I’d like to thank everyone who expressed an interest, it really pushed me through to completing the documentation of the process.
Step 1: Plan, Reference and Gather.
If you’ve worked in three dimensions before, you can probably skip this whole section but I’ll just let you know how I get down.
Think of something you’d want to do, the size you want to do it, the base you want to put it on (if you want to use a base), etc.
Find some reference material or create some reference material. This is optional but if you want to create something realistic or something that resembles “your idea”, you’ll want some scale drawings. Generally, I’ll print off some outlines “to scale” of the things I’ll be doing, found on the internet or in a book, movie, whatever (modified, if need be). You can also just zoom in or out of pictures on your computer screen, and use that, but putting wires and rulers up against your screen is a bad idea, you could scratch it.
I didn’t print off any outlines this time, I figured the shape was familiar enough that I didn’t need it. I did do a quick sketch in MS Paint just to remind myself of a few reference points I got from a few pictures I’ve seen online. Since I don’t own the pictures I won’t be putting them up here, but if you click the links below, you can see what I saw…used.
Google image search for “octopus”
Google image search for “octopus outline”
Google image search for “octopus mouth anatomy”
Google image search for “ocean seaweed”
I’ll be doing a 4.5”/11.5cm long octopus on a 3.37”/8.5cm metal lid (from a pickle or pasta sauce jar, I forget), I’ll turn it into a magical seaweed floor. After project edit: ok, it’s not so magical…
Once you have the size and reference worked out, figure out what you’ll need to get it done.
For this project (and most others of this sort) you’ll just need some wires and some pliers (and some wire cutters if there are no cutters integrated into your pliers).
Specifically, I will be using:
1. Husky 6 piece Precision Wire Set (bought from Home Depot for this instructable, $7, just to prove cheap can work fine).
2. 18 gauge galvanized wire, bought accidently when I was grabbing a bunch of the 20 gauge spools from Canadian Tire (usually I’d use the far cheaper 18g roll from Home Depot, Rona, etc, but they don’t have 20g, which is why I was grabbing those…but I digress…$6 for the spool I got, $3 for the roll at Home Depot). Used for the core, “skeleton”, being slightly thicker than the “wrap” makes it easier, but it’s not mandatory, if you only have a single gauge, then using a single gauge for everything will be just fine. Used about 3 yards or 3 meters or 9 feet.
3. 20 gauge galvanized wire (bought for this instructable, $6 at Canadian Tire), for the “wrap around and fill it out” portion. Guessing I’ll use at least 20 yards, 20 meters, 60 feet (turns out, that’s about what I used, judging from what’s left on the spool).
4. Loctite thick Gel Super Glue to help with odd fitting pieces (you’ll see later, it’s just way easier than making everything perfect or having to hold dozens of wires in the perfect position…you can use any glue or epoxy putty you like, no need to run out and buy what I happen to use, they all work). Actually, you can avoid super glue but it’ll just be easier in a few places if you use it.
5. A base to display your work on. I’ll be using a metal lid I saved from a large jar.
--Bondo on the lid, need sandpaper to remove the paint from the lid or at least rough it up for adhesion, also to sand the bondo (used 220 grit, anything in the 160 to 400 range should work fine, 400 will take forever to flatten the bondo though, if it’s horribly done like I end up doing).
-JB Weld 2-part epoxy for holding wires to the base.
6. Additional items that help but aren’t needed
-fine tip marker to mark measurements on the wires, help plan things on any reference sheets you make/print (mark center lines! Not so important on this particular project but others you’ll regret it if you don’t). I do lots of visual art stuff, so I’ve got dozens of brands on hand. For marking wires, I like Sharpies the best, any will do but Sharpie is just better.
-rulers, calipers, etc, used to measure things and keep things accurate (obviously silly!). I got these inexpensive plastic calipers (Vernier) which have made me wonder how I lived without them ($10 for a set of 6 at Lee Valley, I’ve seen them elsewhere but LV’s seemed to be cheaper and more accurate).
