There's No Biz like SNOW Biz

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There's No Biz like SNOW Biz

Postby Richard Coombs » 19 Jan 2013, 19:48

Hope you are all keeping warm and snug through this cold snap and Snow.
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I see from the online Uk weather map that the part of Wales where the Harlequin Theatre is has also been hit by snow...stay warm Chris

I should not be puppet making again right now ..as there are no shortage of indoor jobs around the house that I really should be getting on with... but the sudden snowfall got me itching to carve again :-)

So at about 7 pm last night after I had shovelled a clear path at the front of the house for Mr Postie in the morning , and a path from the back door to my woodwork shed, I sat down to scribble a design for another puppet.

And yes, yet another Queen ...The Snow Queen

Again not a P&J regular character, and will be a rod puppet to boot ..but there is method in the madness ...this one wont be onstage for more than about 60 seconds ..and in truth she is only there for a flash of nice costume and one of those fleeting '3 characters up at once' moments...yup a bit of 'showing off' ;-)

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It seemed only fitting she should be 'born' on a snowy day.
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So for those who come to look at this board for ideas , here again is my "jigsaw" method of making a head.


It is now a bit formulaic ..but on the plus side I am getting faster at it.
So here are step by step pics for anyone wanting to try a different way of carving a wooden head
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That was enough for one evening as it was chilly out there in the shed ..but all the bits were cut by 7-20pm
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Today I started shaping them , first with a finger sander ( Black and Decker 'powerfile') and then with sandpaper :
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This sideways view shows that each part is sanded ..but that the 'depths' are not right to make a convincing face.
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So when you assemble this 'photofit' jigsaw, you can make a surprising amount of variations to a face by deciding how 'deep' to glue each part ...sinking the eyes , or 'bulging them out' ... going for a 'pushed out' pouty mouth - or more a usual human configuration . How far you stick out the chin or nose makes a huge difference.

I go so far to say that if you cut out several identical kit of face parts you could make at least three very different looking heads at this stage. But here she is assembled how I want The Snow Queen to look;
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Last edited by Richard Coombs on 19 Jan 2013, 22:11, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: There's No Biz like SNOW Biz

Postby Richard Coombs » 19 Jan 2013, 20:25

Also started the 'Torso' today.

This could have been cut from one block of timber ..but instead this was a 'laminated' process ..for two reasons (a) I want the central slice to be plywood , as I dont want there to be any danger of the wood splitting around the drilled holes where the puppets arms will pivot and be joined with a small bolt. (b) working in slices allowed me to cut out a deal of the centre region from each piece , which meant when glued together , the body was fairly 'hollow' - therefore lighter.

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Head and torso

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And glued together:
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And there I stop ! - the Queen of Hearts still is not finished, and there are other things I really should be doing. So this puppet is destined to be completed later in the Spring .

But as I said , it just seemed fitting somehow that she was begun during all the Snow chaos.

Hope this isnt eating up too much of your storage Bytes Chris?
Let me know guys if this step-by-step stuff is useful at all? It wont stop me taking pics for me , but I can always stop the posting frenzy :-)

Best Wishes Richard
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Re: There's No Biz like SNOW Biz

Postby Chris » 20 Jan 2013, 00:08

No problems for me Richard, and I'm sure your postings are much appreciated by many people.
It's good to squawk!
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Re: There's No Biz like SNOW Biz

Postby lesclarke » 20 Jan 2013, 17:32

I really enjoy these pics Richard, and these are probably the clearest step by step pics of one of your heads.

On the previous set I'd finally 'twigged' that it must be fun playing around with the final positioning of each piece of the face face to alter the final form and expression.

That's the thing with other forms of carving in that once you have laid out your design it's difficult to vary it much, it's fine for expert carvers who can fully visualise the final head that's inside a block of wood, but others need some leeway, which is why I feel more confident modelling rather than carving.

One can always of course model and then carve using that as a guide.

Since I said I was finishing two heads before starting any more I have in fact started another three! My only excuse was that firstly I felt Punch and Judy needed a baby, and then found some modelling material that was starting to 'go off', so hating to waste anything I started another couple of heads.
As if I haven't got enough to do today, with all I've got to do today.
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Re: There's No Biz like SNOW Biz

Postby Chris » 20 Jan 2013, 19:24

I see from the online Uk weather map that the part of Wales where the Harlequin Theatre is has also been hit by snow...stay warm Chris


I'd get another weather map!

