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Glove/hand puppet with articulated mouth

Discussion in 'Puppet Building and Performing' started by ReggieTuba, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. ReggieTuba

    ReggieTuba New Member

    This is more of a general puppet building question, rather than a Muppet question, per se.

    I want to make a glove-type hand puppet (thumb in one of the puppet's arms, pinky or middle finger in the other arm, and some combination of fingers holding up the head, all fingers from the same hand--I want a puppet on either hand at the same time). However, I'm hoping to have an articulated, moving mouth.

    A builder friend tells me she used to have a book with a design for such a puppet with, as was my understanding from her description, a ring or trigger working the mouth. However, she has lent the book out, and I'm not confident enough with my building skills to just wing it.

    Does anyone on this forum know of a pattern for this sort of puppet, or the name of a book that might have such a design in it?

    Thanks in advance for all your help!
  2. MagicFractal

    MagicFractal Member

    Sorry, no ready-to-go sources to offer, but I do think everyone designing mouth and jaw structures should be aware of "3D Printing" allowing concepts to be realized with little or no drilling, sanding, or sculpting. I'll bet we could find a CAD designer in that community enthusiastic about the challenges of jaw and joint designs !

    Venerable Sculpey might work, but I'd want the actual hinge to be a Teflon insert, where even a simple needle-bearing is long-lasting.

    To actuate the mouth, using the ring you envision (or if you have a hand free), you could try cable-puppet methods with bicycle cables (bike shops might have used ones free) or if that's overkill, strong fishing line in a stiff plastic sleeve works. For example with a dual cable version you could control each side of the mouth separately for expressive crooked-smiles, or pull both at once for a broad smile. It seems strange at first, but even a foot-actuator will work at the distance, if you use materials as strong as bike cables.

    Silicon elastics or even springs might be useful in such a design, to pull the cable back to its resting position.

    Just about any book knowledge might appear on WWW, so maybe you can Google some designs to start with, but as with any prototypes (I've made many many) be prepared for some designs to end up on the shelf if interesting but not for the application at hand, or in the trash when they bind-up or self-destruct. :)
  3. ReggieTuba

    ReggieTuba New Member

    Perhaps "articulated" isn't quite right. I just want a mouth that opens and closes, but I want it to be operable by a single finger. No more than 3, because that's all that would be available. Your suggestions are awesome, but way more extensive than what I want/need for this project.

    The (single) fishing line in sleeve probably is closest to what I'm looking for (double idea is great, but way more control than I need), but I'm not sure how to go about attaching it, nor what material to make the head and neck out of so that it doesn't collapse when the ring is pulled.

    I've not had great success with searching Google. Perhaps, as with "articulated mouth," I'm just not putting in the right search terms, because I'm not getting results that are relevant to what I want to do.
  4. MagicFractal

    MagicFractal Member

    In California we have Tap Plastics, supplier of a wide range of goodies suitable for inventors. "Delrin" plastic flexes a zillion times, and they make strong "piano hinges" from that nylon-like plastic. Many Henson jaws are hinge-like, the link below is fish-like. One could emulate the physics of the real animal to some degree. A cow's mouth would be a different mechanism from a cat or octopus. What critter are you bringing to the stage in this case?

    Plastic stores also sell Fimo, Sculpey, and other fine futuristic "modeling clay". They have SILICON rubber mold material for liquid acrylic with hardener. Much stronger than latex rubber molds, but the plastic store will have that too.

    I tried the search term for Google: "puppet design jaw" and got lots of leads and check this paper on puppet jaw design. There's one way to do it. I can think of others.

    Stop-motion animators know their puppetmastry too. Here's an item I found in their musings:
    "Doll Armatures" could be made very strong with stainless steel and ceramic (lasts 100 lifetimes), and versions with magnets. Smaller ones could be used to shape a head for example, so the puppet would also be "reconfigurable/reusable". I've seen these up to human bone scale.

    I'm quite sure almost any bicycle shop would give away cables from bicycles with the sheath. Model Railroad hobby shops sell brass tubing and thin sheets that can be cut with tin-snips and easily soldered with a small iron, handy for custom gadget making and a fun metal to work with.
    ReggieTuba likes this.
  5. MagicFractal

    MagicFractal Member

    Another kind of local store usually worth finding is your local ham radio operators' parts store, often something beyond Radio Shack. They sell Teflon "spaghetti", intended for electrical insulation but ideal for threading a fishing line with low friction. This isn't shrink-wrap, which is not Teflon. One can wire-strip insulation if there's suitable wire in the junk box. Even if not Teflon, it will probably work.

    If one doesn't design for push-pull, the counterforce to the cable pull can be gravity, weight of the jaw, a spring or rubber piece to pull the jaw to its "resting" position. A push-pull design would allow you to hang the character's mouth partly open without using-up a finger to maintain it. It's possible to lock any cable by pinching it with a small cam, again freeing up fingers while holding a pose.
    ReggieTuba likes this.

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