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Hello puppet people,
I'm interested to know how you guys joint your puppets. Are the joints made of wood? plastic? just string or maybe leather? My marionette Freya's joints were made of Polymorph but I'm working on a Polymorph (friendly plastic) and wire combination to give movement in only the right direction but with lots of freedom. Maybe then coving with batting and fabric.

If anyone has any suggestions on what works, what doesn't, or just something new to try I'd love to hear your ideas!


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Replies to This Discussion

Wow, this is such a broad area to cover! There are literally thousands of possible joint types. The choice should not only be made based on your constuction abilities but also on the type of movement needed for that part of the marionette. I avoid leather simply because it does not have a very long life span. I have handled many antique puppets & the first joints that disintigrate are the leather ones. One of my favorite simple joints is stuffed muslin cloth with two sewing lines about 1/8 inch apart, then sew a peice of Twill tape across the top of the joint (from high point on upper arm to high point on lower arm, as an example) to stop it from moving in the wrong direction. This entire muslin limb can be covered with a cotten jersey sleeve that is dyed to match the flesh tone paint & you have a finished flesh arm but with much greater flexability than a wooden one.
Two excellent replacements for leather are nylon strapping, available in hardware stores; and flat lamp wick, which comes in a few different widths. This, too, can be found in some hardware stores.

Trunk fiber, a traditional jointing material, is wonderful--IF you can find it. Another alternative is the cord joint, best used when covered by the marionette's costume.

No two puppeteers joint in exactly the same way, so have some fun experimenting to find your joints of choice!
Thank you Phillip, your advice is always appeciated. I very much like the stuffed muslin cloth idea as I particular like limiting the joint to only move in a realistic direction and to combine sewing / fabric in joints with the harder materials of the rest of the puppet. I will definitely try that sometime. I'm sad I won't be making it to the PofA festival this year to get a chance to say hi in person again!

Rick, some more great ideas, thank you. I have no idea what trunk fiber is and it brings to mind elephants :) I shall go and look it up though! You can find anything on ebay!

I'm currently working on a marionetter using prosculpt (polymer clay) with rubbery plastic laces to act as the cords.. no idea if it will work yet but I'll keep you posted! As you say.. possibilities are endless...

Just building some carved wooden characters for a tv program and because they are quite small the best way I've found of jointing them is some thin (0.4mm) brass sheet. and also using elastic in a couple of places. I will post up some pics when they are finished.

Leather does have a tendency to dry out. If you use it then a few applications of beeswax before fitting helps keep it supple.
Thats interesting Tony, Doesn't the brass snap after too many bends? Elastic seems to work well, I've used that in a few places but with linen thread too so there's a bit of support and a bit of bounce. Can't wait to see your characters when they're finished, you will have to post pics!

Hi Whyoming,

Sorry I joined this discussion late. I really like the old fashioned trunk fiber/dowel pin joint. The reason I like it so much is because this type of joint allows for very definite controlled movement on a specific axis. Marionettes by design are very loose figures that can have a tendency to get away from you if not properly constructed. By using joints that have definite controlled movement built into them the puppeteer has a lot more control of the figure.
So, for my particular style of puppetry trunk fiber joints are the best choice.
I agree with David. The basic tongue in groove joint is still one of the best. I have made one modification. I use thin stainless steel instead of trunk fiber. This joint has a very smooth & postitive action & is strong enough to last a lifetime.
Hi Phil, I'm supposing that another added benefit of the Stainless steel is weight? A little weight tugging on the elbows is always a good thing! Cheers.

Phillip Huber said:
I agree with David. The basic tongue in groove joint is still one of the best. I have made one modification. I use thin stainless steel instead of trunk fiber. This joint has a very smooth & postitive action & is strong enough to last a lifetime.
Thats a really good point, I always have a tendency to want to make something very human-like - must be the biologist in me, whereas it doesn't need to be like that (not unless I make all the muscles and ligaments too and that's possibly going too far! Doesn't the stainless steel snap after a while after lots of times bending?

The trunk fiber will snap & break with age. When I worked for Tony Urbano, I helped to maintain the marionettes & frequently had to replace trunk fiber joints that had broken after 7- 10 years of use. The stainless steel is about 1/16 inch thick & will not bend easily. Some of my marionettes with the steel joints have already survived 25 years of hard travel & performances without showing any wear or weakness in the joints. The difficulty with stainless steel is the extra work in cutting it out & drilling it. I have gone through several metal-cutting blades in the band saw & many drill bits.
Hi, Jim,
I think that there are various grades of trunk fiber. The stuff that Margo Rose gave me several years ago (from her stores of 40 years or more) is very different from the stuff I've purchased through S&M Trunks.
I like the Baird turn buckle hip joint for dancers and skaters, and tight rope walkers. The good old Tony Sarg stuffed hip joint is still excellent as well.


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