I have built and used several banana puppets. They started small in size, but it seemed that each one I made only whet my appetite for a larger one. This was the giant of the bunch. It has been on stage in several states and has appeared at both the Vent Haven International Convention (twice) and the FCM International Convention.

I carved the banana from a laminated block of builder's styrofoam using a hand saw as my "carving" tool. The big moving mouth operates on a simple "teeter-totter" principle, manipulated from the rear. I made it in two pieces simply so I could get it into the trunk of our car for travel. The two units fasten together with Velcro. When we traveled with this puppet, we had to leave the kids at home for lack of space (just kidding - UPS helped us with transportation a couple times - by transporting the puppet, not the kids!)

"Big Slick" I call him. Pretty much retired now, but I keep him in storage - just in case!

Oh, yes - about the yellow tux. That's another story. I still have it, also - just can't get into it (thank goodness!)

"Have banana, will travel."


Small in size but huge on visual impact! And the unit you see here was well used. The primary piece is just a square box into which a moving mouth is built. The pull string for the mouth exits on the bottom out of necessity because the bottom is the only surface of the box exposed when the five "flaps" are folded into the closed position.

These thin square flaps are hinged and attached as shown so they can be unfolded (surprise!) to make a cross. I used "contact paper" to cover the undersides of the thin plywood pieces, and the contact paper also served as the "hinges".

The puppet shown here was used for small classroom presentations, but I also built one twice this size for auditorium presentations. (One holiday season I built a large "talking" manger which unfolded into a large cross for a Christmas Eve program I titled, "From the manger to the Cross". The mechanical idea for the manger was similar to this, just more complex in design because the manger was oblong in shape and had legs.)


This big visual was built at the request of a customer who presented prevention shows to students.


As I write about the colorful vent figure, I'm wondering if I still have him stored away somewhere? I know I turned down many purchase inquiries. He's made in traditional vent figure style - that is, with rigid hollow body and head on head post. Lever controlled mouth plus wide eye-ed movement. Wings were attached by mono filament line to the base of the head so he would automatically gesture with his wings as the head was turned left and right.

I made this puppet from a large plush toy. Actually, all I used from the original was the cloth "skin". I constructed totally new under structure made of a heavy duty form of paper machie using builder's "red rosin paper". I laminated thick pieces of Styrofoam together and then carved the body and head forms which were wrapped tightly with aluminum foil. Layers of paper machie were then applied. After drying (it takes several days), the rigid shell covering is cut in half at the point of greatest circumference. The mechanics are then installed. And only after the figure is completed and tested is the cloth fur covering stretched over the unit to complete the figure.


One of the most enjoyable puppets I ever built and used. "Albert the Alligator" was made from an large stuffed plush toy (24" tall) in much the same manner as described for "Big Bird" in the post above.

The mechanics within "Albert" were designed so his turning and nodding head with big open and close mouth could operated both manually, and remotely. Great fun to perform with! One-of-a-kind, this fellow is.


"Orange puppets a ball?"

Hollow plastic fruit and softball made into puppets. The mouths are hinged and have spring returns. Insert a finger into an access hole on the back side, press forward on the inside of the mouth to open.


Some items just naturally lend themselves to becoming puppets. Such was the case with this box of Cheer laundry detergent. When I read on the back of the box that the product was being advertised as "All Temperature Cheer", able to do its intended job in water of all temperatures: hot, lukewarm, or cold, my thought was, "too bad the same can't be said for all humans!" Bingo - another puppet was born! Open & close eyes and open and close mouth. The plywood panel on the left was the face panel of a duplicate puppet under construction.


These product containers that were designed to carry cleansing products for laundry, have been converted into puppets used to present Bible promises guaranteed to cleanse lives.

"What good is it for you to GAIN the whole world, yet forfeit your soul?"

"For ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."

"Let us then approach God's throne of grace BOLDly, so that we may receive mercy..."

"Cleanse me..., and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow."

"For God so loved (ALL) the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Mark 8:36, Romans 3:23, Hebrews 4:16, Psalm 51:7, John 3:16. TNIV


This puppet never got past the experimental prototype stage. I had in mind a novelty puppet for use at a baby shower. A laundry basket with baby face. Yes, the mouth opens & closes from a control within the basket. But this would only work for small groups (which is the size of many baby showers), However, looking back, I think I'd been working around the laundry soap products too long when this washed up idea came to me.


