Creating the Armature
This Instructable will be a step-by-step guide, in four parts, on how I am making my first stop-motion animation puppet. Since this is my first attempt, I'm not sure how well it will work. If it works, GREAT! If not, then we will have an instructable on how NOT to make a stop-motion armature.
I will be photographing and documenting each step as I go along in hopes that I will have an in depth guide on how you can create your own armature for your own projects.
The materials used in this project are extremely basic crafting supplies and should be available at most (if not all) craft stores including Michaels, Hobby Lobby, and even WalMart.
Their are many ways of creating a stop motion armature. You can create one completely out of armature wire, which I think would be the easiest method (correct me if I'm wrong), you could make or buy ball-joint armatures out of aluminum and steel. This method is used by professionals as well as hobbyists, but requires more patience and craftsmanship if you wish to make one and quite a bit of money if you want to buy one. The method I'm using seems to fall right in between these two methods. The tools used pretty much everyone either has or has access to, and its a relatively easy build.
Step 1: Draw Your Model
First thing you need to do is draw your model life sized. Whatever it may be. In this case it is going to be a scale model of a human.
Coming from a fine art background, I know that the "ideal" human figure is 7.5 heads tall. Meaning that if our model is going to have a head 1in. tall, the overall figure is going to be 7.5in. tall.
You can search online for human proportions and find reference photos to help you out. I used this one to help guide me.
Step 2: Measure the "skeleton"
Using your drawing, measure the length of the areas where the "bones" are going to be on your armature.
These are going to be the upper and lower arms, thighs and shins, shoulder/chest area, and pelvis/hip areas.
**Remember that the lengths of the bones MUST NOT TOUCH. We will connect these bones with armature wire to create the joints so we can pose our model**.
Once you have these measurements, you can compile a cut-list for the material that we will be using.
Step 3: Collect Your Material
Using your cut-list you can figure out how much and what type of material you will need for the armature's "bones".
For this armature we're going to have 1" sections of 1/4" dowel for the fore arms (2), thighs (2), and shins (2); 3/4" sections of 1/4" dowel for the upper arms; 1 1/2" x 1/2" x 1/2" basswood for the shoulders/chest; 1 1/4" x 1/2" x 1/2" basswood for the hips/pelvis.
For the joints, we'll be using 2mm. soft aluminum Wire Form which is made for armatures.
Step 4: Gather the Tools
The tools we will be using for this project are a rotary tool fitted with a cutting bit and a 2mm. drill bit, Welder Industrial-Strength Contact Adhesive (since its what I have). We'll also be using (not pictured) a hand saw, wire cutters, and a small nail.
Step 5: Cutting the Pieces.
Using the cut list, measure out the lengths of material needed for the bone structure.
We're going to start with a 1" arm section.
Clamp your material down in a vice, Using the rotary tool, carefully cut off the section of dowel. Its always better to cut a little extra and sand down to size than it is to cut too short and have to re-cut a piece.
Follow this procedure for the rest of the pieces. I found while trying to cut the 1/2" x 1/2" basswood, that the rotary tool would not allow me to make the cuts so I had to pull out a hand saw to finish the job.
It also might be a good idea to label your pieces with a permanent marker in case you need to leave the project and come back at a later time.
Step 6: Make the Joints
Using the 2mm. drill bit, we are going to drill the sockets for the aluminum wire. For all the pieces used to make up the arms and legs, you will need to drill a hole into each end of the dowel.
For the Chest piece, you are going to drill a hole in each end and a hole centered on two opposite faces of the basswood. The end holes will allow you to attach the upper arm segments and the holes on the faces will allow you to attach the head/neck and the lower half of the body.
For the Hip segment, drill a centered hole on the top face to attach with the upper half of the body, and a hole on each end for the thigh pieces.
Use a small nail as a center punch to mark the ends of the wooden parts, but be very careful. I had to re-cut one of the arm segments because the nail split the dowel. You just need a small indentation for the drill bit to start out on so it doesn't walk around and ruin the piece.
Step 7: Make the Connections
Using the contact adhesive and aluminum armature wire, we are going to start to assemble all the parts.
Place a bead of the adhesive to a scrap piece of cardboard or paper-towel and dip in the tip of a piece of the aluminum wire. When you have a good amount on the wire, insert it into one of your wooden segments, then cut off the excess. Remember to leave at least an inch of wire sticking out so you have some room to trim it to size later on. Insert one bit of wire into each piece and let it set up for a while.
Once these are dry (if you attached the armature wire in the order I have) you can finish one of the legs and one of the arms.
""*NOTE* After gluing a piece of wire into each wooden piece, I noticed it would have been easier if I had marked off a 1/4" point on the drill bit, as a depth meter, so all the holes would be equally deep, making it easier while cutting the armature wire without having to check the length over and over again.""
Luckily for this armature, the joint spaces all rounded out to a nice 1/2" space.
For the "spine" of the armature, simply line up the Chest and Hip blocks with your drawing to figure out a length of wire.
Once all the wire is cut you can start assembling the pieces.
Step 8: Closing
In creating this armature I've learned a few short-cuts for making future projects go a bit faster.
First of all being to drill all the holes equally deep so I can measure the 1/4â depths from the sockets plus the distance between the dowel, in this case the length of the wire would have been one inch for each piece.
Second, I would have used a better (read quicker) adhesive. This stuff takes 24 hours to reach full hardness. I've read that plumbers epoxy works wonders in this industry for creating armatures, and it only sets in 5 minutes.
The second part in this series will be adding some body to the armature using some padding from the fabric section from the craft store.