Introduction: Scrappy Articulated Rod Puppet

About: I am a teacher, maker, father, gardener, magician, and jack of all trades (master of some)!

Who has often dreamed of taking up the call to become a puppeteer?


But where on earth can you find information on how to build your own puppet? An internet search for “DIY puppet” only shows 29,800,000 results.

With so little on-line instruction regarding this topic, it is quite a stroke of good luck that you stumbled upon this tutorial. So, let’s get to making!


Let’s start your quest to become “Master of Puppets!”

For the puppet, you will need:
- 2-3 sheets of newspaper
- a roll of masking tape
- some string
- 3 bamboo skewers (or any foot-long sticks)
- scissors
- a ruler
- a marker
- hot glue gun (not TOTALLY necessary, but helpful for attaching the rods to the hands)

For costuming and embellishing your puppet, you may wish to have colored construction paper, felt, fabric scraps, beads, sequins, permanent markers, glue (stick or liquid), and yarn.

You absolutely DO NOT need the following:
- glitter

Step 1: Rolling the Newspaper Tube

We begin by rolling a tube from a full sheet of newspaper. You can use tabloid sized papers, but the full sheet will give you a much studied roll.

To roll, start by laying the paper in front of you with one corner pointing at your belly button. Hey, don’t get distracted by your navel! Keep focused!

Starting from the corner nearest you, fold the corner of the newspaper over the skewer. Keeping the paper on the table top, begin rolling the paper towards the opposite corner. Keep the roll tight! I mean it! You don't want your puppet to have flabby arms! Keep even pressure on the tube as you roll.

Before you lose it to the abyss of the paper tube FOREVER, remove the skewer from the roll. Continue rolling the tube until you reach the opposite corner, but DON'T RELAX! You need to secure this corner with some tape to the roll before it uncoils with the force of an over-wound spring in a set of chattering teeth! Whew! You made it!

Step 2: Cutting the Tube for the Shoulders and Arms

Ok. You have a cool tube of newspaper. It would be tempting to spend the rest of the afternoon wielding it as a sword about front yard (I know you already did), but stay on target! You wanted a puppet, and so...

You are now going to cut your tube into five, 3-inch lengths.

Use a ruler to mark 3-inch lengths along the tube. Don't start at the very end of the tube as the ends tend to be too thin since they don't have as many layers of paper (or poor bone density?). Instead, lay the ruler in the middle of the tube, and measure your 3-inch sections from the center.

WAIT! Did you almost start cutting? Whew! That was close! You almost had to go back to step one.

Before you cut, place a band of tape on the center of each mark.

Now, cut in the center of each piece of tape, and viola! You have your five arm tubes!

I know, my photo has six tubes, but you only need five. Feel free to turn this one into a tiny light saber or something... I don't know. Write your own Instructable for this spare tube!

Step 3: Making the Head


1. Crumple up a half-sheet of newspaper.
2. Wrap the paper ball in masking tape.
3. Poke the skewer into the ball/head.
4. Secure the head to the skewer with more tape.

Don't worry if your head is not perfectly smooth at this point. We can fix that later... well... we can fix your puppet's head. If your head is lumpy, you're on your own there! I say, embrace it! Make it your thing!

Step 4: Attach the Shoulders, Arms, and Torso

So far, you have a head on a stake and a bunch of mini tubes that you are kinda wishing were still one long piece so you could practice your lightsaber duels. Before you regret cutting up your Jedi weapon, let's start assembling your puppet.

First, use tape to attach the shoulders and clavicle (Yeah, I knew that... didn't even have to look it up!) just below the head. Leave a bit of neck between the head and the shoulders, or you will have a perpetually shrugging puppet.

Next, cut four, 3-inch pieces of string. Hey now, put away that ruler! Close enough is good enough here!

Fold one of these string pieces into a loop. Tape the two cut ends of the string to one of the shoulders. Tape the "loop" of the string to the end of one of your paper tubes.

Repeat this for each of the joints on the arms. When you are done, you should have a very malnourished puppet. Let's fatten him/her up!

Wad a half sheet of newspaper into a potato shape. Wrap this about the the skewer, and then use tape to attach the paper-potato to the shoulders. I use two pieces of tape and make "suspenders" to secure this torso to the shoulders.

Now is a good time to use some lengths of tape to smooth out your puppet's skin. Don't worry if it is still a little lumpy. You can just say he's going through a bit of a rough patch. Also, for some reason I am thinking baked potatoes is a good choice for dinner, hum...

Step 5: Adding Hands

While not totally necessary, hands are a nice addition to your puppet. Ah, come on! You made it this far. Let's give this guy a hand... or two.

Cut another piece of string and double it as before. Take a 3-inch piece of tape and secure the cut ends of the sting to one end of the tape (Did you just measure out that tape? Seriously, hand over the ruler! We're not building cabinetry here! Just estimate!).

Fold the tape over onto itself, and use scissors to shape the hand making the thumb shorter than the rest of the fingers.

Tape the other end of the string to the end of one of the wrists. Rinse and repeat.

This is also a good time to attach the other skewers to each of the hands. I aim to attach the pointy part of the skewers to the palm of the puppet, poor guy. You can use a tape to attach the skewers, but a hot glue gun works wonders for this. Once again, poor puppet... sharp spikes and THEN boiling glue :^(

Step 6: Clothes and Accessories

EeeK! Get some clothes on that guy!

This is where you get to flex your creativity! When I did this project with my students in my 5th grade class, they chose famous people or book characters to "puppetize." Some used felt and scrap cloth to create clothes (old T-shirts work great), but my choice clothing is using colored construction paper.

You can simply cut out shapes and attach them, but I prefer to crunch up the paper over and over until the paper takes on a soft, fabric-like texture. The more you work it, the softer it gets (and it is a great way to relieve some stress you had about trying to decipher this Instructable).

To attach your paper fabric, you could construct elaborate patterns, or simply drape and glue with glue stick or white glue. If adding sleeves to your clothes, simply attach them to the actual arm. Keep the string clear so that your puppet maintains its full range of motion (see purple sleeve).

For the face, use permanent markers, button eyes, sequins, and yarn for the hair.

Step 7: Bring It to Life

Enjoy your new career as a puppeteer! I hope you will share your creations with me here. I would love to hear your additions and ideas, unless, of course, they involve glitter. If that is that case, just keep it to yourself.

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