Many bobblehead lovers are curious as to how a custom bobblehead doll is created and why it usually takes weeks to make one. At a high level, there are four steps involving in creating a custom bobblehead doll: sculpting, molding, polishing, and painting, excluding both the preparation work and final shipping. Before getting into details of each step, it is worth mentioning that the process described is for the resin-based bobblehead.
1. Sculpting (Less than a day to seven working days)
This step requires a mastery of hand sculpting skills. It is usually done by skillful artists, who typically have years of experience doing hand sculpting based on provided photos or reference objects. It may take 4 to 5 hours for a very experienced artist to sculpt a 7-inch bobblehead, while for a less experienced artist it may take more than a day or two. Once the initial sculpting is finished, the consumer will have the opportunity to review its photos. Making changes is relatively easy and quick at this stage.
On the other hand, it will be more costly to request a change at a later stage because the whole sculpture needs to be rebuilt. Therefore, a consumer should look at the initial sculpture carefully when the bobblehead maker is asking for comments. If you are not sure, you should ask for more photos or ask for clarification. By doing that, you may spend more time upfront, but you will also minimize your chance of needing to have the bobblehead reworked later and having to pay more. Also, the customer should be aware that a custom bobblehead doll is created based on submitted photos rather than a live person. Therefore, the expectation should be set properly regarding the resemblance and facial expression of the final bobblehead doll.
2. Molding (7-10 working days)
Molding is the process during which the initial sculpture from the previous process will be used as a base to build the profile and curvatures of a bobblehead’s body and head. First, a semi-liquid silicone gel will be applied to the surface of the initial sculpture. A soft silicone coating that takes the shape of the bobblehead profile will be formed once the gel dries. Then, a plaster coating will be applied on the surface of the silicone coating. The plaster coating will become a hardened cast after the drying process. Subsequently, the initial sculpture will be taken out of the silicone coating. After the preparation work is done, melted resin will be injected into the emptied silicone coating to form the bobblehead. Since the silicone coating is soft, the plaster cast wrapping the silicone coat will act to keep the resin in the desired shape before it is solidified. Once the resin becomes solid, it will be taken out by opening the plaster and peeling off the silicone coating. By now, a raw bobblehead doll has been created.
3. Polishing (one to three working days)
A raw bobblehead is not ready to be painted. It has grease on its surface that needs to be removed, and rough surfaces that need to be ground smooth. Neglecting the polishing process will result in poor painting later on. Polishing a bobblehead doll also requires a decent level of craftsmanship. Because its shape and curvature are different from one to another, this process still cannot be standardized and automated. In addition to removing the grease and smoothing the surface, refining the raw bobblehead details manually may be necessary. Because of tolerances stemming from the molding process, deviation from the initial sculpting is unavoidable. The sculpting artist often needs to fine-tune the raw bobblehead after the initial polishing, and this process may need to be reiterated. If it is determined that the defects cannot be fixed, the whole raw bobblehead needs to be scrapped.
4. Painting (one to three working days)
Painting is not as easy as it appears to be. The first step is to blend base colors to create colors the consumers desire. The quality of the blended colors is critical, as it has a large impact on the aesthetic aspect of the bobblehead. Also, because every bobblehead may have its unique colors, simply making the desired colors with high quality for each unique bobblehead can be very time-consuming. Secondly, painting is done by using the painting brush manually, due to the small painting areas and complex surface curvatures. Moreover, customers often ask to create different patterns on their clothing. In such cases, the painting artists will be required to alternate different painting brushes on those tiny areas, which is a demanding task. Once paints are applied to a bobblehead doll for both its head and body, it can be assembled by using a spring with glue on both ends. Obviously, using the spring is what makes the bobblehead doll bobble.