Making bigger ball and socket joints (15nn - 17mm) from modeling tools?

Hi there,

I want to make some larger double ball and socket joints, with 15mm or 17mm balls. I'd usually purchase them, but I couldn't find anywhere that sells them. Perhaps theres a good reason why?

But to get to my question, would using 'metal ball modeling tools' work as the balls to my joint? (I'll attach image below).

So my plan was, to purchase two packs of these tools, so as to get a matching pair of balls, cut them in half and create the metal plates to sandwich over them. My thoughts were, these are smooth, large enough balls, readily available, with a metal rod already attached, so they would surely be perfect? 

The packs of tools would be a relatively inexpensive solution, as they're only for one off joints. And I would use the other various size tools in the pack to make the other joints for the puppet.

This armature is to go into a rather large(ish) silicone whale puppet, so I'd need fairly robust joints as sperm whales are quite thick in the tail annoyingly. The whale puppet is to be 47cm in length and it's not just going to be silicone, it'll be padded out with foam. I also want a really soft foam, but I think thats a question for another thread. 

Any help or advice at all relating to this (or unrelated if you like) would be hugely appreciated!

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The balls used in the tools may be soldered onto the rods, just on the surface of the ball without a hole being drilled to insert the rod.  That would be strong enough for the intended use as a modelling tool, but might not be for an armature.  But I have used something similar, pieces cut from a wire CD rack with ball feet soldered on, and that actually worked fine in a stop mo puppet.  I would grip the ball with pliers and see if the rod can be broken off by hand -  if not, should be good to go.

I haven't done anything as thick as a whale for stop motion, made the back half of a whale once for a live action slow-mo shot of the tail rising out of the water and slapping down on a model whaling boat.  We shot it in the bay.  It was 3 1/2 ft (1070mm) long, and it soaked up the sea water, so it was really heavy and hard to lift.  It was cut from cushion foam, with a latex skin.

Silicone will soak into urethane foam, and it ends up stiffer than if it was solid silicone, unless you can first seal the surface of the foam.  I found that out by making a Sumo wrestler, doing my usual trick of building up the volume with cut foam, which works fine when casting in foam latex.  But pouring in Platsil Gel-10  around the foam made it  soak into the open cell structure,  and it was impossible to bend the puppet at the waist, or raise the arms very far, without it snapping back to the neutral position.  I re-cast with a stronger armature, no foam padding except a thin layer glued onto the armature to give the silicone a texture to grip to, and I used a softer silicone - Smooth-On Ecoflex 00-30.  That made it barely animatable for what it had to do.  A bigger and fatter wrestler cast in foam latex was much lighter and could bend much further, using a lighter armature so it was less effort to bend.  But if the whale is going in actual water, I can see why silicone makes sense.  (My latex half-whale only needed to last for the one day of shooting.)

when you get the tools make a quick joint and see in these will stay together for youI am making some 3/4"joints at the moment 19mm

Once again, thank you so much for your thorough and in-depth advice, this has been so helpful.  

I'm going with silicone as this is the medium I'm most used to and have had success with. I also don't have access to the right facilities or tools to use foam latex, I do regret not being able to experiment with it as I'm sure it has its advantages to silicone.

I'm casting in Platsil Gel-00, and Gel-10 for the very outer skin. With my last puppet, I sealed the foam with a layer Ecoflex 00-30, but I made sure to thicken the silicone to prevent it from running into the open cells, just enough so as to make a good bond. Despite this, the movement still remained very limited in the chest and stomach area.

Would you then recomend perhaps leaving out the foam, and casting in just silicone? I'm also considering the potential of crinkling in the body when it bends, which I feel would be likely if it was silicone over foam.

I'll give the modelling tools a trial run, they seem to withstand my break test so far. 


StopmoNick said:

The balls used in the tools may be soldered onto the rods, just on the surface of the ball without a hole being drilled to insert the rod.  That would be strong enough for the intended use as a modelling tool, but might not be for an armature.  But I have used something similar, pieces cut from a wire CD rack with ball feet soldered on, and that actually worked fine in a stop mo puppet.  I would grip the ball with pliers and see if the rod can be broken off by hand -  if not, should be good to go.

I haven't done anything as thick as a whale for stop motion, made the back half of a whale once for a live action slow-mo shot of the tail rising out of the water and slapping down on a model whaling boat.  We shot it in the bay.  It was 3 1/2 ft (1070mm) long, and it soaked up the sea water, so it was really heavy and hard to lift.  It was cut from cushion foam, with a latex skin.

Silicone will soak into urethane foam, and it ends up stiffer than if it was solid silicone, unless you can first seal the surface of the foam.  I found that out by making a Sumo wrestler, doing my usual trick of building up the volume with cut foam, which works fine when casting in foam latex.  But pouring in Platsil Gel-10  around the foam made it  soak into the open cell structure,  and it was impossible to bend the puppet at the waist, or raise the arms very far, without it snapping back to the neutral position.  I re-cast with a stronger armature, no foam padding except a thin layer glued onto the armature to give the silicone a texture to grip to, and I used a softer silicone - Smooth-On Ecoflex 00-30.  That made it barely animatable for what it had to do.  A bigger and fatter wrestler cast in foam latex was much lighter and could bend much further, using a lighter armature so it was less effort to bend.  But if the whale is going in actual water, I can see why silicone makes sense.  (My latex half-whale only needed to last for the one day of shooting.)

Now thats the size I'm looking for. I'll definetly give it a trial go. Are there any disadvantages I don't know about to using larger ball and socket joints? 

What metal are you using for the plates out of interest? Is it brass?

 
Greyguy said:

when you get the tools make a quick joint and see in these will stay together for youI am making some 3/4"joints at the moment 19mm

Hi Matthew
The material is 954 Aluminum / bronze

Disadvantages 
Heavy but more machining can be done to deal with that 
I would make the swivel a separate tension than just one screw as you see here
That way you can tighten it if you don't want that motion

differently you want to have grab points if you are doing the whale for easier handling
Jim

Matthew Bradley said:

Now thats the size I'm looking for. I'll definetly give it a trial go. Are there any disadvantages I don't know about to using larger ball and socket joints? 

What metal are you using for the plates out of interest? Is it brass?

 
Greyguy said:

when you get the tools make a quick joint and see in these will stay together for youI am making some 3/4"joints at the moment 19mm

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