How to Put a Mouth Mechanism in a Hand Puppet

Written by harper evan nelson
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How to Put a Mouth Mechanism in a Hand Puppet
The head of a punch and Judy style hand puppet. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Puppetry, although now mostly used as children's entertainment, has a long history of being used as folk and protest art. Many different cultures have made puppets through the ages, and there are many different styles of puppet making. Shadow puppets are still used traditionally in China and India. Punch and Judy are popular hand puppets that originated in fourteenth century Italy. Luckily, all you need to get started with making puppets are some common household supplies.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Cardboard
  • Scissors
  • Glue gun
  • Fabric
  • Tape

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  1. 1

    Cut the cardboard into the shape you desire for the inside of the hand puppet's mouth. For a flat mouth (like a human), cut a circle. Make a square or rectangle for a beak-shaped mouth. If you would like to create a muzzle, cut the corners of the square or rectangle to flatten the nose. You will be folding the cardboard in half in order to acquire the shape. Make the cardboard approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch in diameter larger than you want the shape of your mouth to be.

  2. 2

    Make a series of cuts approximately 1/4 inch deep and 1 inch apart along the entire edge of your cardboard. These tabs will be the attachment points for attaching to mouth to the rest of the head.

  3. 3

    Fold the cardboard in half. If your cardboard is a square or a rectangle, fold it on the diagonal.

  4. 4

    Cut two new strips of cardboard, approximately 1/2 inch in width. You will use these strips to hold your hand in place while you operate the puppet, so one should fit over the four fingers of your right hand, and the other should be large enough for your thumb to slip in and out of comfortably.

  5. 5

    Hot glue the ends of the cardboard strips to the centre of each half circle or triangle, leaving space for your hand to slip in and out comfortably. The longer piece, made to fit the fingers of your right hand, should be glued to the outer top of the puppet's mouth, and the shorter piece, made to to fit your thumb, should be glued to the outer bottom.

  6. 6

    Prepare the shape of the puppet's head. You can construct the puppet's head out of fabric and then stuff it like a stuffed animal, or you can use cardboard. If you use a material that is not flexible or elastic, build a hinged jaw so your puppet's mouth will open and close. Think of the shape of a human skull when constructing a puppet's head, so you can envision where to place the jaw and eye sockets. Leave the base of the head hollow so you can fit your hand up into the puppet's mouth from below.

  7. 7

    Fold the tabs on the cardboard mouth and hot glue them into place on the puppet's jaw. Glue it so that your hand can open and close the mouth piece from inside the puppet.

  8. 8
    How to Put a Mouth Mechanism in a Hand Puppet
    (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Tips and warnings

  • If you want to avoid building the entire head of your puppet, think about parts of the skull that can be replaced by draping fabric over your hand. For example, you can build a mask shape that is just the front of the head and hot glue fabric to the back. There are many different shapes your puppet can take, depending on how you use the cardboard and fabric.
  • Create a simple outfit for your puppet by using hot glue to attach a piece of fabric around the neck hole. A cardboard armature can be added to provide more structure for the neck if you wish. Just remember to leave space for your hand and wrist to fit into the puppet's head.
  • Many puppeteers use a tool called a staple plier, which is used industrially to staple cardboard boxes together. This tool allows the puppeteer to staple large pieces of cardboard together at any point by cutting a slit in the cardboard and stapling through the slit. You can find staple pliers online if you think you will continue working in cardboard and paper mache.
  • Always take care with hot glue guns not to get the glue on your skin. Hot glue will burn you. If you accidentally hot glue your skin, remove the glue as soon as it is dry enough to get off in one piece and run the affected area under cool water to stop the burn.

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