While you could use a 16 – 14-gauge soft waste to control your puppets, feel free to experiment by trying out various other types of wire. One of the strongest wires is piano wire although it isn’t at all easy to bend. Further, if you bend it several times, it becomes brittle. It also springs which tends to cause the puppet shapes to shiver when moved.
Attaching the wire
There are two ways for you to attach the wire to your puppets. You can either use masking tape to directly tape the wire to your puppet or you can make a flexible hinge attachment, taking the wire and bending by 90 degrees it at the end before inserting it into a metal tubing or piece of plastic and run it all the way through. This provides the attachment point with a joint that enables the puppet to remain tight when against the screen, even if your hand is too high or too low.
On the control wire’s opposite end, you can use either a wooden base or a dowel stick. For hand-held puppet shapes, you can affix the dowel stick with a drill and attach it to the wire with glue. It will work sufficiently as it’s only under a minimum amount of strain. If you want your puppet to stand by itself while you operate your main characters, you’ll need the control wire to be screwed on to a wooden base which is sat on a backstage shelf. The base enables an individual entertainer to control multiple puppets simultaneously. You’ll need to bear in mind, however, that motionless puppet shapes tend to be ignored by the audience.
Primary and secondary wires
Use only the primary control wire for simple puppets. More complex puppet shapes may require a secondary wire in order to operate an animated part. A puppeteer wouldn’t ordinarily be able to handle any more than two wires. While you could use the same wire type for both, old umbrella wires make the best secondary wires. They have a really small outlet and will allow you to affix the wire to the head, arm, leg etc, with thread.
You could also make the joints for arms and legs with black thread, although it isn’t easy to get them tight. You’ll need to use the tiniest needle you can find so that the hole you leave behind isn’t too big. After you’ve waxed the thread, pull it through the two pieces of cardboard and create a knot on either side. Your knot will rarely be sufficiently tight the first time, but you could always create at least one additional knot between the cardboard and your first knot to increase the tightness. Use a small amount of white glue to finish the knot and you’re done. Plain poster board puppet shapes are fantastic, but you could always add coloured plastic, netting, and lace behind cut-out spots to create some interesting effects.