The Ultimate Unicorn: Chii – Part 2: Maintenance Work (Doll Profile #9)

In the last post, I covered a quick history of Chii, bringing her home, and what she means to me. Time to get some of the more practical stuff out of the way. Despite still being a Volks product, Chii is still old resin and made in a very different time. She’s an old SD from a time where manufacturing was less precise. Fortunately she seems to have lived in her box for over 10 years, so there was a good canvas to start from.

Warning, this will be a pretty picture heavy post with lots of images of Chii in pieces!

First thing’s first: the head. Volks resins at the time didn’t have any magnets or quick release mechanisms for the head cap. They were held on using a rubber band that fed through a hole in the cap and around the S-hook. You then spun the head cap around to get appropriate tension so it would stay on. Chii’s head was even more complicated as her ears were also attached to the same rubber band.

IMG_4556Here’s the inside of Chii’s head cap. The bit at the top is where the rubber band would be thread through to attach to the ears and S-hook. There’s also a bunch of stamping on the inside, including copyright tags for CLAMP, Kodansha, and Volks. There’s also a stamp for Chii’s name and stamp indicating that she was Zoukei-Mura designed. A lot going on under there…

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Equally interesting is the older style plate on the back of her head. It has the familiar “SD” logo, but the numbering reads “03,05/ LI”. Presumably for May, 2003 Limited? I guess back then there weren’t any serial numbers printed on the dolls themselves, so you had to rely on the included documentation for authenticity. If she did originally ship with one, it was lost to time…

Here are some shots for inside of her head. Yet another Zoukei-Mura stamp above her eyes. The rubber band in there was pretty brittle, presumably being the original one from 2003. The elastic was also pretty aged, so that definitely needed replacement. Surprisingly, the glue that was holding her eyes in appears original! That’s pretty amazing considering some of the other dolls I’ve seen in the second hand market where the hot glue has let go and the eyes were left to rattle around inside the head…

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I took the step of retrofitting Chii’s head with magnets. I glued a small rare-earth magnet inside the head and another rubber-coated one inside the headcap. With the cap and head lined up, they stick together and hold the cap in place. No more rubber bands! I also used a small piece of elastic to tie her ears together, independent of the head cap and S-Hook. Finally, some eye putty to replace the hot glue, that stuff would let go someday anyway. Time to turn my attention to the rest of the body.

The old SD10 body also didn’t have any frills or features holding the body together. It was all elastic and string on the inside. No S-Hooks, no quick release systems, nothing. Changing hands on these bodies were a pretty big pain, if it was even an option… The only S-hook on the SD10 body was was the one holding the head to the body! On the plus side, the old bodies were extremely simple to string. It was just two loops of elastic, one from head to feet, the other from hand to hand. No special loops, no weird extra joints. Just simple as long as you had something to pull the elastic through the body.

Though the process of dismantling her, I did create one problem. I didn’t realize that her feet were made up of two pieces: the foot itself and the ball joint on top. These were attached by glue. When I pulled on the foot, the opposing force from the elastic was enough to break the two free (likely due to the age of the glue) and cause the ball joint to snap back into the leg. It made a horrendous noise and caused a slight bit of panic as I though I’d just broken an extremely rare doll. Fortunately I was wearing my brown pants that day (crisis averted)!

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With the detached foot, I got a chance to see how this stuff was all put together and then was able to fashion a modern solution! I ditched the small piece of string, found a paperclip, and made a new way to reattach the foot which would also make it easier to remove in the future.

I knew I went to engineering school for a reason…I probably could have reattached the string and put it back to the way she was, but this was far more fun!

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Finally, it was time to give Chii a nice finish. By default, Volks dolls come from the factory “unfinished.” Buyers had the option to add on services that would remove seam lines and a UV-cut coat. Either the original purchaser of my Chii didn’t elect to do these services or they weren’t available due to the purchasing circumstances, so this example came to me as “factory fresh.” This meant seam lines from the casting process on her arms, legs, and torso. Note these aren’t generally present on modern Volks resin, as their manufacturing process has evolved to largely eliminate these.

The seam lines are pretty pronounced on the older dolls and aren’t exactly straight. Some owners will sand these down to give the doll a smoother more natural appearance, but I chose to leave Chii’s in place as a reminder of her vintage.

Even though I left the seam lines in place, I did want to do something about Chii’s finish. The “raw” resin has a bit of a sheen to it. It’s usually OK, but it has a tendency to reflect under strong light. To solve this, I applied a UV coating purchased from Volks. The uncoated piece is on the left of these pictures and the coated piece is on the right. It’s a pretty big difference! In addition to having a the anti-reflective qualities, it also gives the resin a texture that’s velvety to the touch.

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Here are all of the pieces coated and done! I didn’t do the hands, feet, or head since I got a little nervous doing painted or strung portions. Fortunately, a friend of mine later masked off the ears and was able to coat the faceup for me later!

After getting some new elastic and going through the restring process the difference was pretty dramatic. She felt much newer, posed a bit better, and photographed well too! If only I could find a way to keep the wig tame…

Next time, Chii takes a very special trip…

-Doll Profile-
Name: Chii
Make: Volks SD10
Arrival Date: June 13, 2014
From: Mandarake Online, Sapporo store

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