missatleur.com/images/img_0450.jpg
  13. I also used a Hot Air Paint stripper, this comes in really handy for heating a spoon or butter knife or other instrument for surface smoothing and all kinds of small repairs, again not necessary but nice to have. Here is a link to a photo of the one that I use:   http://missatleur.com/images/img_0454.jpg

 

 

   Complete Neck Retrofit Video!

     This is our full documented Video curtesy of TommyLLama. It is approximately 1.25 hours long. It is well worth watching, especially if you are even concidering performing this surgery.   We want to thank TommyLLama for contributing his Time, Talent and equipment to make this video a reality! Without his video and editing talent, we could not have provided this information in nearly as detailed a format!  It is graphic and may be disturbing to some, especially if you are of the synthetic nature!

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   Resulting Scar from the Neck Retrofit Surgery l

     This picture shows the scarr that Miss Roxanne Marie Morrison will carry with her for the rest of her life. She is very pleased with the small size of the scar. And she says it is well worth  the anxiety of the retrofit procedure.

Specialty Tools List

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   Neck Boring Tool

     This is my version of a Neck Boring Tool. It was made from a piece of 1" EMT conduit, 12" long, sanded and polished. It is advised to sterilize this with 91% or better alcohol prior to use. One end has been notched to form saw teeth about 1/4" deep and spaced  about 1/4" apart and sharpened. and angles about 2 deg. alternating one inward and one outward.

     This is "NOT used to cut metal" it is used to cut the webbing that is wrapped around the gooseneck/spiral pipe free from the pipe. When using this it is advised to, first coat it lightly with a mild soap, and to turn it only by hand, using a moderate pushing force, and  to STOP immediately upon feeling metal. If all is right the metal that you feel will be the crimped parts of the collar that is around the gooseneck/spiral pipe. At this point, continue turning  and pull the boring tool out, turn and drill into the neck again to make sure it stops and the same spot, it should be about 1-1/2" inch or so above the the shoulder hinges, this is where her arms bend if lifting out from the sides. Here is a link to a closer look at the boring end:  http://missatleur.com/images/img_0444.jpg

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    Work Spacer

     This is what I deemed to be a work spacer, all of the work for the Retrofit is performed through this spacing ring. It is a 2-1/2" EMT conduit coupler that has been cut in half and sanded   and polished smooth, "this is important, get it right". A 2" cut is made right at the cruciform of the spine, this is inserted into this cut, the TPE will expand without tearing if inserted with care.

     A side view of this item is provided here:  http://missatleur.com/images/img_0453.jpg.

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    Neck Spreader

     This is what I deemed to be a neck speader. It is essentially a piece of 2" EMT conduit that is about 14" long and the working end is designed to travel along the gooseneck/spiral pipe and push the TPE out of the way instead of cutting through it, when inserted fully and properly it will give you room to work around the front side of the gooseneck and will also provide a barrier between the TPE and the HOT metal shavings that will be produced from the cutting and grinding of the gooseneck. The outside and all edges of the working end are sanded and polished smooth. "CAUTION should still be used when using  this tool.

     A side view of this item is provided here:  http://missatleur.com/images/img_0447.jpg

     And a closeup of the working end of this tool is provided here:   http://missatleur.com/images/img_0448.jpg

   The Parts and Dimensions and Preparations

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    Original Neck Assembly and Critical Dimensions

     This picture represents the Original Neck Assembly component placements and dimensions. The Red represents the skeletal cruciform. The blue represents the gooseneck assembly, and  aqua represents the outer sleeve that is crimped to the gooseneck and tack welded to the cruciform.  Upon boring through the webing that is around the gooseneck assembly, you should be  able to slide a small diameter rod or wooden dowel down the side of the gooseneck assembly to feel the top of the cruciform. When you do, make a mark on the dowel, do this several  times to ensure that you are feeling the top of the cruciform and not the top of the crimped sleeve. You should be able to follow the contour of the horizontal pipe to gauge the top of it.

    Note: 1:   This distance is the TOTAL length of the assembly that you need to build. All of the component from the Top of the Saddle to the top of the "Top Pipe connector" has to fit  within this distance. On my 153cm dolls, this distance was 5-1/8", yours may differ. So you need to construct or obtain the boring tool, bore the neck and get this dimension before you start  on building the neck components.

