I am fairly new to the stop motion model making and want to be an animator as a professional career. I have wanted to make a puppet for a long time now, the past experiments used wire and foam. Now that I have liquid latex I am thinking of making a puppet of a gorilla to star in a King Kong movie. The plan is to make the armature out of strong wire with wooden blocks for the head, hands and feet. The armature will be held together with epoxy putty and then muscles created using foam rubber. Over this then I will apply many coats of liquid latex. The face will be sculpted with epoxy. Don't know about the fur though.

Sound like a plan?

The two images show the sculpts of the face and chest plate.

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Thanks Tim, nice armature. In the past, I have always used 1/8 aluminum wire for arms, legs and spine. Due to a lack of available materials locally, I have began using 18 gauge galvinized steel wire for fingers and toes (single strand) and double strand of the same (twisted) for necks. Results have been good so far.  Since the steel wire is readily available, not to mention inexpensive, have you ever tried making a entire armature out of steel wire?  I know its is not as durable as aluminum and is harder to animate, but I am tempted to give it a try. Due to the aforementioned, it would have to be double stand twisted, just so there would be some redundancy in case of breakage. Of course, if I used steel, it would have to be larger than 1/16. I am thinking maybe nine or 10 gauge, twisted, might work?

Hi Wallace,

Yes I have built steel wire armatures, but not since John Dods showed me armature wire, about a million years ago. Steel wire can work of coarse just about anything van work, but they are tougher to animate, but they probably last just as long.

This video shows some animation with steel armatured puppets. Is the animation no so good cause of the wire, or am I just not a great animator, who knows?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqsOoNHkX4Y&list=UUwATkiQv2uFViy...

There is annealed steel wire that is usually better, and I used that for years and still do, but mostly for fingers. I forget the gauge, but that is the wire I started with, but the models were much smaller, and I am insure how thick that wire can be.

Here is a scene with a annealed wire armature character.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcwWu87-vzc&list=UUwATkiQv2uFViy...

Oh yeah, you wont be twisting any steel wire, way too tough, just make two strands where you need, and lash them together.

The only steel wire I've seen that was any good was florist's wire - annealed fairly soft so it's close to the feel of the aluminium armature wire.  I'm not sure if it lasts as long, but quite a few people have used it for fingers.

I'll chime in with the others - the photo of the gorilla armature looks way too spindly to me - not even close to the thickness you would want for a gorilla.

It may knuckle-walk, but would probably also stand on 2 legs to do things with it's hands (like swat biplanes).

If it's 12 inches tall, 2 strands of 3mm (1/8th", or 8 gauge according to the Whimsie website) would do for the legs and spine.    Keep the 1.5mm (1/16th", or 14 gauge) for the arms, and I suggest you use 5 or 6 strands.

My gorilla had a jointed armature, but I just made a 12" foam latex Sumo wrestler with a fairly gorilla like body shape, and with the 2 strands of 1/8th" wire in legs and spine it works ok.   But a shorter, 10" wrestler cast in silicone could not support himself or bend far enough at his fat waist, and I am now making a new armature with 3 strands of 1/8th" wire for legs and spine.  That will be stiff to animate but it's the only way it has a chance to work.  If it doesn't I'll have to strip off the silicone from the first armature and use foam latex like I did for the bigger sumo guy.   a cushion foam and latex build-up should be similar in weight to the foam latex wrestler or a little lighter.

I really liked the dinosaur animation. I thought the moving eyes in the tyrannosaurus was a nice touch. The dinos seemed to move just as well as the annealed character. Thanks for sharing the vids and info.
Tim Smyth said:

Hi Wallace,

Yes I have built steel wire armatures, but not since John Dods showed me armature wire, about a million years ago. Steel wire can work of coarse just about anything van work, but they are tougher to animate, but they probably last just as long.

This video shows some animation with steel armatured puppets. Is the animation no so good cause of the wire, or am I just not a great animator, who knows?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sqsOoNHkX4Y&list=UUwATkiQv2uFViy...

There is annealed steel wire that is usually better, and I used that for years and still do, but mostly for fingers. I forget the gauge, but that is the wire I started with, but the models were much smaller, and I am insure how thick that wire can be.

