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Mouthplate Material

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by officermom, Jun 23, 2002.

  1. officermom

    officermom New Member

    Hello, All!

    Is anybody willing to share their thoughts on the best material/s for mouthplates?

    I'm working on my first two puppets. With one I went out on a limb & used a blank computer mousepad. Good grip. Allows some flexible mouth movement but it also curled the corners of the mouth/head. (Looks like he's scowling.) The second is an ArmsLength kit with sintra (hard, thin plastic) mouth plates and chamois thumb cup & finger grip. No scowl but the products don't seem to be easy to obtain commercially (for furture puppets).

    Any suggestions would be welcomed.


  2. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    We use coroplast for stiff mouths. Coroplast is like corrogated cardboard, only made from plastic instead of paper. It's neat stuff and you can usually find it at art supply stores. If you don't want to buy a full sheet try seeing if you can get some small pieces from a signage shop.

    For flexible mouths we usually use either gasket rubber (which can be found in plumbing supply stores) or thick (but flexible) vynl. Occasionally we've even used two pieces of shower curtain glued together.

    Good luck!
  3. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member


    In Muley's head, the top part of his muzzle is carved from 2" foam; the bottom is 1" foam carved and glued below some thick cardboard. That makes his upper muzzle versatile for expressions. The bottom isn't necessary for expressions.

    Most of my puppets heads are carved and include the thick cardboard in their mouths.


    muley pics are at www.midsouthcartoonists.com in the photo gallery
  4. Thom

    Thom New Member

    I've had real success with black suede leather. It's incredibly durable, thick to hold the shape and flexible for great expressions. The black is a good base for applying felt or foam material with hot glue to make details in the mouth. You may also want to try red if you prefer a red base.
  5. Corrigated plastic board works for me sometimes. You can find it for sale in a local craft store, or scattered about sidewalks for free after elections are over :).

    Good Providence with your puppet!

    --"Scary" Larry Wolf
  6. CaptCrouton

    CaptCrouton New Member

    Hey Foz,

    I tried to look at Muley pictures but I wasn't allowed to go in any folders without a member name. It gives me this message.

    Oops! You have entered an invalid Member name.
    Please try entering the correct Member name in the Visit Album box again.

    This might be a result of my internet filter. (My computer is very protective of me, faithful little friend) But it doesn't appear to be a filter problem to me.

  7. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    It said that, huh? How dare it say that to my friends!!!!!

    you went to www.midsouthcartoonists.com right? there is a link at the bottom of the page that says photo gallery, click on that link and you should get in no prob.

    if not, email me directly at fozziemup@aol.com and i'll send u a pic.

  8. Baby Rowlf

    Baby Rowlf Member

    Actually, with the puppet I've created, Nick Rhabbit (of Durabbit Durabbit, dontcha know..:) ), I used an old PC board covered with red felt for his mouth!:) it worked pretty well!:)
  9. puppet builder

    puppet builder New Member

    Palette Materials


    Mouse pads are a good thought and can potentially give you finger grip, but the thicknesses tend to be bulky. Each head should fit pretty tight on to your hand, thus giving you the ability to generate expressions.

    For Muppet-sized chaaracters (20"), try sheets of plain old arts and craft foam. Sold in most hobby/sewing stores. It's cheap, gives you just enough stiffness, yet allowing your hand to dictate expression but has just enough memory to break down and keep the puppeteer from fihgting hand fatigue.

    As foams break down over time, just tack/sew it in place at a couple of locations. It can always be replaced.

    Good Luck,
    Puppet Builder
  10. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Re: Palette Materials

    I'm a big fan of craft foam, back in the day (before we knew what we were doing) we made all our puppets from stitched together pieces of craft foam (Ick! - Don't try it at home!!!) but now we discovered foam, contact cement and hot glue and we have a small army of much happier, better-built puppets.

    Getting back to mouth material, my only addition to Puppet Builder's suggestion would be to glue some material to the craft foam to prevent ripping, tearing or breakdown over time. We usually make the mouthplate in two halves and then put them together to trace out a whole fabric mouthplate on whatever material the inside of the mouth will be (usually black felt in our case). The two halves are then glued down to the fabric mouthplate using contact cement (c. cement works much better than hot glue because it is thin).

    Another method to ensure the durability of craft foam is to trace your mouth plate piece(s) on to a piece of shower curtain material or thin vinyl and then cut out the traced piece and glue it to the craft foam. The important thing is to glue the craft foam to a thin, strong (but flexible!) piece of material with contact cement.

