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Hey all.

I've spent a long time sticking to basic wire and milliput armatures, as I'm not hugely rich nor do I have a lot of space.

I've decided to get a lot more serious in terms of armatures, and devote more resources towards them, after some recent heart-breaking wire breakage.

Where do I even begin?

What equipment should I buy?

Does anyone know where I can buy stuff in Australia?

Any tutorials or other recommended helpful info online?

Any advice and assistance is SUPER appreciated!

Thanks :D

Monica

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Newb is a very hard material to machine - it's best after a bit of processing. 

And the place to start is definitely Uncle LIO's Open Hole Balljoint tutorials:

From the Workshop section of the Library on his StopMotionWorks site. Amazing list of links there. 

Haha, thanks for that, friend!

Strider said:

Newb is a very hard material to machine - it's best after a bit of processing. 

And the place to start is definitely Uncle LIO's Open Hole Balljoint tutorials:

From the Workshop section of the Library on his StopMotionWorks site. Amazing list of links there. 

Whereabouts in Australia are you Monica?  If you are in Melbourne maybe I can help with some of it.

You can do basic balljoint armatures with a drill press, like the ones available at any Bunnings Hardware.  Another very useful tool, if you are making plates from aluminium or brass, is a band saw (also at Bunnings.)  If you use steel, you'll be stuck cutting the plates by hand with a hack saw.  I use aluminium unless the joint has to be very slim to fit in the mould, then steel which can be thinner and still strong enough.   Mild steel strip can just get away with being 3mm thick for plates, for aluminium you need to use 6mm stock.

A bench mounted belt sander is also good for rounding off edges on aluminium.  It's good for a lot of propsmaking jobs too, but not absolutely essential.  A grindstone is ok for steel plates.  Or just use a file on any material, to start with.

Machining metal with a milling machine is something I've never attempted.  But they can be bought where I got my metal turning lathe:   http://www.carbatec.com.au/  (I don't actually use the lathe for armature making, it's for making props.) 

There is also Hare and Forbes for metalworking machinery, with shops in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth:   https://www.machineryhouse.com.au/Home   The only reason I didn't get my lathe there is that they stocked the smaller size, and the bigger size, but not the one I wanted.

I used hardened steel ball bearings for my balls, and they were incredibly hard to drill. I heated them cherry red to anneal (soften) them, and that helped but they were still very hard.  I had to get special tungsten drill bits, and they still went blunt after drilling 2 or 3 balls.  In the US they use stainless steel balls (with particular numbers for different steels) which I can't find a source for in Australia, so they would probably need to be ordered online from the US.  They also have numbers for different aluminium alloys in the US, but suppliers here didn't know what I was talking about, they just sell aluminium.

I also know a skilled machinist in Melbourne who can make professional armature joints to a standard I could never achieve, with his big milling machines weighing several tonnes.   But that costs money of course.

To tell the truth, I only bother with ball joints on rare occasions, I've got pretty good at making and animating with wire armatures and can get a main character to last through a 5 minute film with no trouble.    

A dremel with fiber-reinforced cutoff wheels is also good for cutting steel. And I'll second Nick's nomination for a bench-mounted belt sander, good for shaping and cleaning up anything you cut. But I got by without a bench sander when I made my one and only balljoint armature, just had a drill press and a dremel. Oh wait, I also had a grinder, but probably could have got by without it (and just an important note - if you do get a grinder don't ever use it on aluminum - the metal will clog the pores of the stone and quickly make it useless, and even dangerous). Overall a belt sander is actually a much better investment than a grinder. 

I got a grinder from Aldi for only $35, so that wasn't a big investment.  But I don't use it on aluminium!  The belt sander, a Chinese no-name (well, it has a brand name but there are a dozen brands that come and go with what look like the same parts used for all of them) was about $120, and gets used a lot on everything.

Thanks for all the info, you guys! I managed to find some 1/4" threaded brass balls on ebay for cheap, waiting til they arrive to find out if they were indeed too good to be true! I'm heading to bunnings today to acquire a benchpress, some steel and possibly a dremel? I might need a new hacksaw too. I'm in Brisbane, Nick, by the way. Pretty excited to get started, I'll update you guys here if I run into any trouble!

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