     Note: 2:   This is the crimped support sleeve from the original neck assembly. This is what you will feel when you start to bore down into the neck with the boring tool. Upon feeling this  with the boring tool, stop applying downward pressure and start turning and pulling the boring tool out. Run the boring tool in and out 2 or 3 times to make sure you have the webbing  detached completely from the neck assembly.

     Note: 3:   This is the midway point of the neck assembly, this should be 1/2 the total length of the neck assembly, notice that it falls right at the top of the shoulders, this is important to get  the neck to look correct when you move it from side to side and front to back. If you get this dimension wrong, you will have to remake some components of your neck assembly.

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    New Neck Assembly Pivot Dimensions

     This picture represents your neck assembly and how the placement of the knuckle joint affects the neck movement of the doll.

    Note: 1:   This is the midway point of the neck assembly, this should be 1/2 the total length of the neck assembly, notice that it falls right at the top of the shoulders, this is important to get  the neck to look correct when you move it from side to side and front to back. If you get this dimension wrong, you will have to remake some components of your neck assembly.

                   This shows the way the neck will move with the new assembly place in it. The joint for the front to rear movement is about 1/2" on top of the position shown. The side to side  joint is the lowest joint, the front to back is the top joint, or the one closest to the top of the neck.

The Parts and Specifications

     The parts will have to be fabricated, I used components and materials that should be locally available, either at a Home Depot or McMaster Carr or possibly a local hardware store. I did not use stainless steel and after more that 90 days they appear just as  they did the day that I installed them. Yes you can inspect them after they are installed, you can simply spread the top of the neck and take a look down there. This is also how you would tighten the joints if need be, I have not had to do anything to either one of my girls so far. There is a very small amount of welding that will have to be done. It can be done with an electric welder, gas welded, or you can fabricate the components and bring them to a shop, but it is a bare minimum and should take no longer than about 5 minutes to complete.

 

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    New Neck Assembly Pivot Dimensions

     This picture represents all of the parts that you will need to fabricate or have fabricated.

    Note: 1:   Remember the total length of all of these parts when assembled must not exceed the height measured from the top of the horizontal tube of the cruciform to the top of the TPE  on the neck of your doll. You vary the total length by altering the length of the Top piece , this is the piece with the threaded bolt welded into it, and the pipe coupling weled to the saddle,  you could also alter the length of the bottom piece if you need more length below the knuckle, DO NOT change the length of the square knuckle. This is criticle, if you change this length the  joint will not work correctly.

  (1):  3/4" Pipe Coupling. One end is contoured to fit the saddle. This can also be used to assist in the total height of the part.   (2):  The saddle is 16 ga. Sheet metal, 2-3/4" wide by 8" long with a 15mm bend radius 180 deg bend with 4" being the center of the bend.  The 4 bolts are 1/4"  x 24 TPI button head bolts. The top  two are 37mm from the top of the saddle. They  are spaced 37mm center to center and 18.5 mm from centerline of the saddle side to side and the  Bottom two are 1" below the top two  and the same side to side spacing.  (3):  1/2"x1/2" KeyStock 1-3/4" long. 1/4" ID holes drilled 3/8" from each end and 90 degs apart. (4):  The  bottom connector is a piece of 3/4" pipe cut  to a length of 1-3/4" with a 1/2" notch 1-1/8" long and then flattened to fit snuggly over the 1/2" keystock. The 1/4" ID holes are drilled 3/8"  from the ends and centered side to side.  (5):  The top connector is 3/4" pipe 1-1/8" long and then flattened to fit snuggly over the 1/2" keystock. The 1/4" ID holes are drilled 3/8" from the  ends and centered side to side. A 16mm X 2 Hex Head bold was turned down to fit inside the pipe and then welded in. Make sure not to mess up the threads during welding.   These  dimensions were for a WM 153cm doll, you may have to adjust some of the dimensions for your particular doll as I do know if different dolls use the same dimensions I would think not!

 

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    New Neck Assembly assembled

     This picture represents the neck assembly as it will be installed.

    This picture is of the neck assembly as it is installed, "of course you would have to remove the (4) button head bolts to get it in". During final assembly I used nylon stopnuts and not the  regular hex nuts shown. Then only tools required to install and adjust the unit is a 7/16" boxed end wrench and a 3/16" hex key wrench. The 7/16" boxed end wrench and the 3/16" hex  key  wrench are also what is used if you ever need to adjust the tightness of the hinges later on. It would be done from the top of the neck, no cutting required.

