Putting out my feeliers/proposal-looking for some feed back from members

Hey everyone.I wasn't sure if I should have stuck this on an existing thread or start a new one?I didn't want it to "get lost" in a thread,so I thought it best to start anew,so here it goes.Anyway, I wanted to get some feedback from as many as I can in here,because this is what I have been planning/wanting to do for a long,long time.I only wish I would have jumped on it sooner when the economy was in better shape and I had more money at my disposal.

So, I was wanting to know what kind of interest there might,or will be having armature parts made for some of you,or those who are interested?I'm in the midst of getting a couple of machines.I have a small Logan lathe,but it needs some work/TLC and to be tooled up some. I'm looking at another mill right now,but it might prove too pricey.I haven't received word on a price as of yet.

The machinery itself might not be too great of an expense with the exception of the mill(yet to be determined),the cost of freight and tooling. Tooling (good tooling) is very expensive,not to mention turning these buggers on.Even on a 220 outlet,which is where "cost/what to charge" comes into play.I'm certainly not into over charging or taking advantage of others,especially in here. However,one has to understand the expense of of running mills and lathes and there needs to be a reasonable fee to cover the expenses.

Many shops charge a flat "set up fee" just for turing the power on and puttting someone on a machine to machine parts which tends to be fairly steep.I looked into it at one time (out of curiosity) just to have some S.S ball bearings drilled and it was $600 before anyone actually did anything (which didn't include the time/labor calculated in).I think the labor was estimated in the vacinity of $400 per hr.I'm pretty sure I can do way better than that.

My machinist skills are "good",but not great.I'm not as proficiant as I was say...10-14 years ago when all I did day in and day out was make parts/projects on a Southbend and Bridgeport all day long 5 days a week.I've also never machined an armature(yet),and there is an art and skill to that as many of you know.

What I have been wanting to do for a long time was design/machine puppets and armatures/joints (drill out ball bearings,make ball/socket,hinge and collet joints),make custom (or basic/generic)supporting rigs,or tools that are used in stop-motion, or for machining armature parts for others such as "jigs&fixtures" for some of you out there who have mini mills or just a drill press and other miscelaneous/custome parts/projects.Basically my main idea was to do that.

I was curious to know how many of you out there would be interested in a service such as that?I'm not sure how much business I'd get,or if many of you would want or be interested in it?I'm not trying to steel anyone's thunder away,and I know that many of you are on a budget(the same as me).There's dozens of ways to design an armature (armature parts/joints) that don't have to cost thousands of dollars.Plus,I'm in here to learn the same as you and to help others if can.

Nothing is set in stone yet,and I'm a ways from getting a shop space together,so don't jump the gun yet.I'm just looking to hear from others in here,get some feed back and opinions on this for right now. This would certainly help me in any decision making and give me an idea of where to spring board to.Opinions,ideas,suggestions would be greatly appreciated on this matter.

 

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I think it will be impossible to tell beforehand how much interest there will be for something like that, because usually the people who post asking where to get armatures are total newbies we've never heard of before or who have maybe posted a couple of times, not usually regular members. I mean there may well be a few regular member who are interested in services like that too, but probably only a few - but I have a feeling if you build it they will come, ya know. Maybe not right away either - it might be a smattering of people now and then and then suddenly a big job or 2. 

Probably the thing to do is to go ahead when you're set up and crank out an armature or two and show your work, let people see what you can do. Then hopefully somebody gets something from you and gives a thumbs up on quality and that would open the door for you. It's good to hear you're getting the wheels turning on that big machine! Or warming it up anyway - I can feel the hum in the air. 

Hey Mike!Well,that's sort of the idea.I know "seeing is believing".I've been wanting to machine an armature for a long time so it can be critiqued (hopefully constructively).I just never had an opportunity/access to the machines to do that in the past .What I'd like to do (for starters) is just work on my own stuff (show it in here) and then,like you said,"if you build it,they will come"(hopefully).I'm not anticipating on getting rich doing this.Mostly I'm doing it because "I like doing it" and "I want to".I'm stretching here,but I'm hoping that "not just specializing in armatures and puppet fabrication" and branching out to make stop-motion tools like rigs,or machining jigs/fixture tools for others for say..."drilling S.S bearings",or other fixtures will be something that might get other peoples interest in here as well.It'll make  fabricating armatures for other animators "easier"because not everyone can buy a milling machine or engine lathe."Hypothetically" purchasing a $150-$200 jig,or fixture for drilling ball bearings on a drill press or mini mill or a fixture for holding small parts for say machining "mulitple" sandwich ball/socket joints, or hinge joints,or simple machin tools  would be worth the money in the long run because it will be a precision tool that will last.Yeah,I can hear the hum of the machine when the switch is being flipped too.Its a nice,"small" tool room milling machine w/a bridgeport head attachment and some tooling.I'm waiting on what condition the machine is in and what the price tag is going to be?Freight is always a killer.

