Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Burnt fingers

Hello there! 

A lot has been going on recently and everything has been very hectic. Last week I made my first ball and socket armature so I thought I'd show a few behind the scenes photos and not really a tutorial but a bit of a ramble about it :)

So when I say "I made my first ball and socket armature" I kind of didn't make it all myself in that I used various pre made joints and soldered everything together. I dont have the equipment to make my own joints and why worry when there are some fantastic joints out there already for the taking, albeit a pricey taking in some respects.

The knee and elbow joints are from the amazing John Wright
John Wright's supplies Aardman with a lot of their joints and also a lot of other people in the UK and Europe. They are pricey but most definitely worth it as the quality is outstanding! He also gives you a length of steel rod for each joint making it even easier to put the parts of your armature together.

All the other joints and everything else for this armature is from a shop that just gets better and better all of the time and is definitely helping to make stop motion more accessible to everybody. The joints can be bought separately or as part of the fantastic armature kit 'Armacreature'
It's hard not to sound like a sales pitch but this is the best armature kit I have ever used and I have used a lot of them!

With all of the rods, K & S and steel plates cut to size, it was time to get messy.

Most of the components

My dirty colourful soldering block

All of the parts soldered together They almost look like I've gone into the piercing business

Getting there!

Now, for the leg and arm sections I needed to solder a nut on to the ends so that I can slot hands & feet in and lock them of to stop them slipping out while the puppet is being move around or even while it holds its position. I drilled a whole through the K&S to the correct size then to keep the nut in place while soldering I just used some old screws to keep it weighed down and to also stop any rogue bits of silver solder getting into the thread of the nut.  A tiny 3mm grub screw is what pops inside when done and tightens up with a wee allen key.

As I'm fairly new to silver soldering I did find that I ended up charring most of the components but
 that's ok as a little bit of elbow grease some jewelers pickle and some sanding got all of the marks off. I also managed to mutilate myself with various burns and cuts and a good old poke in the eye but hey its not a proper job unless you injure yourself, right?

All the soldering done but very charred!

After all of the soldering was finished I needed to then grind down the joints as even though they are small they were not small enough. This was a tough job as I need to make sure they stay strong enough for the job. But with a bit of TLC and mini bench grinder, all went well.

And here he is all finished. He stands at just over 11" tall

Here is a video that i made for my client. It also shows the balsa sections I add so it makes the puppet easier to grab at when moving around.

I actually really, really enjoyed making this and can happily say it has been my favourite part so far of this puppet build. I cant wait to make another one!

I'm currently working on casting his body in silicone. Hopefully I'll have a spare few moments to document how that goes.
Anyway, back to work! I hope you are all doing great!


  1. wow Ben, it's impressive! you did an amazing job!

  2. great stuff man!!!


  3. Congrats!

    A comment on design: You may run into range of motion problems with those shoulders. Try having the arms hanging loose at the puppets sides, then raise an arm to point at something on the horizon. Does the joint jam? Shoulders are a huge problem area. Typically you need two stepblocks rather than a sandwich plate in order to get a decent approximation of human mobility. (Though even then it's not as free-moving as actual human anatomy).

    There's a workaround, which is to put a 90-degree bend in the rod immediately after the outermost ball of the shoulder sandwich plate. Take a look at the Kong armature and you'll see that's exactly what they did there.

    ...Fer goodness sakes, be sure to wear safety goggles while working!! "Foresight is better than no sight." I've had errant metal smack me in the face while doing armature work — I'd be blind right now if I hadn't had goggles on.

    1. Hey Sven!!!!!

      You are absolutely right, my good man! I thought "Naaa he cant be right. I'm pretty sure it'll be fine" Then I went and tried it.... Nooooooo!!! I'm going to have to see what i can do with very little time and no extra bits of materials.
      Many, many thanks to you for bringing that up. You are an utter star! I'll see what I can do about it.

      I used to have a pair of goggles but I poked a whole straight through em!!! Luckily I wear glasses too :)

    2. Mike Brent (Dark Strider) educated me about that design problem years ago. Here's a photo of how he fixed the issue on his Ahab armature:

      The majority of armature kits have terrible range of motion in the shoulders — it's really irksome that manufacturers say nothing about this and pretend it's unimportant. I know pro animators get by with this shoulder design far more often than they should have to. Here's an old blueprint for an Aardman armature that's got the same shoulder trouble: (Note that it's got some strange unnecessary joints in the chest area, too.)

      Much of puppet acting is very broad, with wide, open gestures — so you can often work around the limitation... If this is for a client, it might be worth talking with them about the trade-offs of anatomical accuracy vs. time and cost, etc. But you probably don't look any less pro than the kit manufacturers if you ship it out as-is.

    3. Ah those are great pictures. I think I might be able to make up some new bars and add the kink in but I haven't got any extra joints to add in.

      I cant really blame this mistake on an armature kit either as I've only used pre made joints everything else is down to my lack of experience with the design. At least it is something I can seriously work around when designing another and hopefully people can learn from my mistake.

      I'll attempt some adjustments then have a wee chat with my client about what can be done.

      Many thanks again, Sven. You have been ridiculously helpful!

  4. Great! worth the hurting fingers.

  5. Great work!
    I love your puppets

  6. Excelente post!

    Comparto un video mío debutando en la técnica stopmotion!

    Acepto cumplidos, sugerencias, críticas, etc.


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