Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tin Lizzy!

I started to work on the woman vent figure..... It was a little more than I bargained for!

I started by removing her clothes. Whoever made her went all out with the body. Very meticulous about the shape! I then seperated her head from her body. I wanted to mount the head on a control stick it wouldn't be stationary. Her head turned out to be made out of a tin can! Bigger than a quart can, smaller than a half gallon. It was covered by a mixture of sawdust and flour mixture. Cutting the back of the head out was a project in itself. I needed to replace two cutting bits to get through the can. Once through, I cut out the eyeholes.

There was a piece of wood that ran down the whole figure from the back of the head to the base of the body. It was probably used as support while they built the body and the head. I took it out of the head and opened up the back completely by removing it from the body as well.

I can't really say that this is a restoration job because I am doing some major changes. I will however stay with the same look of the figure and just polish up her features as well as add some animations. I figured out a name for her. It's Peaches. Thats what the label on the can said.

Friday, June 22, 2007

I was contacted last week by Bob Albano, the creator of "A Tribute to Ventriloquism" He sells this as a book by the way. I was lucky enough to aquire three of them for fathers day!

He pointed out to me that there are many other sources for beginners to use that will hone your skills as a ventriloquist. Edgar Bergens Lessons in ventriloquism and Jimmy Nelsons Instant Ventriloquism, which came out on records and booklets back in the heyday of ventriloquism are available on Bobs website They can be downloaded for FREE!!!!

Bob has an amazing website with lots of information pertaining to this wonderful art and is definitely worth a visit. You'll get hooked just like I did!

It's been almost two weeks since I have added to this blog. Fathers day weekend was a very busy one for me. I didn't get much of a chance to do anything but eat hot dogs and hamburgers and lay around in the pool! (:

As I said, I will be taking on three personal endeavors this summer. One is rebuilding this poor old woman vent figure I acquired from ebay. No one wanted her, and I cannot let that happen to a figure that someone put a lot of their time and effort into to create. Here is a picture of what I am starting with. Here head was made from wood putty. She has ping pong balls for eyes. Her mouth, which is the only thing on her that moves, is hooked to the back of her head with a brass hinge and kept in position by a spring with a cord attached for movement.

Her body is made of a stiff paper board which is reinforced with a wooden slat that runs down her back. There are holes on either side of the slat which allows the vent to access the string and to hold the vent figure to move her from side to side. The maker of this figure did that because her neck is connected to her head and cannot turn, so this enabled her to look at the ventriloquist and the audience by turning her entire body, using the wooden slat as a handle.

She has a hand carved wooden led. The other is missing, so I will have to make her another one in the same fashion.

I plan on separating the head from the body and putting it on a post. I will then add moving eyes and eyebrows, a new hairdo and a complete over hall of her face. I will widen the mouth to make it more visible during an act and give her a pair of arms which she was missing when she arrived. She will have a new lease on life and will hopefully go to someone who will cherish her and keep her happy so she doesn't return to the state she was in when she arrived at my shop!

Here are some pictures of her. I will show you each step as I complete her transformation.

Well, time to get back to the shop. I've got an order for France I have to finish this weekend. Have a great day!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

What kind of figure should I get?

Well, It's been a busy week as well as a busy weekend. I am trying to catch up so i can take a break. I have about ten figures in different stages of completion. My favorite is "the Colonel. Here is a picture of his head. I also finished Deter, the cute one with the big ears, Wanda, the girl and Milton, with the Auburn hair.

I was contacted by Kate from California who has become interested in Ventriloquism from watching Ventriloquist week on Letterman. (Thank you Dave (-: ) She asked me what kind of dummy should she start with and what she can do to learn how to be a ventriloquist.

The best figure to start with is one that is economical. You don't want to spend a thousand dollars on a figure and then decide you don't like ventriloquism. The best kind of figure in my opinion is a conversion figure. I'm not just saying that because I make them. Conversion figures are the cheapest way to go to learn. The animations are professional movements and it gives you the opportunity to make it come to life. It's hard to do that with a stuffed Celebrity figure. The only animation it has is it's mouth movement. To be good, you need those animations such as the 360 degree head movement so he can look around. Eye movement so he can look at people and raising eyebrows which can be used for a multitude of different expressions.

I make all my figures with those animations.because in my opinion, they are the top three.

