Making a booth

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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 09 Mar 2013, 21:43

Could you make a puppet booth on your mum's kitchen table? Well you may have to go out into the corridor for some longer space.
You could have the timber merchant cut and dress your uprights. Or perhaps suitable wood is available off the shelf? You can make lazy tongs using precut and dressed timber. I wonder how dear it is? I originally used wood for lazy tongs but it kept splitting and breaking. I worked out later that I had drilled my holes too small and the bolts were expanding. But that is why I now use aluminium (as much as I hate the stuff). But even a beginner has to cut the wood and will need some way of holding it while they saw it. One slip of the saw and mum will get cross when she sees what has been done to her kitchen table.

Fortunately these days you can buy quite cheap drills, angle grinders and jig saws. You can get these tables with winding bits that act like a clamp.
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Or is that going too far? Maybe Chris is thinking of a clamp and a fret saw?
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But Chris has just reminded me where I got the mirror attachment idea from, "Hallo Mr Punch". The design of the booth I have been making is an amalgam of information I have gleaned from a number of books and watching the booths being set up at the May Fayre.

The real test would be to do a Bear Grylls and go out into the woods and make a puppet booth with nothing but your bare hands and teeth. Perhaps we could throw in a pocket knife and you could make a set of puppets while you're about it. I could organise a puppeteers retreat in some isolated part of Australia. That would test whether you were truly interested in puppets or not.

But Chris, why must everything always be aimed at the beginner? Can't we supply information to the person who wants to move on to the next phase? Like myself.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby Chris » 09 Mar 2013, 22:57

Nobody, as far as I am aware, and certainly not me, suggested that everything be aimed at the beginner. But as we do have several beginners on the board I don't want to scare them off. And I don't imagine that you are aiming to teach the experts among us. That is not to say that the more experienced will not find great pleasure and interest in your clearly documented experiments.
I don't know anything about your private means or early circumstances but you really do seem to be unable to understand the very real difficulties ordinary people have. For example:
"You could have the timber merchant cut and dress your uprights." or "Fortunately these days you can buy quite cheap drills, angle grinders and jig saws. You can get these tables with winding bits that act like a clamp." Are these really your solutions for the impoverished?

Most people don't have "timber merchants", they get their wood from the local supermarket, and wood today is very expensive. I find it so, but how much more to the young prof just starting out with a mortgage and a young family. Probably your quite cheap drills, angle grinders and jig saws will be only a dream. And I would consider those "tables with winding bits" a major expense.
Those things are all very desirable, but are not essential. My first vice was a portable one made to clamp on a table top. In fact I used to use it on my Mum's wooden kitchen stool, which also served as my saw horse and bench top. And I only could afford the vice because I sold an article to "Men Only".

Of course with primitive tools and make-do materials people are not going to get the finish and exactitude that you achieve. That is understood. But I also suggest that neither is it necessary to be super-equipped or skilled to make usable equipment. Surely it is not out of place to point this out to those who might be daunted by the high standards which you suggest as the norm.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 10 Mar 2013, 00:03

Vice? Men only? Tell me more. You are a dark horse Chris.

I should point out that this booth I am making is for a professional performer who has decided to go hands-in-front-of-face. He travels about a lot and knows how to really abuse a booth. So I have to make it both solid and light weight. You must remember that a professional puppet booth is a seriously engineered piece of kit, it must meet high standards of durability, meet stringent health and safety standards and look the part (only joking).

My heart goes out to the poor impoverished student of puppetry. What can I say? Read and dream for one day you too can aspire to a puppet booth made up to a standard rather than down to a budget. ;)

Meanwhile I have completed the structure of the frame and am today working on the proscenium. I pasted a strip of decorative moulding across the lower edge. I have used this to provide a bit of a rebate into which I will slot the side panels. These are always a bit of a problem and can easily be knocked away during a show. So with this build I am experimenting on a way of attaching them.

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I have a lot of clamps because I once built boats.

The stage is cut from 6mm play. Hopefully it is wide enough. You will see I have wrapped it around the frame to help stop it tipping forward.
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To help stop puppets sliding off during a counting scene I have stuck a strip of half round wood on the inside edge. On the front edge I have glued a strip of decorative moulding to give the stage a bit of thickness. To clamp this I have had to abandon my extensive collection of clamps and resort to duct tape.
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While this glue is drying I will skip off to the supermarket to get some milk and a length of 16mm dowel for the back drop.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 10 Mar 2013, 05:41

This is my test solution to the attachment of proscenium side panels - Plywood tabs glued and nailed onto the panel.
This one is at the the top
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And there is one at the bottom as well. It could be possible to make the lower tab as an extension to the panel itself and cut a slot into the stage. However it seems to hold itself firmly in place with the minimum of attachment hardware.

