13 October 2013

Project Corner: Snapper Rods

This is my little contribution to the ever present problem of "HOW THE HECK DO I PUT ARMRODS IN THIS DARN THING?!" My wife and I have been using this technique in Project Puppet puppets over the past few years, including puppets we've used in our burlesque lives (hence "Snapper Rods.")

It's not a perfect solution -- a perfect solution costs more. Instead, this is a relatively quick and easy solution that won't bust the bank. It is so quick and easy in fact, you will must likely figure it out when you read the materials list. Let's get started!


  • Unfinished wooden finials. At JoAnn's they call these "candle cups," they come four to a pack, and cost a couple of bucks. These accommodate a quarter-inch dowl rod.
  • A quarter-inch dowel rod. (Bet you didn't see that coming!)
  • Black hockey tape.
  • Paint. (Black spray paint and acrylic paint to match your puppet.)
  • Thread. (I recommend Silamide or some similar 2-ply waxed nylon thread. )

1. Dry fit the dowel rod into the finials. You may have to sand down the end of the dowel rod just a bit so it will fit well.

2. Paint the finials to match your puppet. You don't have to paint the entire thing, just the surface with the hole and over the ridge. I use double-sided tape to hold those little suckers in place while I paint them.

3. Take a seam ripper to the bottom of the puppet's hand, opposite the thumb. You want to open up a space just big enough to allow you to squeeze in the bottom of the finials. (I suppose you could just not sew this part when you make the arms.)

4. Pop in a finial on each hand!

5. Stitch that sucker in. Start on one side, get as close as you can to the finial, wrap the thread around the indented part, and continue the stitch on the other side. Make it tight. Try to turn the finial -- it shouldn't spin freely.

6. Cut the dowel rod down. They usually come 36" long, which is ridiculously long for a Project Puppet puppet. I usually cut one in half, making two reasonably long armrods. Your mileage may vary.

7. Spray paint your armrods black.

8. Wrap the handle end with hockey stick tape. Wrap about two and a half-three inches. I get all fancy and add a ridge by twisting a length of the tape, wrapping that around the stick, and covering it with more tape. It looks like this when I'm done:

9. Insert the armrod into the finial. Make sure you grasp the bulb end of the finial with one hand as you insert the dowel rod with your other hand. Ta-da! You're done.


You may note that the hand is a little floppy on the dowel rod. If you want to get super fancy, you could build a wire armature for the hand, tying the finial into it so that you have more control over the hand itself. I've experimented with this, but I haven't figured out the perfect (or "close enough") solution. If you figure something out, let me know!

29 January 2013

Blue Man Group

Red and I went to Vegas over the weekend to teach ("Props 101" for me, "Down and Dirty" for her) and perform at Cha Cha Velour's Live Burlesque in Las Vegas show.  The classes went great, and the show was awesome -- packed house, very receptive audience, and we got a wonderful compliment after the show from burlesque legend Dusty Summers.  That was Saturday.

The Friday night before, we went to see Blue Man Group.

My thoughts and impressions, in no particular order:
  • The show has bits that date back to the very first BMG performances.  Catching marshmallows thrown across the stage with the mouth, "fancy dinner party" with Twinkies, etc.  This are the "radio hits," the stuff the audience is expecting to see.  And they still work.
  • They do this new thing with steam and smoke rings.  It's visually arresting, but they haven't quite found the story yet.
  • If you go, (and you should) you MUST be there for the preshow procession.  The energy is incredible.
  • During the "fancy dinner party" bit, one of the Men cracked up.  It was slight, and he hid it well, but I saw the unmistakable smile form on his blue face.  The audience member did something unexpected, and he reacted. It was a beautiful moment to witness.  That a performer can do show after show, day after day, and still be surprised by an audience volunteer tells you how awesome this show and these performers are.
  • There were many times I felt like a kid.  The orgasmic dance party at the end was overwhelming.  We were second row, dead center, so we were right in the middle of the flashing lights, streaming paper, and large bouncing balls. I felt eight years-old.
  • The subtext behind the bits -- the "message," if you will -- sneaks up on you.  There is a point behind all the mania; a commentary on how connected yet isolated we all are.
  • Their explanation of synapses in the brain blew my freaking mind.
We did the dinner and a show option through the Monte Carlo, and our tickets were fantastic.  There is not a bad seat in the house, so if you can't afford the pricier seats, worry not.

24 January 2013

Just a thought ...

If doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results is insanity, what do you call doing different things each time and expecting the same results?