How to make wooden puppets & marionettes

Written by erin maurer
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How to make wooden puppets & marionettes
Wooden marionettes are often made from complex designs. (Getty Creative)

Marionettes are wooden, movable puppets that rose to popularity in Europe as early as the 15th century. Though primarily known for their entertainment value, marionettes were also the first newscasters, telling people stories from far-away lands, according to the Puppets Now website. Marionettes differed from other wooden puppets because they featured movable arms, legs and heads that were controlled by a series of strings and control bars. Many marionettes were very complex and woodcrafters often spent years making them. Though complex marionettes are still made, novice crafters may begin by creating a simple version from wooden dowels, a wooden block and a round, wooden ball.

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Things you need

  • Drill and 3 mm (1/8 inch) bit
  • Work table with clamps
  • 6.5 cm (2.5 inch) dowels, 30 cm (12 inches) long
  • Wooden ball, 2.5 to 5 cm (1 to 2 inches) in diameter
  • 6 mm (1/4 inch) dowel, 5 cm (2 inches) long
  • 2.5 to 5 cm (1 by 2 inch) block of wood, 12.5 cm (5 inches) long
  • 4 13 mm (½ inch) dowels, 11.5 cm (4.5 inches) long
  • Sandpaper
  • String
  • Yarn
  • Wood glue
  • Felt
  • Pencil
  • Markers

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Sand all the wooden pieces to eliminate sharp, rough edges and potential splinters.

  2. 2

    Clamp one of the 30 cm (12 inch) long, 13 mm (½ inch) dowels. Drill three holes in the dowel with a 3 mm (1/8 inch) bit. Place one hole in the middle and one on each end. Repeat this step with the remaining 30 cm (12 inch) long, 13 mm (½ inch) dowel. These dowels will form the marionette's control bars.

  3. 3

    Clamp one of the 11.5 cm (4.5 inch) long, 13 mm (½ inch) dowel. Drill a hole in each end. Repeat with the three remaining 11.5 cm (4.5 inch) long, 13 mm (½ inch) dowels. These dowels are the arms and legs for the marionette.

  4. 4

    Stand the 2.5 by 5 cm (1 by 2 inch) block of wood upright vertically. Drill a hole into the right corner of the block, about 2.5 cm (1 inch) from the top. This will hold the marionette's right arm. Repeat on the left hand side. Drill two holes into the bottom corners of the wood for the legs. Be sure all holes go completely through the wood. Drill a hole in the centre of the top, short side of the wood. This hole should not be drilled through the face of the wood.

  5. 5

    Drill a hole through the centre of the wooden ball. Use caution to avoid cracking the ball in half.

  6. 6

    Cut four small pieces of string about two inches long. Insert one end of the string into the marionette's right arm. Loop the string through the hole in the upper right corner of the marionette's body. Secure with a tight. Repeat this tying process to attach the left arm and both legs.

  7. 7

    Cut a piece of yarn about 40 cm (16 inches) long. Insert one end of the yarn and the 6 mm (¼ inch) dowel into the hole in the top of the marionette's body. Secure with wood glue. String the yarn through the hole in the wooden ball. Attach the ball to the 6 mm (¼ inch) dowel.

  8. 8

    Take the 30 cm (12 inch) long dowels and form a cross or X shape. Secure in the centre with wood glue. This forms the control bars. Tie the other end of the yarn through the wooden ball to the centre of the control bars.

  9. 9

    Cut two pieces of string about 50 cm (20 inches) long. Tie one of the 50 cm pieces through the hole at the end of the marionette's right arm. Tie the other end through the hole at the end of the front, right control bar. Repeat with the left arm, securing it to the left, front control bar.

  10. 10

    Cut two pieces of string about 75 cm (30 inches) long. Tie one of the 75 cm pieces through the hole on the marionette's left leg. Tie through the hole at the end of the left, back control bar. Repeat with the right leg, securing it to the right, back bar.

  11. 11

    Decorate the marionette with markers, felt and yarn. Draw clothes on the felt and secure to the body with wood glue. Cut pieces of yarn for the marionette's hair. Draw on a face and accessories.

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