Oh man - yeah frieght will really be something on a machine like that! I bought a barrel on eBay a while back that only cost $30, but was amazed that shipping was $99!!! 

And I think it's a great idea to offer jigs - you could easily sell quite a few for people with drill presses who have trouble drilling steel balls. 

Yeah,even being a "small" tool room mill,it still weighs in at a stout 1,000 pounds.Yeah,its little things like that I want to see if pepole will be interested in.Tools to invest in,not just cheap "throw aways".I'm a big believer in "you get what you pay for".

Sorry to say I probably wouldn't be a customer, because I get good results with wire armatures, and I've used them so much I actually prefer a good wire armature to 3/4 of the jointed armatures I've animated on other people's projects.  But also, I'm in Australia.  If I did want joints for a particular project, I'd probably go to this guy Gary who's about 15 minutes away,  rather than having stuff shipped from the opposite side of the world.  He has a workshop stuffed with 3or 4 massive lathes, and at least 3 mills, and has done armature work for a few productions.   Here's his website:   http://www.eccentricengineering.com.au/index.php?option=com_content...    I suffered serious tool envy when I saw his workshop, and I don't even do much machining or turning.

If I lived in the US, and didn't know of a local machinist with a good feel for stop motion requirements, it would be a different story.

Offering jigs is a good idea.  Gary sells a couple of items like a diamond tool holder that he can always make more of.   Stock joints is also a good way to go, so different lengths of rod can be fitted.

I'm in the UK and there are a few animation websites that offer armature kits, some better than others. At the moment I am using armature kits and individual components from http://www.animationtoolkit.co.uk, I had used a different brand before and it was rubbish. Like you have done, Wes the owner put a post on here to advertise his site and he has obviously had good results as he has sold out of his "economy" double joints already. Plus I tend to send him an email near enough every day with some question or other and his customer service is second to none. I believe that if the joints/ kit that you create are of a high standard and affordable then you will be successful, and this is a great place to spread the word. As Strider said, if you could get an armature together for all to see that would help massively, as most ball joints are of different designs and sizes which I personally have to consider carefully when choosing ball joints. Best of luck and looking forward to seeing an armature

Oh and as a side note, one major difference i noticed between armature joints is what they use to hold the plates together. The first kit I used had a countersunk bolt with a screw head and my new joints use an Allen key head, also countersunk. It is such a small change but the benefits of the Allen key head are massive. It means I don't have to feel around inside my puppet with a large screwdriver head, tearing everything to pieces, I simply insert the allen key which in comparison is wafer thin, maybe something to consider? But that's just my personal views.

Hey Nick/Will,thanks for chiming in and giving some feedback(just what I need).Well,I understand that some folks prefer to make their own armatures,or prefer a certain type of armature like you do Nick.There is the cost and convienance of where you have things made,and if it were me...I'd probably stick with "locally made components" if the person is experienced in making them.There is a cost difference,and for you Nick...I imagine a "time turn around".Even if I can make the same part or tool in the same amount of time,you still have to wait for the shipping unless you want to pay HUGE dollars to have it mailed in 2-3 days-not cost effective.

As far as the armature parts I'm intending on making,I can go about this a few different ways. I can make some *basic* armatures of common scales.Maybe a 1/6 or 1/7 scale, 1/8 scales for "generic" human armatures.Most other things will need to be customed to an extent.I've also an idea of offering the option of having "economical" armarture joints where any machining is just performed/restricted to fabricate the joints themselves and they are attached to the "customers" choice of materials  be it the ends are threaded and they are screwed together,epoxied or scred/soldered or epoxied into K&S tubing etc.Then a more fully machined armature where the joints are machined into solid stock of various metals be it tool steel,stainless,aluminum,brass or bronze and so on which would be your more "expensive" armature.

I personally think that an allen head key is more practical than fishing around in a puppet armature for a slot for a flat screw driver.There might be instances where different screws will be needed for certain assemblies such as for hands if a fully articulated/jointed hand is desired over  using *wire* for hands/fingers, or for joints/assemblies where  an allan head screw is too big and you need something smaller to conceal it in the armature.So I have these ideas floating around in my head along with providing tool or jig/rig design.That's kind of the direction I'm going.

Yes, it comes down to shipping cost and time for me, and the fact that I could take a mould around to a local machinist so he could fit the armature to it.  

On the short film Grace Under Water I made sets for last year, the director Tony Lawrence got a whole bunch of standard size step-joints made up at Eccentric Engineering.   I think there were two sizes made, fort two sizes of ball.   There is still a lot of labour in machining anything up individually, even once you have worked out the prototype, but I thought the clever thing Gary did was to mill up the step-blocks as a long strip, then cut it into individual blocks.   That meant the whole row could be set up and milled in one action.   Then the next strip of the same size could be done.   That is probably the sort of thing you need to look at to keep the cost down.   The down-side with this efficient approach is, if you get a lot of them to do, it could become like a factory production line.  But even in set building there is always some of that - when I have to make hundreds of bricks or roofing tiles to create the pattern, it doesn't feel very creative, and neither does casting or vacforming lots of duplicates for several days.