-I’ll add “finishing supplies” here. Some people want the metal to show, some want it to rust, some like it coloured up bright or realistic, etc. So it’s up to you how you finish it off, I’ll be priming and painting everything with Tremclad Rust. Priming is important, don’t skip it.
Now get everything together and get ready to start wire bending! And pretend like you’re really excited, so I feel cool.
Almost forgot, most important thing for me is a big cup of ice and a huge bottle of Coke Zero. Caffeine is my friend and we’re very close. You can’t have any of my Coke, don’t ask, it doesn’t like you. But I’m sure there’s a lovely bottle at your local store anxious to make your acquaintance…just not my bottle!
Step 2: Creating the Pieces, Part 1.
And now, a note on safety: Just pay attention to what you’re doing. Most people don’t think of pliers and wires as being very dangerous, but they can be, not only for children, but for experienced and responsible adults too. Pliers and wire cutters can pinch your skin between the handles pretty badly, as in, you don’t have to put your fingers between the jaws to hurt yourself. And once you cut a wire, it becomes very sharp. It’s literally a tiny flying razor blade, whipping about at the end of the wire. I can’t even count the number of cuts, punctures and gashes I’ve received from them. It’s jagged which means it digs in and tears/cuts the flesh very efficiently. So, the danger isn’t huge but if you poke your eye with a wire, you’re really going to regret not being a little more careful with what you were doing. Mostly, I end up poking my fingers with the cut ends of wires on the sculpture I’m working on. Avoid this by pinching the wires around the sculpture, so the point isn’t sticking outward.
Sometimes I’ll do everything at once (as in, all the limbs and such will be built up over a single armature/skeleton), other times (like now), when the design makes it a better idea, I’ll create separate items and put them together at some future point (which is usually multiple armatures/skeletons/cores/bones/etc that will be put together to create the final figure).
We’ll start with the legs/limbs/tentacles. You’ll want to start with them too. Grab the 18g wire, measure about 12”/30cm, cut it off. Bend it in half, tightly close the bend in on itself, you want little to no gap at the bend. Measure about ½” or 12mm from the bent end, make a right angle bend (this will help with the wrapping, a leverage point to twist). Now grab the 20g wire. Leave about 2”/5cm of the 20g wire and wrap it around the bent piece a couple times then start wrapping it tightly at the bend, wrapping away from the bend. Continue wrapping down until you get 3”/76mm from the tip of the bent end (or 2.5”/63mm from the right angle bend). At this point you’ll change directions and continue wrapping but going back over the layer you just wrapped. Important to be careful here. Keep things tight and don’t skip links, wrap as close to the end of the previous wrap layer as possible. This second layer, you’ll want to wrap down until you are about ½” or 12mm from the right angle bend (or 1”/2.5cm from the bent tip of the tentacle). Now you might be thinking you need to do 8 of these in total…but no! Do five more so you have a total of 6.
The last 2 will be slightly different. The difference is that we need a way to attach this beast to the base and I want it swimming in the water, not sitting on the ground, sooo…we’ll add some seaweed bits off the end of the tentacles to make contact with the base (sea floor). They’ll be done exactly the same as the other tentacles, with a little extra step. When you start wrapping, only wrap up about 3/8” or 10mm from the right angle bend. Once there, straighten out the wire and measuring about 2”/5cm down the 20g wire you are wrapping with (from the tentacle), bending this tightly back toward the tentacle where you’ll just continue wrapping up and down the tentacle as with the others. Make another one of these. Now you should have 8 tentacles, 2 of which will have a little offshoot of seaweed. Put them to the side.
Question: Why not just put the “seaweed” off one of the ends of the wires, where they come to an end on the tentacle?
Answer: Because it’s just a little more secure to wrap both ends of the wire around the tentacle a few times. Feel free to do it any way you wish, it should work fine either way. This project isn’t big enough for it to be an issue.
Step 3: Creating the Pieces, Part 2.
Now, what’s with them sticky outey bits with the bends and the offsetting? They’re the beak! Yes, octopuses…octopi?...whatever…sumo calamari pre-breading and deep-frying... they have viscous beaks that do horrendous damage, it probably will not be seen but it’s cool so I got to put it in the sculpture.
