Monday, April 30, 2018

Working with Haru

Apparently I have not posted anything here for almost a year, so the previous post was kind of out of order. I should say a few words about casting dolls through the Harucasting service (which was nothing but amazing experience).
After casting my first doll at home in February 2017 I started looking into services that could do it professionally, as I did not have time nor energy to do it myself. I have been following Haru on Flickr and they seemed to work very close with the customer and seemed to be really transparent about their work. You can find tons of casting process pictures on Haru's Flickr and the approximate quotes for service for different sizes of dolls  and resin colors and ordering information on Haru's website (, which is really convenient. I researched a few other casting companies and none seems to have this type of information readily available, you would have to contact the company first and get the quotes and casting process info on case by case basis. I guess Haru's transparency and abundance of pictures of their work was the selling point for me.
I have nothing to compare to, since I have not worked with any other company before, but the communication was very prompt and easy and the turnaround time of work was very reasonable. I shipped the prototype in mid-April 2017 and received my 10 dolls back in first week of July.
All in all it was a super fun experience and I would highly recommend Harucasting to anyone looking into casting dolls or doll parts.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


I've decided to throw out my first mold set. I have not touched them in a year and I doubt that I will use them again in the future. They served me well, but I do not want them to take space any more. Here is a picture of them and the one and only doll that they were used for, maybe someone will find them interesting or get some ideas for their own mold design. I felt like I could have planned them better and made them more neat, but after fiddling with them for a few months I also realized that I really dislike working with silicone in general. I may make some small molds for eye bases or props in the future, but it is unlikely that I will try to cast full doll parts again.

I've started working on another doll, so far a have a creepy disproportioned model in Sculptris. I will post a few progress pictures soon. I think I would like her to be Pure Neemo sized, 22 - 25 cm tall, but curvy and bobble-headed, with small feet and small hands. Cat ears may be involved.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

A really long post about the cost of making your own BJD

I decided to make a list of all the materials that I have used to make my doll. I am curious how much did it actually cost and I think someone also may find the list of materials useful. There are many other ways to make a doll, this post is about what worked for me.

Design stage:
Is free! :D You can design your doll on a piece of paper, this process will only cost you whatever time you put into it. I drew a 2d image of the doll in SketchBook app on my tablet and the 3d model in Sculptris on my computer. Having a drawing really helps with 3d modeling later, especially if you have never sculpted in a 3d modeling program before, as you can put the drawing and model side by side to check sized and proportions. My 3d model ended up looking  different from the drawing, but the sizing and overall appearance was close.
The hardest part was using Blender to cut the model and create joints. Sculptris is amazing and easy program to learn, but unfortunately it lacks any features needed to make separate doll parts, so you will have to use some other program to cut up whatever you design.
Overall cost: Software - free (any digital drawing application, Sculptris, Blender) + cost of your time learning the software and using it to model.

Prototype manufacturing:
I used a PrintrBot Simple with heated bed to print all parts of my doll at home. I printed the torso and head parts in halves and glued them together, this way I did not have to deal with the support material and the printer produced nicer surfaces, but I did have to even out the seams. Everything else was printed in one piece and some support material had to be removed. The main disadvantage of printing things at home was that even with 0.2 mm nozzle our printer does not really print in resolution high enough to produce smooth surface. The parts had almost spongy texture and this obviously created more work, sanding took a long time. The main advantage of printing at home is that I could try different scale to see how big I wanted the doll to be and did not have to wait days for parts to be shipped to me from a printing service.
The sanding was much harder than anticipated. I have never sanded many tiny plastic pieces to smooth finish and did not really know how to do it right. I used 2 cans of Rustoleum Automotive Primer Filler, 2 cans of Tamiya fine Surface Primer on top and sandpaper grades ranging from 400 to 1000. I actually tried many different types of sand paper, I think 3M softback sponge and Mr. Grinding Cloth were my favorite. And I have only found out that 3M sponges come in much finer grit when I was mostly done with sanding.
Overall cost: PrintrBot Simple costs about $700. You can buy a smaller Play model and attach the heated bed, which should cost about $500. Spool of PLA filament - about $20. Rustoleum $5x2 = $10, Tamiya primer $12x2 = $24. Mr. Grinding Cloth $6x2 = $12 (2 sets of rough and regular mesh), 3M flexible sanding sheets $5, 3M softback sanding sponge $5.
PPE: respirator with OV cartridges $30, dust masks $7, glasses $7, latex gloves $8.
So assuming that you do not have access to a printer, the total cost with PrintrBot Play would be $628. If printer and filament are accessible to you, sanding and PPE would cost $108. I may also add a cost approximation of printing through Shapeways if I find time to do a quote. Add cost of your time to set up and supervise prints (if not printed through a service), cleaning up support material and hours of sanding loose doll parts.

