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Puppet-in-Progress: From the foam up

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by Slackbot, May 4, 2013.

  1. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    So some people have asked me how I build my puppets. And others have expressed interest in a "build journal." So, what the heck, I thought it'd be fun to show my work on my latest puppet. I'm making this from the ground up, starting with creating my own patterns from scratch, so there may be false starts and other goofery here. Hopefully not too much, though, as that stuff wears on my nerves!

    This will be updated when I have the time. I have a lot of other things going on in my life, so the updates will come when I have progress to report. The updates may be fast and furious, or they may be days or even weeks apart. Probably not weeks, though. And I'm not an expert photographer, so my photo quality will probably be hit and miss. As long as you can see what I'm trying to show, it's good enough for me.

    Feel free to ask questions. However, to head off one FAQ, no, I'm not planning to post or E-mail my patterns. Please don't ask for 'em.

    Anyhow, here are some skull shots:

    [​IMG]

    It took me multiple tries to get the head shape right, starting from the skull pattern from my Derpy puppet. These are my last four tries. There were one or two before this. You can see the shape evolved over successive tries. The paper sticking out of each is the pattern, which I save in case I decide I want to use one of those later. What isn't right for this character may work for another.

    The mouthplates in the green test skulls are cut from manila folders. It's important to test the skull with the mouthplate glued in; it makes a big difference in the head shape! The final skull is at the lower right, and it's made out of reticulated foam rather than cheap open cell stuff. The mouthplate (made of gasket rubber) is already glued in.

    And here are some closeups of the skull. Excuse the lousy photography, but I'm a lousy photographer.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    There's a strap attached to the top mouthplate for my hand to slide under, otherwise it'd rattle around in there. The black you can see between the mouthplate and foam is the edge of the strap. There's no need for a strap in the lower jaw, as it fits snugly enough.
     
  2. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Skinning the head...

    [​IMG]

    Here's an Extreeeeme Close-Up showing the Henson Stitch, which is like the ladder stitch, but it zigzags rather than parallels. To the right of the green pin, what the stitches look like before pulled tight. Between red and green, what the seam looks like pulled tight. To the left of the red, the seam after picking it with a needle and then brushing the fiber down with a toothbrush.

    To get the best shot I had the light shining straight down onto the head. However, that had the effect of making the un-picked seam look near invisible. It's much more obvious than that, trust me. The seam on the lower left is a more accurate representation.

    Click picture for embiggening.
     
    WillyThePig and FrackleFan2012 like this.
  3. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Today I've been a real sew-and-sew. Here's the head all sewn up.

    [​IMG]

    Next: to attach the lips to the mouthplate. I've drawn an outline of the lipline on the palate in red Sharpie, which may sound dire, but after I've sewn the fleece up to the edge of that guideline it simply disappears. You can see the line if you look closely. I haven't sewn the neck together in either the front or the back because I'm going to need to do some fiddly work inside the skull when I attach the eyes and hairball.

    The seams haven't been picked. That's a pain-in-the-neck task, one I usually do in front of the TV while watching something that doesn't require a lot of eye contact.
     
    stephen murrell and WillyThePig like this.
  4. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    And here it is, with the seams all picked and brushed down and the lip sewn to the mouthplate:

    [​IMG]

    Hmm, that tongue may be a tad too wide. I'll compare it to the original character and see if that needs changing.

    Is this thread of any use or interest to anyone? If it isn't I'll stop wasting my time here.
     
  5. mostlikemokey

    mostlikemokey Active Member

    I don't build puppets (can't sew for one billion dollars) but this is interesting! I like it.
     
    geminimom likes this.
  6. charlietheowl

    charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    I think I know who you're making here....
     
  7. mostlikemokey

    mostlikemokey Active Member

    OH YEAH!
     
  8. Kermieuk

    Kermieuk Well-Known Member

    It is of interest to me. How do you stitch the lips to the mouth plate!??
    I think I am making the same character as you and I'm at pretty much the same stage as you!!
    Look forward to the next update.
    Chris
     
  9. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Izzatafactnow? ;)
    The mouthplate is covered by self-adhesive felt, the kind with the paper back you peel away. I stitched the skin to that using orange thread. It's fussy, and the needle gets all sticky-nasty with the adhesive, but in the end you have a nice, firm, even lipline. I use the Henson stitch, not to conceal the seam, but to hide the thread and keep the lipline from having jagged edges.
     
