Slapstick

This is the place for Technical Tips, Questions and Answers.

Postby Chris » 25 May 2007, 10:24

I disagree Tony. The strength is surely provided by the outer layers. They may be slightly thinner than the inner ply but there are two of them and the volume is greater. Couple this with the fact that on some inferior plywoods the inner layer is made up of smaller pieces of poorer quality. Surely the strength is in the skin.



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Postby Tony James » 25 May 2007, 11:31

You would think so wouldn't you Chris and indeed I did and had Mr B&Q cut me a sheet of 3 ply into strips for me to finish. So off I went.

But after a while they were breaking, clean across. Well, not quite clean. The break across the inner ply was clean though the outer plys were ragged, as you'd expect. Then I looked at my earlier ones.

Birch ply, of course. Five ply. The innermost and the two outside plys were long grain and the two inner plys where short grain. Birch plys are quite even in thickness so the result is great strength and lightness.

Whereas, B&Q ply is a thick inner and two almost skin thin outers. So back I went and had another sheet cut the other way and I've had no trouble with them, other than the outer (skin thin) plys scaling off at the ends.

Cheap d-i-y store 3 ply is much heavier (and weaker) than birch which is why my showfront, clockboard, playboard and scenery are all made in birch ply. Thin as most of it is, it's still 5 ply except the playboard which is 9 ply. It's so expensive none of the d-i-y stores stock it nor general timber merchants either - you need a specialist - and only available in huge sheets so not practical for small jobs.

But in places like Canada high quality timber is readily available which is why I suggested it might be more easily obtained over there.
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Postby johnstoate » 25 May 2007, 12:03

I have to come in at this point, Tony is quite correct on both points. The grain on decent Birch ply, (Which I had the good fortune to aquire a large number of decent size offcuts of last year) does oppose on the individual plys, and is of great quality in terms of both finish & strength, All my frontpieces are made using it for just that reason. Therefore for a slapstick, (Of either design, simple single hinged 'whacker' or double ender,) the outer ply should be cut with the grain going across, side to side, so that the middle layer is longitudinal, thus giving strength on the inner, and flexibility on the outer. Even with cheaper stuff, the same principle applies. Going back to Chris cvdc's comment about the mid section in Chris's diagram, again I agree about the middle bit, in my double stick,(Yes, I have one as well) It's overall length is 14 inches, and the mid section is 5 inches, leaving a 'whack' at each end of approx. 4inches, which I find works very well. With 3 ply much shorter in the middle and they tend to snap off across the (centre) joint line.
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Postby Chris » 25 May 2007, 12:13

Well all I can say is that I've never had a slapstick snap in 40 years or so.




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Postby Tony James » 25 May 2007, 21:07

Of course, the great virtue of birch ply as you will have found John, is not only the strength coupled with lightness of the thin material but also the very fine grain. Ideal for showfronts. A light rub down and you have the smoothest possible finish imaginable ready to take sealer, primer, undercoats and top coats, decoration and final sealer coats.

There's no grain filling to bother about - there's no grain to fill. You do have to seal the edges very well or the damp will get in.

And a good birch showfront needs a light rubdown with wet and dry each year and some very thin coats of a good quality clear varnish applied as a final sealer. High gloss is the toughest and I follow this with a couple of finishing coats in satin, just to kill the reflective qualities of the gloss.

That should keep the weather out.
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Postby lesclarke » 25 May 2007, 23:01

After you have a slapstick, you will need to introduce it into the action. Developing a personal show is a mixture of many things, original business and novel bits of business, and of what you would like to do - and what you can actually do.
Many profs have the slapstick on the playboaard and Punch picks it up and places it down several times, sometimes this goes smoothly sometimes it's tricky and there's always the chance of dropping it.
I've always kept it simple. In my show Judy is so angry when she finds Punch has thrown the baby out of the window that she storms off and returns with the stick (which I store angled at 45degrees for an easy pick up), so the stick is on stage with no chance of dropping it. This also offers the opportunity for Judy to start the 'aggro', after getting bashed Punch gets it in the tug-of-war and then keeps it until he's finished his bashing spree, when he hands it down to me.
How do other profs get the slapstick into his hands?
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Postby Tony James » 25 May 2007, 23:48

Same as you and for the same reasons. The waether has been foul of late, stormy winds which would have moved anything left on a playboard.

