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How to start making puppets?

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by charlynoa, Feb 20, 2005.

  1. princessotako

    princessotako New Member

    hi. have been following links and the info has been helpful - here comes the but - i am having a problem with pattern making from the maquette. have been testing out the large patterns (understand how to enlarge) in cardboard and they seem fine, until i make them up in foam (am using pe30). any suggestions?
    oh and has anybody used suede lycra as a covering?
    thanks
  2. spcglider

    spcglider Member

    The problems you are encountering may have to to with the thickness and the "squish-ability" of the foam versus your cardboard pattern.

    Remember: you're cutting the pattern out of foam that is probably 1/2 inch thick. That means your pieces will be squished smaller towards the inside of the shape you're building and stretched larger towards the outside of the shape you're building.

    Imagine a ball shape made of 1/2 inch thick foam. If you measure the exterior of the ball and it's 6 inches in diameter, the INTERIOR diameter of the ball (the hollow space inside) will be somewhere near 5 inches in diameter. Because there's a 1/2 inch wall thickness all the way around.

    Patterning to exact dimensions is VERY hard to do. Making a pattern for the foam part and the covering at the same time requires a lot of mathematical skill (that myself and many other puppeteers don't posess).

    So let me offer this idea:

    Start by making your foam "skull". Make sure it works properly. In fact. if you have enough material, make two... just in case.

    1) Create a custom pattern over the top of it by taking regular duct tape and de-tacking it. That means stick it to your pants first before you apply it to the foam piece.
    2) Lay the tape on the surface in two to three layers... criss-crossing the pieces so you bridge any seams between the pieces.
    Once you've covered the foam, geta sharpie marker and figure out where the seam lines should go. Draw them onto the tape. Make special thought about how you will make this shape LAY FLAT once the pattern is away.
    3) Take a nice, sharp pair of trimming scissors (the little ones with the nice sharp blades) and carefully cut the TAPE along the lines. If you've de-tacked the tape well enough, the pattern should lift off the foam head.
    But this is also why you should make a spare... sometimes the tape just sticks. And you tear the foam or have to cut it to get the pattern away.
    4) Once you have the tape pattern, lay it out on large craft paper and trace it flat.
    After you use the pattern once, you'll get a feel for where it'll need better fitting to look good on the foam shape.

    Maybe this wasn't the info you needed.. but there it is... :)

    -Gordon
    Enginerd likes this.
  3. princessotako

    princessotako New Member

    many thanks gordon. funny how we (and i mean myself) overlook the obvious - who would have believed that foam is thicker than board?:D
    the duct tape method works a treat for fur layouts - so i can see how it'll be helpful for the foam.
    once again. thanks.
    ali
  4. spcglider

    spcglider Member

    No problem! have fun!!! :)

    -G
  5. Graffickasdream

    Graffickasdream New Member

    Glued eyes...

    Hi, I've been making this puppet and I am practicing before glueing the real thing into place on scrap foam. I want the eyes to be a bit sunken in as if you would press on them... I made the eyes out of plastic spoons and they look good. But if they just are stuck on... it looks as if they are stuck on... I tried to cut out the shape in the foam and when I put fleece on it... even if I cut out the interior of the fleece which would be the back of the eye... when I glue it on... it sort of bounces back... any tips??? Would deeply appreciate.
    thanks.
  6. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    The best way to get a "sunken in" look is to use the commercially made eyes with posts, but since you're not doing that you could try cutting in to the foam just a little bit so you can embed the eye in it. Another option is to glue the eye on and then "build up" on it, placing foam around it. You can see an example of what I am talking about if you look at this puppet's eyes.
  7. Graffickasdream

    Graffickasdream New Member

    Thanks for the info... I didn't know you could buy eyes with posts.. had thought of it... I will try however to cut a little deeper... it's just that when the fleece is over the foam it doesn't work as well as when I embed the eye by itself in the foam (without fleece)... then I thought about avoiding the fleece altogether... My dad (a modelmaker use to take velvet and shave it and then apply it to make grass or other stuff) so I thought of gluing the shaved thick velvet on the foam with a coat of white glue ... either the brush on kind or spray kind... I don't know... I am experimenting, but getting impatient I would just like to get the effect I want.... you know?
    :)
  8. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    If you want round eyes that are embedded the posts really are the way to go. Easy to use, but your options in terms of size are limited. You can buy them online here.
  9. Graffickasdream

    Graffickasdream New Member

    Gluing eyes!!!

