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How-To Projects | July 28, 2020

The Perfect Stage Parent Project: A DIY Puppet Theater

Calling all theater enthusiasts! If you and the kids miss going to the theater to watch shows and plays in person, we have the perfect project for you: a DIY Puppet Theater. For those of us with kids at home, you know they never run out of creativity…or energy. So after you get done building this backyard stage, let them put on the show. After all, it’s high time you enjoyed a parent’s night “out”—in your own backyard.

THINGS YOU’LL NEED

Materials

  • (1) 1" x 12" x 8' Board*
  • (1) 1" x 10" x 3' Board* 
  • (1) 1" x 8" x 8' Board*
  • (1) 1" x 1" x 8' Board*
  • #8 1-1/2" Coarse, Phillips Bugle Head Wood Screws
  • #8 1-1/4" Coarse, Phillips Bugle Head Wood Screws
  • Sandpaper**: 150g, 220g & 320g
  • Drill Bits: 3/32" 
  • (2) 6" x 8" Wood Corbels (Click here to purchase from Walmart)
*Board Dimensions are “nominal.” Actual dimensions are smaller due to lumber industry standards. Cuts are actual length.
 
**Starting grit will depend on board surface condition, a rough surface will require starting with a coarse grit first.

LUMBER CUT LIST & LAYOUT GUIDE

1" x 12" Board:
  • Cut (1) 36" piece for the Proscenium
  • Cut (1) 34-1/2" piece for the Forestage 
1" x 10" Board:
  • Cut (1) 34-1/2" piece for the Apron
1" x 8" Board:
  • Cut (2) 36" pieces for the Sides
  • Cut (2) 34-1/2" pieces for the Top & Bottom
1" x 3" Board:
  • Cut (1) 34-1/2" piece for the Proscenium Support
  • Cut (2) 24" pieces for the Feet

ASSEMBLY INSTRUCTIONS

Step 1

Cut out all material using the Lumber & Sheet Cut Layout Guide.
Step 1
We recommend wearing safety glasses when operating power tools.

Step 2

To cut the arch for the proscenium (the part of the theater stage in front of the curtain) take the 1" x 12" x 36" board and measure 4" up on both sides. Draw an arc with a 26" radius. Use a jigsaw to cut along the arc.

PRO-TIP: An easy way to create the arc is by using a string and a pencil. Create a small loop on one end of the string and place it around the end of the pencil. Hold the other end at the desired length and draw the arc while keeping the string taut.
Step 2

Step 3

To cut the apron (the part of the stage that extends past the proscenium), take the 1"  x 10"  x 34-1/2" board and measure up 2-1/2"  on the side. Draw an arc with a 25-1/4" radius. Use a jigsaw to cut along the arc.
Step 3

Step 4

Use a drawing compass to mark a 1-1/2"  arc on both ends of the (2) 24". Use the jigsaw to cut along the marked radius as shown in the diagram.
Step 4

Step 5

Attach (1) of the 36" side boards to (1) of the 34-1/2" bottom boards using (3) #8 1-1/2" wood screws. All of the theater frame boards will be attached using this method.
Step 5
PRO-TIP: To prevent the boards from splitting, pre-drill a 1/8" hole where wood screws will be placed.

Step 6

Attach the opposite 36" sideboard to the 34-1/2" bottom board.
Step 6

Step 7

Attach the remaining 34-1/2" top board to the theater frame.
Step 7

Step 8

Insert the 1" x 1" x 34-1/2" forestage into the sides and bottom. Align the front edges with the forestage, so they’re even. Attach using wood screws.
Step 8

Step 9

Insert the 34-1/2"  proscenium support into the top of the frame and align it to the front edge. Attach with wood screws.
Step 9

Step 10

Position the proscenium to the top of the theater frame by aligning the base of the arc to the top corner of the frame. Attach the proscenium by fastening it from the backside with (5) #8-1/4" wood screws.
Step 10

Step 11

Mark a line 9-3/4" from the each inside edge of the theater frame on the forestage. Align the center of the corbels to the line and attach them to the forestage. Make sure they’re even with the top edges.
Step 11

Step 12

Insert the apron on top of the forestage and corbels. Move the apron back and make sure the arc aligns with the front edge of the theater. Attach using #8 1-1/2" wood screws on the side.
Step 12

Step 13

Add the feet to the base of the theater. Make sure to leave equal distance on the front and back. Attach the feet using #8 1-1/4" wood screws.
Step 13

Step 14

Sand and finish to your desire.
  • Rougher Finish: Use 60-80 grit sandpaper to hand sand with the grain of the wood
  • Smoother Finish: Use 60-80 grit sandpaper to remove imperfections, followed by using 120-220 grit to smooth
  • Finish Sanding: Use 320-400 grit sandpaper 
  • Super Fine Sanding: Use 600+ grit sandpaper 
Your Puppet Theater is complete and ready for Act I!
Step 14

IT’S SHOWTIME

Here are more fun ways to keep your budding puppeteers engaged at any age:
  • Make puppets out of old socks, gloves or mittens. Draw eyes, a nose and a mouth using a marker or fabric paint
  • Have them act out the storyline of the book they’re reading
  • Give each puppet a different voice: baby voice, deep voice, happy voice, etc.
  • Ask older kids to write their own scripts
  • Get a big sheet of vellum and stretch it tightly across the back, securing the ends with pins. Cut out printable puppets and attach a popsicle stick to the back. 
  • Add a curtain and grab a flashlight to use as a spotlight
  • Make sound effects using everyday items, for example, collect dried leaves and put them in a bag to rustle
With your child as the puppet master, you'll be amazed at what can happen when you #DoItWithHART.
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