Building Armatures for Polymer Clay Sculpture
Build the Skeleton Structure of your Sculptures
Armatures are vital to strong sculptures. Learn about different methods for building strong armatures. A strong armature can hold polymer clay in virtually any complicated or precarious position, even look like it's floating in air.
The Importance of Armatures
The Armature is the Skeleton of your Sculpture
A weak or insufficient armature can ruin an otherwise beautiful sculpture. Take your time and get the foundation of your sculpture right so it will last for years.
Basic Armature Making Tools
1: Wire cutters
2: Needle nose pliers
3: Dremel tool or drill
5: First Aid Kit (I'm serious, wire is sharp you will cut yourself)
This is a rundown of common material used to make armatures for polymer clay sculptures.
1: Aluminum armature wire
2: Floral wire
3: Fabric covered floral wire
4: Aluminum foil
5: Floral or Masking Tape
6: Sculpey Ultra-Light
7: Brass or steel rods
8: Apoxie Sculpt or other two-part sculpting epoxy
9: Super glue and/or 2-part epoxy glue
10: Wooden bases (craft plaques work well or you could cut your own from lumber)
Practice proper safety precautions when working with armature materials. Most importantly remember to wear safety glasses, especially when cutting wire or using power tools.
- OSH Answers: Pliers and Wire Cutters
What are some safety tips to know when using pliers and wire cutters?
- Assembling a First Aid Kit
You should make sure that you and your family are prepared to treat common symptoms, injuries, and emergencies. By planning ahead, you can create a well-stocked home first aid kit. Keep all of your supplies in one location so you know exactly where t
- Dremel Tool Safety
The Dremel is a multi-purpose tool that can be used for sanding, grinding, carving, engraving, cleaning, polishing, or cutting on a small scale. This tool is similar to the Die Grinder, but the Dremel is meant for more detailed or precise work
Build extra supports for your sculptures.
Armature stands are used to give an extra support for a sculpture while you are working on it. They are relatively easy to build and there are many different designs depending on what your needs are.
Since the burning point of wood is much higher than the curing temperature of polymer clay you can put a sculpture in the oven while still mounted on the armature stand.
Typical materials and tools needed are:
1: Wooden plaque or cut piece of lumber.
2: Dowels or threaded steel rods
3: Dremel tool or drill
4: Various bits of hardware, wing nuts, bolts, screws, etc.
Armature Stand Links
- Diane_Mcdonnell: Build Your Own Sculpture Stand Easily! (1 of 2)
Have you been wanting a sculpting stand but don't want to spend a hundred dollars and you're not a carpenter? This is easy enough for anyone to make. You may already have many of the materials in your home. Mine took about an hour to make and only co
- Armature Stand Tutorial | emboyd.com
Armature Stand Tutorial
Noadi's Armature Jig
I built this wire bending jig for making armatures a while back. It's made from a 8"x24" (20x61cm) piece of pine and lots of 1/8" (3.18mm) screws.
To make it I traced the male and female figure onto the board with a black marker in 1/6, 1/8, and 1/12 scale (these are the scales I use most often). Then I drew in the shape of the armatures adding screws to all the major joints where I wanted bends in the wire.
With this jig I can very quickly make consistently sized armatures.
To Make Your Own
8"x18" Board (this is an approximate measurement, it can be a little smaller or bigger)
Drill with 1/8" bit
Armature diagrams printed at 1/6, 1/8, and 1/12 scale
Clear varnish (optional)
1: Sand and varnish the board if desired. It will help keep the marker from bleeding into the wood and the jig will last longer.
2: Trace the armature diagrams onto the board.
3: Drill holes at all the major joints where the diagram shows the wire bending.
4: Insert screw into all the holes.
5: Make armatures!
Armature Diagrams and Jig Links
- Human Proportions Calculator
Input the size of your sculpture and it will give you average sizes for parts of the figure.
- Anatomy References for Artists
- Patrick Keith: Armatures
An armature is the skeleton that all sculptures are built on and provides a foundation for the pose to act as a guide for proportions.
Wire armatures are the simplest type of armature for a figure sculpture. Aluminum wire is twisted into the basic shape of a human, animal, or creature skeleton and attached to either an armature stand or a wooden base.
Wire Armature Links
- Making the Armature
Building an armature for a horse sculpture.
