How to Make Moving Eyes on a Puppet

Written by alexis writing
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How to Make Moving Eyes on a Puppet
Moving eyes can be made for a puppet with a few simple tools. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

No good puppeteer is complete without a good puppet companion. The more realistic the puppet and the more interactive, moving parts, the more engaged the audience will be with the show. In addition to arms, legs and a head that can wave, move and turn, most quality puppets have moving eyes that can form hundreds of expressions and add another element to any puppet show.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Wooden balls
  • Paint
  • Varnish
  • Drill
  • Springs
  • Glue
  • Brass loop
  • Puppet
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Small wood block
  • Brass rod
  • Hammer

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  1. 1

    Make eyeballs. Two wooden balls form the basis of the eyeballs. Many professional puppeteers prefer 3/4-inch diameter balls. Paint the balls white and print the irises of the eyes on a computer before gluing them onto the eyeballs. Paint a few coats of clear varnish on the completed eyeballs to give them a shine. When they are dry, drill holes horizontally through the length of the eyeballs.

  2. 2

    Affix springs. Drill small holes into the back of each eyeball. If you used the 3/4-inch diameter puppet, you will use a 1mm drill bit to drill the holes. Then, glue a 3- or 4-inch spring into each of these new holes. Fasten the other end of the springs to a small piece of wood behind the eyeballs, and then hammer a brass loop into the centre of the wood piece. The size of this wood piece can vary based on the size of the head of your puppet. It should usually be at least 1 inch by 1 inch so that it fits fully behind the 3/4-inch diameter puppet eyes. The control lever inside the puppet will fit inside this loop.

  3. 3

    Set eyeballs in place. If you used a 1mm drill bit, use a 1mm screw to attach the side-by-side eyeballs to a piece of wood that fits under the eyes and holds them on the same horizontal plane. Drill a hole in the wood, then slide a bolt down through the hole in the eyeball and through the wood, screwing the stack together with a nut. Repeat for the other eyeball, making sure to leave the bolts loose enough to rotate freely.

  4. 4

    Insert and connect. The final piece is the control post, which is just a handle with a brass rod that you bend through the loop on the back of the moving eyeball set. Turning the control rod will turn the eyes, and letting go will release them into their default, forward-looking position, giving any puppet or dummy a more realistic appearance.

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