Cowboy Cactus Puppet Tutorial PDF Print E-mail
Written by Amy Harder   
Friday, 29 June 2007

Cowboy and Cowgirl Cactus Puppets

Amy Harder designed and built two quartets of these rootin', tootin' Cowboy Cactus rod puppets for a Western-themed show. This tutorial is an edited version of one originally written for another web site.


  • 4.75" Foam Noodles
  • 3" Foam Noodles
  • 1" PVC Pipe & elbow joints
  • Dress Fabric
  • EVA Foam Balls
  • Small Demin Vests
  • Leather Scrap
  • Small Straw Cowboy Hats
  • Misc. Buckles and Other Findings
  • Bandannas
  • Velcro Strips
  • Spray Adhesive
  • Black paint
  • White Spray Paint
  • Duct tape

The Frame

Fabric covered foam noodle with PVC pipe 

The puppets were made from foam noodles. The larger 4.75" diameter noodles were used for the body and smaller 3" diameter noodles were used for the arms. The noodles were covered with a great looking spring dress fabric found at Joann Fabrics on sale at the end of the season.

Foam noodles with inserted PVC frame

A frame made from 1" PVC pipe was made to hold the foam in shape. This has advantages and disadvantages. The PVC makes the puppet very functional, but also a little heavy and rigid, so it takes a pretty good puppeteer to bring them to life.

PVC frame joint

One inch PVC with joint attachments was used in the elbows and the center body. Some of the fittings were not glued so that the arms could be removed for easier costume changes and more space-friendly packing.

The Mouth 

Mouth hole cut out of foam noodle

It's difficult to see in the photo above, but a hole was cut in the foam noodle for the mouth movement. It was cut straight on the top and angled/rounded where the jaw comes down.

Puppet mouth in the open position

The top of the mouth pallette is fixed to the foam. The bottom is hinged with duct tape, closed with elastic from the top, and opened via a string attached to the bottom and run down the puppet through a small plastic tube (visible in the previous photo above). The fabric is then glued to the edges of the mouth pallette.

The Eyes

A finished eye

This is a close-up of a Cactus eye. Two different styles of eyes were made, one for the boys and one for the girls (the "boy eye" is shown here).

Back of puppet eye

The eyes were made from half of an EVA foam ball (these are usually sold as practice golf balls and can be found in the sports section of stores like Wal-Mart). The ball was yellow, so it's coloured by first applying a little spray adhesive and then white spray paint. The eyes are attached to the puppet using Velcro so they are interchangable (one set of "boy eyes" and another set of "girl eyes" was made)

Cactus eyes mounted on the lid of a storage container

The eyes were mounted for storage on the lid of one of the plastic boxes used for the puppet's costumes. This makes it easy to keep them clean and keep them handy for any quick changes in a show.

The Costumes

Cactus puppet costume materials

The boys wore small straw cowboy hats found at a craft store, bandannas around their necks, and belts made from scrap leather and random buckle/button-type items found in the make-your-own jewelry aisle at Hobby Lobby.

Cactus belts and cowboy hat

A closer look at the belts and a cowboy hat. Velcro was used at the back of the belts to make them easy to put on and take off.

Cactus belts and cowboy hat

The girl's costumes were made from several kid-sized denim vests found at a second hand store. They were altered to make them really narrow and embellished with western-style decorations and ornaments.

All Done! 

Finished Girl Cactus Finished Boy Cactus

Special thanks to Amy Harder for this great puppet building project! In addition to building puppets, Amy is a really good puppeteer too. Her Puppetry Lab web site is filled with helpful video tutorials and exercises designed to help you learn how to perform puppets.

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