Introduction: The Fabled Hare (a 3D Printable Ball-jointed Doll)

About: British techie moved to Texas in 2013. Now a full time, freelance artist. Interested in articulation and assemblies. Fan of support-free models. John Joseph Merlin is my hero.

"A hare is not a pet but a person. Hares are clever and brave and loving, and they have fairy blood in them. It’s a grand thing to have a hare for a friend. One doesn’t often, because they have a lot of dignity and keep themselves to themselves; not like rabbits, who are always underfoot; but if you do win the love of a hare — well — it’s a fine thing for you . . . And you’ve done it."

(taken from "The Little White Horse" by Elizabeth Goodge)

Hares are beautiful, mysterious creatures and are found in mythologies all over the world. The hare is a loyal companion to the gods or sometimes a goddess herself. A symbol of swiftness, they are able messengers, they represent fertility and life, indeed the last corn of the harvest was called a hare and of course, hares have always been tied to the Moon, with their shape forever in its shadows. Legend also says hares have an affinity with fire, leaping from and into burning fields unscathed and this image has carried to modern literature:

"The hare runs into the fire.
The hare runs into the fire.
The fire, it takes her, she is not burned.
The fire, it takes her, she is not burned.
The hare runs into the fire.
The fire, it loves her, she is free . . ."

(taken from "I shall wear Midnight" by Terry Pratchett)

Some thought the hare to be a shape shifter and a favored form of witches. Isobel Gowdie who was accused of witchcraft in the 17th century, claimed she could become a hare by chanting the following words

"I sall goe intill ane haire
With sorrow and sych and meikle care
And I sale goe in the Divells name
Ay whill come hom again"

Of course, all of this is superstition born out of people misunderstanding the hare's natural habits. The song "The Fabled Hare"by Maddy Priorbeautifully explains the mystical human perception of the hare and the creature's reality. I first heard it many years ago as it was written specially for a BBC nature documentary called "The Shadow of the Hare". It's also where my model takes its name from.

You can listen to the song here.

My personal fascination with hares started when I borrowed a copy of Kit William's Masquerade from my local library. It was the early 80's and I was 7 or 8. I marveled at the art and the beautiful golden hare crafted by Williams, both made a huge impression on me and still influence my work today. Recently, I decided wanted my own hare but for it to be more than a picture or a static sculpture, something that I could interact with and that would incorporate an array of my design skills. Of course my love of the clockwork driven automatons from past centuries can be seen in the styling. Maybe also this hare would feel at home in places like Wonderland or Oz?

The Fabled Hare is a ball jointed doll (also known as a BJD) and strung together with elastic cord. It has a face plate which is attached by magnets and removable. All feedback (especially from ball jointed doll makers and owners) is most welcome. I don't not own any BJDs and am not an experienced doll designer, so this was worked out using observation and what common sense I have. I'm sure there are better ways to do things.

This doll isn't jeweled, made of gold or magical but I hope it is something people will enjoy.

Files can be found on Cults3D and Thingiverse:

This model was sculpted entirely in Blender

Step 1: Parts and Tools

To make the hare you will need the following:

  • 3D printed parts (this is described in the next step)
  • Glue (this must be capable of bonding the materials you are using)
  • 306cm(10ft) of 3mm(1/8in) diameter elasticated cord
  • 4 x 6mm x 3mm(or smaller) magnets
  • Putty or silicone earplugs (if you don't plan to glue the eyes permanently)

The following is a list of tools you may find useful:

  • Needle nose pliers
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers/hemostats(these will help you grab and pull cord)

Advice on cord and knots

3mm cord can be bought from many craft stores and websites that sell parts and accessories for dolls. The advantage with cord designed specifically for dolls is that it will have the right amount of elasticity to be able to hold any pose well. Cord that is weaker may cause the doll to flop. The problem with doll cord is that the colors available are often limited to white/cream/black and as the hare can be printed in any color, this might detract from the overall look of the model. I was therefore delighted to find that elasticated bungee cord can be obtained in various diameters and a wide selection of colors and reasonable prices.

I found the cord stocked by Paracord Planet worked very well indeed - just the right strength and a HUGE range of colors. Please note I am not sponsored by them and am simply reporting my findings.

