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I thought it might be worth showing you my tiedown idea. Not yet used in anger, so I do need to test it thoroughly but...

I got so fed up with struggling to get a tiedown threaded into the nut on the foot, reaching across the set to stop the puppet toppling over (brushing against bits of set), and under the set to do the screwing (mostly blind), that I thought there had to be a better way. I haven't gone down your route, Nick, with the T system, and to do so now would involve a lot of rebuilding of feet, but I can see the massive advantages of what you have done.

Most of my puppets' feet have M4 T nuts in them. And I recalled that the E European method for tiedowns is just to pin through the foot from the top (using styrofoam as a baseboard, I think). But I didn't want to have to rebuild the set...

So here's a sort of combination of the two: Using a 50mm long M3 screw (with the head ground down a bit to enable it to be concealed inside a shoe) I poke the screw down from the top, which holds the puppet just enough so I can go underneath and grab the screw. Puppet is now secure and doesn't need a hand on top. Then I slide a 3D printed collar on to the screw and tighten it.

here's a picture. I think I need to lengthen the collar a bit to bring the screw more clear of the underside of the baseboard, and a big head on the locking screw would make it easier, but tests show it works. It may also be good for allowing a loose hold so the foot can be at a little bit of an angle.

Any obvious drawbacks?

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OK, so I tried it out, and it didn't really make things easier.

I got to thinking about what I want a tiedown method to be:

1. As easy and quick as possible

2. Firm when needed, but also allowing a loose hold (foot lifting off...)

3. Visible. I want to be able to see what I am doing. Much of my frustration is to do with scrabbling under the table in the dark trying to find the hole I drilled earlier (among a bunch of other holes, then trying to locate the foot with my other hand and screw the M3 bolt into it (invariably gets cross threaded or doesn't take). My ideal system allows me to see what I am doing at all times.

4. Tools not required. It was quickly obvious that the collar above needed me to hold it in position while tightening the allen key. I could not get the collar sufficiently high against the uneven surface of the underside of the baseboard, so the tiedown was unacceptably loose.

So here is version 2! I am happy to say that it answers all my points above.

What this method requires is: a 3.5mm to 4mm hole in the foot, plus access to push a 50mm M3 bolt down from above. (The latex boots on my puppets have enough space to conceal the ground down bolt head, and the slit in the boot is not visible.)

I then go under the table, grab the bolt (which is in the hole I wanted as I saw that from above!), slide the tiedown onto it and grab the bottom end of the bolt as I slide the tiedown to snug up against the baseboard. I can now turn the thumbscrew to tighten the collar. The tension on the tiedown can be adjusted using the other 2 thumbscrews (one may well be enough).

It works very nicely! Quick, visible, no tools, adjustable. There are M3 nuts pressed into the tiedown collar, so it will not wear out. Costliest items are the thumbscrews.

I will put the .stl file onto Thingiverse if anyone is interested in printing some off, and will put a link here when done.

Here's the Thingiverse link for anyone who would like to print some off:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:4741925

Hi Simon, that looks like it'll speed things up. The only 2 methods I've ever used are the traditional feed the tie-down from underneath the set into threaded hole in the puppets foot or bare threaded rod into the puppet's foot, feed it into set hole then screw on the thumbscrew underneath the set, your method is similar to the last except you're not using any threads up top. Can you get the tie-down tight enough to prevent the puppet's foot from rotating?

Simon, if I had to do this I would be more limited, as I have not yet yielded to the temptation to buy a 3D printer. Would this work? Here, the collar takes up space between the wing nut and table top so that the unthreaded portion of the screw is hidden. Of course, if a fully threaded screw is used a flat washer could be substituted for the collar.

Hi Anthony. That was one of the main issues with just having a plain collar. I just couldn't get it tight at all. But with this version I can easily get it as tight as need be by screwing in the outer 2 thumbscrews. I might just make up a collar with one wing only, to see if that works as well, although it might tend to twist the bolt in the hole and that might pull the foot to one side. The only other issue I can think of is that this is a bit bulkier under the table, but I suppose 2 side by side could always be turned to line up.

I so hate scrabbling around in the dark underneath the table trying to find the damn hole and then struggling to get the nut in the puppet's foot at the exact right angle. I spent 20 minutes failing to tie a foot down the other week, so this is the result!



