#3. First B&S Armature Complete

I completed my first ball and socket armature design. I learned a lot, made many mistakes, and am very eager to begin building the second puppet. Before I move on though, I will run this puppet through a few tests to familiarize myself with its faults, because I’m sure I haven’t noticed all of them yet.

Here’s the finalized armature sitting with its original schematic. (For your information, there are just as many notes on the backside of the paper.)


I knew my first armature would have a bunch of problems, so I thought it would be interesting to build in a physical impairment—notice one of the legs is missing the knee and foot. Usually stop motion armatures are built to be as functional as possible. I wonder if maybe a puppet is more life-like with imperfections.

The chest block, hip block, right toe and peg leg are all made of aluminum. The rods are all W1 tool steel. The balls are 304 stainless steel. The joint plates are brass.

I soldered the balls and rods together. The rods are held in the aluminum blocks with 2-56 set screws for easy removal.

Each joint consists of two-balls and two plates. I wasn’t sure at first how to hold the brass bars on my milling machine, so creating identical plates was a challenge. The result is that ball-tension varies between each joint. By the end I figured out a process, but won’t be able to put it into action until puppet #2.

The puppet’s height is a mere five inches. I realized too late that this is too small. Props would need to be extremely miniscule and animating on that scale would be difficult. Of all the books I read and other builds that I saw, I don’t ever remember reading about what size is best for a stop motion armature. It was only after meeting with Hallie Bahn, an MFA student at MCAD, and observing her puppets and sets that it became clear.

Aside from the puppet’s problems, this was a rewarding process. The work is tedious—a lot of my time was spent puzzling over how to hold work pieces, or simply waiting on a tool or material to arrive at my door—but watching the puppet come together and feeling it begin to move in my hands has been exciting.

Thanks for checking in. Stay tuned.

Adam Loomis