kinetic theater from life is groovy on Vimeo.

I often wonder how exhilarating it would be to have the abilities of superman and mermaid, to freely fly above the clouds and swim under the deep sea. Well, the lucky girl in our puppet show gets to do all of that.

The entire puppet show is operated with one pulley system, connected to either a crank, which creates the “swimming with dolphin” scene, or a sliding rod, which creates the “flying with birds” scene.  The mechanism is inspired by the brilliant kinetic sculptures of Reuben Margolin. http://www.reubenmargolin.com/ (Thank you Reuben!) The mini mechanical theater offers many possibilities of studying movements of people, animals and nature, building sceneries, and exploring kinetic mechanisms.

Materials and tools (shown in each steps)-
To build the mechanism:
-3/4”x3/4” wood 3’ long, 6 pieces
-paper clips, colored ones are really helpful
-5 lb clear weight fishing line
-hot glue, glue gun, and all purpose glue
*the picture hanging kit was not used, instead, some angle brackets were used to set up the theater
-card board
-clips from MakeDo, which allow one to join two pieces of card board, and release them later, very useful in flexible designs. You can use other type of clips in its place
To make the puppets :
-fabrics, felt, poly fill, sewing needle and threads
-waterproof drawing pen, for the face details, or acrylic paints
-color construction paper, or design and print your own color patterns
-hot glue gun
-box cutter, or excto knife, and scissors
-measuring tape, straight edge, compass, pen or pencil
-drill or screw driver to install angle brackets onto wall

Step 1: The Mechanical Theater

The kinetic mechanism used here transforms a circular cranking or linear sliding movement into movements of swimming, flying, ocean waves, floating clouds. When a certain number of points evenly spaced along a line, in this case, the end of 8 strings on each of the 4 horizontal bars give us 8 points, when they pass through evenly spaced points on the circumference of a circle, keeping the linear order on the circumference in a clockwise or counterclockwise order, and when the strings are gather at the center of the circle, a circular movement at the gathering point will produce a continuous wave, like an ocean wave, and a linear movement through the center point will produce an up-and-down wave(is there a better name for this?), like the flapping wings of a butterfly.

The video below and last 2 pictures on this step here shows an early test how the objects start in a straight line when the end points are gathered at the center, and as the gather point moves outward, a wave is formed. The amplitude of the wave increases as the circular motion moves from center to the outer edge.


First build a rack with 4 horizontal bars - which gives 4 layers of movements - supported by 2 supporting bars. Hot glue evenly spaced color paper clips onto horizontal ¾” bars. Attach them onto the supporting bars with either glue or screws. The number of bars, and the spacing of the bars and paper clips are flexible, depending on your desired end result. I used 4 bars spaced 6”, 8 paper clips on each bar, 4” on center. Then hot glue equal number of clips onto one of the supporting bar, in the spaces between where the horizontal bars are. These paper clips will guide our puppet strings.

Next comes the magical part of the mechanism. Open up a cardboard box, but keep all the sides, so it can host our gears later. Select one side to draw a circle, mine is 12” diameter, with another 1.5” to the edges. Divide the circumference into 32 equal parts with a straight edge and a compass, mark all the points, then cut out the circle so you have a box frame with a circular opening. Glue 8 of each color paper clips so they are all evenly spaced around the circle. If we call the side with the circular opening the “front side”, then, half of the back side plus a center notch is cut out, so we can slide our crank and slider in and out. The width of the notch is just wider than the sliding rod of the slider (see next step).  I used the MakeDo clips to secure the sides of the box instead of gluing them, in case I want to modify something in the future.

The last step here is to set up the fishing lines for the pulley system. At one end of each fishing line string, there’s a paper clip, to hook on to the puppets and accessories. Each string first goes through a clip on the horizontal bar, then a clip on the supporting bar, then a clip on the circle opening. Try not to have the string touch each other before all 32 strings are gathered at the end at the center of the circle. A small bottle cap with a hole cut out is used to hold all the strings together.

There are 3 keys to keep in mind for setting up the strings-
  1. keep a linear order on the horizontal bar to start, meaning the first string goes through the first clip in the row, 2nd goes through the 2nd clip, and so on.
  2. do the same through the clips on the supporting bar
  3. start at any clip on the circle, but follow a clockwise or counter clockwise order

Now the hardest part of the work is complete. =)
This is totally awesome:). Congratulationssss!!
hi tarun! thank you so much!!! =)
Beautiful work!
wow thank you so much bajablue! great to meet you and thank you for your sunshine filled instructables =)
Horray! A well-deserved win!
thank you so much flyingpuppy for sharing my excitement! =) i am really honored!!
Unbelievably awesome!
thank you so much footbear! happy flying! =)
Those aren't real puppets.
Whimsical new concept in puppeteering. Well done.
thank you flyingpuppy! nice to see you again! =)
Beautiful work. I love the way your drawing style translates into the finished pieces - really quirky and cute!
thank you jessy! i love so many of your gorgeous and delicious ibles! it's great to 'meet' you finally! =)

About This Instructable




Bio: Instructables got me started on an incredible DIY journey, which turned into a blog, which replaced my day job in 2 years. Anything is possible ... More »
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