"Lesson 18 Do-it-yourself Plans"

From Phil Nichols: Here is a sculpt of a new dummy I am building for our spring show using Lesson 18*. It's going to be a talking Crow like Bob Trent's Roscoe. I am calling him Bosworth. I have question. How do you make the ball and socket headblocks you use on your conversion figures? Is that a standard piece of wood that I can pick up or do you make them yourself?
* * * * *
From Mr. D: The wood used for the "ball" portion of my headposts is ordinary white pine that has been turned on a wood lathe. The gentleman who made these for me for over 30 years has retired and I no longer have my wood lathe, so when the few headposts I have remaining are gone, I'll be forced to come up with something myself.

NOTE: *Lesson 18 referred to is from the 1975 edition of the Maher Course and was a simple set of plans for building a ventriloquist figure. I do still have copies of this Lesson 18. $10.00 each postpaid.


  1. Hi Phil, interesting Work, Really Profeshiona,. I don't know if this will help or not but I have a hand Lathe made ball socket stick, kinda rough, 6 inch stick from the socket to the end, it has e controll holes drilled, Personally, I think the shaft is too thick, about an inch and an 1/8th It has 2 flaws one at the bottom of shaft wood slivered off, and on the socket, fair crack, but I think these can be corrected with wood filler. Sorry I don't have any other that is better or I would give that one to you.
    You may be able to take this one to your local High School, and ask the Shop teacher to Duplicate it and make more for other projects,
    As in the tridition of My Friend Mr.Clinton Derweiler, It is yours free, Just ask, I will also Pay Postage, I hope you will want it and it becomes a part of your birds anamity, and a major part of the act. Seriously, Have Fun and Merry Christmas Everyine. Bill

  2. Glad you noted it was from the 1975 edition. I have the New Millennium Edition (2002), and there are no plans in it.

  3. I did remove the plans from the 2002 edition, primarily because materials and methods have evolved so much since 1975, and several figuremaking sources are now available apart from the Maher Course.

  4. I would love to get a PDF version of the Course I can carry with me on my iPad. Less chance of losing the book too. heh.

  5. Who knows what the future holds?

  6. Anonymous12/08/2010

    I love that head! Reminds me of Dan Ritchard's bird "Conrad". Great job! Marcelo Melison.

  7. Anonymous12/08/2010

    ONe thing you may wish to investigate, if you have a Hobby Lobby, Ben Franklin, or Michael's Art in your area: they have hickory spheres in several diameters. I used the 1 1/2" for eyes for years, and still use the 3" balls to create the ball portion of my ball and socket type hard figures. Cut in half, drill the correct diameter hole through the center to receive control stick, glue in with wood glue or better, two part epoxy. You can further drill holes for cords, rods, etc. Remember to sand the edges, especially if using cord, as the edges will eventually cut through the cord through constant abrasion.
    Larry LaFontsee
    LaFontsee Character Design
    Appleton, WI