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And here is the whole proscenium. Now if I could just get Mark Poulton to paint if for me. But I am afraid I will have to do it myself.
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Ply comes with good sides and not so good sides. Except the more expensive marine ply, but I won't mention that. Then for some reason they put a label on it - on the good side. And it is bloody hard to remove. Such is life.

This afternoon I washed the canvas to shrink it.Now I have red and pink stripes. Yes the colour ran and I have to buy some more, unless I can convince myself that pink and white is a more traditional fabric. Well it is a sort off white. Pinkish off white, or warm off white perhaps.
I think I have scared myself out of making puppet booths.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby Professor Joe » 10 Mar 2013, 14:25

CDVC, dylon do a colour run remover, it works very well. I made the mistake of not prewashing some fabric I was using for a stage costume, and when the costume was washed the colour ran. but with the colour run remover it restored to how it was before.
J
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 11 Mar 2013, 09:34

Thank you Joe. I will remember that product. Fortunately I was able to return the canvas and to my great surprise they exchanged it for a new lot.

Let me just say that we have been having a heat wave here where I live. For the last 8 days it has been over 30 degrees C. It is some sort of record. Too hot to think. So doing this has been a struggle.

But I managed, by getting to work very early in the morning, to prime the proscenium and varnish the stage. I then made a backdrop. In the design the lower edge of this is aligned to the lazy tongs on either side and so I was able to use a flat head nail to keep it taut.
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The nail is in a dowel but equally I could use some curtain spring, as Chris S has recommended, and hook it into the same hole. I will see how the person I am building this for copes.
(NOTE: After using the booth I have decided the spring would be the better alternative)

I then packed it up to take it upstairs to the costuming department.

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Should fit well into the golf carry bag.

Upstairs I reassembled it and laid out my canvas to measure the pieces. Supervised by one of my trick puppets.
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The canvas is cut into three pieces, the front and two sides that wrap around and join in the middle at the back of the booth. The canvas is 150cm wide.

The first thing I did was hem the lower edges. Each was sewn over at about 9mm wide:
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Then I turned it over again a 4cm. The idea being you don't want fraying canvas exposed. I then sewed along the folded edge. So a lot of long sews. You have to be careful when sewing canvas as it can pull at the needle as it piles up around the machine and before you know it your needle becomes a fish hook.
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Once the bottom hem is made I then clamp the canvas inside out onto the booth for a fitting.
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But at this point something went wrong. I sewed on the front panel first but when I set it up again there was not enough fabric to fit around and join up at the back without having to pull it tightly. I don't like tight fitting booth covers and like to have some drape in the cloth. Not too much to make it look too baggy but not tight enough so that you can see the outline of the lazy tongs behind.

So I had to go out into the heat of the day and buy 1.5 metres more fabric and will have to unpick the front panel and do it again.
What I will do is buy a long tent zip, sew that on and then refit the cover. But it was 37 degrees and I just couldn't go on.

Well at least I now have some spare canvas with which to make a puppet bag.
Last edited by CvdC on 12 Apr 2013, 23:14, edited 1 time in total.
It has been my experience that I am always true from my point of view, and am often wrong from the point of view of my honest critics. I know that we are both right from our respective points of view. - Gandhi (Having a bob each way.)
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 12 Mar 2013, 06:18

The saga continues. And it is quite a saga. I am now nearly finished and have been working on this booth for five days. I expect it will take at least another full day's work.
I approached the cover making from the other direction
I remember once hearing a woman describe what made the American soldiers so attractive during the war. She said it was their zippered flies that made their uniforms better looking. The British uniform still used reliable buttons. So today I went to the tent shop and bought a large zip.
I sewed it along the two salvage edges of the canvas with a tab that uses valcro across the top
(NOTE: After using the booth I think a stronger attachment is required. A large buckle or maybe press studs.)

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From here I laid out the canvas around the booth to the front. I then made a new front panel, hemming it top and bottom. This I centred on the front and pinned it to the side pieces.
I figured out the way to sew this sort of thing may be to sew in one run an initial seem then put it back up on the frame and check that it fits well, then go and finish the seem properly with double stitching. That way if anything is awry you can easily make the alteration.
The front sags a bit so I had to make ties to tie in onto the front braces.

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I then made a roof with four holes to fit over the steel pegs at the top of each upright. These holes are reinforced with grommets. The fabric for this ought to be fairly water proof. I am hoping that with the slope it should keep the puppets dry. If it ever rains again, which seems unlikely.

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With my spare length of canvas I made a puppet bag to catch the puppets in when they are done with. The inner edge has elastic so that it has a bit of give if you accidentally push against it.
The puppets will hand with their heads in the bag. I am thinking it may not be deep enough. I find that when you dive into a puppet you need to be able to push against it to get your fingers nice and snug into the arms and head. You want to be able to do this and still have room beneath the puppets for the used ones to lie.
Personally I use the side rails. But the person I am making this booth for like them in front.