As for astudy course, there are a million of them out there. Ebay is full of them ranging from 5 dollars and up. BUT.... If you really want a course that will take the time to teach you properly and grade you as well as follow your progress, the Maher course for ventriloquism is without a doubt the best there is. Clinton Detweiler is the author of the new millenium addition and he sells them on ebay. You can contact him at his Blog which is newsyvents, and can also be purchased through

Of course there are other good courses out there. Rick Fisher has a basic course that he sells on ebay for under 20 dollars which I reviewed and think it is a great starter course.

I hope i have helped you Kate and if you have any further questions or anyone for that matter, you can contact me at I will help you any way I can.

Over the next couple of months i have some projects that have been trying to get started.

I purchased a cast head from Dave Boiano that I am going to bring to life. A good casting. I also was given an old Jerry Lane figure. The date inside the head was 1972. It was cast out of somew kind of rubber. The hands are the old style and it has solid legs with a shoe attached. It was in a barn and has to be completely restored. (it has a hornets nest inside the head!)

I also purchased this sad looking woman figure with ping pong ball eyes and missing a leg, I plan to give her a new lease on life. I hope you all have a great week. Keep on venting!

Sunday, June 3, 2007

I love what I do!

It is Sunday night and time to get ready for my other job. (I wear many hats) aside from being a grandfathert, ventriloquist and figure maker, I also work for one of the oldest newspapers on the East Coast. It is called the Cecil Whig and has been in publication since 1842. I am coming off of a weeks vacation that was necessary to take care of my wife. She had a lumpectomy scheduled and I'm glad to report everything came out alright. It's hard once you've passed the 50,000 mile warranty. Just like automobiles, we all start to have problems!

Here I am finishing up a guy who is so anxious to get done he is holding the paint for me as I blend his highlights. There's a bunch of legs and bodys getting ready to be put together to join their heads which have been hanging around waiting get themselves together. As I said when I started this blog, I am here to help anyone with questions about ventriloquism or figure making so feel free to email me at Have a great week and God Bless!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Starting Out

I was asked what tips I could give someone just starting off in ventriloquism.

The first thing is practice the ventriloquist alphabet. It is important to be able to pronounce words and letters that cannot be pronounced properly with your mouth closed.

A,C,D,E,G,H,I,J,K,L,N,O,Q,R,S,T,U, X and Z are all letters that we can pronounce without moving our lips. The seven most difficult letters are B,F,M,V,W and Y.

If you try to pronounce these letters without moving your lips you'll have difficulty. That is why ventriloquists substitute a similar sound for these letters. Use "D" for "B". Use "Th" for "F". Use "N" for "M". Use "P" for "T" and "Th" for "V" and last but not least use "OI" for "W". You can use the same sound when you pronounce the letter "Y"

Example: Billy forgot my water. I asked him for it very nicely.

Using the ventriloquist substitutions: Dilly thorgot ny oater. I asked hin thery nicely.

At fist it will sound funny, but reposition your tongue against your teeth in different places with each sound and you will find the right position to make each letter sound almost exactly like the letter you are substituting for.

Always practice in front of a mirror so you can make sure you're not moving your lips.

After learning the new pronunciations, you should start practicing with your dummy.

When a person sits down, he is not motionless. He looks around, leans, turns his head, squirms in his seat and all kinds of other movements. If you disagree, next time your with your friends single one out and count how many times he moves a part of his body in one minute. You will be surprised how many times he does.

You want to mimick those same movments with your dummy. The more he moves around while he is on your lap or wherever you have him, the more he distracts the audience from you which aids in your performance.

Always practice in front of a mirror, You are your best audience and can critique yourself fairly. Like anything you want to get good at. It takes lots of practice. So get a mirror ready and start practicing!

Thank you for your question Linda. In answer to your other question, I make special order vent dolls to your specifications. If anyone has any questions feel free to ask. My e-mal address is .

Friday, June 1, 2007

By the way. The last one has all the options. I'm not that good yet. My mother made that one...


It is too hot to work out in the yard today so I am back inside my air conditioned workshop makin' dummies. One of the things I haven't seen in any of the conversion figures are blinkers. I have remedied that and started making them for people who request them. Here is one I recently made. It is difficult putting all these mechanics inside their heads. No easy task. Once finished though, it gives them an incredibly better personality. Check this guy out....