Arm Rod Tutorial - Step By Step

Muppetlab

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Arm Rod Tutorial

Ok so lately ive had a fer emails asking me how i make my arm rods.

I was in a similar position not that long ago and found that there isnt that much out there that explains how to make them. There are a few articles about what wire is best etc but but not a one stop shop kinda thing.

So.. All my research and trial and error has culminated in what i feel is a decent arm rod... And im going to share a step by step way i make mine. Note this is for a FIXED arm rod that is permanently attached to the puppets wrist.

First, lets get some bits together you will need. There are many variations to the tools and kit i use.. But this is what works for me.

You will need-
Piano wire - i buy off ebay. 2.34mm x 17" rods. 17inches is ideal and saves cutting them down.

Wooden dowel - 10mm diameter cut to size.. I cut them to just short of 4inches - these will be the base for the handle.

Glue
Pliers- to bend the rods
Heat shrink tubing - check the size and make sure it will shring to 10mm diameter.
Black spray paint
Duck tape
Craft foam sheet
Drill with 3mm bit



Step 1-
Take a length of piano wire and using the pliers, make a small right angle bend in one end. In the other end make two more bends to form a loop shape. There is a nack to bending piano wire.. Take care with this part.


Step 2-
Take a length of dowel and drill a hole 3mm in diameter about a quater of the way up.

Step 3-
Insert the piano wire and secure with glue and strengthen with strip of duck tape.



Step 4-
Cut a strip of craft foam the same length as the dowel and wide enough to wrap round the dowel. Glue round the dowel so the edges start and finish either side of the piano wire... And secure with more duck tape.



Step 5-
Spray the wire and the handle black and wait to dry.



Step 6-
Cut a length of heat shrink tubing over the dowel. There should be a small overlap at the top and bottom.
Use a lighter to heat the tube to shrink it round the dowel...



And there you go!.... A complete guide to making an arm rod!

 

Buck-Beaver

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This is a really great tutorial, especially for anyone who has wondered how to make good arm rods.

I hope you don't mind me offering a few tips/suggestions though:
  • I would recommend using epoxy, not glue to secure the rod to the dowel. This eliminates the need for gaffe/duct tape. Epoxy will form a permanent bond and is much, much stronger than tape.
  • I don't see the necessity of using craft foam. It seems unnecessary to me, but I'm wondering what the purpose of it is?
  • Shrink wrap can actually be used on the rod, as well as the handle if you don't want to paint the rod. It creates a nice, non-reflective surface and in many cases is much more durable than paint (many kinds of paint will wear off or chip after a lot of use). It also means you don't have to buy paint.
  • Although you can use a lighter for shrink wrap, that's not really how it's supposed to be used. A heat gun works much better, or even a hair dryer (on the hottest setting) if you don't own a heat gun. Just be sure to follow the safety instructions because heat guns can start fires when used incorrectly.
  • Another option is to use square dowels for the handles. I reluctantly tried this several years ago at the suggestion of another puppeteer and it actually works a lot better than a round dowel in many situations because it's easier to grip and control. It's also much easier to cut and drill square dowels if you don't have much wood working experience and/or limited access to tools.
 

Muppetlab

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Thanks for the reply :smile: any tips for improvement are always welcome.

I will try square dowels on my next batch and see how different they are.

The craft foam was an addition to smooth off the diameter.. Normally as ther would always be a pionty bit of piano wire sticking out the side the dowel where i have made the bend to long haha
 

Buck-Beaver

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Ah, that makes sense. At the studio where I used to work someone would usually cut a slot for the rod to sit in with a Dremel so the handle would be smooth. Or, if we were feeling lazy, we would just live it being uneven.
 

Sam Bald Eagle

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This is exactly how I've been doing My rods. only ever had to replace one set as I was doing a show that had pyros in it and the shrink melted. :eek:
 

Muppetlab

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Ha! I didnt notice either and it is my thread :smile:
Thanks for the bump tho :wink:
 

ashkent

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I really couldn't work out what to use for arm rods until recently. I came across someone on ebay selling a load of steel rods (they were all greasy and clumped together from being in a mechanics car workshop so needed a little cleaning up) and they worked perfect. I think it depends how sturdy the rods need to be, as sometimes I've needed something that flops around a bit.

The one thing i do different is drill a hole direct into the end of the dowel about two inches deep and exactly the same diameter as the dowel so the rod has to be forced, or sometimes hammered in.
 
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