I imagine if you work hands in front there's a risk a ten year old could reach up and help themselves to anything loose on the playboard.
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Postby Richard Coombs » 29 May 2007, 21:51

Yes ditto Tony and Les ( and again for the same reasons)

That is the 'double -ended' stick's only appeance in my show ..but for safety I have two of them in case the first one gets dropped . Never needed to use it ....yet

But I am always mindful that anything that can go wrong will go wrong sometime.
Like just about everyone else, I suspect, I have needed to use the 'emergency' contingencies I have in place every now and then.

My Baby is stored on the end of one of the double-ended slapsticks in a position where Judy can pop down and pick him up quickly and mid -sentance ...but every now and then, getting my Horse swung up onto the playboard knocks him off and he is not there when needed.

So I have a 'spare' baby tucked into either the Bishop or the Chav depending on which ending I am planning for the show.

Also every now and again I actually drop the baby when Punch and Judy are throwing him to each other too...so again the 'spare' baby is substited ( they are not that alike ..but hey ho ..needs must )

There are even a spare set of sausages in the booth too.
But this isnt quite the extravagance it seems......since the October PJF bash when Geoff agreed to improvise the passing of a very long set of sausages from his booth with his Joey across to mine ; I now have a very long set of bangers ...and I now use them in almost every show, as it makes for good fun with the Croc to have so much to eat , and swing about.

Once in a while ( and I never know how ...) they manage to fall out of the Devil , where I always put them #, so I have to use the spare set .

# I have always kept my sausages stuffed up the Devils bum ...
This is because when as a child of seven, after much perstering, I finaly got a look inside the back of Peter Buchards booth on Broadstairs Sands : my enduring memory is of seeing all the figures hanging upsidedown and the sausages stuffed into the Devil .

That may have been something Peter only did that one time , on that particular day? ; I will never know ...I only got to see inside the once.

But ever since then , when doing the show in my teens , or now, as a second time around-er, that is where I always put them... and I have a fleeting thought of Peters show and Broadstairs every time I stuff them there.

My original 'short' set of sausages also get used if I am in a situation where the audience is very close ( mostly out in a street or shopping centre ) ..where it wouldnt be wise to swing the sausages round in case the wooden one on the end hit anyone.
The same applies if I have a troublesome child who I suspect might be the 'grabbing' sort ( again this has only actually happened once : Buxton in fact , James may remember ?).

One reason this hasnt happed since then is that when I sense it to be a danger , then the other ploy I use , is to have Joey hang the sausages around Mr Punch's neck and keep them within the booth and out of the reach of little fingers ...and not put them on the Playboard at all.

But back to the Slapsticks ... the single ended stick used for the rest of the show slots onto the front edge of my 'Savante' bag nearest my body . I have 4 of them and keep them tucked away to one side ...and slide each one in turn to the centre of the bag to be picked up by Punch.

I discard each stick into the bag when finished with , then grab another later . The show normaly requires 3 ... so only one is in fact a guenuine 'spare'


There...

Anyone else got any 'spares' or tricks to share ? :-)

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Postby johnstoate » 29 May 2007, 22:56

As I think I've mentioned before, I have a set of 'black puddings' which I sometimes use as an alternative to sausages, these are anchored onto the hookboard at one end, and so can't fall off the playboard, unlike the sausages, which almost invariably do! This happened once quite by accident, I covered it by Himself and the crocodilian having a big altercation as to who was responsible for the mishap, ending up with Himself producing the puds as an alternative. This was so well received that it is now almost always an inclusion!-serendipity. The other thing I do is have 'velcro' fixed to the playboard, and also (opposite piece) to the loose props, this means that they are pretty firm in position, but still quite easy to move as required, The same velcro arrangement is used inside the booth to keep them handy. It works for me! :D
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Postby billywand » 30 May 2007, 02:31

Hello all,

There are an amazing amount of contingency plans for accidents that happen in your booth. and it's only when you make that first slip up, that you make sure you are prepared for it to happen again, but then it never does, but being prepared gives you that sense of confidence that makes for a more relaxed show.

Richard, I could never be relaxed in your booth. It is like stepping into Houston Mission Control. I an a simple man and that would do my head in

It was a pleasure to see you at the may fayre, and I do so admire your creativity, sorry I did not see your show, as I had to go to work, but the glimpse in your booth, as we compared monkeys, It was a bit like the Tardis. I salute you for being able to control all that lot, when I've only just learned how my toaster works !!!!!

Back to Priscillas point. A couple of performers I know have a spring "terry clip" the type for holding brooms, or such like in cupboards.
This clip is on the Punch side of the playboard so Punch puts the slapstick in the clip, which holds it securely till needed next.