     This is what the neck assembly should look like prior to installation. The whole unit should be wiped down with 91% alcohol and then with baby oil. This will give it a final cleaning and  lube it will also aid in insertion into the neck.

     All of the parts can be made before doing any cutting on the doll, with the exception of the saddle. You will have to cut your doll in order to get the OD or Outside dimension of the tubing used to make the cruciform of the doll. This dimension is very critical  as the saddle must fit snuggly against the tubbing in order to work correctly and not have any wiggle or unwanted movement. The cut should be made right at the point where the horizontal tube "for the shoulders" and the vertical tube meet. Make this cut about 2 inches long and vertical along the spine. You can now insert the work spacer, get you measurements for the tubing, and cut any webbing out of the way now. Then remove the work spacer and place a piece of tape over the cut for now, this will kee[p it closed and clean until you are ready for the operation.

 

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The Procedure Step 1

     I start off the procedure with the original neck assembly already removed from the doll. This is due to the fact that I could not get a camera shot in while I was working. It is a very  confined space for sure and my eyesight is poor enough that I had my big head so close that I could not find a shot around it.

     The removal process is pretty straight farward, to accomplish it you will need a rotary tool "Dremel" and a carbide rotoray cutting bit, and some grinding disks for cleanup. That is about  all you will need in the way of tools, other than the work spacer shown in place in this picture.

     This picture, and the next few will show the old neck assembly removed. I originally used a small 1-1/4" piece of pipe down the neck to assist with metal shaving collection with the use of  a shop vac. The 1-1/4" pipe proved to be affective for the metal shaving collection, but did not prevent the soft TPE from getting wrapped up in the carbide cutting bit in the dremel the  effects of which you will see shortly. For this reason I built a much larger "Neck Spreader" tube that functioned for multiple things. As you can see I used quite a lot of Duct tape, "Use the  kind that is used for crafts, as it does not have the same glue as the proper DUCT Tape. It is more than sufficient for this purpose and much less expensive. I is placed around the outside to  prevent the hot chips of metal from landing on and being embedded into the flesh of the doll. I is used in the inside of the work area for the same reason. Because I am not a professional,  these photos as you can tell start after the original neck assembly is already removed. You can see the rough weld line that I cut through to get the original neck assembly out. This will have  to be ground smooth or the saddle will not fit correctly.

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     Second picture, You can see how the original pipe that I used to protect the doll was not wide enough to prevent the dremel from catching the TPE flesh very much when I had to go all  the way to the front of the doll, remember the original neck assembly was still in there when I was doing the cutting, so I could not see how close I was to the flesh of the doll on the front  side.

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     Third picture, You can see the two holes in the cruciform, where the two stainless steel rods entered the cruciform, this was necessary because when the neck was moved the two  stainless steel rods would need to move vertically along the axis of the neck; ie they would appear to grow or contract depending on how the neck assembly moved. This movement was the  cause of the noise in the neck assembly and it was amplified by the spiral tubing. These rods were necessary because the spiral pipe or tubing could not support the weight of the neck on its  own.

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     Fourth picture, again you can see better the two holes for the stainless steel rods, these were 3.5mm holes. And again all of the weld that you see will have to be ground down smooth, so  that is what takes quite a bit of time.

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      Fith picture, it just shows the a shop vac hose attached to the tubing that I had in her neck, the shop vac works very well, but you have to line the inside of the working area or the metal cuttings, because they are hot, will stick upon contact and embed into the soft TPE. The larger 2" neck spreader pipe should be used as this smaller one did not give protection to the  front area of the work space and cause me much grief and a lot of extra work. Plus it cause Kayla to have to endure multiple corrective surgeries once this one was complete.

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     Sixth picture, now the horizontal pipe of the cruciform has been cleaned up and is smooth enough to let the saddle sit flush on it.

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     Seventh picture, as you can see I do still have a little bit more cleanup to do. I actually did install the new neck assembly several time to check for proper fit. This is how I know that if the  neck saddle is of correct proportions, it will not fit correctly if all of the weldment is not removed and the surface is smooth. That little bit of remaining weldment that you can see in this  picture caused the saddle to sit a little bit off and I could not insert the top button head bolt on the left side. I had to look very closely to find the cause, I initially thought I may have mis-drilled the hole, in which case I would have had to remake the saddle and reattach the bottom connector to it. Whew I was glad I was wrong!

