Mr Brown’s Pig is the performance name of Chris Brown, a committed storyteller, puppeteer and musician. He has been an inspiration to me for many years now, and I was delighted when he asked me to remake the framework and playboard of his puppet stage.
The dimensions and hinged folding design were to remain the same so that he could continue to use it in the same manner as the previous one, but he wanted it to be constructed sturdily enough to last the next twenty years. As he transports it by strapping it to the roof rack of his car, it is clearly subjected to a fair amount of wear and tear, and this durability requirement needed suitable consideration.
It was my opinion that the original stage had become rickety because the wooden frame had only been butt jointed and screwed together, and there was a lack of sufficient bracing. Also, I noticed that the hinges that allowed it to fold up were not particularly robust.
The answer was straight forward; cut decent sized mitred braces to support every right angle join, and to cut a shallow mortice and tenon for every joint, before gluing and screwing them from the reverse side into place.
I sourced some lovely brass hinges, which although were slightly too wide, were easy enough to trim to size with an angle grinder.
The playboard on the original stage was made from laminated MDF which unsurprisingly was looking pretty tatty. I chose to use a piece of locally grown hemlock. I let it sit in my workshop for a month or so and then cut it to size, planed it smooth and rounded the edges with a router. We wanted to darken it as much as possible so it’s finished with a dark oak coloured wax.
The result is a robust frame and shiny playboard that should stand the test of time, and allow Mr Brown’s Pig to continue performing his excellent puppet shows for many years to come.