Split the 2 bent tips, bend them away from each other, bend them flat against the wires holding them, as tight as possible, hit it with a hammer or your largest pliers if you need to, to get them bent out at right angles. Measure about 1/8” or 3-4mm from the center where they split apart, both ways. Mark it with a marker, scratch it with the tip of some pliers, something. Now grab some of your thinnest tipped pliers, grab tightly just to the outside of that mark, twist up to a right angle, same for the other side. Now put pencil or pen in between them, bend the bent tips over the curved surface. You can also use round nose pliers, if you have those, or the rounded jaws on most chain/long/needle nose pliers, if you have those. Otherwise, just curve the wires toward each other, one should be slightly smaller than the other (bottom jaw/beak/whatever).
Note about the beak, post project: So, as it turns out, the lower beak is the larger beak. You may want to adjust your plans accordingly. Also, my beak was way too big, you may want to leave 5/16” or 8mm of wires sticking out of the central piece (instead of 1/2”) and then bend them at the 3/32” or 2mm mark. My mistake doesn’t have to be yours, apologies for my stupidity not studying the reference better…more accurately, thinking I was too good for references.
Now we can split the 4 wires sticking out of the top into 2 sets of 2. Twist each set of 2, if you twist them in opposite directions then they will match (read: mirror) directions when you form the eyes. Aligning them with the beak, straiten them out and angle them forward slightly and split apart a tiny amount.
Step 4: Creating the Pieces, Part 3.
They can be bent to a right angle in any direction except the 2 with the seaweed bits, bend that away from the seaweed, towards the opposite side (this will bring the seaweed part on the tentacles down into the proper position later on, if you don’t do it this way, it’s no worry, easily fixed, just need to twist the tentacle later on).
After everything is twisted up top, lets tidy up the bottoms. Straiten the tentacles out and unwrap the extra bits of wire. Double check that all the wraps are ending at the right spot and that all the wraps are tight. When you're happy, cut off any extra bits of wire (be careful, don't cut off the seaweeds!). If you want to hide the unpleasant looking cut ends, cut them off at a length so that when you wrap it around, it will be hidden or less visible. Generally this'll be on the bottom/underside. The bottom is on the seaweed side for the seaweed tentacles. For all the others, it's where ever you like, so just cut both wires to end in the same area (then when assembling, face those cut ends so they end up toward the bottom). After they're cut, use your pliers to tighten the cut tips around the tentacle. You should end up with a nice pile of limbs.
Now that all the pieces are ready, it’s on to the next step, assembly. After an emergency meeting with my good friend caffeine!
Step 5: Putting the Pieces Together.
Take your 8 tentacles, lay them all out in 2 star/'T'/plus sign patterns, bent bit upwards and in the center, tentacle against the ground. Lay the 2 seaweed tentacles off the side of a table, seaweed down, so they lay flat. There’s a pic, words fail how to explain it well. Push the upward bits together.
Measure 24” to 36”, 60cm to 90cm, of the 20g wire (more or less depending how many times you wish to wrap around the head later on, I used about 24” but I would have liked to do a few more wraps so, if I did it again, I’d use about 36”). Grab any of the tentacles and wrap the 20g wire around the long section a few times, near the bent 1/2", 12mm. Grab the other 3 tentacles in that group and wrap the 20g around the upward bent ends of the 4 tentacles, you only need a couple wraps around, 1/8” or 4mm. Then wrap back down to the bend, when you reach it, wrap in tight to it, then measure another 24” to 36”, 60cm to 90cm, of wire and cut it off at that point. Bend the ends of the twisted wires over and around the wires wrapping them, cut off any extra that gets in the way.
Now wrap the other set of 4 wires the same way, but without the extra wires. Just a couple tight wraps to hold them secure.
Forming the head is fairly simple. First, grab one set of tentacles, bend them with a gentle curve, upwards, forming 4 half-moons/semi-circles. This should cause the tentacles to hang strait down from the top of the head. Do this to the second set as well. Last part to forming the head will be to grab the tentacles without the extra wires and sharply bend the tentacles upwards from the top of the head, right from the side of the wrapped piece. About half the length the wrapped piece, bend the tentacle sharply back down, angling it to match the other set of tentacles that will be placed over. Do this to all 4 tentacles, this creates a sort of pocket for the other set of tentacles to nest into. Pictures explain this far better than my words. Take a moment and try to make sure the tentacles are all lined up and the head is shaped well.
