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!