I purchased 10ft of 3mm(1/8in) cord in Silver Gray for my silver hare. 10ft is more than enough but it allows for testing and restringing if you decide if the tension in your doll is not right.

I will give some rough measurements for cord length in my instructions, but be aware that your requirements may differ based on how elasticated your cord is. I also allow extra as it makes it easier to tie the knots. You then trim off the excess.

Speaking of knots. These must be secure. I generally use what is called a "granny knot". But, sometimes it's just too awkward and I go for a normal ugly double knot. So far, I've not had any trouble.

The internet (and no doubt Instructables also) abound with tutorials on how to tie good knots, so I'll let you find one that suits you best.

Step 2: Printing the Model Parts

The joint fittings for this model have very small tolerances, this is to ensure the model can hold a pose and not flop (providing stringing guide is followed). To avoid problems, the filament diameter must be dialed in correctly. Included is a 20mm x 20mm x 20mm cube (test_cube.stl). Please print this out and ensure the print is accurate as possible. Outside of this and the assembled parts may not fit together properly and the doll may not pose well.

Most of these models have a very small footprint and because of this I would recommend using a brim. This is not necessary for all models so I will mark where appropriate. I will also indicate where support is needed.

I do not support scaling for this doll but you are welcome to try. Scaling will likely require you use a different diameter cord.

Please bear in mind that these are just recommendations and that your set up may have different requirements.

All model parts, unless specified otherwise in the Notes section will be printed at .2 layer height and 10% infill with at least 2 perimeters(shells).

Please read the section regarding assembling the front legs. This describes what the v2 version of these files do.

I managed to upload a broken version of neck_lower.stl. There is now neck_lower_fixed.stl please use this instead.

head.stlYesNoInfill increased to 15% and ensure at least 8 solid top layers to avoid holes. Ensure plenty of cooling is used
ankle_front_right_v2.stlYesYesPlease read the section regarding assembling the front legs. This describes what the v2 version of these files do
eye.stlNoNoPrint x 2

Step 3: Fitting the Magnets and Hook

To complete this step you will need:

  • 4 x 6mm x 2mm (or smaller) magnets
  • Glue
  • magnet_hook.stl (printed)
  • neck_upper.stl (printed)
  • head.stl (printed)

Do the following

  1. Glue the magnet hook into the slots in the neck_upper part. Ensure it dries.
  2. Pair off the magnets
  3. Take the first pair of magnets and glue one magnet into a holder on the magnet hook and glue it's mate (ensuring the that pole direction is correct) into the corresponding slot in the hare head.

    Make sure this is orientated so the upper_neck.stl is facing the right way as shown in the first picture.
  4. Repeat for second pair
  5. Once dry, you should be able to secure your hare head to the upper neck using the magnets. I forgot to take a picture at this point and therefore am including one a little further along in the process. Sorry!

Step 4: Stringing the Ears

Note: If you have very large hands, you may want to fit the eyes first!
You will need:

  • Elasticated cord(6 1/2 inches/16.5 cm worked well for me)
  • ear_right.stl(printed)
  • ear_left.stl(printed)
  • hare head
  • small needle nose pliers or some hemostats (this is a very close work and these will help pulling cord through)
  1. Thread cord through one ear hole, through the head and through the other ear hole
  2. Thread the ears as shown and tuck the cord ends through the ears so they can be tied.
  3. When pulling the cord to tense, take into account it should not be too tight. We want the ears to hold up straight but also the lay back and not "kick" up.
  4. Knot the cord securely and trim the ends closely. There isn't much room inside the head for excess cord.

Step 5: Fitting the Eyes

You will need:

  • 2 x eye.stl printed
  • Assembled hare head
  • Glue, putty or silicone earplugs


  • UV clear doming resin
  • Black nail polish

The eyes can be printed in any color but obviously one that contrasts with the rest of the model and has a translucent quality is the most striking.

You can of course use pre-made eyes but they must be no more than 12mm in diameter and flat-backed otherwise they won't fit. Another consideration if purchasing eyes, is that normal doll eyes won't do as they show too much white. A hare only shows the iris and pupil. I've no idea how difficult it would be to get these but you could probably try sites which supply taxidermists.

Update: Etsy appears to have loads of sellers which can provide a wide range of suitable eyes at reasonable prices.

