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I have just finished studying Entertainment Design Crafts at Cleveland College of Art and Design where I specialised in the design and creation of props and set for film, TV and theatre.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Creating The Armature (Or 'The Skeleton')

How the heck to I make a 7ft man?? I know, right! Tricky! Well, here is how I tackled it.

I knew right away making him 8ft tall (as described in the book) would just be stupid and the audience probably wouldn't understand why he was so tall. I knew I wanted him to be tall because I want to convey that sense that he could be dangerous if he wanted to (or perhaps even if he didn't want to - someone that tall would definitely cause some damage even if it was by accident.) So, for size reference, I printed out Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man, traced it on to acetate and projected it on to a wall. I asked my friend, Gemma, to stand next to it so that I could get a good idea of size:
Gemma is around 5"10. The projection of the image is pretty faint but it is visible here. I was quite happy with his size and stuck some paper to the wall, drew around the projection and that was that.

Now came the tricky part, how do I make his skeleton?
I had a look online how other people had created large statues. Most were made from a wire armature and built up on using clay which was then cast in plaster to create a plaster mould. This would have been perfect but I just don't have the time to sculpt a 7ft man out of clay! I kept looking but the same results kept coming up; some used thick metal, some even combined it with wood.

I was stuck...

I had a look in our workshop at uni at the materials we had available. There were some square, hollow metal rods and a bunch of wood. I knew exactly where I wanted the joins and where I wanted the joints but how to put it together?? No idea! So, with some help (I have to admit) came a brilliant idea:

I would use the metal as his bones and I would use the wood as his joint sockets.
So, the wood was cut to the correct size and I rounded the edges off so it could slot into the metal easier. I drilled a hole through the wood and used aluminium armature wire (which I rounded slightly in a vice and with a file) to stick in the hole...

...which ended up creating a rather great joint! So now I had tested it, I had to measure the correct sizes out so that the metal could be cut and I could start creating his actual skeleton. I had to remember to account for the space the aluminium wire would give when I was measuring out the sizes otherwise he would've had a good few inches added on to him by accident.

Here is what it looked like once all the metal had been cut to size:

Not bad! Well now I had to go through the process of rounding the wood slightly and drilling a 6cm hole in each side, measuring, cutting and rounding off the armature wire and putting it all together as one big piece.
His spine, by the way, is in seven bits. The wood for this will just have to be wedges I think, there would be no other way of being able to get it on properly without the wood splitting.

Next step: get him put together and stood up!

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