Okay so a little bit ago I made a post about making b&s armatures with non-expensive materials. Simon replied to it, but I don't think anyone else saw it. I've been working at it in my free time. This is what I have figured out.
Balls- Bought a bunch on Amazon. Easy enough.
Rods- Bought some at Lowe's. Easy too.
Sockets- This is where it gets hard. I want to use this material called thermoplastic. You basically just heat it up and it can be molded then it cools and is hard. I'm having trouble with mass producing these, as well as making sure they are relatively the same size. i also have to drill them in relatively the same spot, too. Here are my solutions :
Make a jig- I've done this, and it works well, however it isn't practical for mass production and I can't really control the height of the piece.
Make a cutout- I've done this too. Thermoplastic is kinda hard to cut evenly. Not practical for mass production.
Make a grid cutout- I've thought about making a piece of wood with a grid engraved in, so that I can have a slap of plastic on and then run a pizza cutter through the grooves. This would be practical, but I don't think it will be easy to evenly cut the thermoplastic.
Make a cookie cutter-I think this is the most effective solution. If I made a cookie cutter grid that I could simply press into the thermoplastic, I think this would work well. I could knock out a bunch of these quickly, too.
The main problem is, I have no idea how to make one of these cookie cutter things. I'm fairly young so I don't have many tools to shape material. Please let me know how you think I could make this. If I find something good, I'll report back with my findings.
I think it might be difficult to make the plastic sockets strong enough, without also being too thick to fit easily into most character designs. Not sure I can actually visualise this. But if it works for you, great!
If I had to make a cookie cutter I guess I would start with a strip of sheet metal - steel - maybe sharpen one edge, then bend it into the shape I want with pliers.
I very rarely make ball and socket armatures. (Armature wire works nearly as well for me and is quicker, cheaper, and easier for me to make, half a day rather than a week for a full B&S armature, then I can get on with the sculpting and animating.) When I do, I mostly use aluminium for the plates. Sometimes, when I need to make the joint really thin, I have used chain plates - like motorcycle chain - which are hardened steel so they can be very thin but still strong enough to take tension without bowing. But being hard, they are also very difficult to drill, even the cobalt bits go blunt pretty quickly.
I use Armature wire, which is annealed aluminium wire. 1/8" (3mm) for legs and spine. 1/16" for neck wires, arms, and fingers, except when I use a thinner 1mm for hands and fingers. I buy it in Australia, but you can get it at Marc's Stop Motion Magic https://www.stopmotionstore.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath... in the US, in all the sizes you could want. Also from an online store called Whimsie.
To avoid breaks, I bend and handle the wire with my hands, not with pliers, so as not to put any scratches on it. I leave enough room at the joints for the wire to bend over about half an inch, not forced to bend in the same tiny spot. If I use metal tubing to join arm wires with hand wires, or anywhere else, I leave a blob of epoxy at the end, around the wire, so the cut edges of the tube don't touch the wire.
There are still some advantages to ball joints though, so I hope this thermoplastic thing works out for you.
Dark Earth has been in production for a few years now, but I think Peter may be finishing it in 2020. As far as I know all my stop motion scenes are finished (A flock of pterosaurs and the monster in the video), but there are other builder/animators working on their creatures still. And there is still some live action to shoot.
I am still doubtful about whether you will succeed with plastic, but if you are determined to continue, I wonder if you are using the right sort of plastic and going about it the right way.
The joint plates need to be made in quantity to identical dimensions, so logically should be made in a mould. Using thermoplastic implies a rigid mould that can resist high temperatures, so a resin mould would work but might present difficulties demoulding. Alternatively you could investigate thermosetting plastics, specifically the fast cast resins, which can be mixed and poured into a mould, thus requiring a soft mould like a silicone, making it easy to pop them out. I understand the fast cast resins come with different properties, so there might be one that has high tensile strength.
But as I say, I am doubtful this will be sufficient for the loads put on a ball joint that is optimised in design for using metal. Then your route would be to redesign the joint for the material. Look at examples like Stickybones.
Let me ask few things about the armature as well.
the first thing is the ball diameter. Is there a recommended/ preferred size? I am currently making one with M3 rods and 6mm balls. But it feels too small for a 12 inch / 30 cm puppet. Problem is it’s difficult to source the material from wholesalers instead of animation shops which sell them for way too much.
the other thing is again about having difficulty in sourcing wire. So is it annealed or galvanized or both? I found stainless steel wire but I guess it will break easily.
A 6mm ball is probably a good size for an ankle, knee, or elbow. I just measured the balls on a 12" tall armature I bought ages ago, and it has 5/16th " (about 8mm) balls for all joints. (I have never used it in a puppet because the rods and plates are steel and it is too heavy, but it works ok, I tested it. But it didn't animate any better than one of my wire armatures.) It would be nice to have a bigger ball in the ankle, which takes all the weight, but for most of my characters it just won't fit. This 8mm ball makes the ankle joint a bit too wide for most of my 12" human figures.
Armature wire is Annealed Aluminium wire. Not galvanised. Not steel. Steel will usually be too springy, the exception is florist's wire which is more of a soft steel which doesn't bounce back as much. Some people have used it for fingers, which is probably the main thing to use wire for if you are using ball joints for the rest of the armature. A hybrid armature with wire for spine and neck (and tail if it has one) can work, since both of those bend all over in curves, with ball joints for the arms and legs.
Whimsie in the US call it Soft Round Aluminum Craft Wire: http://www.whimsie.com/aluminum%20craft%20wire.html
Flints Theatrical Chandlers in the UK sell it as Round Aluminium Armature Wire. It is in the Propsmakers Materials section of their Catalogue. http://www.flints.co.uk/content/
Another UK source is Wires.co.uk. They have an aluminium wire called Extra Soft which would probably be the annealed wire: https://www.wires.co.uk/acatalog/al_wire.html
Thank you Nick. I just saw your "Animateur" looking at another thread in search for hair and beard solutions. Wow. I am amazed with your work and also with your prolific input and involvement with teaching and supporting people at the forums.
I did find the wires.co.uk source. It seems pretty good and several times cheaper than other animation specific sources. I tried aliexpress but couldn't find anything, so I think the Wires website is good enough for my current needs.
The reason I am asking about the ball and sockets is that I've read they're supposed to last longer and not break like the wired ones. I am a complete beginner and of course I need to do exercises first and test various ways of doing things, but I was thinking of starting with a short film. I wouldn't like the wire to break in the middle of it. I have been reading though that you are a proponent of wired armatures. Perhaps they're better for shorter stuff? I also watched a film that blew my mind called "junk head". The guy made all armatures himself.
Here's my first attempt with wire. I forgot to put the nuts for the tie downs. Anyway I can fix that? I was thinking perhaps with the brass tubings.
Regarding b&s I sourced almost everything, besides the metal plates to sandwich the balls for the b&s joint. Can I use brass or is it better to use steel, and should it be stainless?
Since I am at it what is a preferred length and width for the joint's plate?
ok I found this thread http://www.stopmotionanimation.com/forum/topics/screws-and-steel-brass which explains brass b&s.
Sorry for multiple posts but there isn't an option to edit my post after some time has passed.
Nick I saw your buildup puppet tutorial on youtube, where you are using aluminium foot blocks. I guess it is easy to make with just a dremel/proxxon, but do you find that aluminium is strong enough?
I will check at your channel perhaps you have a tutorial there.