Stop motion puppets can be so individual in proportion, it seems to me that joints would be useful to more animators than stock armatures.  

I agree with using Allen Keys.   But I would add one thing - if possible, stick with a size that comes in the standard bunch of Allen keys you find at every hardware or discount store.   I got one of Tom Brierton's armatures and some screws needed a tiny one that I could only find in a huge set of 40 sizes, at a specialist store on the other side of town, for around $60.   The smallest size in the common set would have worked just as well and not been too big, and all screws in the armature could have been one size.  

All my allen screws have cylindrical heads that stand up from the plate, but I believe that countersink allen screws also exist.  I know there are Allen type grub screws, the kind with no head, so I'm sure you can get countersunk Allen screws if you need to keep the joint compact.

Well,after a great deal of looking and some "almost" buys,I finally found a good Hardinge for a fair price and not getting "stuck" with EVIL BAY prices.Ebay is not a good place to  compare pricing on most industrial machinery.Often the sellers want 3 times or more what the machine is valued for.

I'm still a ways away from being "up and running" between getting the mill shipped here and prepped for its final destination,there are still tooling costs to consider not to mention hiring an electrician to get it wired in.The M head is also a separate cost and I'm not planing on keeping the overarm or arbor or the other tooling this little horizontal mill is coming with.I will be selling those things to invest in tooling and for necessary upgrades to the mill.

I'm hoping to be up and running by early summer.The Logan lathe I have is also another challenge.Not just getting it here,but it needs some serious TLC.Sitting for nearly 20 years didn't do it any favors.In any case,my goal is to start "making chips" around June or so and if I am able to set up earlier,all the better.

I'll be doing most of my machining part-time and during my "down days".This isn't going to be a full-time thing unless by some miracle that changes?I'll be machining my own stuff,but at the same time I'll be more than happy/willing to take on jobs and projects that say maybe others in here can't because they either have a machine that can't handle the work or don't have the machine to do so at all.

My prices should be pretty affordable compared to what a machine shop would sting you for. Mostly I'll have some "fixed" cost for machining armature parts and it won't necessarily be done "by the hour" unless by chance I am given a large job to do that will have me running the machines all day long.There's plenty to consider and it all still needs to be "worked out".

The Hardinge TM/UM Mill is a solid, precision tool room mill and is capable of maintaining tight tolerances.Its working surface is large enough to support most work/jobs required for armature and tool room machining.All I really need are good,"clear" blue prints with "clear" tolerances to maintain.The mill will do the rest.Until next time,I hope everyone has a great Christmas (mine came early) for a change.

Good to hear you have found a mill, after all this time!

Hi Nick!Well,you have no idea how many different guys/sellers I have been in contact with all this time.Allot of the mills were in really rough shape,and not just cosmetically.The Harding is a long extint milling machine,you can't buy any parts for it if anything is broken or worn out with the exception of the drive belts.

I've seen other machines that were in very good shape,but the sellers wanted three to four times more than what the mill actually values for.There's no "blue book" for machine tools(there should be).There's a guy who has two posted on EVIL BAY wanting an incredible amount of money for the small TM mills.

One I think is around $4,000-$5,000 the other priced up to $15,000 I think?He lists the mills as "re-built",but even with a rebuild and a new lick of paint,that still doesn't justify the high price tag.Some guys think a cleaned up mill and new paint job constitues "re-built".Despite the second mill coming with some tooling and extra features, the machine is extrodinarily overpriced.You can buy a brand new Bridgeport for $15,000 and probably get an even better one that has been re-built for a little less than that.

I got a very good price for mine(very fair,I'm happier than a pig in mud) and the mill is in incredible shape.Tight as a drum in respects to the lead screws,next to zero backlash which can easily be adjusted out.It just needs some minor servicing and after that, it just needs to be plugged in.I'm working on paying for the M Head now and will be selling the arbor,overarm and cutters.I don't plan on doing much horizontal milling.I'm hoping from here on out things go smoothly and as soon as I can,I'll keep everyone updated on progress.

Well,the mill arrived today in fine shape.It is in better condition than I imagined.It needs a little cleaning up,but there much more than needs to be done.For the time being,it is safely in storage.I'm buying the Bridgeport head for it currently,but next on the "to do list" is to inventory the additional items.I'll also be selling the overarm attachment,arbor and cutters to get some money back on it and am considering selling an additional component being that I am not anticipating any horizontal machining.Next is to pick up the lathe by/before the end of this month,then hopefully "bring both machines home"  and to start saving up for an electrician in installing the right power hook-ups for both machines.After that,it is onto acquiring some basic tooling and the lathe will need to be disassembled...looks like a busy 6 months ahead of me.

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