Hello! We are a group of students from Spain, and we're just starting a stop motion project for the university. We have no support from our teachers, so we have to manage everything by ourselves. We started yesterday building armatures and we bought steel wire. That's what we found in the store. I dont't even tought there were anything else. But I've been looking in the forums today and i didn't find anything about it, everybody is using aluminium. Is it so crazy to use steel wire for building armatures? Does anybody have experience with it?

Our second problem is the epoxy putty that we bought. Some hours after it was dry, we tried to move it and it broke. With a bit of movement it fell down of our wire, relative easy. it was really hard, but easy to splinter. What should we be aware of when buying new epoxy putty?

I would really appreciate some help here, we are quite lost...

PS: Sorry about my english, i now it's not the best :$

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Steel wire is not good.
Most wire is hard to bend, and it springs back.
There is some thin steel wire which is soft and not very springy, called Florist's Wire, that can be used for fingers. But it does not last very long before it breaks.
The soft aluminum armature wire is not sold in hardware stores. You might find it at some art supply stores - it is used for supporting the clay when making sculptures. If you can't find it, you may need to order it online from the United Kingdom.

With softer wire, the epoxy putty may not break so much. I use Selley's Knead-it, a brand which made in Australia where I live, so you would not find it in Spain. I do not know what you can find there. Here we also have some stronger putties for using with steel, they have metal powder in them and are dark grey, but I don't need those, the general purpose putty is good enough for my armatures. I used to use a short piece of steel coat hanger wire for the bone, taped on to the side of the armature wire. You could put a little steel wire in for strength, and cover it with the epoxy putty. But I think, if you can get the right kind of wire, you will not have a problem.
I have videos showing how I make the armatures and puppets at my StopmoMick Youtube channel.

Hi Elena,

Sorry to hear your teachers are not supporting your project. That must be frustrating. The good news is that there are tutorials for just about everything online. 

Do not use steel wire. It does not bend very well and will break. StopmoNick is correct. Get the armature wire from a hobby store or order it online.

Good luck!

I have videos showing how I make the armatures and puppets at my StopmoMick Youtube channel.

Who is this imposter? 

Elena, I get my annealed aluminium wire from this website - Wires.co.uk LINK I do believe they ship outside of the UK, though I don't know how much postage is.

Good luck with your project. And your English is fine! 

Hey Dean B, good UK link for armature wire!

Elena,

How tall are your puppets?  I can suggest which wires to get from the sizes at that website, depending how big your puppets are.  It also depends on what they are made from - soft urethane foam or foam latex are light, but bodies cast in silicone are heavy and need more wire to hold them up.

Here's a fairly basic puppet being made with alumimium wire and upholstery foam:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbF6m3BeGUQ 

Hi!! First I want to thank you all for your help!

We've been quite lost these days testing the puppets, trying materials... By the way, StopmoNick, we were watching your video when we were trying to build the puppets with steel wire! We were thinking your fingers must be really hard if you could bend the wire so easily. Of course, we didn't think it was much softer as ours.
Actually, we watched all your videos and we found them really interesting.
Our puppets are going to be between 30 and 35 cm tall. We're doing the body with foam but the hands and the head will be probably made with silicone if everything goes as expected.
We are doing a lot of resistance tests because we got two kind of aluminium wire (1,5 mm, the only one we found) and one of them would break after bending it 8 times. It was almost like butter. The other one resisted 30 times. And the third one resisted 50, but in the shop they only had 3 meters left, and they told us it's quite rare and they din't know anything about it. -.- 
Probably it was the annealed, isn't it?
Most of the puppets aren't going to move too much. We have a guitarist who isn't going to walk, but his hands should move relative good. I'm worried about our protagonist. He is going to walk, and he needs an expressive body. And we have a girl who is also going to walk.
It would be incredibly helpful if you could guide us a bit choosing the thickness of our wires... i was thinking of buying it in animationtoolkit.co.uk or in stop-mo-tec.de, do you think they will be the same? somehow i can't find the annealed wires in the site Dean B posted. ^^" Is it the same as bare aluminium?

Thank you again! It's really nice to find such a nice support here. :) 

You're welcome!  There is enough to worry about with creating the story and characters, without being held up by technical things like getting the right wire.

