Beginner’s guide to ball and socket armatures

Ok, for my new film short, I need a flying rig to hold a wooden sled in place as it comes down a hill. So, let’s head down to the shop and build one today. It will use basic ball and socket joints which you can use in your puppet construction. This is a very basic ball and socket joint with a few tools. It is not professional grade and will not be the smoothest joint you have ever seen but it works and it is what I have used for all my puppets with ball and socket construction.

First I start with a steel plate from the hardware store. This is what it looks like straight off the shelf.

I then use the drill press to drill a hole in between the two holes in a line. This hole will be the proper size to tap a 8-32 hole.

This is what the plate looks like after drilling the center hole. This hole should be as perfectly centered as your setup will allow. The more perfectly centered it is the better the hold and the smoother the joint.

I use a dremel tool with a cut off wheel to cut the plate into two. If you wish you can round off the corners but for this project I am not. Then take one plate and drill a hole large enough for a 8-32 to pass through. One plate will be tapped with screw threads, one will be large enough that the screw can slide through freely.

This is the tapping tool. It comes with the proper size drill bit. So, you drill a hole with the proper bit, then put this tapping tool in the hole and slowly turn it back and forth until it cuts threads in the hole perfectly fitted to your screw size. These tap sets are pretty cheap ($5 US) but most do not come with the handle. That is sold separately. Use lubrication when cutting threads and your bits will last longer.

This is the dremel tool setup used to cut the plates and the threaded rod. Wear eye protection because fine metal dust will be in the air. I wear a full respirator but at least wear eye protection like wrap around goggles that seal against your face.

These are the brass balls I use. They are not ideal because they are softer than the steel plates and can easily scratch but they are cheap and I can find them right off the shelf at my hardware store. They are drilled and tapped for 8-32 threads when you buy them. I pay about .50 US each for them.

This is the solder I use. It has silver in it and makes a stronger bond. I have had very few solder joints fail me.

This is the one item you may not have in a normal shop. It is micro butane torch. It is a terrific tool. I do all my soldering with it. I think it is about $50 US or so. It uses refillable butane.

This is the 8-32 threaded rod. I bought this in one foot sections for a few dollars.

Put the threaded rod in the vise, careful not to damage the threads.

Cut a slot in the rod to help solder flow better.

I always use flux. Any kind should work. It keeps the solder joint clean and helps the solder flow better once you apply the heat.

Clean off the rod and coat with flux. Screw on the brass ball.

Apply heat to the ball.

Apply your solder and wipe off excess. This is a ugly joint but you get the idea.

This is what the plates look like when completed. Put the screw through the plate with the large hole, all countersunk holes in the plates facing inwards, and thread the screw into the tapped plate.

Insert the ball into the hole and you are done.

For mine I soldered my whole rig onto a heavy brass hinge so I could clamp it to my set.

This is what it will look like in use. I will erase it in post.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.


19 responses to “Beginner’s guide to ball and socket armatures

  1. Awesome, thanks for posting this!


  2. Now this is a very helpful guide, thanks for putting it up here.


  3. That tutorial was fantastic! Thanks for taking the time to post that. I’m going to see if I can find the same materials in a hardware store up here in Canada to build a similar rig.


  4. Your sets rule, and you’re really coming along in the animation department, too!

    If I lose this ToonTube contest, it will be an honor to have been beaten by you.


  5. another great tutorial, ty for posting this.


  6. Love it, thank you!


  7. just starting on this, nicely explained and presented


  8. Thanks for the tip – I think it is easier to use Araldite on the threaded rods or there is Rite-lok permanent threadlocker TL-70, which also works well – no need to solder at all!
    Regards, George (age 13)


  9. holy… this is just the article I was looking for ! a cheap and simple way for ball&socket armature

    the basic principle – everything is here. Sure, on is limited to the size of the plates and the size of the pre-drilled holes, but sweet something ! This is just brilliant !

    And again a well-written tutorial. You get your stuff done FOR SURE !!!


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  11. Brilliant!


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  18. Really clear, thanks for posting


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