Here is a scene with a annealed wire armature character.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rcwWu87-vzc&list=UUwATkiQv2uFViy...

Oh yeah, you wont be twisting any steel wire, way too tough, just make two strands where you need, and lash them together.

Thanks for the tips, especially the wire specs, very helpful! 

StopmoNick said:

The only steel wire I've seen that was any good was florist's wire - annealed fairly soft so it's close to the feel of the aluminium armature wire.  I'm not sure if it lasts as long, but quite a few people have used it for fingers.

I'll chime in with the others - the photo of the gorilla armature looks way too spindly to me - not even close to the thickness you would want for a gorilla.

It may knuckle-walk, but would probably also stand on 2 legs to do things with it's hands (like swat biplanes).

If it's 12 inches tall, 2 strands of 3mm (1/8th", or 8 gauge according to the Whimsie website) would do for the legs and spine.    Keep the 1.5mm (1/16th", or 14 gauge) for the arms, and I suggest you use 5 or 6 strands.

My gorilla had a jointed armature, but I just made a 12" foam latex Sumo wrestler with a fairly gorilla like body shape, and with the 2 strands of 1/8th" wire in legs and spine it works ok.   But a shorter, 10" wrestler cast in silicone could not support himself or bend far enough at his fat waist, and I am now making a new armature with 3 strands of 1/8th" wire for legs and spine.  That will be stiff to animate but it's the only way it has a chance to work.  If it doesn't I'll have to strip off the silicone from the first armature and use foam latex like I did for the bigger sumo guy.   a cushion foam and latex build-up should be similar in weight to the foam latex wrestler or a little lighter.

I just found a Kong puppet on eBay. It does not have a armature, so I am not sure how you would put a armature into it without doing a lot of damage. Cool interpretation. Go to eBay and look for item number: 290785317656

http://www.ebay.com/itm/290785317656;jsessionid=861FCFB6C05A3A2DE5A...

I see that it is described as a maquette or display prop - cast in the same mould as a puppet perhaps, but never intended to be animated.  It seems to have a latex skin, filled with polyfoam, which is not ideal  for animating anyway.  I have had to cut open a foam puppet to replace wire when an armature broke, but I can't see inserting the entire armature into an already cast figure, it's just doing it bass-ackwards.

I finally got the film transferred. I re-made the titles because they were out of frame and out of focus. I also edited out the tape splices and sprocket damaged parts. Not too terribly bad for a early attempt:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kaR08n3tJq8

Wallace Jones said:

Unfortunately, my DIY attempts are just not ready for prime time. I am going to have this film pro transferred. Will keep you posted.

Hey Wallace,

Thanks for posting this, some really cool stuff there, although that was a total cheat having a close up of the hand that was a guy with wearing a gorilla glove.  Looks like maybe you used 35mm slides for rear screen when Kong is on top of the empire State building, and then again for his death shot. The animation is a bit stiff, but very fun to watch, as I am sure it was to shoot. Kong looked very cool, some of the timing was off, too slow, but how would one know until one processed the footage, all in all very impressive. I have been looking forward to this and it did not disappoint.  Wonderful job.

You are welcome Tim! That was me wearing the unconvincing gorilla glove. I guess that was a bit of a cheat.  The background projection of NY was actually a 70mm slide. I think these were originally sold in sets at NYC gift shops. I just happened to find one at a yard sale. The background in the death scene was of a city street in NC. The puppet was very bulky. You can see where I had to cut the arms at the shoulder and elbow. The knees did not bend much either. I was using thin copper wire twisted together for the armature. Part of the fun was waiting for the film to come back because you had no idea what you had until you projected it. A lot of mistakes were made, but a lot was learned. I plan to make a new Kong puppet for a "then and now" comparison.

Angus, I used fake fur for my Krampus puppet. It was surprisingly easy to stitch together by hand, right on the puppet. I have a series of blog posts showing how I did it. Check it out, it might give you ideas. heartajack.wordpress.com

Well I ended up sticking the arm back on with more Milliput (epoxy putty). This puppet will probably be used as a test. Still thinking of more monsters though - t-rex/allosaur???

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