A Tool's Tale

Tomorrow I'll be talking about the different types of mohair and their applications. First I'll need to come clean about something, something to which there is a lot of stigma, judgement and shame attached. Yes, I'm coming out of the rooting tool closet! I use the rooting tool not just for mohair but all my rooting. The rooting tool aka "punch tool" aka "tension method tool" has been around forever and has had quite the bad reputation with customizers and collectors alike. I'd like to change that though. 

Unlike traditional rooting where each plug is sewn in and hand knotted, the tension method uses an open ended needle to punch the hair through the scalp and uses only the natural tension of the vinyl to hold the hair in. Main concerns have been the worry the hair will fall out and the possible tearing of vinyl caused by the tool's needle. I believe though that any tool's end result falls squarely on the user. I couldn't use a chainsaw to cut wood but we've all seen the amazing sculptures some are able to create. Most of us can't drive properly in the rain but precision drivers can create ballet. Hell, even the paint brush was a weapon of mass destruction in my early days (but I'll get to that next month when we discuss repainting)! As for the hair falling out, I've had more hair loss when brushing out a brand new Tonner than from a tension reroot and there are even diamond rings utilizing the science.

Small, Medium and Large

Here's how I was introduced to it and the proper way to use it:
I used to believe staunchly in the knot method and nothing else. I would take dolls to reroot to set with me and work on them in between set-ups. As it is, knot rerooting can take anywhere from 12-24 hours so you can imagine how long a full reroot would take me. I'd been rerooting a Rosie O'Donnell doll with floor length blonde hair so I could turn her into an operatic Valkyrie and was finally done after a full week of working on her. I was so excited to get to the painting! However, the night I completed her my car was broken into and the case I kept my doll work in was stolen. My tools, some fashions and of course my weeks' worth of work literally went out the window. 

After losing all that time invested, I set out to discover the truth about this evil rooting tool and the claims it could cut a reroot down to 6-8 hours. I ordered the tool and some needles and set about experimenting. It's now been 13 years, I'm still using it and it does indeed cut the time down to 4-8 hours. As a repainter this of course helps my hands out immensely. The knot method hurt them a lot. Also, considering the chances I'll end up with carpal tunnel or arthritis between computer work, photo work, hair and painting, I need to be selective about how they are used. With so many more commitments now, 12-24 hours working on a reroot no longer makes sense and as long as I know I'm still putting out a quality product I have no regrets.

For beginners I suggest practicing on an old Tonner head that has had all the hair cut off or been scalped. Heat the head in a heating pad. When the head is sufficiently soft, select 10-20 strands of saran hair, slide it into the needle head at the mid section and insert the needle into an existing hair hole in the head at a 45 degree angle. Insert all the way in and quickly but carefully pull out. Tearing can occur if the holes are too close together or if you rush and jam the tool in. Think grace, flow and gentility while rerooting. You'll need to occasionally reheat the head while you fill all the holes up but this won't affect the previous work. Using the heating pad cuts down on needle breakage and keeps the needle eye from closing on itself from pressure. I've been using the same needle for years but I still bought back up just in case. Also, the hair will lay in the direction you root it from so keep that in mind. Pretty soon you'll be a rooting fiend!

I use the larger tool for reroots using existing holes. If you find you need to create a new hairline then I suggest using the smaller tool. Draw the new hairline in using a pencil and check the reflection in the mirror to make sure it's symmetrical. Use dots to plan out the new holes and proceed as usual. As you're creating new holes take your time to get it right: A micro-millimeter difference in placement shows.

Here's the link to the site I used to purchase my tools: Reroot Tool

Good luck and I'll see you back here tomorrow to show you what you can accomplish!

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