Tag Archives: armature

new armature

I have been working for the past few days on a new armature for a new puppet. I have no idea what the final puppet is going to be, I just wanted to work on my armature skills.

The final armature feels really nice, it is still not professional quality but it does feel good when you move the joints.

I used stainless steel 302 balls and rods. The plates are aluminum. Remember when working on your armature that hobbyists can not solder aluminum. Anything that needs solder has to be steel, or brass. The aluminum plates are easy to form and cut and look like the stainless steel parts to make the whole armature a silver color.

Here is a list of parts and tools I used. For cutting the aluminum, I used my bandsaw, but you can use a hacksaw or dremel tool. I shaped it with a variety of files and a few different grits of sandpaper. This is what the mostly finished armature looks like.

overall

front

This is the head. The piece sticking out is the bottom jaw. It can move up and down.

head

From this side you can see the screw that goes through the bottom jaw, through the middle spacer, then into the threaded part of the other side.

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I really wanted the head to have great movement. I put a joint near the collar bone area, then one inside the skull area. There are actually three movable points there from the neck up and into the head. I was only striving for two. I could have locked down the middle one if i wanted.

I cut the shoulders at a 45 degree angle to help give the arms more range of motion. The shoulder joint rods are held into the chest block with allen wrench set screws. The holes are tapped with 8-32 threads, and the allen screws are ground down until they fit without too much sticking out.

back

In this shot you can see the upper arms are open ball and socket as well as the lower spine. The screws are 4-40 threads and are countersunk into the plates to help reduce thickness.  The spine rod goes all the way through the chest block upto the neck joint. It is held in place with an allen screw. The upper legs are also regular open ball and socket joints. The rods are 3/32″ stainless steel 302.

chest

The lower legs have a step joint so it ends up with a ball on one end, and the open plates on the other end.  The rod is held in the plate with a set screw. i had to go back and add the extra screw to keep the plates all lined up.  In the lower leg joints the top screw holds the rod in place, the lower screw holds the three plates together.  The lowest screw puts tension on the ankle ball.  I used to put a joint in the toe, but usually it gets in the way as I animate so I put a solid foot in this armature.

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The feet are cut from a solid piece of aluminum, The rod is held in place with a screw coming in from the back of the foot. The hole is a tapped hole with 8-32 threads for the tiedown.  The aluminum is 1/4″ thick from flat stock.

feet

This hand design is my version of a hand I saw in one of Tom Brierton’s designs. It is cut from a solid single piece of aluminum. I cut a rectangle first to size, drilled all my holes and tapped the holes while it still had square flat edges. Once all the holes were done, then I filed it down to size. The two screws have the finger wires wrapped around and then tightened down to hold them in place. I could not figure out a better way to lock down the thumb wire since it has to emerge so far down close to the wrist. I will make sure it is secure before putting skin on it. I put green stuff on the finger tips to give them shape and to cover up the sharp metal edges. The slot cut down the hand from the wrist gives it enough flex that the screw can pull the plates together enough to lock down on the wrist joint ball. It is tricky to get all this to work.  This is the top of the hand.

hand

This is the palm side.

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I welcome all comments.

Go ahead, make a mess, have some fun.

a few puppet photos

here are some of the puppets I have created. This dragon was first used in “a piece of mime”. Once the film was completed the puppet was put away to rest. The latex cracked after awhile and became chalky. So for its appearance in my new film I needed to repair some of the latex and repaint it. The latex is NOT foam latex. It is brush on latex called “mold builder” that you can buy in almost any craft store. For this puppet, I created a ball and socket armature and then glued seat cushion foam to the armature. I clipped it with scissors to shape the muscles. Once I had the basic shape, I took some clay and sculpted the body. From the clay I made a plaster mold. When the plaster was dry I brushed in latex mold builder tinted with red paint until it was thick enough. It took several layers, with each layer drying before the next one was added. This took several days to complete. The latex skin was then glued onto the foam muscles, and any holes or defects patched with brush on latex.

The wings were sculpted in a thin clay layer laying flat on the workbench, like a tiny shallow lake. A wire armature was laid in place and I then brushed in latex layer by layer until it was thick enough and then attached it to the dragon. I had wires sticking out of the body waiting for the attachment. Here is the basic armature without front legs yet or wing wires. It is standing up on its own with no other supports.

This is the body sculpted in clay

this is my messy work area

this is the clay sculpture laying in a clay bed and plaster poured around it to make a mold of one side.

This photo shows the plaster mold finished. It is for one side only of the dragon. I filled the tiny air bubble holes and then brushed in mold builder latex.

This is what the skin looks like when I pulled it out. The black arrow shows bumps caused by air bubbles in the mold but for this skin it looks great.

This is the skin laying loosely on the armature just for show. I have to cover the armature in foam first to build up the muscles.

Here is the finished dragon in a new puppet set.

In this collage you can see:

the witch girl from “a puppet’s life”

the goblin puppet maker, mother and son, and furry creature from “free with purchase”

the ogre, the purple creature, and the forest wizard from “the third necessity”

the dragon and the mime from “a piece of mime”

the goblins from “a public safety announcement”

the guy on the right with white hair is new and has not been seen before.

Most of the puppets have a wire armature with brush on latex skins. A few of those above have ball and socket armatures and some have hand sewn clothes.

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.

end

A failed puppet

Well, I tried to make a new puppet and failed. The challenge was to sculpt something in clay, then make a plaster mold of it the clay, then cast it in brush on latex to make a skin for the puppet.

Everything started out great. I found some professional plastilina oil based clay and some softer water based clay and completed my sculpt. Here is the side of the clay sculpt. It stands about 5″ tall.

Now you can see the head and arm and leg sculpted in plastilina clay.

white clay is soft water based clay, grey is plastilina

The plaster mold process went great and all the molds were completed. I used two part molds for the body, arms, and legs, and a one part mold for the head. Once the plaster was dry, and the clay removed, I brushed in vaseline for a mold release.

I pulled the skins out and tried to attach them to my wire armature. This is where the problems started. I didn’t have enough foam on the body to fill everything out.

The seams on the back spines and the front chest looked really bad.

And the details seemed all mushed together. The brown belt though that you can see is another experiment using rubber cement, thinner, and paint all mixed together to make a paint medium that will stick to the latex and still flex. It seems to really have worked well.

Above is a close up of the detail. Below is the head. I may leave this part.

I am removing the red skin from the puppet and starting over but the head seems ok. Below is a wrinkle in the side of the puppet.

I removed all the red skin and bulked up the body mass with more foam and will see what happens from there.

A new sculpt in clay I want to mold

Ok, I sculpted a clay creature and now plan to make a plaster mold for it. The plan is to make a clay sculpt, then make a two part plaster mold of it. Once the mold is made, I will clean out the clay (destroying the sculpt in the process) and put the two halves back together. I then plan to pour some latex (mold builder) in the mold, swish it around, then pour out the excess. I will let that dry, then repeat a few times until the latex skin is thick enough.

Then I plan to pop open the mold, and have a great latex skin of my sculpt. I will cut maybe between the legs so I can slide a metal armature inside, and then fill it out with some cushion foam (like from a seat cushion) to form the muscles.

I will post more as it progresses. These pictures are the torso only. I will sculpt the limbs and head separately. The sculpt right now is about 5″ high. I started with a lump of clay around a pencil which is held upright with a hole in a piece of scrap wood. The creature is a big scaly creature with leather straps holding on a quiver of arrows.