Gets really expensive! :D I cast my doll essentially to see if it was possible to do without a compressor and a pressure pot. The answer is yes, but not for distribution. After fiddling with my molds I eventually managed to produce a singe doll that did not have giant bubbles in the most noticeable places. She does have lots of embedded bubbles and cavities and I would not be able to sell dolls in this quality. I however do enjoy styling, dressing and photographing her, so she does live a full life of a loved ball-jointed doll regardless of all her flaws.
Overall cost:California Air Tools 5 gallon pressure pot costs $214 on Amazon. A pancake compressor would cost about $120.
I used 4 kits of Smooth-On OOMOO 30 silicone $25x4 = $100. Release agent $17. Craftsmart modeling clay $3x2 = $6. Silicone is cheaper to buy by gallon, but it also will eventually expire once opened, so I decided to buy smaller pint kits instead as I was not going to make all the molds at the same time.
Alumilite Amazing White resin kits $24x2 = $48, dye $5x3 = $15. I did buy 3 different dyes thinking that I will be casting rainbows and unicorns, but it will take me a while to go through all this dye now that I know how much work it takes to cast anything.
So if you are like me and just want to stubbornly try to cast your prototype without a pressure pot, it will cost about $186. Doing it right would cost about $520. Add time for assembling individual two-part molds for every doll part, pouring and curing silicone (OOMOO 30 takes 6 hours) and pouring resin.

Miscellaneous tools and items: you may find some unexpected applications for everyday items. I used a lot of shot size paper cups for mixing silicone and resin, popsicle sticks, toothpicks, coffee stirrers, straws, free measuring syringes from pharmacy, cardboard, lots of newspaper and paper towels. Many people also use lego bricks for building mold walls. Luckily you can buy these by weight on ebay!

In the end if you have access to 3d printer and do not plan to distribute your doll, you can make one for about $294. If you have to buy a printer and want to be able to produce quality casts, it will cost about $1148. This cost estimation is for a 17 cm single-jointed doll. The cost will go up depending on the size and complexity of the doll.

After looking at all the materials and the amount of work it takes to make a BJD, it seems the real expense is the time needed to learn how to use the software, tools and all the materials. I have a regular day time job, so my doll took me a year and a half to make. Even though doll making can get expensive, occupies obscene amounts of time and can be pretty frustrating when things do not go right, it is a very satisfying experience for an obsessive maker.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Waiting for primer again

I ran out of Tamiya primer and had to order another can. I think I have finally figured out that instead of spraying one layer and sanding it off I should have sprayed 2-3 layers and then GENTLY touched it with sandpaper. Oh well, maybe next time will be better :'D

Monday, March 6, 2017

Found some really fine flexible sand paper/mesh (Mr. Grinding Cloth) that comes in 400, 600, 800, 1000, 2000 and 3000 grades. Got very excited because I really needed something flexible and fine grade to finish the prototype. Ordered it from the hobby store on Friday. Turns out the hobby store ships on Tuesdays and Thursdays and it will be coming from Washington. Estimated date of arrival 3/14/17. Moral of the story: do not order half asleep at 6 am in the morning and read where you are ordering from XD

Thursday, February 23, 2017

First Mauri ever is done!

Mauri is complete, I took some pictures past weekend. She has the best pair of eyes I have made, they came out really neat and even. I think I finally figured out how to make decent glitter eyes, the trick is to first cure one transparent layer of resin with glitter in it and then add second layer with pupil. This way the glitter particles stay behing the pupil and do not float to the surface.
I am polishing the master sculpt once again, some spots were scratched during mold making. I am using Tamiya fine surface primer over Rustoleum and the texture feels more smooth, but I have not sanded it yet, so I cannot compare the two. I'm worried the head may be too complex to cast in a single piece mold like Haru does it, but I just have to finish priming, take some pictures and see what happens. Worst case scenario I will have to modify and prime a home cast resin head to make a different latching mechanism, which should not be too bad.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Last mold, starlets, eyes, outfit, etc.

This weekend I finally have made a functioning mold for the left hand and have cast both hands. They came out right the very first casting, it was such a joyful demolding. I'm starting to think that maybe this whole casting thing is not for me... All the sticky gooey mess, expiring silicone, mold halves stuck to each other, awesome toxic release agent, BUBBLES in the mold surfaces. I am thinking about other dolls I may want to make in the future, but I cannot imagine remaking 15+ two-part molds ever again. But who knows, I may change my mind by the time I have another prototype in my hands :/
I also made another outfit and a pair of glitter eyes. Unfortunately I scratched the faceup while changing the eyes, so I had to touch up the stars on her cheek. I want to take some pictures of her in daylight, but that will probably have to wait until the weekend.