For quite some time I have been looking for a professional arm rod method that allows the performer to remove the rods for easy storage. I didn't like the rubber band method, because the bands would break during rigorous performance and they required you to change them constantly to keep them "fresh".

I researched different methods that other builders used, and came up with something that works for me. Now, my friends, you can benefit from all of my research efforts and trial and error during the building process.  =)


I start out with whatever hand shape that needs to be used for the puppet I'm making. I used 1/2 inch foam here. I cut two "hands" out for each side (total of 4 hands cut out). The foam hands will be slightly smaller than the pattern I use to cut the fabric that will cover them. I just enlarge my pattern on a copy machine by about 3-5% (I think).
On the first hand I put durable, but bendable, wire on each finger just like ear Town showed us in the diagram of Tumbles the bear. (I twisted mine together differently, but I don't think it matters.) I really liked the loops he showed us and I think those are important to have in each finger.

You can attach these anyway you're comfortable with. I did two things: sewed them AND used hot glue. Don't get too carried away, because when the hand is glued together the contact cement holds the wires in place really well.
Next I used a medium sized doll joint set like the method shown in the Foam Book Videos. You can find them at most fabric shops, or hobby shops that sell doll parts. They come in three pieces but I don't use the flat ring. (save those for eyes and such!) Doll joints snap together nicely and wont come apart, just make sure you leave enough room for your rod to fit. (To avoid mistakes, I always have the rod in place while I snap the pieces together).

I used needle nose pliers and curved the end of the rod so that it fits snug but can still be removed with a little force. This makes it nice to be able to remove the rods for photos, traveling, storage, etc. Also, the rod swings slightly in the hand so that it's easier to maneuver the arms in realistic gestures during performance.
I noticed that with the Foam Book Method, little pieces of foam were being pulled out from the rod snagging it too often. So, I construct pouches like shown here. I ALWAYS use a scrap of material from whatever will be covering the hand. Also, Make sure that the right side is IN the pocket so that when you fold the bottom ends out later it will match the fabric on the hand. I glue the rod housing (joint) in the pocket and then glue the pocket to the middle of the hand. Finally, I cover both hand pieces with contact cement to glue them together, leaving an opening where the pocket ends stick out.
Finishing the edges takes a little time, but if you work carefully you can collapse the ends on themselves like shown here. (just pinch/fold them together) Then I glued the pocket flaps down. The hand doesn't appear so thick now, does it? =)

If you think the opening looks too large, you can use tiny stitches or glue to create a more obscure hole. Just remember to leave enough room for the loop of your rod to fit.
Put some skin on your puppet, and adjust the opening of the hole by closing it up a bit with tiny stitches.

Vola! The finished product! The wire in the fingers allow you to pose them in realistic expressions. The rod can easily be inserted into the hand of the puppet. It's professional looking, durable enough for a lengthy performance, and nearly invisible to your audience.



Puppets on the Moon
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