Nicholas Armature: Part 1

Posted by on Jul 7, 2012 in Blog | No Comments

I’ve been prompted to go more in-depth with armature building, which I agree I should do, at least as a reference for not what to do next time I find myself having to build another one. 🙂

Definition of what an armature is from Wikipedia: It is the “framework around which the sculpture is built.” In this case, the armature is the skeleton or rig for the puppets I am helping my friend Sara build for her stop motion animation, tentatively named “Nicholas.” My task is to make Nick’s skeleton.

Nick, rough design

Design of Nick, by Ashley Kliment

Here were the supplies I used to make it. We chose to go with basic wire armature, because a) it is easier to work with than ball-and-join armatures, and b) wires are more affordable for broke college students. The wires used for this one were 16 gauge aluminum, 18 gauge aluminum, and 24 gauge steel galvanized. Other supplies used: pliers, scissors, 4 jam nuts, vinyl gloves, and SteelStik epoxy putty.

Supplies used for basic wire armature.

I started by twisting a strand of 16-gauge and a strand of 18-gauge wire together for the legs, and reinforced it with a third 18 gauge strand, which I also used to intertwine a jam nut to each heel for stability and a place to tie down the puppet later on. Next, I twisted a 16-gauge and 18-gauge strand for the pelvis/spine/neck, weaving it with the top part of the legs. Then I used two strands of 18-gauge to make the arms; they kept on breaking off at the ends, and ultimately broke in half, so I’ll make sure my wire braid is long enough to compensate for this next time…also, not to twist *too* tightly. (And I will also take pictures of this so it’s not all abstract text vomit. ) Lastly, I used 24-gauge wire to make each of his fingers and wound them into a jam nut, a size smaller than the heel.

To bring the wire parts together, I used SteelStik epoxy putty. It is now my absolute best friend despite its nasty smell and potential to permanently damage the nerves in my fingers (read: USE VINYL GLOVES! Latex gloves do not protect you). I put epoxy in the middle of the hands to hold down the fingers and attach it to the ends of the arms, some around the base of the feet to connect the heel more securely, and even more epoxy around the pelvis and rib cage area for shape. I added extra bits of putty where the main bones of the arms and legs would be.

Dorsum, or back of the hand. ohyeah scientific names.

Palm of the hand; left a space in the middle to allow for hand tie downs – so character can hold stuff.


The heels. Beautiful workmanship, I know.

The skull is a wooden knob we found in Michael’s. The nice part of it was the hole in the bottom flat part, so I stuffed some epoxy into it to make sure the wire neck would be snug inside and won’t jiggle around too much. Smoothed some putty around the base and voila! An attached head, and a completed wire armature.

The attached head…

…and the completed basic wire armature! Yay!

Armature next to reference sketch of Nick.

The neck is a little too long compared to the reference sketch, but the armature can stand up by itself. For a first time builder, I don’t think I did too bad. 😀 The next thing I’ll be doing is finally adding clay to this and modeling the character. Off to do some more research woo!

Thanks to these links for their tips/tricks/information on armature making:
the Scarlet Letters
Todd Elliott

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