    Kermieuk likes this.
  10. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    [​IMG]

    So I've been working on the eyes. Here are the elements: half-sphere eyes from Out Of The Box Puppets, wired together with wires sticking out the bottom edges, and 2" styrofoam balls covered with fleece eyelids. Just have to put the halves together, run the wires through the head and twist 'em together on the underside the way I usually do and I'm done, right?

    [​IMG]

    Guess what I didn't realize? Contact cement melts styrofoam! The balls beneath the eyelids shriveled up and the eyes look terrible, like battered fruit. I'm going to take these off and make new eyes once I find an adhesive that won't screw the styrofoam up. Anyone know what'll work?

    I might be able to use the eye fronts and replace the lids only, but I think the lids are angled forward a little too far, plus there's a little bit of wire visible on the sides. Oh well, live and learn.
     
  11. charlietheowl

    charlietheowl Well-Known Member

    So was the first time you used the styrofoam and/or contact cement for the eyes? Wouldn't have the eyes been off on the other Fraggles you made?
     
  12. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I did use styrofoam with both Janken and Shonky. Their eyelids aren't wonderful, but they didn't get messed up like this one's did. I don't know why. But, anyway, I'm looking for another way to handle the problem.

    It's a good thing I bought a big bag of eyes, otherwise I'd be upset over wasting these two.
     
  13. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    Have you tried hot glue? My gun has a low setting on it and I never had any issues as of yet.....
     
  14. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    Gorilla glue and another adhesive I tried last night ate holes in the foam. It was like I'd dripped acid on it. I'll try hot glue next. I don't like how thick and drippy it is, but sometimes it is the right tool for the job.
     
  15. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    On the low setting it's not drippy at all, try it in a spiral pattern from the inside out. you can always add more around the edge afterwards...

    I've never tried making the eyes like this before, but I have done something similar with noses and never had an issue...
     
  16. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I don't have a low setting. Mine is a cheapie I got over 20 years ago. The glue doesn't get molten and dribble around (although if I set it down a little will ooze out the tip) so I don't think it has a "very hot" setting.

    My main issue is that hot glue is thick and builds up easily, plus you have to stick things together right then, before it cools, and once you've stuck 'em there's no going back. I prefer contact cement, which at least gives you time to think.

    It would be so simple if I could only find 2" white plastic spheres. Why the heck don't those exist? Argh.
     
  17. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

  18. Slackbot

    Slackbot Well-Known Member

    I've looked at them--this morning, in fact!--and been tempted, but then I see all the complaints against them. Better Business Bureau gives them a F rating.

    Still, those are tempting. You say they make good eyes?
     
  19. Animal31

    Animal31 Active Member

    They really do, and unfortunately, they seem to be the only game in town. Trust me, I looked around. It took me 7 weeks to get my order once, I was told it was a lack of communication by the warehouse before they shut down for vacation. But as I said, there have been other complaints.

    Amazon also sells white matte 60mm bulbs from time to time, I've grabbed those on occasion as well and they work out pretty good depending on the puppet...
     
  20. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    You can't really use contact cement or hot glue on Styrofoam ("Styrofoam" is just a brand name, what you're using is actually called Extruded Polystyrene or EPS Foam) or any kind of polystyrene because it will melt (sometimes low temp hot glue will sort of work). Certain adhesives are designed to work on Polystyrene; I personally use Weldbond, but 3M77 or any Styrofoam glue should do the trick.

    If you sand the back, edges and post of the half dome eyes Weldbond should hold everything together nicely (just give it lots of time to dry). I would suggest trying to find Polystyrene balls with a smoother surface because they will be much, much easier to glue anything to.

    EVA foam balls - which are often sold as yellow foam practice golf balls - would be a good Polystyrene substitute if you can find them in the right size. You can use almost any adhesive on them (hot glue, contact cement, Weldbond, etc.).

    2" plastic spheres are available online if you do some Googling (not sure about cost though). They are often clear, but you just have to sand them and paint them. Or why not use a 2" fishing float?
     


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