Greenware Tips

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How big do I make the neck opening?

Cleaning Greenware

The bigger the opening the more the head will move. Using a shoulder plate connector, you must have the opening smaller than the inside of the neck. If not, the shoulder plate connector will fall out and not hold the head to the shoulder plate. When stringing the head to a body, you will be using a bead or bar, larger then the opening to hold the elastic string in place securely.

How can I open the head on a dome doll?

Dome Heads

Need to put an opening in a dome head? The best time is when the greenware comes out of the mold. Slowly press the top, towards the back, against a firm smooth surface until you have created a flat area large enough for a useful opening and at least 1/2-1/4 inch rim. Set aside and let it dry to leather hard before cutting the opening. The hole needs to be big enough to meet your need. If its purpose is to put in the shoulder plate connector or bead to hold the stringing elastic, small will do. Setting eyes would need a bigger hole.

How can I tell if a part has been soft fired?

Greenware or Soft fired

Not sure if you have softfired a piece of greenware. Tap it lightly - if it sounds dull it has not been softfired.

Can I use lotion to protect my hands?


Working with porcelain slip can dry your hands. Don't be tempted to put lotion on before you work with the slip or greenware. To the contrary, wash your hands to remove any lotion or oils from your hands. It will affect the painting of your doll.

When can I tell to stop cleaning the eye opening?

Cleaning Eyes

Eye cleaning can be tricky. If you have an almost perfect eye opening and you think, "just one more stroke" - STOP - Don't do any more. Put the piece down. This is when most eyes chip because you hurry a little without realizing it. Pick it up later and look to see if it really needs any further work - then do anything extra.

Can I clean SFGW when it is dry?


SFGW still creates dust if you clean it when it is dry. Soak it in water and clean it while it is wet. The moisture prevents dust.

How can I protect the greenware?

Moving Greenware

Put old socks over your hands if you have to move a piece of greenware. Today I had just put hand cream on my hands when I realized that I had to move Pope John Paul's wet greenware head. I didn't want to wash my hands to do this quick job. I put the socks over my hands and carefully lifted the head and moved it to another location. Since cream or oil on your hands will stain the greenware and cause problems, if I hadn't been able to cover my hands, I would have washed them before I touch any greenware.

What can I use between the toes and fingers?

Cleaning Greenware

A good cleaning tool is stockings for cleaning between fingers and toes. I hold a small piece of stocking between my thumb and third finger and my first and second fingers, using a sawing motion to clean between toes and fingers. Caution: Make sure you have the stocking between the digits, otherwise you will put a groove in one of the toes or fingers.

How can I avoid having scratches on my bisque?

Cleaning Greenware

Are scratches showing up on your bisque that you didn't notice when you were cleaning your SFGW? After cleaning your SFGW, rinse your pieces off under running water, rubbing to be sure to clean off all waste. Let the pieces dry completely. Now is the time to check for marks and scratches. You can find more by using a magnifying glass. Circle any marks with a pencil so you will not miss any marks. End results: a beautifully cleaned doll.

Is there a short cut to dressing a doll?

One Doll Two Colors

Fashion doll's lower torso can be poured in white slip. When you put the doll together, glue lace around the leg and the panties are done.

How can I avoid missing steps when cleaning?

Checklist to Use When Cleaning Your Doll

Prevention checklist: Top of head opening large enough to set eyes or shoulder plate connector. Neck opening hole cut out. Shoulder plate hole matching head neck hole. Four holes to tie shoulder plate to body. Arm and leg holes cut out of the all porcelain body. Earring holes. Shoulder plate sides opened or trimmed the way you had planned. You don't always receive the parts with all the holes finished. And if you pour your own, only the pour holes will be open. I have at one time or another missed opening a hole listed here.

Do I have to paint eyes on dome heads or can I insert them?

Cleaning Dome Heads

When your choice of doll has a dome head, make sure the neck opening is large enough to put in eyes. I have cut out eyes of small dolls with dome heads, only to discover I can't get the eyes in place. Now I ream out the inside of the neck to make the opening as large as possible.

How can I keep the feature details?

Cleaning Greenware

To keep your doll features crisp, use the ball end of a cleaning tool and go over the feature lines. Outline the knuckle lines and other lines on the hands and feet. Don't forget the nose, ears and chin. A little extra work in these areas make a big difference in the finished doll. You can also add a long life line to the palm, as a signature of your work.

Which is better: greenware or SFGW?


If you are a beginner, SFGW is better. SFGW stands for soft fired greenware. It has been fired in a kiln to a cone 17 or 18 or 19. It will not break as quickly. There has been just enough heat to change the chemicals of the slip so the piece can be soaked in water to allow for wet cleaning. The dust from porcelain slip can cause a lung condition equal to black lung. There is a current trend to clean the pieces with brushes when they are leather-hard before they have dried.

How do I fix a broken shoulderplate?

Piecing it Together

If you have a large area, such as a shoulderplate, break, it can be repaired by using a thin slip. Make sure all edges are moist and put it together. Once you put it together don't try to pull it apart, it will brake more. Using a brush, paint the slip over the whole area, covering the section with a thin to medium amount of slip. Don't forget the underneath side. Then fire.

Where did the little holes on the seamline come from?

Holes on the Seamline

Little holes along a seam line are usually caused when trying to clean
too much of the seam waste at one time. If you use a knife to scrape the seam line, do it in thin layers to get excess waste, finishing up with a nylon stocking or sponge with fine grit to get that smooth finish.

Is there a way to avoid cutting the eye too big?


Before cutting eyes, use a pencil to draw a line where you want to stop the cut. This is a good guide and the pencil lead will burn off in the kiln.

What causes scratches along the seam line?

Watch The Knife Tip

If you use a feather knife to clean the seams, watch where the tip of the knife is at all times. The tip may cause scratches on your greenware.

Why does my SFGW desolve in water?


A problem with parts of your SFGW doll "melting" when you put it into the water, leaving holes the size of a quarter or larger? Before putting the piece in your water filled container, quickly run water over it. The piece should change color, except for any area that was not fired properly - that area is usually gray. You need to re-fire it or using a facemask, clean the piece as if it had never been fired.

How do you pick up greenware?

Reducing Breakage

Are you breaking greenware when picking it up or holding it? Hold the whole piece in the palm of your hand. It is very fragile at this stage. If you put your fingers inside the piece via an opening, such as the leg or arm opening, you will break it. This is also true when cleaning the piece. I broke EVERY piece of my first doll by holding it at the holes.

Why am I getting scratch marks at the seam line?

Cleaning Greenware

Scratch marks alongside the seam line can be avoided. When scraping the seam flashing off, use the middle of the Exacto type knife. Be aware of the placement of the tip of the knife. If it touches the greenware you will have a scratch that has to be cleaned again.

Does it matter if I clean between the fingers?

It's the small areas

When cleaning hands, clean and smooth areas between the knuckles to give your doll a nice finished look. It is something that isn't noticed when its done correctly, but when it is badly done it sticks out like a sore thumb.

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Sherril Steele-Carlin