Grab the center piece (with the beak), place it in the … wait for it … center! Aligning the top of the tentacles with the top of center piece (notice I moved mine up above the tentacles a bit, mainly because the beak I made ended up being much larger than I intended, if you make yours smaller, it should line up better). Make sure to put the beak between the tentacles with the 2 sets of twisted wires sticking upwards, one on each side of the central wire (opposite the wire on the back side, the wire between the 2 with the seaweed extras). What I’ll do is hold the 8 tentacles at the bottom (thin ends), so they angle outward while supporting the center piece up top. Make sure you’ve got a piece of wire handy, grab the glue and squirt it all around the central piece. Mind your fingers! Now close the tentacles in against the central piece and hold in one hand while starting to wrap (use a piece of scrap wire, this will be waste, 4”/10cm or so should do), tightly, around the whole thing with the other. Get a few tight wraps around and then twist the ends of the wire together to really tighten things up. Then wait until the glue is solid, let it cure for a while. Overall, it’ll look something like a light bulb and hopefully, somewhat octopus’ish.
Alternately, you can tighten the tentacles around the center piece then drop thin super glue into the crevices. It will get sucked into the gaps and secure things. I did glue both before and after…I went way overboard with the glue. Look at that craziness in the pics! Had to go back and remove lots of dried glue all around the outside (when I removed the wire holding things together while it dried).
At this point, we’ll need to form the tentacles closer into their final position before continuing. So I’ll just be making them all wavy in a widening towards the ends pattern. Starting by bending the tentacles outward, ever so slightly, from the bottom of the central piece, then bending back and forth along the length, fiddling until it looks good. You can actually angle them slightly wider than you’d like the final position to be, the next step can push things in. Just be careful no to pull on them, don't want to break the glue holding it together.
While the glue dried, I got myself an Iced Cap from Timmies. Now it’s gone and I need a fix…all the jokes about mainlining caffeine, you’d think someone would be selling a Coke or Pepsi or Starbucks "I.V. attachment for your smartphone" already, at least on the black market. Imagine how profits would soar above the competition? Come on, get on it Coke Zero team!
Step 6: Wrapping the Body.
If you notice in the pictures, I wrapped the head a few times before wrapping the body, because I wasn’t sure how I was going to handle that position. As it turns out, it’s a better idea to do as I describe here (instead of how I did it), which is a little different than the pictures I took while working, but that’s why. I think it will be clear from the pictures so you can choose how you wish to proceed. I’d suggest you start by tightly wrapping around one of the bottom head wires, right beside the top of the tentacle, with the 20g wire. Just a tight wrap around then continue wrapping around the head once, then you’ll want to wrap down the body about 1/2” or 12mm from the top of the tentacles. At this point we’ll start the stretched skin between the tentacles. This will be done the same as everything else, simply wrapping around the tentacles. The difference with this part is that the tentacles angle outward slightly from this point on, so care must be taken to not deform them much. Stick a finger in the middle to provide counter pressure. The other difference is that the wrapping should form more of an octagon shape, instead of a circle starting here. As the skin is stretched between the tentacles and so it is stretched across the area between, you’ll want to just pull the wire a little tighter as you wrap from tentacle to tentacle. Continue wrapping until you get to about ¾” or 19mm. Here you can cut about ½” or 12mm or wire past one of the bottom tentacles, then wrap that extra bit around the tentacle to lock those wires in place. Hold the wires tight with your fingers as you cut and wrap so the whole thing doesn’t uncoil.
If your limbs aren’t vibrating from all the caffeine then I am wondering why not? Are you a robot? Anyway, I’ll need more before continuing.
Step 7: The Eyes. Wait, No, No. the Eyez!
