How to Build Marionette Puppets

Written by bibiana da silva
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How to Build Marionette Puppets
A marionette puppet's arms and legs can move independently of its body. (marionette image by Vladislav Gajic from Fotolia.com)

Marionette puppets are special among puppets because of the strings that control them. While other types of puppets are incapable of elaborate movements, the puppeteer can move a marionette's arms and legs independently of its body. The more strings a marionette has, the more natural its movements can be. You can learn to control a marionette by starting with a simple, three-stringed one you make yourself.

Skill level:
Moderate

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Things you need

  • Drawing of a person
  • Copying machine
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Thin cardboard
  • Hole puncher
  • 4 paper fasteners
  • Needle
  • String
  • 2 wooden dowels

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Find a drawing of a person standing face-forward with his arms and legs slightly away from the body. Find such a picture in a colouring book, print it from the internet (see Resources), or draw it if you're a good artist. Make two copies of the picture.

  2. 2

    Use both copies of the drawing to cut out the body in five pieces: two arms with shoulders; two legs up to the bottom of the hip; and one piece consisting of the head, neck, shoulders, and upper body down to the bottom of the hip. Glue the pieces at least 1 inch apart on a piece of thin cardboard. Allow at least 20 minutes for the glue to dry.

  3. 3

    Cut out the body parts. Use a hole punch to put holes in the centre of the top of each leg, the centre of each shoulder on the arm, the centre of each shoulder on the body, and the front-centre of the hips on the body. Punch each hole the same distance from the edge, but place them as close to the edge as possible while maintaining a hole.

  4. 4

    Arrange the arms and legs behind the body in their correct places. Align the holes on the adjoining pieces and put a paper fastener through each pair of holes, with the studs on the front of the body. Open the fasteners on the back of the body.

  5. 5

    Thread a needle with a piece of string about 1.5 times as long as the distance between the paper fasteners in the puppet's shoulders. Tie a knot at the end.

  6. 6

    Push the needle through the front of the hindmost left shoulder (the one connected to the arm), a little above the paper fastener. Push it through the same point on the back of the hindmost right shoulder. Tie a knot on the front of the hindmost right shoulder to form a loop across the puppet's back.

  7. 7

    Repeat steps 5 and 6 with the puppet's legs (the ones independent of the upper body), using the paper fasteners at the top of the thighs for a reference. These two loops will allow you to control the puppet's arms and legs.

  8. 8

    Choose a point in the middle of the top of the puppet's head where you can push a needle through without tearing the edge of the puppet. Cut a piece of string 1 foot long, plus the distance between that point and the top edge of the puppet's head.

  9. 9

    Thread the needle with the string, then tie a knot at the end. Push the needle through the front of the puppet's head at the point you chose. This string will support the puppet's head while you control its body.

  10. 10

    Lay the puppet face down on a flat surface. Cut two pieces of string that extend 12.5 inches above the puppet's head, one measuring from the loop between the legs, the other measuring from the loop between the arms. Tie each string to its respective loop so that 1 foot extends above the puppet's head.

  11. 11

    Tie the ends of the strings connected to the arms and head to a wooden dowel. Tie the ends of the strings connected to the legs to a separate dowel. Move the dowels to control the puppet's arms and legs.

Tips and warnings

  • If you want the puppet farther away from you while you control it, cut the strings longer in steps 8 and 10.

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