A wheelbarrow puppet for explaining how assisting one another can be fun while accomplishing a task. Open and close mouth and eyes, and a light-up tie for added fun. I only sold a handful of these because of packing inconvenience due to the long, permanently fixed handles.


The youth of my generation referred to the handle of a wagon as the "tongue". Today, it may be simply the "handle". But I made this puppet with moving mouth, open and close eyes, and light-up bow tie, to present a lesson on the importance of taking care about the words we say. Without control of the tongue, this puppet will soon be involved in a serious accident. The same is true for us if we do not control our tongue and the words we say. It also could be used for other applications such as being a helper, carrying its share of the work load, being a fun cooperative playmate, etc.


Life and Total were the two cereal brands most frequently requested as puppets. Kix came in as a close third place. I made a good number of these that were sold during the '80s. Then as some of you know, I offered cereal box puppets (moving mouth and eyes) again in 2009.

These two show the mouth hinged in two different manners. The difference is quite distinctive. The mouth type you see on Total is definitely the people's choice.


You'll see how I most commonly used this puppet in a later post. Open and close mouth AND eyes. And a hinged lid (I don't remember how I used that feature other than the fact that it gave access to a compartment which held small props.)


Designed as a lesson prop to use on the subject of low self-esteem (imagine going through life as a generic brand). This container puppet was unique in that I made it with a headpost on which was mounted a lever to control the mouth. Easy to grab and manipulate instantly - the perfect feature for a simple classroom puppet.

"Yes, this is the way I get my 'kicks out of life!'"


The yellow duck is a hand puppet by Shelly. It has no legs, but was a cute puppet and good for the beginner's practice. To be truly effective for use by a ventriloquist, such legless puppets need a stage. As a result, I designed the "hand held portable puppet stage" (see post below).

The gray dog is made of two small individual serving size cereal boxes. The pooch had open & close mouth, wiggling nose, raising hair, and flapping ears, all operated from a short headpost. It was a crazy evening project as a result of a challenge from a local puppeteer friend.

The plastic banana fruit? Yes, it has a moving mouth operated from the backside by the index finger of the hand that holds it.

The red heart with big smile is technically not a puppet. I used it as an object lesson visual prop. The mouth is surface mounted on a pivot, and spring loaded. Initially the heart is displayed with a frowning mouth. At the appropriate time during the presentation, the prop can be remotely triggered. Quicker than the eyes can follow, the frown flips 180 degrees into a smile. Very fun and leaves great visual impact.

(And what's the black plastic spider doing behind the duck? I have no idea! Must have been a prop I kept inside the box for use with some hand puppet.)


This portable hand held stage was about 10" square. We made it of 1/4" plywood with a variety of colored cloth coverings. The three key features:

1) Fully open sides on the top and back for easy access and freedom of puppet movement.

2) Spring loaded lid. A short string attached to the underside of the lid allows the puppet to hold the lid closed from inside the box. When it is time for the puppet to appear, release the string - surprise! - the lid pops upward and out comes the puppet, quickly or reluctantly!

3) There is a quarter size hole in the center of the bottom panel through which a finger can be inserted to hold the stage secure while the other hand manipulates the puppet.


More soap box puppets. This pair features two types of open and close eyes; two types of mouths. I was always trying something new to see what I could discover. Those big eyes on the right are left over plastic "softballs" that came with the big plastic "talking" bats we used to make. Rather than toss out the big box of softballs that remained after the bat project, I began looking for ways to use them...this was one. (Every kid in the neighborhood had one too!)

This is an example of how many people in today's society and culture find themselves: "All tied up in knots"


Made from a flower watering container, this comical "bird" not only opens and closes his beak, but he also would squirt water from the beak! Several of these were sold by request only. I believe I still have mine somewhere - a very fun puppet.


Boy, do I have a soft spot in my heart for this puppet! I developed the "Ventriloett" about 1970 as a result of a request from a student for just a vent figure headpost (no head) and he wanted a spring-loaded lever mounted to the post. The student wanted to be able to practice manipulating a lever control while pretending to sync words to a pro vent figure. He could not afford a dummy, but wanted to develop good skills.

That request sparked my desire to create a simple hand puppet that operated in a similar manner to a traditional figure. Why couldn't practice be practical? The ventriloett was the result, and hundreds were sold. Ventriloeets were used in practice, yes. But, many were used from the stage by beginner vents, and in the classroom as an "easy access puppet." The headpost with lever is hidden behind his legs. The one in this picture (left) is one of the first prototypes, but they were produced in several variations (photo right).