As you see in the pictures, I formed the eyes kind of weird, side by side (so they are even) and then flipped them over into position. It is just easier to get things symmetrical that way but you can bend them both individually if you prefer. Anyway, I bent the wires at a right angle, followed by a fairly small semi-circle (that’ll become the brow) then I wrapped the wires around a pencil in the opposite direction into a full circle (that’ll be the eye socket). Lastly I just trimmed off the extra wire where it met with the brow and bent that part of the wire back behind the brow, into the skull, so the brow is prominent (pushed forward).
Step 8: Head Wrap.
Do the same thing with the other wire sticking out the top of the head. Only this time, wrap it around in the opposite direction over the top of the wires we just finished wrapping. Try to keep the spacing similar to the previous wrap. Also, focus your effort making the “face” look nice as it will be the visible portion as well as the main area of interest. Mine looked a little better before I dropped it in the middle of the painting process. Le sighez. *sobbing in my Coke Zero*
Also, don’t forget to fill in that ledge as much as possible. I ran out of wire, otherwise I would have done another wrap or two around.
Step 9: Basing.
First I’ll prepare the base. It will need to be sanded, generally I’ll sand down to the metal but if it’s in good condition you really only need to scuff the surface. I’ll use 220 grit paper but any coarse or medium grit will work. If you only want to scuff the surface, use finer grit, 400 to 600. Wipe it down with a damp rag. This is not near the finished stages so you don’t need to be too paranoid about dust.
Next I’ll mix up some Bondo (you could also use air dry clay, polymer clay, epoxy glue, hot glue, etc…or nothing at all). Follow the instructions on your filler of choice and spread it on top of the lid, quickly smoothing it out. Let it cure then use some 200 to 400 grit sand paper to flatten it out and clean up any gunk around the edges. I layed a sheet of 220 grit on a flat surface and rubbed the lid against it until it was flat. Wipe it down with a damp rag again. In the pics you’ll see my bondo started to cure before I got a chance to smooth it out, so I let it cure a bit then used a pocket knife to cut off most of the bumps, it’s easier to do that now than it is to sand it later, so this will save you some energy if it happens to you.
Then I’ll create a pile of weeds, at various lengths. You can see a bunch of dots on the lid in different pictures, this was me playing around thinking about how many I'd need to create and how dense I'd want them laid out. I’ll cut a bunch of wires between about 2” and 5” (5cm and 13cm). I figured I’d want about 20 some odd seaweeds, so I did 6 each of 2, 3, 4 and 5 inches. Next, bend them in half, making sure there’s no gap between the wires at the bend. Then ¼” or 7mm from the cut ends, a sharp right angle bend, from there, twist and curve them around, like seaweed swaying in the currents, making sure there’s no gap between the wires. I just did a pile of them, random curves, “C” and “S” shapes, etc.
You can prepare all the extra bits hanging off the octopus in the same manner, just don’t cut anything off the ends. That would just weaken the structure. I left mine strait which I regret now, it doesn’t look right in all honesty, I thought it would be more hidden…but mistakes and oversights seem unavoidable on this project.
Now take some time and plan the layout of the seaweed and the octopus. Try to make it look as natural and appealing as possible. Natural generally means odd number groups and no more than 2 in a strait line. Use a fine tip marker to mark where everything will be placed on the base (lid). Once you’re satisfied with the layout, drill out all the spots for the weeds and "octopus attachment weeds" too. You can do this however you see fit. I’ll be using a bit just a hair wider than the 2 wires used to form the weeds. I’ll drill a hole for every weed. Now that they’re all drilled, turn it upside down and put everything in their holes and hang them there. Do this to check that everything is satisfactory. The tentacles off the octopus need to be sized and the ends bent under the lid as well.
I think, if I did it again, I'd place the seaweed in tighter clumps, 3 or 4 groups of seaweeds much closer together. More of a positive and negative defined space.
Once you’re happy with everything, start gluing things down. You can do this however you see fit, but what I’ll do is this. First I’ll tack everything in place with a drop of super glue. Then I’ll mix up some JB Weld (follow the instructions) and start slapping it all over the underside of the lid. Making sure to get under, over and in between all the wires. This is why I super glued them in place, makes it easier to push the epoxy into the crevices. At which point I’ll need to let it cure for a few hours upside down, so if you do it this way too, be prepared to either hang it off something, so the base remains flat and upside down, or at least close to that. Because the super glue isn’t strong enough to hold things on its own.