A good idea, which does work, but I do like to keep my playboard clear of stuff which may get tangled with the puppets. I go with Tony in keeping
my slapsticks out of sight.....and reach......till needed

Underneath my playboard is a gap of about 10" puppets can come in and out of through the playboard drape. At this level is a shelf for all sorts of stuff, and on the underside if this shelf are my slapstick holders, one each side of the booth. They are mounted under the shelf, so as not to get confused with whats on top, and are quite simply a short (12") length of 3" diameter plastic drainpipe, as Tony suggests at an angle that makes it easy to slide the sticks in and out of. When Punch wants his stick it is so easy for him to duck down and get it, as it will slide in, or out of the pipe so easily.

If you don't want a specific holder, another advantage of a "double ender" is that because of the gap at the end you can slip it on to a side strut, puppet bar, or any other convenient place for easy access.

You also mention a frying pan, for Judy. I love the idea of keping it personal, with your Mothers toy frying pan, but cast-iron, 'aint that a bit heavy ??? I know some who have Judy come up with the frying pan, but in my case, and I think most peoples shows, Joey the clown brings it up.

Punch is given the sausages, then up comes the clown, and they decide to have them for supper "How shall we have them cooked, boiled, fried, or scrambled ?" asks Joey "Fried" replies Punch, so Joey goes down to get the frying pan, first warning Punch about Crockydillys. Then the crocodile gets the sausages, up comes Joey with the frying pan, blames Punch for eating the sausages himself, and Joey uses the pan on Punch.

Prescilla, I wish you well with your adventures with Punch, don't be scared by people making it out to be more technical than it needs to be. As you are starting out I will leave you with a big KISS.

That kiss means something, Keep It Simple, Stupid great advice for someone starting. Get more complicated if, and when you need to.

P.S. I will make your slapstick tomorrow, and send it on
Kind regards
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Postby Mark Andrews » 07 Jun 2007, 23:07

Much ha been said and debated about Slapstick holders in the past and again here.

At times everyone appears to over complicate things - with spare this and spare that, just in case such and such happens.

I carry one spare swazzle and a spare 9v battery for the mike and thats it.

As for a Slapstick holder - I have the simplest idea of all, as soon as I enter the booth i take the slapstick from whichever puppet it's sitting inside and place it (I'm sitting here anticipating the gags about high voices now) between my legs.

It's a double ended slapstick, so matters not which end is taken by Punch, and when he no longer needs the stick, it goes back between my legs again.

I personally cant be bothered with clips or specially designed holders etc, to me it's like trying to solve a problem which really isn't there in the first place.

Have confidence in your own show and abilities and don't get bogged down in what could happen - yes I know the rule of "Sod" and things do happen but will the audience know?

In the past I've had all manner of things happen and you just battle on with what you can, until you can put it right. I've had slapstick break, a leg fall off Punch and at one show even his chin fell out of joint, just placed it back in place and it held out, just until I could find a bit of blue tack to hold it in place a little more securely, before it was repaired.

I use the principal of KISS - Keep it simple stupid!
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Postby Tony James » 07 Jun 2007, 23:57

I quite agree with you Mark. Keep it simple is my watchword too. However, when you're on the road for days and weeks at a time, travelling on from show to show, there are certain precautions you have to take and some ready-to-use spares are essential if you are to maintain the show.

It's not always possible to get to the shops and stores when you are on site from 7.30 a.m. till late.

I am curious about holding the slapstick between your legs. Am I missing something Mark? Are you sitting down in your frame? It would work then but I don't see how you can trap a slapstick between your legs when you're standing and keep moving around the frame and not lose it.


Surely you need your legs astride for balance. Please explain - or are you kidding?
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Postby Mark Andrews » 08 Jun 2007, 10:33

Tony

I work hands in front of face, which i prefer, so can't comment on how suitable holing the slapstick between your legs would be if someone were to work with hands above head.

But for me it works, and the show still gets the laughs and the action and fun is still there, whih at the end of the day is what it is all about.. or at least should be!

But I do take your point about repairs when you're on the road, but I'm sure you'll agree there has to be a point when you need to draw the line about how much extra "stuff" you need to carry, just in case.
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Postby Mark Andrews » 08 Jun 2007, 10:36

BTW no not kidding at all about holding the stick between my legs, and I am stood up and not sitting down and still manage to keep my balance etc, without any problem at all. It may be that I've discovered something, no one else has, but I wouldn;t have thought so, but indeed it works very well for me.
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