Direct Linkage – A Follow Up

Well I guess I may have stirred a bee’s nest because I have had a bunch of emails from those that have figures with direct linkage and how much they like them. OK I will say uncle. Direct linkage is great and if done right I guess it too will last a lifetime. The McElroy mechanics in my three have lasted 70 plus years.
Direct linkage has been done by Cecil Gough, Len Insull, Tim Selberg, Kem Poyner, Brant Gilmer, Greg Claassen, Lee Dunn and Ray Guyll to name a few others beside the McElroy brothers. I will admit I have never had a Ray Guyll figure with direct linkage so I can’t comment on his work first hand but Bill Nelson, who now owns Ray’s creation Kirby has told me that the mechanics are a thing of beauty and work as smooth as silk. I also have never owned a figure by Greg Claassen so I can’t comment on his work either. I do own a Brant Gilmer and his mechanics are very smooth and very quiet.
I purchased Lee Dunn’s first McElroy replica and his mechanics are wonderful and also very very quiet. You can see pictures on my site. Cecil Gough’s mechanics were not very good as far as I was concerned. I found them to be sloppy and noisy. I have had figures by both Tim Selberg and Kem Poyner and I had to have them both repaired to function correctly and found them to be rather noisy and squeaky. I will make an exception to Tim’s figures though, because when the mechanics were done by Greg Crist they were of top notch quality. Tim and Kem PLEASE I am not cutting your work down. I am just telling of the observations I have made on figures by you that I have owned. The Insull are direct linkage inside the heads then attached to strings down to the headstick levers. They are quiet but it does take some getting used to to use the controls.
I guess I still will stick with my first observation and say in my opinion I would rather have the cord controls for the ease of the repair.


P.S.  If you haven’t checked out the Ventriloquist Marketplace lately, do so NOW!!!


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4 Responses to Direct Linkage – A Follow Up

  1. Dale Brown says:

    Dan, I have to agree with you. I own and use figures with both types of controls. While I feel comfortable doing minor repairs on cord controls, I would be very hesitant to work on direct linkage. And from experience I can say that when a problem occurs with direct linkage, it’s usually not minor.

  2. Ray Guyll says:

    I absolutely agree with Dan and Dale. Most of the pro vents who I do work for prefer string because of the ease of repair. When I was performing with my McElroy figure back in the mid ’70’s I was ready to go on stage and when I opened the case the figure’s mouth was hanging open with the tongue sticking out. I had a back up figure with me so I was able to perform but it took me a week to repair the problem. Another time the brass lever to the upper lip control broke and had to be replaced. Again it was a time consuming repair. As a builder I prefer doing direct linkage but as a performer I prefer string.

  3. Tony Davis says:

    Dan, I think at best the cord and direct linkage debate is a subjective one. I’ve always admired the direct linkage for the craftsmanship put into the mechanics, the beauty of the work speaks for itself in a well designed setup, but I must say I appreciate the simplicity of the corded controls, for the obvious reason of repairs when necessary.

    In a similar thought I love watching a vent with a loaded figure using the effects to his advantage (sparingly) to get a laugh reaction from the audience, but again I have to admire the ventriloquist who relies on his skills and performs with the figure that, in it’s simplicity, only has a mouth movement, as was Bergen with Charlie.

    Simplicity, in my subjective opinion, is an asset.

  4. BILL NELSON says:

    I have found a serious problem with direct linkage and that is, the lubricant makers use to keep the metal parts moving smoothly, attracts dust like a magnet and pretty soon that dust is going to cause major problems as it mixes with the lubricant to form a hardened mass at each juncture.
    Now, I can`t predict what this will do to the actual movement and noise, but it couldn`t be good.
    I have lost commissions because I don`t do direct linkage , brass parts…and, if they only knew that , as Dan said, repairing them takes an engineering degree and, until this dust problem is somehow dealt with, things are only going to go from bad to worse.
    As much as I love Glenn McElroy`s work, take a look at the ‘innards’ of HAPPY, before Ray began the elaborate overhaul that had to be done… It`s greasy, dust filled mess.
    Direct linkage is akin to us…as we get older, the lubrication in our joints gets “dusty” and diminished and things begin to creak and not work as well.
    Now I know that many ventriloquists feel good knowing there is all brass inside so things aren`t going to break on stage and I do understand that feeling of assurance…but wait until they need repair, freeze up and lock during a performance, with the warning signs being noise as the parts begin to lose their lubrication and start to grind against each other.
    Prhaps it`s just comes down to a matteir of choice…nether system is perfect, but one is, as Dan said, is easier to repair.

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