The Buxton Scrapbook - How-To -
Practical Marionettes Made From Old Inner Tubes

A new, simple, and inexpensive way to prepare puppets
Two types of controls... How to tie strings
Popular Science Monthly, September, 1935.

Marionettes of a picturesque, flexible, and entirely practical type maybe made from discarded inner tubes. They cost practically nothing, and the method of construction is simplicity itself.
Directions will be given in detail for a clown puppet. When the general method is understood, original puppets can be devised at will. These can be costumed characters or amusing grotesque figures of rubber alone. The number of fantastic animal creatures one can make in this way is legion.

The clown puppet in the spotlight. Its dancing action is particularly realistic because body and limbs are so pliable. At left are patterns for making the few parts required.

If there are no old inner tubes in the garage to be cut up for this purpose, a supply may be had at most tire repair shops for a few cents each and often merely for the asking. It is surprising in what variety of soft, lovely colors they come-cream, fawn, terra cotta, blue, and black. When other colors are required, bathing caps, hot-water bags, and other cast-off rubber articles will furnish a supply. The face of the clown, for example, is of white rubber from an old bathing cap. The materials required for the clown are, in addition to the rubber, cotton for stuffing the head, screw eyes, scraps of wood, some cigar-box wood, a spool of carpet thread, a spool of fine copper wire, wooden dowels, sheet lead or shot, paints and colored ink. The tools are simply scissors, pliers, coping saw, drill, and a paper punch of the type used for punching tickets.

The clown puppet in the spotlight. Its dancing action is particularly realistic because body and limbs are so pliable. At left are patterns for making the few parts required.

First cut a piece of inner tube of sufficient size and clean it carefully with soap and water. While the rubber is drying, you can make the patterns. Draw the full size designs of the various rubber parts on stiff paper, place these on the material, trace around the patterns, and cut the pieces out of rubber.

The body, arms, and thighs of the clown are all in one piece. There are two leg pieces, two upper and two lower foot pieces, two hands, and the front and back of the head. These are cut from the inner tube with the exception of the hands and head covering, which are thin white rubber.

Three wooden parts are also required-a shoulder piece whittled to a blunt point at each end as shown, a shorter and wider hip piece (these may be 3/8 s or a ¼ in. thick), and a round tapered stick about 2 ½ in. long to stiffen the head.

To assemble the puppet, punch holes where indicated by the dots on the patterns and cut the various slits. Then slip the arrowhead ends of the various parts into the corresponding slits (D to D and E to E). The holes A A, B B, and C C are to be laced together with thin wire, carpet thread, or thongs of rubber.

Attach pieces of lead to the soles with wire (or use shot sewn in cloth). Then slit the upper part of each foot as indicated by the crossed lines and lace it to the sole. Lace the foot to the leg by means of the three holes marked F in each of the leg pieces.

Draw the features with black ink and add spots of red as desired. Sew face and back of head together, leaving an opening at base of neck. Fill with soft cotton, push in the round, tapered stick as indicated by the dotted lines, and drive in wire nails to hold it in place.

Put a screw eye in the end of the head stick. Draw a 7-in. length of copper wire through the screw eye and bend together at both ends. Slip the ends through the bole in the rubber at C, then through the wood shoulder piece. Each end is then bent back at right angles and firmly tacked to the underside of the wood. Allow enough wire to give free movement to the head. Two screw eyes are inserted through the rubber into the wood shoulder piece near the ends at the points indicated by dots; these are for the shoulder strings.

How to cut out the clown's suit. A colorful neck ruff and sleeve frills may be added

The simplest way to make the clown's suit is to follow the pattern given. It is cut double and takes two pieces of goods 16 in. wide and 12 in. long. Gather the cloth where indicated by the dotted lines, and add a neck ruff and sleeve frills of red netting or other suitable material.

Two dowel sticks 9 in. long may be used to control the puppet. Slight incisions are made ¼ in. from the ends on both rods, and two extra ones 3 ½ in. from the ends. To the outer ends of one rod are tied the leg strings, and to the inner incisions are fastened the arm strings. The other control rod supports the head and body, the outer incisions carrying the head strings. If a back string is desired, notch the center of the stick in the exact middle.

A more elaborate type of control is shown in one of the diagrams. Experienced puppeteers now prefer a small, light control about the length of the hand and as wide as the span of the thumb and little finger-usually about 8 by 9 in. Cigar-box wood cut in strips is excellent for the purpose. Small holes are drilled in the ends through which strings are passed and securely tied.

Large boles are made in the piece marked No. 4 to hold a thong of rubber tubing that slips over the band and supports the control and puppet, leaving the fingers free for working special strings.

Weird all-rubber puppet for novelty acts and, below, the recommended type of control.

For the hand strings, wire lops are inserted in, or fastened to, the front of piece No. 1 so that they project a trifle, making it easier to lift the string. This string is continuous and runs through a loose brass ring between the two wire loops. The leg piece (No. 2) is detachable, and should slip easily over a nail projecting about 1 in. from piece No. 1. Pieces 1, 3, and 4 are tacked and glued together. The control may be hung by wire, leather, or any strong material. It is best to keep the puppet hanging up, Never lay a puppet down without winding the strings around the control.

The length of the strings varies. It depends upon the individual puppeteer and the particular stage. Cut the shoulder thread 3 in. longer than double the distance from the control to the marionette's shoulder. Hold the marionette upright with its feet on the floor, tie one end securely to the marionette's left shoulder, tie the other end to the right shoulder, cut the string exactly in half, pass one end through the left hole in piece No. 4 of the control, tie securely, and do the same with right string.

Tie a string to the head back of the left ear, measure double the distance from that point to the control with head erect, allow 3 in. extra, and cut the string. Cut in half, pass left string through hole in left side of No. 3, and tie. Repeat on right side.

Grotesque head made entirety of rubber with fur for the hair and mustache. Inside, a large spool fills it out from ear to car. At right: Mrs. Drake Operating the clown

Be sure the weight of the body hangs from the shoulder strings. If these are slack, the head strings are supporting the marionette, and the head movement will be stiff. If the head strings are too far forward, the head will be drawn back too much; if they are placed too far back, the head will fall forward. For a pompous, strutting character place the strings forward. For old age, or a hunchback, set the strings far back.

Next, tie a string to the left hand through palm and thumb, measure up to the control and back, allow 3 in., cut and pass the free end through the left loop of the main control, then through the brass ring, down through the right loop, and tie to the right hand. Tie a string to the marionette's back, a little above the waistline. Use a needle to draw it through the costume if necessary. Draw the string through the hole in the back of the main control bar and tie securely. In the same manner, tie strings to left and right legs above the knee joints, and tie through holes in the detached bar marked No. 2.

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