    Hey Wow! Thanks.... I went and looked at those eyes with posts... I think it will work!!!!! I will definitely try it and will let you know...
    Thanks a million!
  10. SesameKermie

    SesameKermie Member

    Another method to get the "sunken look" would be to cut the eye holes out of the foam skull, cover it with fleece/fur/whatever, and then glue the eyes from 'inside' the head.
  11. Graffickasdream

    Graffickasdream New Member

    sunken eyes...

    Thanks, these are great ideas... will try! Just looked at my head... well the puppets. I constructed it out of 2 6 inch blocks of foam glued together. To do it from the inside... I will try but first have to separate them... So will try the post method first... Next puppet... I do have to build her brother... I will try from the inside. I also found a place where they show how to make mascots... I was thinking of doing the puppets in smaller version the same way the guy did mascots... it is absolutely fascinating... all that we can do!

    web is at werevarmint this the link, though I am sure you must all know about this....
    Have a great day!
  12. SesameKermie

    SesameKermie Member

    Ah. Silly me. I forgot about 'carved' heads. I was thinking of heads constructed out of sheet foam. The technique should work better with 'hollow' heads.
  13. Super Scooter

    Super Scooter New Member

    Many of you are probably familiar with Buck Beaver's technique for removable arm rods. It's really one of the best techniques for this I've seen. However, I recently discovered the joys of alligator clips. Very small ones. They can be found at most auto parts stores, and all you have to do is attach them inside the puppet's wrist. So long as you attach them right, you can use them to attach your arm rods, and just squeeze the clip to release them.
  14. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    There's actually some kind of fancy clip the Muppet builders used to use in the arm of some of their puppets in the `80s but no one seems to know much about it. I think it may have been a proprietary thing someone in their workshop invented. There is also a clip method involving a bobby pin that David Pannabecker uses and works quite well, but alas it is also proprietary.

    ...so really this post is not very useful at all, except to say that the clip idea is a good one. ;)
  15. Super Scooter

    Super Scooter New Member

    Yay! I posted something good! ;)

    Another thought on it, it would be best to attach a piece of wire or something to it that leads up through the hand, that way you have the best maneuverability with it, and your puppet's hand isn't just flying around loose.
  16. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member

    Maybe a brass tube would work? One question though, how do you think the clip should be attached inside the arm? The smallest gator clips I have seen are still very bulky.
  17. Super Scooter

    Super Scooter New Member

    The smallest I could find are just over an inch long, nearly a half an inch tall, and a quarter of an inch thick. It's still small enough that will fit inside the smallest arms I've built.

    If the arms are filled with foam, I would assume you could attach it inside using contact cement. It could be attached directly to the fabric, I suppose, but that would probably leave the wrist fairly loose. If the arm's made out of something else, it gets trickier. If you're using a dowel on the inside of the puppet arm, you could simply attach it with electrical tape. I've actually used electrical tape in attaching wires to fingers so you can pose the hands. It doesn't make too much noise when moving things around, so it'd probably be your best bet as far as taping things goes.

    I haven't actually tried the alligator clips yet, it just occured to me recently that it would work well. I intend to experiment with it a little. I'm going to rebuild one of my puppets this month, so I'm going to try it out on him. I'll let you know how it works.
  18. Super Scooter

    Super Scooter New Member

    Okay, I just tried the gator clips. They work really great! Here's some instructions (hope I'm clear with them):

    (note: when I built my puppet arms, I used foam for the hands, and dowls for the arms)

    • Cut a small slit in the foam hand by the wrist.
    • Insert the lower grip of the alligator clip into the slit, and secure with electrical tape.
    • Attach the rest of the hand to the dowel with electrical tape, and wrap around the gator clip grips to hold it in place (always make sure the teeth are not wrapped in the tape).

    ... I hope I wrote that right so it makes sense. It's not that hard at all.

    EDIT: Here's a link to some alligator clips. I believe they're the size I bought: http://www.radioshack.com/sm-leads-and-alligator-clips--fi-2032304_cp-2032058.2032235.html
  19. Kuriboh Man

    Kuriboh Man Active Member

    BTW how do I make The Hands and Arms for my Puppet? This is so confusing Man!!! Besides Is it okay to just sew the arms on? or are there any other Methods for this?
  20. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Active Member



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