I think that we can all agree that 2020 has been a giant dumpster fire and we appreciate your patience as orders for physical products (which are not masks) are going to take a little longer to ship. If you have a pressing deadline, please contact us prior to purchase.

Hands and Rod Construction for Intermediate-Advanced Puppet Builders with Mary Nagler April 24, 2pm-6pm PT/MST

Hands and Rod Construction for Intermediate-Advanced Puppet Builders with Mary Nagler April 24, 2pm-6pm PT/MST

Regular price $55.00 $40.00 Sale

Mary Nagler is such a fun and knowledgeable instructor and a dear friend of Puppet Pie. She’s worked for the places everyone dreams of working and has gained the skills and knowledge we all dream of gaining. She’s generous with her time and is just a fantastic human being and I’m so grateful she’s agreed to teach a workshop on hands and rods! 

Sign up soon! Space is limited. The last day for early-bird pricing is April 22nd! Small parts kit is only available until April 18th! 

This is a 4-hour hands-on workshop, geared for intermediate to advanced puppet builders. 

Puppet builder, Mary Nagler, will lead participants through making an expressive, posable foam-based hand and removable-arm-rod assembly, used by professional puppeteers of film and stage! A supply list and tool list is provided below. You will learn about foam choices, cutting /gluing foam, wire bones, hand plates, the making of removable arm rods and, (if time allows) flat patterning the skin too! Multiple ways of doing the same thing will be shown, so you have choices going forward. There is more than one way to make a great puppet, and adding these skills is a wonderful addition to any puppet builder’s skill set.

Plus, stories from Mary’s professional experience will make it fun, give you courage to build, and help you avoid the mistakes made on the bumpy road of discovery! For example: do not catch yourself on fire! (We can’t wait to hear that story!)

A “small parts” kit is available as a workshop upgrade and will be shipped by Mary Nagler from her home state of Oregon. Materials in the small parts kit will arrive in the small amounts and are indicated by an asterisk (*) and the end of the materials list below. Order your kit early so you don’t have to wonder if it will arrive in time! (International orders may not arrive in time!)

WHEN: Saturday, April 24th from 2-6pm (we’ll take a short break, partway through) 

WHERE: Zoom! Which means ANYWHERE!  You’ll receive an email with a zoom invitation/link on the morning of the event. 

SKILLS REQUIRED:  Sitting for up to 4 hours (with breaks--please self-advocate if you need a quick break!); excellent fine motor skills; use of sharp tools (blades without handles, cutting wheel, scissors); wire cutting and bending; tracing; measuring with a variety of tools; gluing with epoxies; working with a heat gun; using a needle and thread; using power tools

 WHO: This workshop is appropriate for adults, ages 18+ who are capable of safely achieving the skills listed above without physical assistance. This is for the intermediate-to-advanced puppet-builder who would like to improve upon their skills. It is your responsibility to keep yourself and your household safe. Please follow all safety precautions when using any of the materials or tools, and please be very careful around chemicals, heat, and sharps! ⚠️

Participants who wish to make-along will need to supply your own materials from the (extensive) list below

BRING THESE SUPPLIES TO THE WORKSHOP (save this list for later!): ✅

  • Good ventilation!
  • Respirator vapor mask with chemical-grade filters. This is the kind with canisters on the sides. A medical face mask, cloth, or dust mask will *not* protect you from harmful chemical vapors.
  • Eye protection
  • Nearby wastebin/garbage can/favorite box for trash
  • Table coverings
  • Cutting mat 
  • 1-2 sets of disposable gloves
  • 1 Sharpie 
  • Scissors suitable for paper/foam
  • Appliqué scissors (optional)
  • Curved, surgical scissors (optional)
  • Fabric Scissors (Sharp scissors that have never cut paper/foam)
  • Sharpie Marker (or other permanent, black marker)
  • Dremel or other rotary tool with a cutting wheel or Hacksaw to cut brass square stock.
  • Drill with (1) 1/16 inch and (1) 9/64-inch drill bit
  • “Drill board”-a piece of wood you can put under your work, so you do not drill a hole in your table!
  • Bench vice (preferred), OR two (2) sturdy pliers (not for jewelry-making)
  • Heat Gun
  • Needle Nose Pliers 
  • Sewing needle 
  • Heavy Duty Upholstery Thread
  • 1/2” Polyurethane foam – Reticulated is preferred also called Dry Fast, open pore -35 PPI(Pores per inch) Regular upholstery polyurethane foam can also be used, but it’s not as long-term durable. ½ inch foam from the Fabric store will serve for the workshop if that is all you have.
  • Barge Contact Cement (A small tube will do) (Barge is the brand name—available from Amazon)
  • 5-minute epoxy
  • Steel plumber’s epoxy  (If you can’t find this, it’s okay to only have 5-minute epoxy)
  • Rubbing alcohol (for cleaning up epoxy)
  • Steel 1/8” Welding Rod. 1-2 (per set of arm rods) depending on how long you want your arm rods to be. Available at welding supply stores and good Hardware stores. Can be copper clad if that is all they have. Not stainless steel (too hard to bend). A common length is 36 inches or 48 inches.
  • Dowling for rod handles - Mary recommends 1/2 inch – 5 / 8 inches thick for rod handles. Hardwood is best and “Made in the USA” will be more accurate to size. You will need 4 1/2 – 6 inches per rod (Based on your hand =big hands thicker longer rod, for example. (2) per puppet.
  • (Optional) Gaffer’s Tape

