determining measurements so hand will fit Posted by Michael_M on Oct 28, 2014
In my ongoing quest to build a puppet, I am attempting what I believe is an unconventional approach. The typical foam pattern method wasn't working for me. Instead, I am having a 3D artist build a likeness of my subject which will be carved in foam on a CNC machine. Hopefully everything goes according to plan. Here's the image in its current state:

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Based on my previous experience trying to make a pattern puppet, I had a difficult time finding the right size so that my hand would fit inside. Below is the best of my attempts. The hand is fine when the mouth is closed, but when it is open the foam rubbed up against the back of my hand.

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Is the solution as simple as just make it bigger? When I scaled it up it became huge. I have seen images of some Muppets and their heads look very large. I have always had the perception that puppet heads are almost equivalent to human heads. Perhaps that's not the case.

The 3D image needs to be exported large enough to be carved the right size. It needs to fit or it's useless. I have suggested to the 3D artist a jaw width of 4.5 inches and width from front to back of 8 inches. Does this seem right?

Thanks for any feedback.
Re: determining measurements so hand will fit Posted by jeezbo on Oct 29, 2014
There are times when a puppet head is just not large enough and we encounter problems with getting our hands inside to work it, but it really depends on the space you give yourself for your hand to enter the head and snugly fit into the puppets mouth, that is why most puppets you will see have over exaggerated facial features and mouths so that we can have enough space within the head and mouth for our hands, so I am wondering if the head you are planning to have 3d printed is large enough in human proportions for you to get your hand in (I'm sure it is, just look at the 'spitting image' puppets) and I am also wondering how you hold your hand when manipulating a puppet, as there are a lot of people that do not think about how their hand is in conjunction with manipulating the mouth. it is usually advised that you hold your thumb almost perpendicular to your fingers, but some people make the mistake of holding their thumb in almost a straight line from their arm/wrist and then curving over the fingers to meet the end of the thumb, this can cause the back of the hand to jolt backwards when opening a puppets mouth and create more negative movement that might in turn cause your hand to be hitting the foam at the back of the puppets head. the best way to hold your hand/fingers is with the fingers out straight bending at the knuckle only, and then the thumb bending in to meet the fingers, and when you open the mouth of the puppet, only lower your thumb without raising your fingers upwards.

all this being said, I might be completely off!! id be really interested to see how your 3d printed head comes out, it would be great for doing look-a-like puppets!!

it might all just be a case of creating the head (patterned/3d printed/ or whatever) and making sure that you are leaving enough space for movement inside the head, or even just enough space so that your hand doesn't come into contact with anywhere you don't want it to. I have made puppets in the past that are only just big enough for my hand and have not had any problems (look at Kermit for an example, although he is just fabric really) but you do have to plan ahead (no pun intended!) and its sometimes best to create the head with the mouth in an open position, rather than a head where the mouth is closed and you have to force the mouth to open.

I actually think that your attempt at making a puppet head doesn't look bad at all, and there will be times when you might make a little contact inside the head, and its not really a big problem unless it causes you discomfort or pain, maybe lining the inside of the head with some fabric might help the head foam to not deteriorate/split or rub away if or when you do make contact.

Re: determining measurements so hand will fit Posted by pagestep007 on Oct 29, 2014
This is  an interesting concept. I am keen to see how the CNC thing turns out. I know you can form rigid foam, can you do flexible foam too?
Re: determining measurements so hand will fit Posted by Michael_M on Oct 29, 2014
The local University said they would help out with their CNC machine. I specifically said I was interested in soft polyfoam and they indicated experience with a variety of foams. I'm crossing my fingers that this works. If not it's a lot of time and money wasted. Here is the video that inspired me to pursue this approach.

Re: determining measurements so hand will fit Posted by Jorge on Oct 30, 2014
In carved soft foam puppets, you can manipulate in a different way than muppet-stile puppets, by making holes in the foam block to put the fingers in. When you move the fingers, all the foam is deformed and you get awesome facial expresions.

This is a link to a crafter i like very much who works with carved foam:  Look at the cat at 0:59 and next character at 01:40.

I would encourage to carve a couple of heads yourself and experiment with them this manipulating technique befor "hurting" the CNC carved head. Bear in mind that foam shavings are difficult to eliminate, do not work over a carpet
Re: determining measurements so hand will fit Posted by jeezbo on Oct 30, 2014
I'll second Jorge's advice on foam shavings and carpet!!
Re: determining measurements so hand will fit Posted by Billy D. Fuller on Oct 30, 2014
I'm interested in this CNC concept............Maybe the use f both CNC machine and carved pieces could work together.
Re: determining measurements so hand will fit Posted by Shawn on Oct 30, 2014
Jeezbo hit the nail on the head with this one. It is how you are manipulating your puppet that is the issue not the puppet itself. Hold your hand up the "puppet position". Now try and move just the thumb down. I know it is is hard, but the more you practice this the easier it is. You'll notice the position of the wrist does not change when you do this thus it won't touch the back of the puppet head. I am too the point now where I can't really get my wrist to move even when my upper fingers do move.

To the issue of the size you want the puppet head to be printed, it sounds like  you are about right in your thinking. Don't forget you are going to have to carve out the inside of the head also and create a mouth plate for the puppet.  You might want to have your digital artist model the mouth in a slightly open position instead of a closed position.  The reason for this is when you go to manipulate the mouth you are going to tear the foam at the corner trying to force it open but if you carve it in the open position then you are compressing the foam to get it to close and does not rip.  Does that make sense?
Re: determining measurements so hand will fit Posted by Michael_M on Oct 30, 2014
Yes, the head is being sculpted with the mouth open. I knew that it would be a problem otherwise. Just hasn't been done yet.

Hollowing the head has been my biggest worry. I had asked my character modeler if the front and back of the head could be split in half and that this could be used by the CNC machine to hollow out the head by following the internal contours. Apparently not possible. So having to do it manually is a concern because any screw could ruin the head. I don't know yet how much it's going to cost.

In all likelihood the carved foam head will be split in half (front and back) hollowed out and then glued back together.

Thanks for all the feedback. Hope to be at the carving stage soon.

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