Life keeps getting in the way of my animation, but I suppose that's allowed more time to think about improving my methods along the way. From what I know, tie down methods is the way to go for animating a puppet but I have never yet tried it myself. For my forthcoming animation I have planned on repeating what I did prior, which was putting rare earth magnets in the puppets shoe/foot and a large metal sheet under the set surface. As you can suspect, walking was very limited (puppet could never balance on it's own with one foot off the ground) and overall this limited the puppets ability to move more freely without risk of being knocked over.
I've already made my puppets armature (foam body build up) with magnets in place, but I'm thinking about changing the feet to add a nut or the tie down method if it's not too late and possibly pursue this route for a better overall outcome. I have watched stopmonick's tiedown video, which is amazing, but I don't have access to a wood shop or related tools at the moment.
Please, can anyone provide any suggestions on what to use for tie downs within the puppet? What to use for set floor material that the holes will be drilled into, specifically for my outdoor set plan of a grass field in which I can still hopefully conceal holes between frames?
Sharing progress on my puppets:
I have tiny magnets where the eyebrows go so hoping I can use replacement eyebrows. Not sure how to go about smoothing mouth opening still...
Cool looking characters!
Simplest tie down is a nut in each foot, with a matching screw and wing nut that can go up through a hole in the set floor. You can have a loop of armature wire in the foot, and place a thin nut on top it, and put epoxy putty around it to hold it in place. Half-nuts are half thickness, and square nuts are usually thinner too. (The nut is on top so it is pulled onto the wire loop when you tighten the tie down bolt.) With a regular thickness nut, it might be a bit thick to fit in your foot design if it is on top of the wire, so an alternative is to file a groove around the nut, and wrap the wire around it and twist bit to make it tight. Then add epoxy putty to lock it in.
Next option is to make a foot block from aluminium, and drill a hole for the tie down. Then use a tap to tap the threads into the hole. For a wire armature, drill a couple of holes to insert the leg wires and glue them in with epoxy glue. This requires something to cut the metal - a bench top bandsaw will do - and a drill, preferably a drill press, to make holes. So if you are not equipped for that, go with the nuts in the feet.
I do something similar, but use a T-and-Slot tie down instead of a threaded one. It is more work to make, and you generally need the holes in the set to be a little bigger, but on the plus side it is easier to line it up with the slot in the foot when you are animating. Unlike a threaded bolt it does not have to be perfectly straight to start screwing in to the foot.
I know magnets are popular in the UK, I've seen them at Cosgrove Hal some years ago. But a magnet in the foot makes it hard to get the foot really close to the steel floor without it snapping on to it, so what they were using was a steel plate in the puppet foot, and a strong magnet under the floor. They even had a bolt through the middle so they could screw it to push the magnet away from the steel floor until the grip weakened. They were very strong rare earth magnets, cylinders the size of a C or D type battery - they could hold the puppet more securely the a magnet thin enough to put in the foot. Because the magnet is not in the foot, the foot can get close to the set without getting pulled onto it. You only place the magnet when you are ready to tie the foot down. You could probably pry it away from the floor with a lever instead of a screw, that might be easier to make.
There are times when I want a smooth shiny floor and I can see the benefit of magnets and no holes in the set, but mostly I have rough ground or blotchy colours and the holes are easy to conceal.
For smoothing the mouths, try using a bit of builder's silicone (clear, with a bit of pigment to suit). You should be able to get it on with a spatula. Then shape it using icing sugar until you are happy (the icing sugar is to matt it and also to prevent the tools pulling the silicone off. When the silicone has set, you can wash away the sugar.
I like to use t-nuts in the feet. I wrap the wire under and around the "teeth" of the "t" and then either glue it with epoxy or use JB Weld depending on the design. Use a screw or threaded rod and a wing nut or knurled nut.
The set floor can be mdf or ply wood. I like mdf because it doesn't splinter.
As suggested by Nick, T-and-slot tie downs is definitely something to consider- I have never been able to have this type. It just takes more tools to have it built in, but I am sure these are more effective and it is a great option for thinner foot if you wish to shape them over with clay layers. The nut is harder to hide, or well not just harder but it takes more layers to hide it properly, and it can be too tall for certain puppet scales. Both option would work and are most common ways.
I also heard about the use magnets over it, but if you are planning walks, magnets will not allow you to creat in-between frames as the tie downs do.
Animation wise you may want to consider tie downs, for sure.
EDIT: just noticed Nick explained clearly the situation regarding magnets.