- Tutorial : Building an Armature for a Sculpture by *emilySculpts on deviantART
Armature building has been the most asked for topic for tutorials. It's probably the number one technique centered topic I've been asked about over the ...
- sculpting tut part1: armature base by *mangakasan on deviantART
After seeing how my poll exploded after the first day i putted it up i guessed i had no choice but to make a tutorial XD So here's first part of the man...
Make your Sculptures Fly
Or dance, do gymnastics, etc.
This technique for making a sculpture appear to be balanced or floating is a variation on the wire armatures. I've used it several times now, for my big sculpture "Odin's Runesong", for my in progress "Selkie Emerging" and "Fire Dancer" sculptures.
Why Bulk Up an Armature?
Bulking up armatures with aluminum foil or other materials helps reduce the amount of clay needed. It also helps reduce the chance of not curing thick clay all the way through.
Bulking Up a Wire Armature with Foil
Polymer clay more than 1/2 thick is difficult to cure properly, either the outside get over-baked and darkens or the inside doesn't cure completely and the sculpt can break down over time from the effects of still liquid polymer inside. For this reason and to reduce the amount of clay needed most polymer clay sculptors bulk up their armatures in the torso and head areas.
The simplest way to do this is just to wrap crumpled aluminum foil around the armature and secure it with tape, glue, or floral wire.
Lightweight Alternative to Aluminum Foil
If you need your sculpture to be extra light try using Sculpey Ultralight clay. It's a polymer clay that is so lightweight when cured that it can float in water.
Bulked Armature Links
People have asked me how to make a clay sculpture, and it's something I really have to show you how to do in person. But, barring that, here's a photographic tutorial. Hopefully it'll have enough information to let you make your own sculptures.
- Smellybugs Maquette Tutorial completed! - ConceptArt.org Forums
Smellybugs Maquette Tutorial completed! 3D & SCULPTURE
Sound Off About Armatures
What technique do you use most often?
Foil cores are tightly compressed balls of aluminum foil used as an armature. This techniques works best for sculptures with round or egg shaped bodies such as heads and animals like rabbits, mice, or my favorite: cuttlefish!
Making foil cores is fairly simple. Crumple aluminum foil up into the general shape you want then pack it in as tightly as possible, I use a hammer to get it really tight. To help the clay adhere better either wrap the core in floral or masking tape or cover it in PVA glue (that's white glue like elmer's or tacky glue) and allow it to dry before adding clay.
Foil Core Links
- The Troll Polyzine May 2001
Sculpting a troll face is not that difficult, mainly because the proportions don't have to be as accurate as when sculpting a human being. You can make funny faces and big noses, and they still look like that's what they were meant to be. The lesson
- Elvenwork Tips and Techniques
Over the years, Katherine has accumulated a wide array of techniques, some from constant experimentation with the medium, and some from interaction with the community of polymer clay artists. She devotes much of her time developing hands on classes f
Other materials can also be used in armatures.
Epoxy: 2-Part sculpting epoxies such as Apoxie Sculpt and MagicSculpt set rock hard and can make for extremely sturdy armatures when used for bulking and securing wires together. The downside to epoxies are that they set quite quickly so you have a limited working time and is much heavier than alternatives such as foil, paperclay, or sculpey ultralight.
Paperclay: Used much the same as foil for bulking up an armature. Make sure to allow the paperclay to dry fully and apply PVA glue to it before adding polymer clay.
Sculpey Ultralight: A very lightweight porous polymer clay, sculpey ultralight makes for strong lightweight armatures when used for bulking or as a core. You must bake the ultralight armature before adding normal polymer clay.
Wire Mesh: Used as a support for thin structures such as fabric or fins. Wire Mesh is very flexible and easily shaped.
Removable Armature: Sometimes you want a hollow structure and a removable armature is the best way to achieve this. Good removable armatures are disolvable clays like cold porcelain or cornstarch based packing peanuts.
Other Technique Links
- DISSOLVABLE or SOFTENABLE (removable) armatures/forms
DISSOLVABLE or SOFTENABLE (removable) armatures/forms
- Cold Porcelain Recipe
Cold Porcelain Recipe. Non-toxic homemade air dry clay. Dissolves in warm water, can be used as a removable armature.