Cord or Direct Linkage Control

The subject of figure building was presented to me by Billy Sobe, one of our members here on Ventriloquist Central, and he asked me about mechanics and what people look for, direct linkage or cord control and which is better. He is in the beginning state of building figures and is ready to move on to building his own designs and wanted my opinion.
I told him that both of these are good. Direct linkage though can present a major problem if one of the functions decides to let go. You first would have to have a mechanical aptitude to do repair and would certainly have to have a rather complete tool kit with you to be able to make that repair.
With cords for the controls it is usually just a matter of tying a new knot or even replace the whole cord. A much simpler undertaking that most anyone could do.
The great figure makers of the past including Marshall, Spencer, Coats, Jackson and some of today premier builders Guyll, Hartz and Payes all use cords for the controls.

If direct linkage was SO much better why don’t they all build them?
Direct linkage also can become loose and very noisy with chatter and squeaks but cord controls are usually quiet. I have seen some fine builders using direct linkage and their mechanics need repair very quickly or are noisy. The direct linkage controls will give you problems and you will have to send them back to the makers for repairs which means long down times for your figures.
I have 3 McElroy figures in my collection and they are all done with direct linkage and I can tell you if one of those malfunctioned it would be a nightmare for you to get fixed. And they are noisy to use as well.
I have 40 Marshall figures many with the original cords still in them and they work fine and are as quiet as a church mouse.

So what is best?????

I vote for cord control. Just my opinion.


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6 Responses to Cord or Direct Linkage Control

  1. Gary Koepke says:


    Really enjoyed your observations in the cord or direct linkage blog and have to say I have come to the same conclusions… cords just are quieter and done correctly last a long time!

    However, possibly, could the preference depend on how the figure is going to be used? I’m not much of a collector and what I have is dependant on me having a use for it. But from a purely collectors point of view, would the complexity of direct linkage be an allure?


  2. The Best controls are judged on how your hand feels around the stick. My favorite is the Ray Guyll figure I own, because it is so easy to pull down the levers. Also the smoothness and quite movements it makes. Tim Sellburg has great movements to. The Hardest controlls I used has to be the Finus Robinson figures, boy were they hard to move. I needed bandaids when I got done! I Hope this was helpfull. Chef Jim Willard

  3. Dan Willinger says:

    Gary in response to your question about collectability, yes the complex direct linkage movement is of course more valuable to the collector. Hence the hunt by most collectors for a McElroy figure considetred to be the holy grail. But as far as a working figure I still think the cord method is best.

  4. Gary Gibson says:

    Hey Dan: Gary here
    I agree with cord control. I made my figure myself, as I have said before not being aware ventriloquistcental, I had to
    figure out the mouth & eye functions/mechanics with out any how to do so knowledge. I was quite the task, I was able
    to get the mouth to open & close, and the eyes to blink. I was unable to figure out how to get the eyes to move side to side. I originally used a nylon string, similar to fishing line(thinking it would be stronger then regular string) but found after
    continues use the knot’s would loosen. I ended up using regular string resulting with great success/manipulation control. The
    mouth would make a clicking sound when closing as the head was made of paper Mache. I read in this book “I can see your lip’s move” the only ventriloquist information I could fined, until I discovered your web site. It said If the mouth of a figure
    was making a clicking sound when opening & closing, to stick piece of sponge in the contact area making the click sound. I
    did so, resulting in muting the noise. The eye’s are made of ping pong balls, an idea I got from Jim Henson’s Muppet’s creation’s. They are hand painted, but after viewing vent.cental, I have seen the realistic glass type eyes on some
    vent.figures, Is there any info. you may have on how to obtain some & if so are they the size of ping pong ball’s ?. If they are the same size I could just change them & they would fit.
    I have viewed the direct linkage, I believe to be used inside your Happy figures head, on your web site. I would love to
    learn & know more about direct linkage, It look’s very meticulous to try & install. Also Dan you had emailed info on the subject of robotronics for vent figures, any more info. on robotronics
    Gary Gibson You wont see my lip’s move
    Looking forward to you reply

  5. Billy Sobe says:

    Hi everyone im really learning alot from the reply’s.

    Thank you

  6. Michael Schwabe says:

    Greetings, I’m new here to this wonderful website and stumbled upon this topic. I have been a puppet maker for 35 years. I make all kinds of puppets from vent figures to marionettes and cord controls are without question the best. Beyond the ease of making repairs, cord controls have a tension that connects the puppeteer to the puppet in the same way a violin responds to its player. I think of “direct control” as the “piano” of animation techniques – it’s cumbersome.

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