I have been asked quite a few times how I make the body for a Frank Marshall figure so I guess I will spill the beans.
The most distinctive thing about a Frank Marshall figure is his shaped shoulder board. This is the most tedious and time consuming part of making a Marshall body. The thickness of the shoulder board starts life as three one inch think boards that are then glued together to form a three inch thick board. The next step is to use your band saw and carefully cut the shaped shoulder board out of the three inch thickness. This will leave you with a shaped board that is only one inch thick. The edges are then planed smooth to remove the sharp edges. Then a 2 1/2″ hole saw is used to open the neck hole and then I use carving chisels to shape the socket for the ball on the neck.
A bottom and side boards are then cut and attached with carpet nails.
Next you will have to go to a chair canning place and purchase some number 7 spline. The spline is then soaked in water to make it soft so it can be shaped. It is then attached horizontally in two positions across the body and then four pieces are applied vertically over the horizontal ones. They are attached with either carpet tacks or staples. Sometimes frank would then tie the crossed members with twine.
I then have purchased old moving quilts which are used and discolored and cut them out to fit over the body and then attach them with carpet tacks or staples. When completed you will have a Frank Marshall body. There are many ways to build a ventriloquist figure body but if you want a Marshall style this is how Frank did them. It is more work and I don’t think most will go to the length to do it this way but for me it is the only way.
Dan Willinger is a ventriloquism enthusiast and ventriloquist figure collector. He has been collecting for over 25 years. He created the Ventriloquist Central Collection. It now has over 100 ventriloquist figures and over 50 of them are Frank Marshall figures. Because of his love for the art of ventriloquism, Mr. Willinger created the website Ventriloquist Central. For more information about the website, go to: http://www.ventriloquistcentral.com
Copyright 2010 by Dan Willinger
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