The soft annealed aluminium wire should be good for a lot more bending than that.  I have made a main character with wire skeleton, and it lasted for all of a 5 minute film, and halfway through the next film.  Usually I needed to re-cast the foam latex before the wire would start to break.  One thing though, don't make the gap between the "bones" too small, leave about 12mm.  If it is forced to bend in one small spot it will break sooner. 

Those two sources, Animation Toolkit UK and stop-mo-tec.de, would have the right kind of wire.  I think the "bare aluminium wire" at Wires.co.uk must be the same thing, I think that is what Dean meant. It is the usual sizes for armature wire, but it doesn't say on the website.  I think I would email them and make sure, if buying from them.  Or if Dean says he bought the bare aluminium and it was the annealed wire, that would be good enough. 

For a 30 to 35 cm tall puppet, you will need the 3.25mm wire for the legs and spine.  (Or 3mm if that is what you find when you order it.)   At 30 cm, 2 strands for each leg, and for the spine, should be good.  It may be enough for a taller 35 cm puppet, if it is not too heavy.  

For a 26 cm tall Sumo wrestler made of silicone, 2 wires was not enough, it was too heavy and the belly too fat for it to bend, I had to  do it again with 3 wires in each leg and spine.  But for a bigger, 30cm sumo wrestler made in foam latex, 2 wires was enough.  3 strands of those 3mm wires is a bit stiff and harder to animate, so I prefer to use 2 strands.  I have tried using 8 strands of 1.5mm for legs, but it was too springy.  After I moved the puppet it would bounce back and forth for 2 minutes.  Fewer strands of heavier wire is less springy than many strands of thin wire.

I usually use the 1.5mm or 1.6mm  (1/16th inch) wire for the arms.  I used to use 5 wires, and go all the way into the fingers, because there were only 2 sizes of wire I could buy.  But now I like to use finer wire, 0.9mm or 1mm,  for the fingers.  Two or 3 wires twisted together works well, it's easier to bend but still holds the pose without the latex pulling it back.

I use the 1.5mm wire in the neck, usually 3 or 4 strands.

Some people like to make the wires so they can be replaced, but I don't bother.  My wire lasts a long time.  But it can be a good idea to drill an extra hole or two in the hip block, so if a leg wire breaks you could glue in a new wire.  

Ah, sorry, I should have been clearer. The page I linked to has the good stuff. Bare aluminium is the annealed aluminium. Soft but sturdy and takes ages to break. I usually get the 2mm for most of the body and 1mm for the finer stuff like fingers and in the face. My puppets are usually about 20cm tall. I get it from this site because it's cheaper  than the others 

Nice! That was very useful information! I ordered the wire today. Sadly the shipping costs in Wires.co.uk are huge for my country. I finally ordered it on stop-mo-tec. I hope it will come soon. Until then we have already an armature made with different wires to do animation tests. We're really excited. :D We're planning to build a desert, too. That's going to be a lot of fun! I'll keep you tuned.

I only have another couple of questions for StopmoNick... I saw quite a lot of armature making of videos and often people are using epoxy in the chest where you use the wood piece. Why is that? Can we use any kind of wood? 
And I think you found a very clever solution for hands. But... isn't it too thick in the wrist? As I see it, at the end you have there ten wires... I helped building puppets before, and they used to put an epoxy ball on the hand palm, like to keep al the fingers together. Why don't you need something like that?
I hope i'm not asking too much! :D You were already so kind!


For wood, some people use balsa, but bass wood is probably your best bet because it's going to be sturdier. Here are some comparisons between the two. 

http://www.garrettsbridges.com/materials/woodtips/

Is the "extra soft" the one you mean? If yes that's good because it comes in bundles.

Dean B said:

Ah, sorry, I should have been clearer. The page I linked to has the good stuff. Bare aluminium is the annealed aluminium. Soft but sturdy and takes ages to break. I usually get the 2mm for most of the body and 1mm for the finer stuff like fingers and in the face. My puppets are usually about 20cm tall. I get it from this site because it's cheaper  than the others 

Yiorgos,  this thread is from 2014 so you probably won't get an answer from Dean B.

He says Bare Aluminium is the annealed aluminium, so maybe you don't need to get the Extra Soft. I haven't bought wire from them, shipping to Australia would be too expensive, so I am only guessing.

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