Introduction: Puppet Theatre

I've been asked by a local school here in Thailand to build a puppet theatre. After doing a little research on the net, I came up with this design.
I played a bit on the design for the foldable wings, but in the end opted for butterfly wings.

Step 1: The Mock Up

I've never made a puppet theatre, so to make sure that 2 puppeteers will be able to sit comfortably next to each other, I made a mock up with a box I had laying around the house. Amazingly, it appears to be the perfect size for the theatre!
The front part is 130cm wide and 165cm high. The wings are each 65 cm wide.
I'm planning to use a 10 to 12mm thick wood boards. 
The wings will be attached to the front by 2 hinges on each side.

The window is 110cm wide and 60cm high.

Step 2: Wings

Here is my butterfly wings design.
I will cut the wings into shape. (around the thick line). As for the inner design of the wing, I'm not sure how I will do it.
Either just paint them on in different colours (easier), or cut them out and cover the holes with coloured textiles from behind (time consuming, but more beautiful imo and also more lightweight).
Let's see...

Step 3: Decorative Pre-cut Planks

Here in Thailand it's easy to find these beautiful Thai style wooden planks. They use them for fences, roof decorations and stair railings. They are cheap, lightweight and 12mm thick....perfect.

The dragons are supposed to be inlays on the front of the theatre, one on each side. (picture 1 and 2)

The flower/plant plank will go just under the window...but I'm not yet sure about this one. (picture 3)

The pieces in picture 4 and 5 will be attached on the top of the front section.

(This is a work in progress. I will add pictures as I'm building along, so be patient :-)

Step 4: Cutting the Boards

Got me some wood today!
The boards are 240x122cm big and 10mm thick. Less than 10mm would have been to wobbly and not strong enough. Maybe 12mm would have been even better, but I had to find a compromise with the weight.

Due to the boards' size, I had to modify the measurements slightly. The front is now 165x122cm (was 165x130cm in my design), and the wings are now 165x61cm (were 165x65cm). Not too bad.

To keep the window nearly the same width as planned (110cm), I had to narrow down the left and right frame from 10cm to 8cm. Window width is now 106cm, height is still 50cm
That makes the top a bit heavy and wobbly, but I will reinforce both sides with some extra wood.

Time for dinner now.

Step 5:

Today I cut out the cardboard and used it as a template for the butterfly wings.
After transferring the design under the watchful eyes of my cat Lucky, I drilled holes to insert the jigsaw blade.
More or less 3 hours work and a couple of beers for 2 wings.

The wings lost a bit of their stiffness, so I'm planning to reinforce them with some 3x1cm wood where the hinges will be.

Step 6:

Now is the time to reinforce the whole structure. I used lightweight beams of 4.2 x 1.7cm.

Step 7: Decorations and Window Ledge

I used pre-made, traditional Thai wooden decorations. They are usually used on roofs and staircases.
The make sure the wouldn't fall off easily, I glued and screwed them in place.

The 2 last pictures show a 7cm large window ledge. Sometimes it is necessary to put down props, so this is quite useful.

Step 8: Wing Decoration

I wanted to do something special and unique for my project. I decided to use some traditional Thai fabric I had laying around the house.

Here is how to do it:
a) cut out a piece of cardboard, taking the outlines from the wooden wing
b) cover the side looking outwards with glue and press it onto a somewhat bigger sized piece of colored fabric
c) straighten out the fabric so as to remove all wrinkles
d) apply glue around the hole in the wood and around the edge of the cardboard
e) gently insert the cardboard into the wooden slot, making sure everything is tight and there aren't any wrinkles
d) push down the fabric around the edge of the wood. I also put some staples 

Step 9: Reinforcing the Wings

With all the holes in the wings they could bend very easily and weren't very stable.
I added 4.2 x 1.7cm beams on the side where the hinges will be and also cut out some wood sheets to cover the mess with the fabric.

Step 10: Curtains

The project was nearing its end and as it so often happens with me, I got impatient to finish.
The curtains look the part from the outside, but from behind they're not quite as nice. ;-)
They can slide open and close on a wire. I also improvised some "curtain-openers", made using chopsticks and zip locks.

I did however, learn to use a vintage sewing machine, which I quite enjoyed.

The black fabric, which serves as background is thick enough for the puppeteers not to be seen, but thin enough for the puppeteers to see the audience.

Step 11: The Logo

I had some ugly looking screws on the outside, where I put the top decorations. 
To hide my shame, so to speak, I decided to make the logo of the school out of a thin sheet of acrylic. Using a Dremel, I engraved it and then coloured it using gold and silver spray cans.

It's not perfect, but it does the job.

Step 12: Last Finishing Touches

Due to the theater being quite heavy now, I put a pair of door handles on each side to make it easier to lift up.

To avoid scratches on floors and damaging the theater, I added felt pads on the bottom.

Finally, put 2 legs on each side to prevent all-to-eager children from toppling over the whole theatre.

Step 13: ....and Goodbye.

My puppet theatre left today for its new home, a private language school where I teach on the weekends.

The new owner seemed happy with the result and couldn't wait to use it with a puppet.


Thank you for looking. Hope you enjoyed the project and I hope it will inspire others to build one too. The world has enough muppets. What we need are PUPPETS...(and puppet theatres) !     :-))