The following supplies will come in the Small Parts Kit upgrade. Please supply your own if you do not purchase the kit. The last day to order kits is April 18th. Please note that your kit will come with parts that are not cut to the exact lengths you need; this is to give you the experience and practice cutting these materials.)

  • *Daubers - Scrap foam will be sent in the kit, you can also use a foam brush, or chip brush.
  • *Oatmeal lid, or yogurt container
  • *Popsicle sticks or tongue depressors (a few)
  • *Printed pattern (which will be also be emailed to you before the workshop)
  • *1 Personna blade, single-sided (optional—you can cut your foam with scissors, but Mary recommends Personna blades for accurate, easy cutting) 
  • *Sandpaper (4”x4”-ish), medium grit
  • *18 gauge steel wire
  • *24 gauge steel wire (aka, floral wire—be sure this is steel, not aluminum)
  • *Small pieces of Velcro—both hook and eye sides, 1.25” 
  • *2 poker chips, or wood discs- 1/16th inch or make a thin 1/16 – 1/8-inch plywood disk ~1 ½ inches in diameter or cut from 1/8th inch styrene. Circular wood disks are also available at good craft stores. 
  • *1 piece of 3/16th Brass square stock (Square, brass tubes) Precision Metals is the brand Mary uses. They are 12 inches in length and sold in packages of 1 or 2.
  • *1 piece of 5/32nds Brass square stock  (both sizes should be available at hobby or hardware stores)
  • *Poly heat Shrink Tubing Wrap in black— you will need 2 pieces, each 18” long (available here in a 50’ roll: https://www.digikey.com/en/products/detail/qualtek/q2-z-1-8-01-qx50ft/1210283 )

Materials for covering the hands, later:

  • Muslin or other lightweight fabric (think: bedsheet) (1/2 yard)
  • Antron/Nyla or Nylon fleece, or another fabric of choice (1/2 yard)



Mary Hildebrand Nagler is a Portland, Oregon-based puppeteer, designer, fabricator, and performer who has entertained family audiences for over 40 years. Mary comes from a varied career in puppetry; from her original hand-puppet version of Punch and Judy to building two classic Muppet characters: Beaker and the Swedish Chef! Her puppet work has been seen in film, video, on stages, in puppet festivals and in hundreds of informal gatherings. Mary Nagler has been making puppets professionally for over 30 years and has had the opportunity to work for many professional puppet companies, coast to coast, including: The Puppet Heap, Rick Lyon Studio, Images in Motion, Furry Puppet Co., and The Puppet Kitchen to name a few. Her work has been seen in Being John Malkovich, Avenue Q, and The Muppets (among many others!). 

Nagler’s education includes two years of Theater Arts study at Santa Clara University, a degree in Buffoonery from Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Clown College. Her Bachelor of Arts Degree is in Fine Arts from Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park, with an emphasis in Sculpture and Painting. She holds a Master of Fine Arts from The University of Connecticut’s Puppet Arts program. She has attended the Sandglass Institute and The National Puppetry Conference at the O’Neill many times. She is the current president of the Puppetry Guild of Portland.  


EXTRA/TECH DETAILS: One purchase is required for each person in attendance.
You do NOT need to be in the Phoenix area for this workshop, however you DO need a computer/device with a camera and microphone so your instructor can see what you’re doing as well as a stable internet connection. Headphones are also a good idea (as in, please use headphones).  You’ll receive an email with a zoom invitation/link on the morning of the event.