Wednesday, February 29, 2012

03 Armature Nº 1

For this third version of my first BJD, I am going to try and follow Martha Armstrong-Hand's method more closely. That means I will be modeling the original in oil-clay, over a wire armature, supported by a modeling stand.

The working drawing can be used to design the armature. That is why it was drawn full size, with the total shrinkage calculated. I am using my computer and Kolourpaint to start designing some schemes for an armature. When I make one I like, I can always put a piece of tracing paper over my working drawing, as an overlay, and sketch the actual armature onto the tracing paper. Once the armature is made, I can remove the overlay to expose my working drawing again.

Right now, I am thinking about using some pieces of wood to bulk out the armature so it will not require so much oil-clay to model the figure.

Because oil-clay is relatively soft, and because it does not harden, it cannot support its own weight over time, and must have a wire armature inside to support it. The wire armature must be supported by a modeling stand. One way to make a modeling stand is to attach a floor flange to a plywood board, and construct the stand itself from pipe fittings. The modeling board and pipe fittings are not very expensive, and they can be used over and over again.

The pipe fittings are available from most local hardware stores. They can be galvanized iron, or malleable black iron. All the fittings are threaded, so they screw together. Some of the fittings that are useful for making a modeling stand are: a 1/2 inch floor flange; 1/2 inch threaded pipe in 2-1/2, 4, and 5 inch lengths; a 1/2 inch coupler; a 1/2 inch X 3/8 inch bell reducer; a 1/2 inch 90 degree elbow; 3/8 inch threaded pipe in 2, 3, and 4 inch lengths; 3/8 inch X 1/4 inch bushing; 3/8 inch tee; and 3/8 inch street.

The modeling board with floor flange. The floor flange is attached to the modeling board with four wood screws. It is a good idea to attach a couple of strips of wood under the modeling board so that there is a space for your fingers to go when you need to pick it up and move it.

Diagram of pipe fittings on a modeling board. If the doll is larger, then a coupler may be used to join two pieces of threaded pipe together.

These are some armature-making tools that may be useful. Bending wire into the shape of an armature requires patience. It is a craft skill, so it is important to take enough time to do it properly. There is no sense in making an armature that cannot support the weight of the clay, and collapses after hours or days of clay modeling have been done.

I will use the rebar tie-wire to make my armature. It is relatively inexpensive, compared to copper or aluminum wire. Also, it bends easily, so it is easy to work with. It is only about 1/16th inch in diameter, so it cannot support much weight as a single wire. What I do to make it stronger is to use my electric drill to twist it, making it stronger. Also, the twist helps keep the clay on the wire. The wire brads can be useful for securing armature wire to the modeling board, so the legs do not shift when modeling.

Diagram of the wire armature tie-wired to the pipe-fitting modeling stand. The thing to keep in mind when designing the armature and modeling stand is that the original sculpt is going to be removed from the modeling stand in order to cut it apart.

This is another reason why I am going to be using rebar tie-wire instead of copper or aluminum wire for the armature: when the modeling is done, the oil-clay figure is removed from the modeling stand and the armature is cut and cannot be reused.

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