Hi, new to the site. I have a question about protecting aluminum wire from breaking for use in puppet making. I was considering adding a layer of hot glue on the wire so as to add support, and in the case of the wire breaking, the layer of glue would still keep it in place. The glue is flexible and seems to hold up pretty well. Any thoughts?
You can use hot glue as "bones" to stiffen the wire, where it isn't supposed to bend, maybe. But not at the joints where you need the wire to bend. It isn't flexible enough. And if the wire broke it wouldn't help. I use epoxy putty as bones, and leave a gap of 8 to 12 mm at the joints so it isn't forced to bend in too small a spot. Using more than one strand of wire can help, if one wire breaks the other may keep you going to the end of the shot. For my 12" humanoid puppets, I usually have 2 strands of 18th" (3mm) armature wire in the legs. I like to have the 2 wires side by side, not twisted except at the hip, this lets the wires bend more easily front and back at the knees and ankles. I do twist it lightly in the spine. I can get through a 5 minute film with the main character not breaking any wires, sometimes even a second film, though by then the foam latex is likely to be deteriorating .
Smaller puppets need finer wire. 2 or 3 strands of 1/16th" (1.5mm) wire work for the legs and spine of a 5 to 7 inch tall puppet. I've just used 2 strands of 2.5mm wire for a wolf puppet legs and spine, it's a size not found at art supply stores but I got it from Whimsie in the US. The 3mm was just a bit too stiff for the size.
To help the wire last longer: Be sure to bend the wires with your hands, don't use pliers anywhere near where the joints will be. A knick in the wire will cause it to fatigue and break. Leave a gap in the joint area so the wire can bend in a more gentle curve, not too sharp a bend in the same tiny spot.
Some puppet makers like to make arms, legs, or hands replaceable so if a wire breaks you can put in a new one. I don't usually bother, except for replaceable heads, so one body can be used for several characters. You can hold the wire in place with a screw, or sometimes just by fitting one square brass tube inside another nd pinching them a bit with pliers. It is better if the wires are first glued into some metal tubing, so the screw doesn't squish the wire itself, but presses against the hard tube. (I use round aluminium tube, because the brass is not good for latex, and square tubing only comes in brass.) The ends of metal tube can be sharp, so a blob of epoxy glue or putty extending at the end of the tube protects the wire from being cut by the metal edge. Same with metal blocks for hip or chest, even aluminium is harder than the soft annealed aluminium armature wire, so a bit of epoxy where the wire comes out of the block can protect it. My aluminium foot blocks need a bit of epoxy around the holes where the wires go in. Wooden blocks aren't a problem. Blobs of epoxy putty formed around the wire instead of glueing the wire into holes in blocks are also not problem.
I do sometimes drill a few extra holes in the hip block, just in case I need to fit a new wire for one of the legs, but it is really very rare for a leg wire to break. But if there is room it's not a bad idea.
Here's a wire armatured puppet being made, showing how I do it. Also look on Youtube for tutorials by Bluworm (Richard Svensen) who uses armature wire for his many puppets.
Great tips! Ive decided against the glue for now as it seems unnecessary. In my test, the glue outlasted the wire, then immediately pierced through. I might think using it in the future though, since it is quite flexible. Im sure wires will end up breaking and thats all part of the fun. I appreciate the thoughtful reply!