I find it more fun to make my own. A bit of black nail polish works well for a pupil and I always use a clear UV doming resin (most jewelry resin is suitable) to create a "lens". It's quite effective.

If you don't fancy buying eyes or painting them, the eye is sculpted with a recess anyway, so a shadow will be cast where the pupil will be. You won't have "zombie" eyes.

To fit the eyes, there are recesses inside the head where they will sit. You can either glue them in or use putty or silicone earplugs which will hold them in place. The advantage with the putty/silicone option is that it makes the eyes removable should you wish to change the color or or direction the hare is looking in. Gluing is going to be rather fiddly and hard.

  1. Wrap a small piece of putty around your eye
  2. Put the puttied eye on the end of your finger and work it in place inside the head. Once it is seated in the recess, you can move the eye to position it. I find having the pupil centered but slightly upwards works well as a neutral eye position for a hare
  3. Now your hare is just a floating head instead of an eyeless monster - not sure which is worse:-)

Step 6: Stringing the Neck and Chest

You will need:

  • Assembled Upper Neck
  • Assembled Hare head
  • neck_lower.stl (printed)
  • chest.stl (printed
  • Elasticated cord (I used 1 and 1/2 ft/45.5 cm which is plenty)

  1. Ensure the model pieces are together as shown (remember the front of neck_upper.stl has the ridge)
  2. Take the cord and loop it over the magnet hook
  3. Hook the other end under the brace inside the chest
  4. Tie a secure knot ensuring the tension is tight enough to hold the neck pieces together and have some controlled movement. At this point you will need to add the head as the cord has to be strung enough to hold the extra weight.
  5. Test that the hare can hold their head up and down and twist and keep the position. Once you are happy, trim the ends and tuck any excess into the chest cavity

Step 7: Stringing the Front Legs

You will need:

  • Assembled neck and chest
  • shoulder_left.stl (printed)
  • shoulder_right.stl (printed)
  • leg_front_upper_left.stl or leg_front_upper_left_v2.stl (printed)
  • leg_front_upper_right.stl or leg_front_upper_right_v3.stl(printed)
  • leg_front_lower_left.stl or leg_front_lower_left_v2.stl (printed)
  • leg_front_lower_right.stl or l(printed)
  • ankle_front_left.stl or ankle_front_left_v2.stl (printed)
  • ankle_front_right.stl or ankle_front_right_v2.stl (printed)
  • foot_front_left.stl or foot_front_left_v2.stl (printed)
  • foot_front_right.stl or foot_front_righ_v2t.stl (printed)
  • Elasticated cord (28 in/70 cm)

Special note: I have introduced a locking mechanism to the front legs and feet. This should make the hare far more stable to pose if you are not used to playing around with ball-jointed dolls and their various idiosyncrasies. Not sure if this a solution or a bodge yet :-).

The locks work as follows:

The foot and ankle. The foot has a cut into it which will clip onto a small wedge inside the ankle. This will hold the foot in a secure position. If you decide you want the foot to bend, you can just gently pull the foot off the wedge by moving it slightly forward and down.

The upper and lower front legs: The lower leg had three "pegs" which will fit into a recess on the back of the inside of the upper leg. This will hold the hare's front leg locked at three points int he joints rotation. To move the lower leg, just pull it forward slightly and rotate to the the next peg and it should click into place.

The advantage with this is that the front legs can be strung more tightly and not kick unless the lower leg is pulled out of its lock.

Both versions work anyway it just depends on what you want to do.

All feedback is welcome

The new files with the lock are those suffixed with v2.
Assemble the legs pieces into the appropriate left/right groups so you don't get mixed up, some of the left/right joints look identical but they aren't and stringing your hare incorrectly will cause issues with posing

  1. Take your piece of cord and run it through one arm hole and out of the other
  2. Then string one leg (making sure you don't pull cord through from the other side). String in this order:

    shoulder -> upper_arm -> lower_arm ->ankle -> foot

    then take the cord back up

    foot -> ankle -> lower_arm -> upper_arm -> shoulder
  3. Thread the cord out of the hole in the back of the chest piece
  4. Repeat for the other side. You should now have the two pieces of cord sticking out of the hole at the back of the chest
  5. Now here comes the fun bit: tensing the cord. Unfortunately I can't draw you a diagram but you want your hare to be able to bend its legs and not "kick". Kicking is a BJD term for joints moving to the path of least resistance by themselves because they are strung too tight and/or the joint design leaves something to be desired(I'm sure this is the case here to some degree). However, you also want it tense enough so when the legs are bent, the ankle and foot don't flop.