    It's a little extra work, but when done properly it means you probably won't ever have to worry about your mouth wearing out.
  11. Tom Morrow

    Tom Morrow New Member


    I often use needle point grids form the craft store. The kind made from a clear-ish plastic. They're flexible but hold their shape well. they're also not too bulky.

    I back them with some black gaffer tape and occaisionally add a finger grip on the upper. I make the mouth with a top and bottom and then use the gaff to create a "hinge" for the back.

    I use foam backed with gaff for the "hand cover" to keep your fingers in place. (depending on the character). I then use felt for the inside of the mouth to finish it off.

    hope that helps...
  12. Sir Didymus

    Sir Didymus New Member

    If you can get your hands on black video cases, cut them up and use them for mouthplates. They work good for me.

    Sir Didymus
  13. Scrid

    Scrid New Member

    Long ago, I found a remnant of a wonderful fabric: red on one side, with a looser-weave grey on the back. It was fairly thick, and the layers gave it heft, yet it was still flexible (Solid mouthplates remind me too much of wordbiting puppeteers) I used it for mouths until I ran out...and I've never found the stuff, again.
  14. I just found great substitute for gasket rubber. I haven't tried it out yet, but I saw some at the local Value Village and it reacts like gasket rubber: it's the rubber lining used around the base perimeter of rooms to (I think) prevent the carpet edges from tearing up. The stuff comes in about 4" X 60" strips, which is more than Gasket rubber, but the 4" dimension is a bit limitting.
  15. Show and Tell

    Show and Tell Member

    I found at a flea market they have disposable cutting boards that are the perfect thickness. they only cost a dollar and you can make half a dozen puppets from each sheet. lots of expression without buckle or binding of the mouth. Gaffers tape or duct tape seams to pull away for me so I'm using a cotton/poly blend material that is contact cemented to the plastic. The plastic also doesn't seam to wear out because its made to bend a bit.
  16. Jinx

    Jinx Member

    I just love the creativity displayed in this forum! Just a quick glance at all these posts would seem to suggest what we pretty much already know... there is no right or wrong solution, only those that work or don't work! And most of us know, too, that experimentation is usually what it taked to find out. But when you find a great bunch of people here who are willing to share their experiences in order to help others out, well, it just gives me the warm -fuzzies!

    If you liked working with the sintra that came with your ALP kit, it's not as hard-to-find as you might think! It is a very common item at sign shops. In fact, the scraps that they are inclined to throw away, they might just give you for free!

    The only other thing that I've used that hasn't been mentioned yet, is 3/16" foamcore as suggested by Grey Seal Puppets in their books/videos. Its nice and rigid, but incredibly lightweight. It does need to be completely covered, as excessive moisture (from perspiration and the like) will cause it to break down. But I've gotten nice results with it.
  17. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    My only issue with foamcore is the one you mention, that it can break down. It's just not terribly durable. If I need a rigid mouth I like corrogated plastic (which I think Drew & Donald suggest in the Foam Book) because it's just as light and you can do more with it.
  18. Show and Tell

    Show and Tell Member

    I made 14 puppet bases (mouthplate and necksleeve) for training purposes out of foam core and with the abuse they have taken they have held up quite nicely although I did reenforce them with some good fabric and foam finger tubes. I didn't even use any sculpt or coat. I do like how light weight it is. Its just that I like the way you can rivit down the hand straps to sintra and stitch down the straps to cutting board plastic. Otherwise I think the foamcore would be my fav.
  19. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Reinforcing helps for sure, but how old are these? I'm not trying to give people a hard time about foamcore but it just does not last as long a Corroplast but if you're building puppets that don't have to last years on end or don't get used regularly it could be OK.

    Foamcore is also a little cheaper and easier to cut. I have to buy Corroplast in 8'0 x 4'0 sheets which is a huge pain, but you can sometimes get smaller pieces from sign making shops.

    FISH'N'WOLFE New Member

    I will yet again mention that leather makes for a wonderful mouthplate, its what I prefer over most other materials. I have large rolls of soccerball leather from Spalding which I cut my mouthplates out of. Leather is flexible and VERY durable, it simply does not wear out. If you need a really stiff mouthplate, then yes use the corrugated plastic. But for an expressive, flexible mouth, leather is perfect.

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