Copper Wire: Bendable And Great For Armatures
Bendable and great for armatures, copper wire is one of the most popular materials used by sculptors.
It’s easy to shape and manipulate, and it doesn’t rust like steel. You can use it to make sculptures that are both realistic and abstract.
In this post we'll cover:
- 1 What Wire Gauge is Best for Armatures?
- 2 Gearing Up for Stop Motion Armature
- 3 Making a Wire Armature Model
- 4 Conclusion
What Wire Gauge is Best for Armatures?
- Gauge size refers to the diameter of the wire. The lower the gauge number, the thicker the wire.
- 14 gauge wire is thicker than 16 gauge.
- Wire hardness indicates the hardness of a wire and influences how easily manipulated the wire is.
- Pliability is an important aspect of an armature as it provides the overall stability of a piece.
- For larger sculptures and crucial elements including legs and the backbone, less pliable wire is necessary to keep everything stable.
- The best wire gauge for armatures is between 12-16 gauge. This wire falls under the “good pliability” category.
Best Wire for Stop Motion Armatures
- Jack Richeson Armature Wire is the best overall and best aluminum wire for stop motion armatures.
- It’s 1/16 inch – 16 gauge, non-corrosive, lightweight, and won’t snap or break at sharp bends.
- Mandala Crafts Anodized Aluminum Wire is the best thick wire for stop motion armatures. It comes in multiple colors and is perfect for creating exact shapes.
Gearing Up for Stop Motion Armature
Tools of the Trade
- Wire Nippers: If you want to make the cutting process a breeze, you gotta get yourself some wire nippers. You can find a variety of sizes and materials to cut on Amazon.
- Pliers: If you’re more of a pliers person, you can use those instead. Pliers are great for cutting aluminum, copper, steel, or brass wire. Plus, you can use them to twist, bend, tighten, and adjust the wire to give your puppet its shape. Small jewelry pliers are great for delicate wire bending.
- Pen, Paper, Marking Pen: Before you start building your armature, you gotta get your design down on paper. Draw it to scale and use the drawing as your model for the size of pieces. A metal marking pen can help guide you when you’re working with the metal.
- Digital Caliper or Ruler: If you’re making basic armatures, a ruler will do. But, for more complex projects, you’ll need a digital caliper. This precision instrument will help you take accurate measurements and make sure you don’t make any mistakes.
- Epoxy Putty: This stuff helps hold the limbs together. It feels like clay but dries rock solid and keeps your armature intact even during movement and photographing.
- Tie-Down Parts: You’ll need some small parts to bolt down the puppet to the table. Stainless steel t-nuts (6-32) are available on Amazon.
- Wood (Optional): For the head, you can use wooden balls or other types of materials. Wooden balls are easier to fasten to the wire.
How to Make a Wire Armature Model
Making a wire armature model isn’t exactly a piece of cake, but it doesn’t have to be too hard either. It all depends on the complexity of your project and the wire you use. Here’s how to make a basic armature:
- Draw the Model: Grab a pen and paper and draw the model for your metal armature. Make sure it’s symmetrical on both sides and add appendages. Use a ruler or caliper to make sure the arms are of the same length.
- Shape the Wire: Now it’s time to make the shape of the armature on top of your drawing. Bend the wire with the pliers or nipper and calculate where the elbows and knees go. You’ll need a long wire in the middle that acts as the spine.
- Epoxy Putty: Use epoxy putty to help hold the limbs together. It feels like clay but dries rock solid and keeps your armature intact.
- Tie-Down Parts: Use t-nuts in sizes varying between 6-32 to bolt down the puppet to the table.
- Wood: For the head, you can use wooden balls or other types of materials.
Making a Wire Armature Model
Drawing the Model
- Get out your pen and paper and draw the model for your metal armature. Make sure it’s symmetrical on both sides and don’t forget to add appendages.
- Use a ruler or caliper to make sure the arms are the same length.
Shaping the Wire
- Grab your wire and start bending it to match the shape of your drawing.
- Calculate where the elbows and knees should go so they’re moveable.
- Start with the feet and work your way up to the torso, including the collarbone.
- Twist the wire all the way up the torso.
- Connect the wire body parts by twisting the wire.
- Make a second copy of the exact shape from the wire.
- Attach the shoulders and arms. Double-up the wire for arms.
- Add tie-downs into the feet if you want to bolt the puppet down.
- Make fingers out of small pieces of twisted wire.
- Put the head on last and use epoxy putty to secure it.
- Use epoxy putty around the areas where the wires are twisted together.
Bending the Wire
- Bending wire isn’t as easy as it looks. Calculate how much you need to bend it and don’t over-bend it.
- Thin arms tend to break easily, so double-up the wire.
- If you want sculptures that can handle varying weights, make a heavier piece of wire.
- Work carefully when wire bending becomes harder.
- If the wire is twisted too much, it can break.
When it comes to armatures, copper wire is a great option. It’s bendable, durable, and won’t rust or corrode. Plus, it’s lightweight, so it won’t make your sculpture too heavy. And, because of its flexibility, it won’t snap or break at sharp bends. So, don’t be afraid to give copper wire a try – it’s sure to make your armatures look great! Just remember: when it comes to copper wire, don’t be a “TIGHT-wad”!
Hi, I'm Kim, a mom and a stop-motion enthusiast with a background in media creation and web development. I've got a huge passion for drawing and animation, and now I'm diving headfirst into the stop-motion world. With my blog, I'm sharing my learnings with you guys.