How to Build a Custom Puppet – Part 1

This is part 1 of a 7 part video series about how I build my custom puppets. It is not meant to be a tutorial or for beginners. I don’t go into a lot of details, just outlining how I currently build most of my puppets. This series is meant to be an overview of how much supplies, tools and time it takes to build a “Muppet-y” style puppet. I’m also sharing what I’ve learned in the hopes of helping out fellow puppet builders.

I love building puppets. I build my puppets as a hobby and on a tight budget.

How to Make the “Skull”

Project Puppet has the best patterns for making round or pin head puppets. I highly recommend them. Depending on the puppet I’m making, I start with their basic pattern and then make adjustments.

About the Foam

Reticulated foam is the best foam to use but it is not available locally nor is it within my budget. I purchase foam that comes in a roll from my local fabric or craft store.

1/2″ or 1″ foam forms the skull. I’ve discovered that 1″ foam works the best when making the pin head pattern. The 1/2″ foam isn’t firm enough and the head collapses. 1/2″ foam works well with the round head.

Contact Cement

I prefer to use contact cement. I support my local Ace Hardware and buy Dap’s Weldwood Contact Cement. I have found contact cement works the best. It bonds the foam together and lasts the longest. Depending on the puppet and how complex it is, it takes me around 8 to 40 hours to build one. After all of that hard work, I don’t want it to come apart. I do my gluing outside.

The main thing to remember about using contact cement is to paint both sides of the seam that comes together. And to let it DRY completely before pressing together. I have accidentally left skulls outside for a couple of hours and they still formed a strong bond.

Hot glue can work, but it’s a bit more challenging to work with and not quite as durable. Rubber cement is not recommended at all. It doesn’t hold up.

Part 2 is “How to Make the Mouth.”