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The depth of that bag will torment me for a few days. I made it so nice. It even has hidden a pocket for swazzles sewn into it.

Next I will put in some blacks to stop the light getting in behind the backdrop. Then when I know you cannot see through the gauze I can paint the backdrop and the proscenium. The end is in sight.
Last edited by CvdC on 12 Apr 2013, 23:18, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby Richard Coombs » 12 Mar 2013, 17:05

Wonderful stuff CvdC ,

And what's this ? ... dressing-gown hooks to hang puppets on rather than cup-hooks ?
Wherever did you get a preposterous idea like that from ?? ;-)
Interesting that even you had to battle a bit with the canvas work ...it isnt an easy task.

Bryan Clarke once said " I Hate making Booth Covers ...I throw Chisels at the Wall !"

Like you I have found the best way with the Zip at the back is to fit the zip to two strips of canvas , and then attach the canvas strips to the rest of the cover ....that way you get the tension on the cover that you want.

Also wholeheartedly agree ...do a single stitch seam on everything , check it to the framework ..THEN...do all your fancy foldover seaming and finishing off afterwards ( as you say easier to unpick a single row of stitching if adjustments need making.

These are all 'Golden" tips to anyone attempting it alone for the first time.


I am back from a trip to Birmingham today... Got not only some better purple fabric for the main part of Joeys costume ...but also enough aluminium strip to build a lazy tongs booth ( with wooden uprights).

This is a job for about this time in 2014 ...but your photo thread here has made me want to at least go out and visit the metal -shop and buy the ally.

I have not been there for perhaps four or five years , but was greeted by a hearty "Hello Mister Punch" from the blokes behind the counter. All good Fun

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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 12 Mar 2013, 20:22

Richard had I had a chisel handy it would have been in the wall.
Let me just say that, as someone who has made a few puppets and some puppet booths, the UK is well served by the craftsmanship of Bryan Clarke.
Here are the plans to the booth I have just made.

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Re: Making a booth

Postby Harvey » 25 Mar 2013, 19:58

Hi brilliant stuff just wondered how long does it take to build a booth?
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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 27 Mar 2013, 07:17

Finally it is completed
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I drew the design for the proscenium on the computer and had it digitally printed onto sticky vinyl. You peel off the back and apply it to the ply wood - carefully. I found that it is better to do the printing and stick it down before cutting it out, which of course I did not do. At least trace the shape from the print and cut the ply wood out. Proscenium design is soooooo important (internet speak)

Once I would have hand painted it but lately I have lost patience for such things.

The background is a yellowish cream colour and it is trimmed with a dark red. The stripes on the canvas are also a dark red. I may have a fringe added above the stage to lower it a bit.
The back and sides are covered inside with heavy black fabric. This darkens the space and hides the upper lazy tongs,which can be distracting when left for all to see.

A well turned out booth does a lot of work prior to and in between shows and so expense and effort is required to make the proscenium the best you can.

In making this booth I have had to ensure it was light weight and could break down to fit into a golf carry bag, that it would assist in every way the mechanics of the performance (I made the puppet bag again. It cost extra but it needed to work properly.), and it has to look the part, professional and full of promise that something exciting would happen therein. You need only look at the lineup of puppet booths at the May Fayre to see what this means.


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Last edited by CvdC on 27 Mar 2013, 11:35, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Making a booth

Postby Harvey » 27 Mar 2013, 10:04

It looks brilliant :D :) :lol: :P vv
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Re: Making a booth

Postby Harvey » 07 Apr 2013, 11:07

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Re: Making a booth

Postby CvdC » 07 Apr 2013, 23:17

Yes Harvey that video is of my son Will doing a show. You can see he is having trouble with the full sized puppets. But the hands in front of face booth is good for him to perform hands over head. In this video we have the back left open and the wind was causing problems.

I have just now completed a set of puppets for use by children (but not my own unfortunately). They have slightly smaller heads and the gloves are designed to be comfortable for children. I still made the gloves able to fit adult hands (tightly) because often adults like to demonstrate the puppet to the children. The hands I made small as large hands can be a nuisance when trying to hold things with small fingers. The holes are large enough for children to fit two fingers in as it gives better support for the head.

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Re: Making a booth

Postby cobaltblue » 22 Oct 2013, 01:23

Been following your new booth interesting.
I have a question has anyone out there use or built a two man booth . As I like alternative comedy I am sure that Mr. Punch has had and will carry on being reinvented. They is some scope for the idea so has anyone tried it ,being a goons fan I would be interested in comments as I am not a ardent traditionalist but still favour punch and Judy traditionally performed but would be interested in seeing how it was done and was it successful.
hope to se pics of the finished booth
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