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Bionic Barbie a.k.a. "shoulder replacement surgery"

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Picture of Bionic Barbie a.k.a.
Let's face it.  Barbie is getting up there.  As she got older at our house, being passed from my wife to our daughter, her age really began to show.  Today my daughter was playing with Barbie and the arm broke off in her hand; she started crying as she stared at the dismembered doll.

This Instructable is for removal and replacement of the small plastic joint holding Barbie's arms on.
 
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Step 1: Parts & Stuff

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1 long machine screw with nut

Pliers

Tweezers

Dental pick

Grinder

Thread lock or solder + iron

Armless Barbie

Step 2: Arm & Body Prep

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With a small drill bit, manually drill a pilot hole in the middle of the broken joint, being careful not to drill into the arm itself.  Screw into the pilot hole and pull the screw out with a pair of pliers to bore out material if necessary.  Using a dental pick or the like, pull out any remaining ball joint plastic.

There are two plastic nibs inside Barbie's chest cavity.  Push them in until they fall out, and shake her around until you get them out.  If you don't do this, they will rattle around inside her.

Step 3: Replacement Joint Fabrication

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Using a grinder (or file if you have the time but not the tools), make the head of the machine screw smaller and more "ball joint" shaped.  This will ensure the arm has more range of motion.  When selecting or modifying the machine screw, it should be long enough to go between both shoulder holes and stick out about 1/8" on either side.  Experiment to get the length right if necessary. (I forgot to measure before I had it all back together, oops.)

After you have the screw the right length, get to work on the nut.

Place the nut in a vice and grind it until it is more or less shaped like the head of the screw.

Step 4: Joint Assembly

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After you are satisfied with the shape of the nut, put the machine screw through the body and put the nut on.  You don't want the nut to come off the screw so use thread locker or solder.  In this 'able, I used lead-free solder to join the nut to the screw.  This part is internal and covered up by the plastic arm, so there won't be any contact between this part and your kid.  Also, solder doesn't adhere well to zinc plated screws, but after I did all the grinding on the nut and end of the screw it stuck nicely.

Be mindful that you don't want lead contamination and wash Barbie thoroughly after you are done to remove any foreign matter that you may have introduced.

In the second picture above, the shoulder joint assembly is pushed out so you can see the nut.  When in the proper position, each end only protrudes about 1/8".

Step 5: Barbie Arm Re-attachement

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Press the arms onto the two ball joints you have just made.  From the factory, the arms are on two plastic sticks...after this mod, they are both connected to the same piece and it is metal, so should be more durable.

Don't forget to thoroughly clean Barbie before she goes back into circulation!

This took me about an hour to complete, but this Barbie had been around for 25+ years and so I think it was worth the time to have a pass-down hopefully last another 25.
StoryAddict3 years ago
I have a couple of dolls I've been meaning to resell (Derek Jeter/Babe Ruth) but I had one or both have the arm break in the same place (I wonder if my Eric from The Little Mermaid was every repaired or if his leg just continued to swim in his pantleg from many years ago). This looks like a good solution (particular for something meant just to be a piece of memorabilia/decor anyway, but I guess I don't understand how having a single screw as the "axle" of the joint allows both arms to be articulated independently. Maybe if you had had more pictures inbetween stages (although I know it's hard to do when you're in the middle of things).
bigern00 (author)  StoryAddict3 years ago
Barbie's shoulder is just a slip joint. Independent movement doesn't seem to be a problem and it has withstood 24 hours (so far) of 3 year old toddler field testing.
Are you going to enter this in the Toys2 challenge? I think repairing a favorite toy is as good as making a new toy.
10 super-dad points for you!

I did a shoulder replacement in about 1972 on the GI Joe handed down from my brother. Joe had been subjected to firecrackers. :(
I threaded elastic through his torso and tied it to the ball joints. It worked pretty well, and Joe went on to ride Breyer horses for several more years.

omnibot3 years ago
I used to protest against Barbie back in the nineties.
Phil B3 years ago
I remember doing hip surgery on Barbie back in the 1970s when our daughters were in their Barbie phase. I did not have a Dremel at the time. I do not remember what I had to do to attach a wandering leg. It seems like ti worked.
Very smart idea!