You know, "The dog/cat/giraffe toy that falls apart when you push the button on the bottom toy and then springs back like magic."
Ohhh... THAT push puppet!
And no, I didn't know they had a real name until I started this project.
A few weeks ago a friend asked me to repair her dog push puppet. It had broken awhile ago but she managed to keep hold of all the pieces except for a small bone that the dog used to carry in his (her?) mouth. I was excited to give it a shot. I had played with a few of these over the years, but never actually had one myself.
Unfortunately the memory card where all the repair photos were on became damaged before I could download the photos. So all I have are post procedure pictures and a couple diagrams to share.
These toys have been around since 1932 when Walther Kourt Walss invented them in Switzerland.
Taking the first letters from his name he came up with WAKOUWA. That is the name they are still referred to as in some places and with collectors. The Kohner Brothers started making them in the US in the 1947 and they were a huge success. Later, imports from Italy and Germany began coming to the US. Until the '60s they were almost always made of wood but sometimes had a metal or plastic base. (Even now when I see them imported from China, they are often made of wood and not plastic.) By the late '60s though, most of these toys were being made with plastic and often featured licensed characters.
Alright, history lesson is over. Quiz on Tuesday.
This is basically how push puppets work and how I think they are assembled:
The base is hollow. There is a disk, connected to a spring, that has four strings attached. The strings pass through small holes in the base and up through the leg segments and body of the toy.
By applying some, but not full pressure to the disk, the strings can be tied off or glued into their final spots and trimmed up. With this toy, there are two holes in his neck for the strings through his front legs and two strings attached at the base of his tail for his rear legs.
Once the strings are secure, the clamp can be removed and then the toy will stand rigid since the spring is pushing down, keeping the strings taut.
To play with the toy, press the button "up" and the tension on the strings will lessen and the toy will partially or completely collapse. By not pressing right in the center, the toy can be made to dance or wiggle from side to side.
Fisherman's Knot" to extend his broken string with this new thread. It work great and seemed plenty tight but I went ahead and put a few drops of "super" glue to the knot as insurance.
Here is a video of the repaired toy:
These toys have a lot of character. They seem to come alive with just the slightest bit of pressure on their base. It was a fun project to work on. I got to learn a few things and most importantly my friend got her toy back and working.
It got me thinking about how this sort of toy's action could be applied to an automata toy. Hmmmmm.... stay tuned.