One quarter, the teacher of our adult Bible study class presented a series on the "one another's" found in the Bible. ("Love one another, etc.") So I made this crazy number one puppet for class opening one week. It's actually made in three layered wooden pieces that Velcro together. I had some now long forgotten routine that required him to be assembled as I introduced him. Then when assembled I surprised the class by having it speak as a puppet with its open and close mouth. "Mr. One Another" was his name. An example of another one of those classroom visuals you work on for seven days and use for three minutes!


This was one of the early turtle puppets I made. It was a child's sandbox playset. I cut the handle of the shovel just as it was packaged for sale. The blade was then hinged to serve as the open and close mouth, operated from a pull ring above the "tail". Very cute, actually...Wal-Mart only sold the play sets for a year or two in the early '80s, so that's how long this puppet was sold. I was sorry to see him go.


Several years after Juro discontinued the Max Headroom dolls, I made arrangements to purchase much of their remaining stock as a single lot at a heavily discounted price. That was all good. But then I had a small truckload of the dolls, and had to figure out something to do with them all. Over the following years I converted them for resale in a variety of ways, and into a variety of characters. Can you guess why this was one of my personal favorites?


I guess this puppet speaks for itself...


The covers didn't actually open, but the mouth did. Controlled from the rear with the hand which held the book. Kids liked it. Great for introducing stories. Then a few years later Axtell introduced his book puppet with the latex face, and I switched to the more modern version.


One of my favorite puppets (and I have a bunch to chose from)! Nearly 2 feet tall, "Slick's" mouth opens from the rear. He's made of 2" styrofoam insulation material, laminated to a 6" thickness. Carved to shape and covered with yellow felt, shaded appropriately with brown spray paint. I used this fellow primarily as an emcee prop. A couple of "clones" were made for customers.


The item in the middle is a poster puppet I made from poster board as a classroom visual about "sharing the load". I used a child's coloring book for the image pattern. The mouth on the wagon slides up and down to open and close (from the rear). The wagon's handle is cut from poster board and fastened with a paper fastener so it can swing to the front. I used many such poster puppet s as teaching aids and actually taught a workshop on the subject at the FCM Convention one year.
Note: The carved 3-D Indian head on the frame was made by a woodcarver in South America and given to us by a returning missionary. The Charlie picture is an original drawing by David Miller. It also has an open and close mouth operated by a pull string below the lower edge of the frame.


12"-15" tall, these four puppets were carved from a piece of mattress foam. Spray painted for color. Relatively quick and easy. I used all these "talking props" personally as teaching aids.
The bone was used with a dog puppet.
The dark brown object was removed from a bread wrapper for a lesson on the "bread of life".
The nail, as a recall, was used for a Good Friday lesson.
The donut helped with a song, written by Rob Evans, "The Donut Man". "Life is like a donut - there's a hole in the middle of your heart."
(Note: The mouth on the donut is simply a slit cut completely through, a frowning curve on one side; smiling curve on the other. Fingers inserted from either side simply pull down on the foam to open the mouth. The round "hole" is wedged in place and easily removed/replaced. The other three puppets are cut in half at the mouth position and a piece of folded felt is glued to each half to act as a hinge. I made a finger hole in the back of the top half and a thumb hole in the back of the lower half. Bending either half of the puppet backwards slightly would open the mouth.)

MR. "T"?

Another gag puppet I used only once when I was emcee for the Ronn Lucas Roast held at the Vent Haven International Convention. Ronn used a bit on his shows at that time which required a harmonica. This thing was supposed to be a big harmonica (2 ft long) which I made of paper mache. The front half of a Danny O'Day head was used for the face. The little "Jabbing" arms came from some toy. Supposedly this puppet character was going to act as a guard in case any vents at the convention tried to steal Ronn's musical bit! (A lot of work to get one laugh...but, oh well. :-)


I've made puppets out of hats and shoes, but I believe this is the only puppet I personally made from an article of clothing designed to be worn between the neck and the ankle. (We did sell many "Talking Ties" but they were created by our son, Kevin.) The big "flap trap door" on the backside of the pajama is fitted with a controlled open and close. I used it as a gag puppet to close a couple shows. The only words it said were, "This is the End"!
This page is under construction.
Additional photos will be frequently added
as I locate photos, or time, (or both. :-)