Hand Puppet to Rod Puppet: Grimpen Gets the Shaft!

Grimpen is a relatively large puppet with a reasonable amount of weight.  I decided to put a removable rod into him. This will help with holding the arm up and provide more precise mouth movement.  The trade off  is that some of the frenetic things you can do with a hand puppet are lost to the stiffness of the rod. Making the rod removable gives me the best of both worlds.

Some general notations:

The rod had to be customized to Grimpen’s anatomy.

The hinge for the bottom jaw was way too small so I enlarged it with a piece of aluminum from my scrap box. The aluminum piece was originally one of those struts that snaps onto a rail and a bunch of them in a row gives you a place to put a shelf. Application of a hacksaw and files turned the strut into a longer, wider, lightweight jaw which was bolted to the hinge itself.

The springs are from those cheapo desks  lamps. You know , the ones that extend and can be tightened so the lamp can be placed anywhere. Horse hockey!! They don’t work worth a damn but there are 6-8 springs on some of them!

After having  seen a few variations of mouth works,  I decided on my own version after a bit of  experimentation. My first forays were with dowel rods which I found were not the way to go for me.  The wood was too soft, split easily and did not stand up to experimentation whatsoever. I also learned that attaching flat surfaces to rounded forms is simply making things harder than they need to be. Note in the pictures the beat up hinge that is attached to the rod.  This is the effect of trying to put a flat surface on a round one.

The wood is a left over scrap from a threshold project I did on the house.   It is a piece of red oak, measuring roughly 3/4 of an inch on each side and cut to 18 inches long. The piece I cut off was again cut to a length of about 6  inches and placed in a vice.  I rounded the top with a  chisel and judicial hand pressure. I want it round and smooth here so the spring can ride smoothly over this area.

Working with red oak is really nice. You can drill it repetitively and not worry about splitting. It responds to metal working tools like rasps and files admirably and generally does not cost all that much more than much less desirable woods.

Through the pictures you will note small holes drilled all over. These were holes for the eye screws for the spring as I tested various placements for optimum tension of the spring and still fit within the puppet. Do this with a softer wood and soon you will have nothing but splinters.

In the end, I found that the optimum spring location for this particular puppet had the spring starting at the bottom jaw hinge, traveling up and over the top mouth support and then back down to the hinge itself.  There is no right or wrong way. Just ways that work better than others.

The rod was secured, internally, with a rope that passes through Grimpen’s lower jaw. This keeps the rod where it needs to be to work best and makes it removable within a few knots.

Onward with the pictures!