Anthony Scott said:

Hi Simon, that looks like it'll speed things up. The only 2 methods I've ever used are the traditional feed the tie-down from underneath the set into threaded hole in the puppets foot or bare threaded rod into the puppet's foot, feed it into set hole then screw on the thumbscrew underneath the set, your method is similar to the last except you're not using any threads up top. Can you get the tie-down tight enough to prevent the puppet's foot from rotating?

Hi Dave

Your method looks good too. I suppose the main thing I realised was that by abandoning attempts to do it all from below with a concealed nut in the foot, the whole process would become that much easier.

I did also want to avoid having things that could drop and get lost underneath the table, so my criticism of your method would be that you have to push the collar on and hold it there while you thread the wing nut. Threading the wing nut is also a pain upside down in the dark!

Dave Cooley said:

Simon, if I had to do this I would be more limited, as I have not yet yielded to the temptation to buy a 3D printer. Would this work? Here, the collar takes up space between the wing nut and table top so that the unthreaded portion of the screw is hidden. Of course, if a fully threaded screw is used a flat washer could be substituted for the collar.

I am about to do a couple of shots using it, so will report back (and try to do a little video of me using it, rather than just fumbling with it!)

Anthony Scott said:

Hi Simon, that looks like it'll speed things up. The only 2 methods I've ever used are the traditional feed the tie-down from underneath the set into threaded hole in the puppets foot or bare threaded rod into the puppet's foot, feed it into set hole then screw on the thumbscrew underneath the set, your method is similar to the last except you're not using any threads up top. Can you get the tie-down tight enough to prevent the puppet's foot from rotating?

I just looked up where you are based, and sadly it is not in the UK or I would have sent you a couple to try out. Perhaps you can persuade a local 3D printer geek to do some for you? They don't take long to do, and use very little plastic.

Dave Cooley said:

Simon, if I had to do this I would be more limited, as I have not yet yielded to the temptation to buy a 3D printer. Would this work? Here, the collar takes up space between the wing nut and table top so that the unthreaded portion of the screw is hidden. Of course, if a fully threaded screw is used a flat washer could be substituted for the collar.

Simon, I agree with you about messing around under the table. But at least it eliminates the biggest frustrations of a) finding the correct hole in the table, and b) getting the screw threaded into the foot. And you may need to find a way to keep the screw from turning while tightening the wing nut.

Thanks for offering the parts. I'll have to see if my son ever got around to buying a printer. It was a big priority for him at one time, but now that he's out on his own and would have to pay for it himself, he may have changed his priorities. :)

I use a top-down method sometimes, when the puppet has walked too far to the back of the set for me to be able to reach under the set with one hand while holding the foot with the other hand.  (I would go as far as I could, with the imprint of the edge of the set floor pressed into my neck from straining to reach just one more footstep away.)  But I do something much simpler - I simply screw a wood screw down through the foot into the set floor  (which is made from 12mm particle board).  If the puppet has the hollow latex shoes that I usually make, a small slit in the rubber lets me put the screw in, and it closes up afterwards.  The wood screw has the advantage of not needing to line up with a pre-drilled tiedown hole.  And of course, the main benefit was not needing to mess around under the set at all.  

In the interests of speed, I did once try to make a spring loaded version of my T-slot tiedown.  I had a coil spring on the bolt, that went under the set floor, and compressed as you pushed the bolt up.  The idea was, push the bolt up, turn it 90 degrees, and release, and the spring would push the bolt down and hold the foot to the ground, done!  I could turn the wing nut under it to adjust the tension, but the idea was to not have to do that every time, just once to get the tension where I wanted it.  Sadly, it needed a LOT of tension to hold the puppet firmly enough, with a very strong spring, and it was impossible to push it up by hand without lifting the whole set.  I thought there might be some kind of lever action that would give a sort of quick-release, maybe a cam with a handle on it, but didn't have time to work it out.  So that was the end of my experimenting, I went back to the traditional method of screwing up the wing nut each time a foot had to be tied down.

Maybe I am over-thinking this one! The woodscrew method is so simple, and as you say does not have to line up with a hole. (Although the holes are great for aiming the step to the right place).

I can see the problem with a spring. And a release mechanism starts to get complicated. I should have paid more attention to your T bolt method, which is deceptively clever and simple. Even the wing nut is captive. Anyway, as I can't change to that now without major surgery, I shall see how my collar fares.

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