plaster of paris
aluminum drink cans
Dowels and wood
black fishing line
wire coat hangers
Step 1: Sculpt Head
- Sculpt skull out of clay.
- Make plaster mold from clay skull, I like to make a four piece mold.
- Put paper clay 1/4” thick in plaster mold. Use a even coat of corn starch inside the mold so the paper clay wont stick to the mold.
- After the paper clay is dry the skull can be unmolded, sanded, and painted. Add three small screw eyes to the skull before you paint. There should be screw eyes in the middle of each side of the head and one on the top of the head.
Step 2: Build the Body
- The back bone is shaped from a 1”x1” piece of wood. I used a belt sander to form the back bone.
- Holes drilled in the back bone hold the ribs formed from thick wire, I like to use wire coat hangers.
- The pelvis bone is cut from cardboard and glued onto the back bone.
- The sternum is also cut out of cardboard and glued to the ribs.
- Add shape to the ribs and strength to the pelvis and sternum by covering them with paper clay.
- Once the body has the shape you like sand and paint
Step 3: Arms and Legs
Step 4: Hands and Feet
- Put the printed out paper on a piece of scrap wood.
- Hammer small brads or nails at the tip of ever finger or toe. Also, hammer nails at the base of every finger or toe. Put a couple nail around the palm of the hand.
- Wrap a small wire around each nail to form a wire hand or foot.
- Once you get the hand or foot to a desired shape cover with small strip of material dipped in glue. The material makes it easier to add paper clay details.
- Add paper clay details. Sand and paint when dry.
- Attach to ankle and wrist with a screw eye, nice and loose for good action.
Step 5: Control and Stringing
You will need to put eleven small screw eyes and three larger screw eyes on the control. Screw in small screw eyes at the end of each of the small dowels. Put small screw eyes in the smaller 10” dowels 1 1/2 “ from the end. On the larger dowels put a small screw eye in 1/2” from the bottom. One of the larger screw eyes should go where the 10” small doweling and 10” large doweling cross. Open this screw eye slightly so you can use it as a hook. Another large screw eye is installed 8” from the bottom on the larger dowel. The last larger screw eye goes into the middle of the remaining dowel not attached to the control.
To start stringing, tie a long string to each shoulder. I like using black 12lb. braided Dacron fish line but it is very hard to find. Some puppeteers like using clear mono-filament fish line. That tends to catch the light and show up more than the black. Take these first two strings and run them through the screw eyes on the side of the skull. Tie each string to the side of the 5” smaller dowel on the control. This will determine how long the rest of the strings will be so take some time to make these first two strings the correct length.
Add a screw eye or drill a hole to the top of the backbone. Attach a string to that screw eye and run that string up through the two holes drilled in the skull. You may need a piece of wire or long needle to get the string through the skull. Attach that string to the bottom screw and the main part of the control.
Attach a string to the screw eye on the top of the skull. Run that string through the screw at the bottom and run it up through the next larger screw eye. Attach that string to a ring of some kind. This ring will be used to pull up the head.
To attach the arms and legs attach a string around the top part of the leg and arms. Run the strings through the hole you have drilled in the shoulders and hips. The legs strings are attached to the outside screw eyes on the 10” small doweling. The arms strings are attached to the inside screw eyes on the 10” small doweling. When you tip the control flat the arm and legs should come apart.
The last 10” piece of dowel should have four small screw eyes and one large screw eye. This bar will be known as the foot bar. It hooks on the open screw eye on the main control. Run a string from the outside screw eye to the screw eyes that make the knee joint. Run a string from the inner screw eye to the palm of the hand. You can drill a small hole in the palm and run a string through that.
Step 6: Paint and Decorate
Practice taking off the foot bar to walk and dance, pull the head string to pop it off, tilt the control flat to separate the legs for spooky perambulations.