Difficulty to make: 9+ yrs
Marionettes are fun to puppet. Their strings make their movements unpredictable. When body parts and joints are equivalent to an animals' body, any random movement can be magically lifelike.
Always hang your marionette up to avoid major tangles, but learning to untangle strings is all part of being a marionette puppeteer!
Following are instructions for a basic foam marionette before decorating and dressing up. Click on the link to view as a PDF Foam Marionette Instructions.pdf
Click on this link to view Foam Marionette blueprint
Foam Marionette Puppet Instructions
• foam blocks for limbs
• corflute 600mm x 200mm for torso, head and hands,
• thin Coat-hanger wire for hips ankles and wrists
• u-nails to connect wire to hands and feet
• vinyl for mouth hinge, elbows and knees
• 4 mm plastic tube and to reinforce arms and legs,
• chord to connect head, arms, torso and hips
• small woodblocks for feet
• 900mm x 25mm corflute strip with flutes running lengthways
• thin coat-hanger wire or bamboo skewers for reinforcing,
• thin strong string, small eye screw
Hot-glue gun, scissors, hacksaw blade, craft knife, awl or large nail, pliers, hammer, ruler, permanent marker
1 Cut foam blocks into limb sizes with hacksaw. See blueprint detail for knee and elbow joint shape. Bore holes sideways in the top of arms and legs and reinforce with plastic tube.
2 Make templates for body, head and hand.
Use permanent marker to draw body, head and hands onto corflute making sure flutes are running in correct direction. (head sideways, body sideways, hands lengthways) Cut out with scissors.
3 Punch holes in shoulders and neck to join arms and head.
4 Using pliers make four 100mm wire bones, for forearms and shins, with small loops at one end
5 Join limbs at joints with vinyl hinges making sure they bend the correct way.
6 Cut body into torso and hips, punch holes and join torso and hips back together with
chord loops. Tie knot at the back.
7 Thread coat-hanger wire through a flute in the corflute crutch, thread legs onto wire and bend wire up and secure into corflute hip.
8 Thread chord through holes in shoulders and thread both ends of chord through tube in the top of arms. Tie large stopper knot in chord to secure arms.
9 Thread chord through neck hole in the head corflute then through the hole between the shoulders making a loop. Tie a secure knot at the back.
10 Attach hands and feet to the wire bones with a u-nail. Thread u-nail through loop in wire. Glue u-nails into corflute hands and hammer u-nails into foot blocks.
11 Push wire bones up into foam arms and legs, leaving enough room for hands and feet to move naturally. Pull wire bones out halfway, spread hot-glue on wire and push back into wrist and ankle.
12 Cut the corflute strip into the lengths shown on the plan.
13 Glue the Leg Bar to the top of the spine with hot-glue. Use an awl to make holes through leg bar down into spine. Squeeze hot glue into holes to secure the two layers of corflute together.
14 Join Head Bar to spine with chord and stopper knots, so that Head Bar dangles 30mm below spine.
15 Glue the screw eye into the middle of Arm Bar, glue u-nail into the end of the Spine. Open screw eye enough to hook it over the u-nail.
16 Cut small slots for the strings, into the ends of Arm, Leg and Head Bars.
17 Reinforce corflute sections with bamboo skewers or suitable wire.
String the Marionette
18 Tie or get someone to hold controller at puppeteers elbow height.
19 Begin by stringing the puppets head. Secure string with a stopper knot in one side of the Head Bar. Run string down to the head. Using a large needle, thread the string through a flute in the head and back up to the Head Bar. Run the string through the slot in the end of the Head Bar and adjust so that puppet is standing upright. Tie another stopper knot at that place and use hot-glue to secure knots.
20 Run string from one shoulder, up through shoulder hole in the controller. Wrap string around controller and back down through hole to other shoulder. Adjust string so that controller is level and the puppets head falls forward when the front of the controller is lowered. Tie off string at shoulder.
21 String hands to the Arm Bar so that any movement of the Arm Bar will move the hands.
22 Using a needle, thread the string through the top of the knee and out through the hinge at the back. Secure string with a stopper knot and hot-glue. Secure the other end of the string to end of the controller Leg Bar. String should be adjusted so that as soon as controller is twisted the knee moves upward.
23 Run a string from the hole at the bottom of the hips, up to the bottom hole at the end of the controller.
Puppet is now ready to pilot!!!
• Foam sheet can be cut using the templates, and glued onto torso and hips.
• Foam limbs and body can be sculptured to show muscles etc.
• Body shape and size can be changed to suit a particular puppet character.
• Foam marionette can be painted or dressed in clothes. Any clothes should be very light weight and not hinder any movement of the joints.
• An opening mouth can be made with a control string running through the top of the head, down through the mouth to the jaw. Make a hole in upper part of head by pushing a large knitting needle or other pointy stick, down through head to come out in the middle of the mouth. Push a strong drinking straw down though the hole. This makes a clear chanel for the mouth string to move freely. Use a needle to run string through controller mouth hole, down straw at the top of the head and directly through the jaw and secure at the bottom with hot-glue. I use a section of narrow bicycle inner-tube to work the mouth string with my thumb.