    However, if you use the new v2 files, which have built in locks this problem goes away.
    Your "half-a-hare" should balance easily by themselves but this will require they are strung correctly and that the maker has a bit of practice playing with the stringing and moving the joints. Also, if you are using the v2 front legs, you can lock into the "first" peg for secure balance.

    In this instance, it is very easy to untie the knot and try again until you feel happy. Once you are happy, you can trim the ends.

Step 8: Stringing the Tail

Unfortunately, there isn't much space to work with here but it is possible.
You will need:

  • lower_body.stl (printed)
  • tail.stl (printed)
  • cord(4 in/ 10cm)
  • pliers/hemostats/tweezers
  1. There is a brace in the tail hole Thread the cord under the brace and push and twist until you see the end of the thread pop up over it. Use some tweezers/pliers/hemostats to grab this and pull it through.
  2. Loop the tail onto the cord and knot it tight
  3. Cut the ends and pull the cord so the knot and cut ends are not in the way of the tail. The tail should be able to move. Although it's mostly used for balance for when the hare sits.

Step 9: Stringing the Back Legs

You will need:

  • Assembled lower body
  • thigh_left.stl (printed)
  • thigh_right.stl (printed)
  • leg_back_upper_left.stl (printed)
  • leg_back_upper_right.stl (printed)
  • ankle_back_left.stl (printed)
  • ankle_back_right.stl (printed)
  • leg_back_lower.stl (printed)
  • leg_back_lower.stl (printed)
  • foot_back_left.stl (printed)
  • foot_back_right.stl (printed
  • toes_back_left.stl
  • toes_back_right.stl
  • Cord (31.5 in / 80 cm)
  • Tweezers

The hind quarters of the hare are not easy to turn into working ball joints for a doll that can hold poses.
I think this is why you never see BJD hares or rabbits that aren't "anthro"(or very rarely). Hares, in particular are all bendy legs and spine but still beautiful enough to make the effort for, so I did. I've achieved what I set out to do but this area needs some improvement which I will fold into another doll with a similar back end set up (or maybe another Hare - I don't know yet). However, it still has a good range of movement, so it was worth publishing.

What you need to do:

  1. Gather all the leg pieces together and group them right and left. You don't want them to get mixed up. Look at the ankle joint and note that the fully spherical ball joint goes in the foot_back model.
  2. Start by threading one leg. The order goes:
    thigh -> leg_upper -> ankle -> foot_back -> toes
    and then thread the way back up
    toes -> foot_back -> ankle -> leg_upper -> thigh
  3. Pull both ends of the cord through the hole in the lower body and sit the thigh in its socket.
  4. Repeat the threading process for the other leg.
  5. Now you will need to tense and knot it. The rule for the back legs is pretty much the same for the front legs. Due to my design and the shape of hares legs and the limitations of ball joints, there will still be a little bit of flopping but nothing to stop you achieving some good hare poses.
  6. Once happy, trim the cord very close because there isn't much of a cavity for the knot to fall back into (although it should full into the hollow of one thigh and you can tuck any small ends into the small space in the body between the thigh sockets). You can pull the cord around to even out the tension. The hare legs should be able to balance

Step 10: Stringing the Body(final Stage!!!)

The last stage in assembling our hare!

You will need:

  • Assembled head and chest
  • upper_body.stl (printed)
  • Assembled lower body
  • Cord (80cm or 160mm)

Having this part of the doll strung tightly enough is very important. In fact you may want to double up on your cord. It depends on how you want your doll to behave.

  1. Lay out the pieces as you will assemble them. Remember the ridge in the upper_body is on the bottom.
  2. There are braces in the chest and lower body cavities. You need to thread a cord over the brace in the chest, through the upper_body and then under the brace in the lower_body and back up. I find it easiest to thread through the neck hole but make sure you don't loop over the neck brace!
  3. Tie the knot as tight as you can, the stronger this part is the better the hare will be able to hold their body up.
  4. Enjoy your hare!

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