Punchman's tips


By Christopher van Der Craats

The basic head size (140mm and 160 for Punch) gives you a good sized puppet which looks in proportion to the costume. They are easy to carve and of a size which doesn't interfere with holding objects when performing. Also they can be manipulated with enough ease as to make them expressive.

Carving wooden puppet heads

1. Select a light weight finely grained wood.
2. Have the wood dressed so that it is 32mm (1 1/4") thick
3. The puppets are made from blocks 100 x 140 mm. Punch is 100 x 160mm. Each puppet is cut from three blocks.
4. The center piece is the complete profile, including details of the mouth. On the Punch and Judy puppets the nose and chin are left out. Show me
5. The nose and chin are cut out separately so that the grain can be oriented to avoid splitting.
6. The side pieces have the back view of the head drawn on them. Show me This involves defining the ears, rounding the top of the head and curving the lower part of the head down to the neck. Each side piece should have a flat section at the front of the face so that it will sit steadily on the band saw when cut out. Show me.
7. Glue the three profiles together and dowel the nose and chin in place.
8. Chisel the nose to make it narrower at the eyes. Show me.
9. Cut two saw cuts across on the side of the head at the top and and bottom of the ears. Chisel away the waist wood behind and in front of the ears. Leave then square so that the blocks can be used to hold the head in the vice.
10. Round the head looking along the puppet head to ensure symmetry. Begin by rounding the neck then round the back of the head and the area between the nose and the ears. Show me This can be done with a chisel working from the middle of the head to the top and downwards to avoid splitting the wood. Rasps or electric sanders can be employed as well. A lot of wood is removed in this process.
11. Round the chin, nose and the top of the head. Remember that with puppets which have wigs or hats that these will add to the size of the puppet so don't be afraid to carve away more wood than you think is right.
12. Define the eyes by gently using the chisel to outline them and then chiseling at an angle from the eye brows down and the top of the cheeks up. Show me.
13. A this point you can drill out the finger hole. I use a 1" spade bit. Show me. This doesn't take hold of the wood as ruthlessly as an auger. Later, when dressing the puppet, I insert a tube of soft cloth for comfort. However I do round the inside and outside edges of the hole.
14. A groove is cut around the neck so that the costume can be attached.
15. Next I define the line from the nose to the chin around the mouth. I carve in the details of the mouth leaving the edges quite sharp and using sand paper to soften them back again.
16. Use the chisel downwards to cut out the shape of the ears (or cut them off). Then using sand paper, a file or chisel flatten them a bit tapering them towards the neck and front of the face. Remember puppets with hats and wigs will have ears which protrude more. Some puppets don't have ears.
17. The eyes are rounded using sandpaper. Show me.
18. Once the features have been carved out you use various grades of sand paper to smooth out chisel marks and soften some of the features. Check that there is some symmetry .
19. Paint the prime coat of paint. Sand it smooth and use filler if necessary. Sand again with very fine sandpaper and paint the undercoat. This also will need fine sanding and another undercoating before the head is ready for painting.




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