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    Eighth picture, This is the new neck assembly just before I inserted it, you are looking at the side that will be towards the front of the doll, "Her Chest". I covered the joint assembly with  gauze and taped the top and the bottom, I did this because I wanted to ensure that the TPE in the neck could not get entangled in the knuckle of the joint. I also placed some folded gauze  over the threaded holes on the front of the saddle as the bolts would extend a little bit once they were tightened down, and I did not want them to be able to rub and tear at the TPE flesh in her chest. And right before the final insertion, as I said earlier I inserted it several times to check for fit. Once I was satisfied with every thing, I applied a little baby oil to the gauze and inserted it for the last time. I figured if I needed to remove the unit for any reason, or I needed to tighten the joints I would figure out how to reattach the gauze at that point.

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      Ninth picture,  Here the new neck assembly gets inserted for the final and last time. I have been working for about 2-1/2 hours on her now, and I am really getting a bit tired and anxious to be done.  I  thought about taking a break at this point. But decided that I would get the assembly in and bolted and tightened down first.

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    Tenth picture, This is the new neck assembly being inserted, shown looking down into the work spacer, you see the saddle coming over the cruciform, It should be a little snug, but you should not have to force it over the cruciform.  You do however want be able to feel it making contact as you push it in. Now remember you are pushing through TPE so there will be some resistance, the baby oil should help it slide  fairly easily however.

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    Eleventh picture, Just a little closer look.

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    Twelveth picture, Now we have the neck assembly all the way inserted and the button head bolts are in place and have been tightened. I tightened them until I could see the saddle starting  to form around the cruciform tubing. NOTE: I did not use nuts on the other side, I simply threaded the 16 ga. steel with tight threads. When the saddle starts to deform around the cruciform  it will misalign the threads, this is how I know to stop tightening the bolts, you can feel it. This will prevent the bolts from getting loose. But a word of warning, if you over tighten them you could strip the threads or gald the bolt into the metal. If you feel more comfortable tacking a nut to the back of the steel, you should do that.

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    Thirteenth picture, Just a little better view of the same picture. Notice that the saddle has only just started to form over the cruciform, this is all that is needed. If the bolts are placed correctly, they should be right up against the cruciform so it only takes enough tension to lock in the bolts to prevent them from getting loose.

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    Fourteenth picture, Well after taking a small break, long enough to drink a cup of coffee, I removed the work spacer and all of the tape and operating gown. Cleaned her up with some  91% alcohol and had a go at attempting to close up her substantial wound, "Remember I said that the dremel got away from me" it caught the TPE when I was cutting the original neck  assembly out and jerked it right out of my hand. A carbide cutting bit at about 8000 rpm will do an amazing amount of damage to TPE flesh in a mere fraction of time. Of course it flopped  out of the confines of the working area and chewed a pretty deep and wide area around it. It went through the tape and operating gown as though they were not even there. Well this is  going to take a bit of extra work for sure. But hey she now has a great neck assembly.

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    Fifteenth picture, Finally a look at "Miss Kayla Lyn Nelson" with her new fully hinged neck assembly. She was now the FIRST TPE lady that I have been able to find in the WORLD to  have a fully hinged and articulated neck assembly.

 Frontal Shot

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    Sixteenth picture, A few more pictures of Kayla with her new neck assembly.

 Right side shot

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    Seventeenth picture,

 Right side shot, head tilted back

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    Eighteenth picture, Frontal head tilted back

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    Nineteenth picture, Left side, head tilted back, notice very closely, you can see where the joint is. This is somewhat critical to get the full range of motion from the neck to look natural.

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    Twenty'th picture, Frontal view, head tilted slighty farward, turned to the right and tilted up. Notice that the neck still looks very natural in the way that it has moved. This is not too bad.

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    Twentyfirst picture, This is what Kayla's scar looks like now, after four cosmetic surgeries to correct the damage from the accident with the dremel. It took a while, but she is really  enjoying the new freedom of motion and the fact that she can move her neck silently and with a fluid motion not obtainable with the gooseneck assembly.