After I played with Kathe Koja’s Nerve puppets (read all about it here) I realized I needed a mechanical boy of my own. These are photos of the process so far. I bought a huge box of a balsa wood many years ago at a warehouse sale but if you don’t have such an embarrassment of riches, you could use the slats from a clementine box. The plan is to cut out cross sections then glue them together into a blank. This process will avoid most actual carving.
I sketched the shape of the head on 3×5 cards both front and side views. I am not showing all the erasures. I traced it on to the top piece then used a scroll saw to cut it out. I clamped the pieces together with a bull clamp paper clip. The pieces jiggled a bit so the cuts weren’t exact but I knew that wouldn’t be a problem. Here’s a shot of the test assembly.
I drilled holes just large enough for marbles for the eyes. Then I drilled a smaller bore hole into the face so the eyes could peek out but not fall out. The balas proved too brittle and the upper brows chipped out on both sides. I hope to remedy this problem with eyebrows.
I started laminating the layers together with white glue. I’d glue up one set and let it cure over night, then I glued up the next layers and let them dry while I was at work. After work tonight I cranked out the random orbital hand sander and smoothed down the jagged edges. Once I had the form roughed in, I switched to a foam abrasive pad.
During the intimate time spent sanding tonight, I learned that this puppet is named P0L, which I think has to do with the huge gaudy orange Paul Klee poster I had in my dorm room as a freshman, though I suspect he’s got a political agenda to act out. Those damned puppets. You pull their strings and still they do whatever they please.