Usually the JB Weld will drip through the holes and fill them in, but it didn’t this time, the little divots around most of the seaweed wasn’t intentional but I figured “meh”. I’d normally fill them in but time was becoming an issue.
Step 10: Painting.
If you used something that rusts...and don't want it to rust...then use a good rust preventing primer. Spray a couple thin coats, drying between. Don’t overdo it, you do not want sags, runs or puddles. Follow the instructions.
Use a good rust preventing paint the colour of the octopus. Spray a couple thin coats, drying between. Don’t overdo it, you do not want sags, runs or puddles. This happens to me just about every time I try to hurry and do things in fewer steps. Follow the instructions. Keep an eye out for missed spots, get them NEXT TIME. Don’t just throw tons of paint at the area. Light passes!
You’ll want to use spray paint (or put it through a spray gun) for those first few layers of primer and paint on the octopus. This is due to the mind boggling number of surfaces that need to be covered on all those wires. It’s simply impossible to get a good coating on every wire from every angle with a brush without getting a ton of paint layered up way too thick where you don’t want it. Of course, you’re free to try but I haven’t been able to get it to work that way at all. Mainly due to the amount of paint a brush lays down coupled with the drying time of paints, even if it takes hours, to get “dry to the touch” you have minutes before it starts gumming up.
At this point you can switch to craft paints or whatever you have on hand. Otherwise, I’ll be using a brush on rust preventing paint to get the final colours down but it can get really expensive really fast if you’re just doing a project or two, so it’s not required and won’t help anything. The metal is already protected from rust by now and all the crevices are filled with a load of durable paint to increase the overall strength of the structure, so…there we are.
Brush the ocean floor sandy, the seaweed green, the rim of the base black, in that order. If you want to add some details to the octopus you can do that last, then call it a day. I got some dust and grit on the rim of the base when spraying, so I sanded it off before brushing the black on. I'd suggest a brown for the octopus, the grey has an interesting greenish hue but it doesn't show with the green seaweed or the "sand" coloured base, so it seems rather dull now. Of course, any colours you want to use are your choice, a green octopus with that dark reddish/brown/black seaweed would be cool, if you can avoid the Christmas themed look.
Step 11: End Results, After Thoughts, Etc.
If you wanted to go further with this project-you can paint the octopus in one of the more decorative skin varieties, a brown or reddish-brown would be nice, add the suckers (in wire) on the tentacles, do more with the eyes (use beads or something), have a more extreme pose-attacking prey or squirting ink, etc. You could do a squid instead, they’ve got more elaborate heads…um…go wild. Paint the beak, create more elaborate seaweed…um…see if you can do it hanging upside down and finish before your ears start to bleed? My ear balls! Virtual cookies and 100 ThrasymLand’s e-monies for anyone who knows the source, all that and more could be yours! Most importantly, I’ll know you’re cool.
Legal Disclaimer: The author is not responsible for loss of life, limb or exploded ear balls if you attempt this project
That cheap set of pliers worked well enough. They had a little edge along all the jaws though, which dug into the wires something fierce, like even on the smooth jaw pliers. Also the cutters tended to be really difficult to cut the wires with. I think it was a combination of a softer metal plus the cutters not mating properly. They'd probably work fine on thicker and/or softer wires. I think, it's probably worth it to spend a bit more on pliers that have a little more attention paid to their finishing and a harder metal used in the cutters, etc. You can get sets of miniature pliers in the $15 to $30 range at any place that sells tools, usually, at least in North America. Or you can find individual pliers starting at $5 or so. On the other hand, you can sand or grind off that unwanted cutting edge with a little work and then they'd be great. Except the cutters... ironically. But anyway...almost everyone has pliers already so I'll shut up.
Feel free to ask questions if anything is unclear or problematic.
Best of luck.
Oh em gee. I'm about to hit save and submit on a real 'ible.