Sunday, 6 November 2011

Ball & Socket Armature - Hinge Joint

Hinge Joints

In today's post I'll continue discussing the construction of my Ball & Socket Stop Motion armature. I'll be showing how to make a different kind of joint called a Hinge Joint.
Hinge joints don't offer as much movement as Ball and socket joints, but they're perfect for creating elbow and knee articulation. Plus they're much simpler to make.

I'm making my hinge joints from steel bar. The materials and tools needed are similar to those used to make ball and socket joints. You can see/read about that in my previous post. LINK

I start by cutting 3equal lengths of steel bar. Above you can see the steel bars along with the M2 nuts and bolts that will be used to hold them together.

Next I marked a dot on the steel about 4mm from the end. This is where the hole will be drilled for the bolt. Before drilling I made a centre punch on the surface to guide the drill bit.

I stacked and clamped the 3 bars together and held them in a vice while drilling. I started with a M1.5 drill bit and then expanded the hole to M2.

This gave me 3 identical steel bars, all with an 2mm hole drilled in one end.

I used a M2 nut and bolt to tie all the bars together. I then rounded the corners (seen above in the picture on the right).  To do this I used a rotary tool and a reinforced cutting disk. (the same technique I used for making ball and socket plates in my last post.)

Next I loosened the bolts and rotated the middle bar so it was pointing in the opposite direction. I'm using K&S brass tubing to make my arms and legs so I cut the steel bar small enough to slot inside. This will be soldered together later.

I cut another small square of steel bar to go on the other end of the joint. This will be used to hold the two outer bars together and act as a tab to slot more K&S onto. I used a file to rough up the surfaces where each part will connected and applied soldering flux.

The rough surfaces help solder stick. Its also important to remove any dirt or grease to create a stronger join. I heated up the steel using my butane torch until the flux paste fizzed and then applied silver solder to the both side of the tab.

At this point I also soldered the nut onto the outer surface. This allows the joint to be loosened or tightened using just an Allen key. Above you can see the joint after being soldered.

The other end now needs to be cut smaller to allow it to slot onto the K&S. Also to give the joint a little more range of movement I marked where more steel can be removed. To do this I use the rotary tool and cutting disk.

Here is the joint after cutting. The change is only small but this allows the joint to bend into a smaller, acute angle. For example, If this joint was to be used as a elbow the character would now be able to touch their own shoulder. Or if this was a knee joint, the character could crouch down lower.

The final stage is to slot the joint into the K&S tubing and solder the join.

Wallah ! One hinge joint ready to be incorporated into a character armature. I will be using the one pictured above as a knee joint for my new 'Roy' (Mail Man) armature. I'm also using this kind of joint to make his elbows and toe joints. 'Elle's' knees and elbows will be made smaller with thinner steel bars.
The excess bolt will be cut shorter later. I usually leave them on until I'm done.

Thanks for reading.


  1. So impressive. So beyond me. Bravo!

  2. Yeah man,...awesome!!


  3. Hey man, the k&S can be solded to the other metal, with the silver soldering?

    1. Hi,

      Yes that's correct.
      Brass and Steel can be soldered together.

      Make sure you use a Solder and Flux that is designed for metal work. :)

  4. hey Nathan..I am a student of Savannah College of Art and Design..We are making a stop motion short and ball and socket joint armatures we just a dream for us and you just made it happen for us..we are a small group of students and have only one puppet making wire armatures means a lot of work for the fabricator because of the number of puppets...thanks a lot for this post...I seriously can't find the right word to thank you...You are awesome..Thanks a ton again...Please keep posting more in the future,,,And I am going to try this out today..Wish me luck and i'll let you know how it turned out...:)

    1. Hi Dhivyasimhon.
      Thank you for the kind comments. :)
      I'm glad my blog is helping you.
      I'm hoping I'll be able to post more model making on this blog soon.
      Good luck with your project and definately keep me updated.
      If you have any questions or need some advice I'm happy to help.
      P.S. your awesome ;)

  5. hey Nathan I would like to have some information about Stumped.
    Which materials you used for the car ? how have you built it?

    1. Howdy FLO,
      The car was made from a mixture of materials. The chassis and frame was build from MFD. The hood and wheel arches are blocks of insulation foam that was carved into shape. Then we covered the whole thing with air drying body filler and sanded it smooth to give a solid shell over the foam.
      The wheels and grill were found items from a radio controlled car.
      I hope that helps. ;)

  6. thanks Nathan but what is "MFD " ?

    1. Oops. I meant to type MDF.
      'Medium-Density Firberboard'

  7. Hi Nathan,

    I'm a senior currently in college for Animation with my focus on stop motion. For one of my final projects I'm constructing an armature & replacment face character following your process. It is one if not the best step by step guide I have found online for this topic, and I want to thank you in advance for it. I do have a few questions regarding the process. The first is in regards to the length of the hinge joint plates themselves. I know it depends on the puppet design but what would you say would be a good length for the plates? Which size of K&S square tubing did you end up using for the "bones"? How did you create the metal piece that was used on Roy going from the shoulders down to the double-ball joint?