Introduction: Dr. Who Marionettes

We are going to show you how to transform small boxes with lids into a marionette. It's a straight forward process, and you can adapt it to any character.

We love this project because it suits our love of gaming in the following ways:

-- the blocky marionette reminds us of pixelated video games from our childhood. 
-- it gives us a sense of control of our environment when we make our own character
-- it represents maker culture
-- the final product is a physical embodiment of our love of video games

Step 1: Gather Your Materials

It's time to gather your materials:

- 6 jewelry boxes (with bottoms and lids), to form a torso, head, arms and legs.
- Glue (preferably tacky glue)
- Ruler
- Box cutter
-  Wire (this will form the marionette's joints)
-  Popsicle sticks or paint sticks
-  Wire Cutters
- Pliers  
- Pencils
- String
- Scissors

Step 2: Measure and Mark Your Boxes

Using your ruler and pencil, draw lines long-ways across 4 of the box bottoms. It is very important to draw the lines straight, because you will cut along these lines later to form your marionette's arms and legs.

Step 3: Cutting Boxes Into Limb Shapes

Using your box cutter, cut along the lines you drew on the boxes in step 2.  Then, take a box top (lid), cut along its corners, cut its flaps off,  and set the remaining cardboard rectangle aside.

Step 4: Begin to Make a Box Torso

With your pencil, mark 5 points on another box bottom. This box will be your marionette's torso. Make one mark at the top, two at the bottom, and one on each of the sides. Using your scissors or the box cutter, poke holes on each mark. Consult the pictures below.

Step 5: Making Wire Joints

Using your wire cutters, measure and cut an 8 inch piece of wire. Fold this piece four times, so you have a 2 inch piece. Using the pliers, twist the folded wire until it forms a tight coil. Repeat this step, to make 4 more wire coils.

Step 6: Attaching Joints

Insert each wire coil into a hole in the torso box, to begin to form joints. Bend the ends of each wire coil inside the box to ensure they will not fall out.

Step 7: Connecting the Limbs to the Torso

Next take the two box bottoms you cut into long skinny pieces (in steps 2 and 3) earlier and poke holes in one end of each box. Connect these "limb boxes" to the torso box by taking the loose ends of the wires and putting them through these new holes. Repeating step 6, bend the wire ends inside the limb boxes with the pliers, to securely connect the legs and arms to the torso.

Step 8: Get Your Head in the Game

Take the last box bottom, and using your ruler, draw a line across the box short-ways. Repeat steps 2-4 with this box, by cutting across the line with the box cutter, and poking a hole at the bottom of the box. One half of this box will form your marionette's head. Set the other half of the box aside for later. Repeating step 7, use the wire coil to attach the head to the torso.

Step 9: Space It Out

Very carefully place your pencil between the torso and the head, and each limb. This will ensure that there is enough space in each joint to allow the marionette to move.

Step 10: Attaching String

Gather the unused box halves you set aside in step 8 and (two halves) from step 3, and poke a hole in each piece. To make the other side of the head, poke a hole at the bottom and at two other pieces of the arm. Ensure the hole on each arm is facing out the bottom. Use the picture as a reference. Put pieces of string through each hole -- these will be your marionette's strings, which allow you to control its movement. 

Step 11: Glue the Forms Together

Now it's time to piece your marionette together. Put glue along the bottom of the feet, and attach the corresponding spare box piece to close the open leg boxes. As you glue these matching cardboard pieces together, try to squeeze them so there are no visible holes or gaps. Repeat this step for the arm and head pieces. Do your best to avoid tangling the string during this step. 

Step 12: Close the Torso Box

Apply glue to the edge along the torso piece. Place the cut up box lid you set aside in step 3 onto the torso (closing the box), applying only a small amount of pressure.

Step 13: Let's Decorate and Animate!

We used collage techniques to decorate our marionette like Dr. Who, however, the possibilities for this last step are endless.  Finally, to animate your marionette, attach its head string to the mid point of one paint/popsicle stick, and each of its arm strings to either end of the other stick. The head string should be slightly shorter than both of the arm strings.  It is important to make each arm string the same length.  And voila! Here is the finished product.