Armatures for Model Making

Small Armature ManAn armature is the framework or skeleton used as the base when making models of figures or animals.

A good starting point for a model is a scale sketch or marquette. Once the design has been established, the ‘skeleton’ can be added to a full size sketch. This will help determine the size of the armature framework and where any joints will occur. The image below shows a sketch of the framework which will be used to make a paper mache dog (find our more from Ultimate Paper Mache).

Dog Design from Ultimate Paper Mache

George Weil supply a range of materials which can be used to build an armature.

We offer aluminium modelling wire in three sizes 1mm, 2mm and 3.2mm plus a choice of fine aluminium modelling meshes from Wireform®.

Aluminium is ideal for use as an armature because it is very flexible and lightweight and does not rust. The mesh can be moulded around a shape or manipulated with pliers and provides an excellent support for most modelling materials. An impressive example of a model created using modelling mesh can be found on Tom M Jordans Art Page.

Armature Wing before Clay is added

If your model is being built with a material that needs to be heat cured, such as polymer clay, it is best not to use a wire coated with plastic, foam or anything else that would normally become damaged when exposed to heat. This could cause cracks, breaks or discolouration in the baked clay.

The image below is taken from an in depth step-by-step tutorial by Setti Fine Art on how to build an armature for a clay model. It shows how to create the wire framework, stabilise it with rock hard and use air drying epoxy resin. Finally they show how to mount the armature onto a sturdy base before building up the model.

Armature Framework and Clay Form

More Ideas

Other materials for building an armature depend on what modelling medium will be used. Rolled lengths of newspaper taped or glued together can be used as the base for paper mache models. Wire armatures can be covered in masking tape to help the paper mache to stick to the framework. Crumpled tin foil, screwed up paper, vilene wadding, or cork clay can be used to create a lightweight core for large pieces such as sculptures.

A wire armature is ideal for making poseable needle felted figures or animals. As the fibre cannot be felted directly onto the wire because it can break the needle, the wire can be wrapped with pipe cleaners, yarn or strips of vilene wadding to provide a base to work on. Sarafina Fiber Art – who have a series of YouTube videos on needle felting – shows how to make a needle felted fox using an armature.

Armatures covered in pipe cleaners for felt models

The full range of materials from George Weil can be found on the website.

Our Model Making section includes air-dry clays, polymer clays and Art Clay Silver clays. Other items include modroc, epoxy resin and paper casting materials, plus a selection of tools and products for creating armatures. The website also includes a large selection of different fibres and needle felting tools.

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