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Steel wire for armatures instead of aluminium?

Hi,

I've just come across some 1mm steel wire and I'm wondering whether anyone has ever used this for armatures? I've used aluminium wire many times before but never thought of steel wire, so I just wondered if anyone out there has tried it.

I've got some here, I haven't yet made an armature but I've tried bending it back and forth repeatedly for several minutes and it hasn't snapped, which makes me think it could be good.

My other 2 observations are that it is a bit stiffer than aluminium wire of the same diameter, possibly too stiff for things like puppet hands / fingers, and that it is obviously heavier than aluminium, however for the fairly small amount of wire used in an armature I doubt that would make a significant difference.

Has anyone ever used the steel stuff? Its just got me wondering if there is a reason why books and websites always recommend using aluminium?

Interested to see if anyone has any thoughts on this.

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I think steel florist's wire is sometimes used for fingers.  It has a similar "dead" feel to it (doesn't spring back much), like the annealed aluminium armature wire.  I don't know if it would last as long though.  And it wouldn't be as good in direct contact with latex, because it rusts.  Most steel wires are too springy for animation.  You can bend an arm a bit further than the position you want, and let it spring back to the right spot, usually.  But if a hand is pounding a table, you can't bend it further than the table top, so it is really hard for it to stay in contact contact.  It takes bending the shoulder joint up a bit so you can bend the elbow further down, then bending the shoulder back down again, a lot of stuffing about.  And that is with aluminium armature wire, even it has a little bit of spring.  The one time I wish I had ball joint armatures.  If a wire is even a little springier the the stuff I use, it becomes impossible.

Aluminium wire that is NOT annealed - I bought some in a Home Depot in Winnipeg once, because there was nowhere I could get armature wire in time tor some classes i was teaching - is springier and not really suitable for animation.  So just being made of aluminium is not the whole story.

Armature wire that has been annealed is softer and has several advantages -

(1) it doesn't stain or rot latex, unlike steel or copper.  (Steel and brass are used in jointed armatures that get latex cast over them, and can be coated with something to seal them, so that is not a deal breaker.)  Not an issue for silicone, or plasticine puppets.

(2) It stands up to a lot of repeated bending, enough so that I can expect to complete a 5 minute film and not have to repair my main character's armature.  I still give each joint plenty of room to bend, about 8 to 12mm, so it is not forced to bend tight in one tiny spot - but even so, it's magic!

(3) Aluminium it is very lightweight, like you said  - I like my characters to be able to be supported by one foot tied down to the set floor, even if they are way off the centre of gravity, as in the last frame of a walk cycle before the front foot touches the ground.  (Or falling over and nearly touching the ground.)  Of course this also depends on what else the puppet is made of, it works for my cushion foam or foam latex puppets, not so well for silicone if it is a chunky character, and I would imagine not so well with plasticine (which I don't animate with) which is also pretty weighty.

You could try out your steel wire.  Maybe make replaceable limbs, see how they go.  If they fatigue too soon, you can replace the broken bit, with either more steel or with aluminium. Better than re-making the entire puppet. The usual method for replaceable parts is to glue the wire into K&S square brass tubing, with one size fitting inside another.  I recently found some square aluminium tubing that fits the same way, not as strong as brass but should work, which I will try out.

Hi!

What i was taught in class was that aluminum has less memory, so you can bend it over and over without a problem, and you can straighten it out and it's like new. 

A bit off topic but I made an wire armature with enameled copper instead of aluminum, since that's a bit hard to fin where i am. I found that the copper is a bit less flexible, but it didn't rust since it's also annealed. It lasted for all the tests we did and it didnt have spring. It was also a bit heavier but not by much, barely noticeable tbh. 

The only thing is that since its a bit stiffer, i would go with a slightly smaller calibre than with aluminum, to balance a it out. 

Thanks StopmoNick and Valentina,

I may try it out next time I'm making an armature, - Nick as you say I can always make some replaceable legs and just have some aluminium ones ready to go as well in case the steel ones are no good.

I actually didn't realise that aluminium wire is annealed or that steel wire would rust with silicone on it, so that rules it out for hands then as far as I'm concerned. Anyway, just thought it might be interesting to experiment with

Cheers

You should watch this video that edu puretas made on wire for stop motion

https://youtu.be/geV9vIMq1_0

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