Thanks for the kind thoughts Richard, but to date not a flake of snow - or at least not one that has stuck. We've had some bitter wind but none of the white stuff. I was doing a party this afternoon in Ruthin, a town in the hills about 30 miles away, and they had had a thin sprinkling. During the course of the afternoon it did snow quite persistently there and I was expecting a fun drive home. But the roads were clear and as I got back to within 5 miles of the Harlequin I realised that there was still no trace of snow to be seen.

Still, heavy snow tonight is forecast nation-wide so I doubt if we'll escape.

A postscript to Les's remarks about carving v. modelling. Waldo Lanchester, a quite brilliant carver of puppets, always made a model in plasticine when carving a head. He transferred measurements and constantly checked his progress using calipers. By contrast John Bickerdike, another superb puppetmaker (and also a carver of church furnishings - angels and the like) used the method you alluded to. He could "see" the completed form trapped inside the block of wood and chipped away to release it. A lovely man, Ron Warriner, who was a great influence on me as a boy, had, I believe that same gift. He never described his thought process, but although he modelled himself on Lanchester his carving always seemed effortless as though he knew exactly what he had to cut off and where. But then he was equally adept when modelling. He was just a natural. His greatest drawback was himself - he was never satisfied with anything he had made.
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Re: There's No Biz like SNOW Biz

Postby Richard Coombs » 20 Jan 2013, 19:37

Like you Les , I am useless at sticking to 'the plan' ( which is why I try not to have one ..and New Years resolutions are a non-starter ! LOL)

So much for stopping on the Snow Queen and getting on with other stuff ...had another few hours out in the shed today .

I could have ended the 'making of ' pics to finish at the end of yesterday : but that only really tells half the story.
I shot them from flat on frontally so as not to confuse things with what was going on 'round the back'.
This was so as to not to deter first time 'jigsaw' builders , by adding the worry about the need to hollow out the head afterwards. I thought it best to make it look attractive enough to have a go - having made a 'solid' head , making it hollow is the next major part.

You could of course use a power drill plus spade bit(s) or a hand auger drill to chew away a central hollow in the top of the head ( the standard method with other forms of P&J carving I think ?)

But part of the joy of the jigsaw method , is that you can cut the pieces in half width ways..so leaving the 'Mask' thinner and more hollow to start with. Usually I only do this with the central ( non edge touching ) parts as this makes the head hollow but keeps its strength while drying.
But this time I also kept back some of the 'cheek' parts , knowing I could further 'slice' them and reinstate the side of the head later. All a bit fiddly .

I had done all this ( without showing /troubling you with the detail ) But here is the back of head:
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And shown again with some of the 'missing' - unused bits
You can see that I did not bother to cut the eyelids in half - because they were small enough and fiddly to position as they were - any smaller and glueing them into position would have been harder ( and in any case I knew the unneeded bit of them would rasp away really fast being so thin) :
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Next job was to put a coarse grit sanding belt on the finger sander and rasp out unneeded parts of the back of the face - the glued jigsaw lines help to show whereabouts on the face you are..allowing for very selective wood removal . the result of this is a head that is well hollowed , but still keeps a fairly uniform thickness. And really helps keep the weight down.

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Next some 5mm MDF for the headpiece support ( not my favourite material , but to wire on all the decoration later , I knew it would need to be riddled with holes . And for this MDF splits less than thin ply ) Anyhow I had a small piece the right size in my scrap box :
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Crown in place , plus the reinstated 'cheek' strips and some ply wood to complete the missing top of head.
You can see that by using these thin strips , the head is staying very hollow ..and adding a thin ply 'lid' the full profile of the head would create a solid and strong shape. This I did , but did not take a pic of that stage (oops)
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Next is inserting the rod and start of the Mechanism that will raise both arms at once.

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Slightly more flattering angle:
You can also see the two bits of blockboard that complete her head - and also help support solid the crown slice-
Another day when the glue has dried I can sand the top of head smooth on front and back.
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That is it for now .. really not sure when I will do more on her. hectic few days ahead.
But the rest of her construction is a 'one-off' sort of build ( arm-raise mech plus a rod puppet costume , not a 'glove' puppet) - so probably not of general interest.
Therefore dont be surprised if next photos posted jump ahead to almost completed.

Next time a carve a jigsaw head that is for a glove puppet , I will post fewer of the first few stages photographically and jump to making and joining the neck part .... all that will be much more Punch and Judy useful.

Richard
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