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Making of a Bird Armature

Stop Motion Bird puppet - wire armature.

Bird armature for Kush:


Kush is an eagle like bird living on top of the tree of life… When I first started working on the bird armature, I thought I could go away with a complete wire and epoxy one. But, I want her to fly, land, shake her head,… So, especially her shoulders needed to be strong to stand all different movements of the wings. I ended up starting to make ball joints… You see Kush’s bird armature drawing below:

stop motion bird armature

bird armature drawing

Go to downloads page to view larger size of this drawing. I changed proportions and legs while I was making the armature.
To draw this armature, I spent many hours on the net studying birds. Here are some of the links I find usefull:

http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/554notes1.html
http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/554notes2.html
http://people.eku.edu/ritchisong/554notes3.html

http://www.ornithopter.de/english/herzog.htm

http://www.lizkay.com/Studio/wingtutorial.htm

Here is a picture of the bird armature from the movie “War Eagles” which was also helpful to me.

War Eagles bird armature

Bird Armature from War Eagles

Back to my bird armature drawing… There are 2 ball joints on the shoulders and 2 other on the legs. I cancelled the ones on legs later because the size of the bird is too small to add 2 more ball joints with steel rods. So, my whole ball joint production process was for only 2 and I spent about a month to gather all the materials, some machinery just enough to make something okey and some experience of working with metals. I was planning to work on ball joints for my next film but its good that now I have already some experience on making these.

MAKING BALL JOINTS WITH LIMITED MACHINERY

What I have:
A regular power drill (not a drillmill) with cobalt bits
Dremel 300 multi tool
Butane mini-torch (Dremel Versatip)
Vice

Materials:
Brass block
Stainless steel balls (5.5mm)
Motor oil
M3 12 screw & nut
Silver solder

I am not going to post a tutorial about making ball joints here as I am not very experienced about these. I listed what I have above, because if you are not able to get professional machinery and equipment and still want to try making ball joints; you can go with something like what I have.

Making ball joints for the bird armature have been the hardest part for me since I started stop motion. I tried cutting different metals with no success. And drilling balls… oh… it was something. After many trips to hardware stores here and in Istanbul, talking to many people working with metals finally I was able to find the kind of brass I could cut with Dremel and drill stainless steel balls with a regular drill. I also found some M3 screws as I needed small ball joints and M4 ones were too big.

Here are some great tutorials you can follow to make ball joints:

Lio’s tutorials:
Open Hole Double Ball Joints:
http://www.stopmotionworks.com/ohspics.htm
Drilling Metal Balls:
http://www.stopmotionworks.com/drlballs.htm
Brazing Balls onto Rods:
http://www.stopmotionworks.com/ballbrz.htm

http://www.scarletstarstudios.com/blog/archives/2007/04/new_armature_th_1.html
http://www.scarletstarstudios.com/blog/archives/2007/04/drilling_balls.html
http://www.scarletstarstudios.com/blog/archives/2007/04/drilling_balls_1.html
http://www.scarletstarstudios.com/blog/archives/2007/04/sandwich_plates.html
http://www.scarletstarstudios.com/blog/archives/2007/04/brazing_and_shi.html
http://www.scarletstarstudios.com/blog/archives/2007/04/improving_the_n.html
http://www.scarletstarstudios.com/blog/archives/2006/06/how_to_make_a_b.html

http://www.darkstrider.net/ball_jig.html

http://textbookindustries.com/armatures.html (scroll down to see his drilling jig)

Just follow these tutorials and try your best with what you have. Never give up trying and never think that you can not do without professional machineries.

At this point I would like to share with you a trick to drill steell balls. Even if you have the right machinery and tools, it is still hard to drill the balls. Thanks to DADAS here in Bodrum Sanayi who told me this trick to make the steel balls SOFTER.

ATTEMPERING STEEL: MAKING STEEL BALLS SOFTER TO BE ABLE TO DRILL

Get a big metal pot. Fill it with plaster. Put a stone (heat resistant stone for brazing – I have 2 from our fireplace) on top of the pot. Place the steel ball. Get your torch and heat up the ball until it is totally red. Then drop it into the plaster immediately. Make sure it goes down into plaster and do not get any air/oxygen. Wait for some time until the ball is cold. Take it out and you have a softer steel ball !!! Dont worry it is still very hard and you will spend some time and effort to drill it.

If you are having hard time drilling the balls, try this process. It works great!!!

TORSO, LEGS, TAIL AND NECK OF THE BIRD ARMATURE

Above photos are self explanatory. Cut the brass into body shape. Drilled holes for the neck, legs, wings and tail. Used 5 min. epoxy putty to fix up connection points and to make the bones.

WINGS OF THE BIRD ARMATURE

There is a ball joint connected to wire for each wing. I drilled 2 small holes on the back of ball joints to connect wires. Wings need to be fully closed on some of the shots. It is impossible to fully close the wings when there are wires on the joints. So I made each wing 2 parts. You see the white plastic parts above. There are metal parts inside with 2 screws. I used these to make the second part of the wing detachable. So, when I animate, I will close the wings as much as possible then take off the second parts and have only the first parts as a closed wings. This will also allow me to replace a wing if it breaks. I will keep this in mind when covering the wings with feathers.

I will put some rigging points and the bird armature will be ready to go for feathers. The head will be made out of super sculpy and I will use liquid latex to cover legs and fingers. I will post all when I complete..

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  1. Pingback: Stop Motion Bird Kush - Yazs Film

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