From feet to fingers

Hello again blog,

I’m a little late getting my post up, mostly due to the 30 page assignment I was working on for project management last week. But, I am still determined to keep updating regularly, so better late than never.

I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked to keep working on the puppets last week, and absolutely nothing got done on the animatic which is frustrating. I managed to add a few more layers of paper mache to some of the shoes caps for the final foot designs for Randy, but it will still take some more time before those are completed.

In between layers of paper mache shoes, I did manage to get the test hands completed using Huey, Dewey, and Louie – my test puppets who are going to reused as secondary characters in the final film.

I had planned out the different kinds of armature structure I would use for the hands when I first designed the test puppets. The first one, as you can see below – has a thin wooden toggle for the palm section, to which thin twised pieces of 24 gauge wire was attached. Ideally I would have been able to drill into the palm piece and insert the wire that way, but without a drill press I wasn’t able to get the control to complete such a delicate operation . In the end, I used a handsaw to make grooves in the palm piece and inset the wires into those, as well as one along the side for the thumb. I then wrapped the wire around the toggle a few times for extra security and drenched the thing in J.B.-Weld.  Photo Mar 29, 11 56 28 AM

You can see here, how the armatures came out.

hands from top

I then experimented with 2 different types of covering. The first was a few layers of adhesive bandage, that can be found in your average convenience store first aid section. It covered the armature quite well as was fairly quick to apply. One area to be careful of is the hand starting to look too bulky in certain areas. It can’t be seen in this image, but the palm is far to rounded in this version, in part due to the excess wire wrapped around the toggle. The finger articulate quite well though, and the paint adheres fine. The only thing to watch for, it seems, is gaps in the paint job when the hand is flexed. Something that can easily be handle with a second coat of paint.Photo Apr 08, 6 53 56 PM

For the other hand, I wrapped the fingers and palm with what is called pre-wrap. It is a very thin foam that I first found out about when I played basketball in high school. My ankles were quite a mess when I played, and before I was able to get some matching ankle braces for games, I would have both ankles wrapped by the school trainer. The pre-wrap was used to cushion the tape, and prevent it from adhering directly to my skin. This allowed for flexibility in addition to support – plus I highly appreciated the fact that I didn’t have to strip off a layer of epidermis after every game. I used the pre-wrap in a fairly similar way, adding a layer of paper mache over the top of it using the combination cloth/paper that I experimented with for the connective tongue of the shoe caps. The foam allows the cloth/paper to move a little more freely over the armature and makes it less likely to tear when I manipulate the fingers. However, I did find that even with the added layer of foam, the paper does still seem inclined to tear too easily, and in several spots makes in harder to manipulate the finger joints.

Photo Apr 08, 6 54 19 PM

The next design replaced the wooden toggle with a wire loop. This has the advantage of being used as a potential tie-down site if it’s needed and is much faster to assemble than the previous hand armature. I also wanted to experiment with a different sort of wire control for the fingers. And experimented with a designed sort of exoskeleton. As you can see in the lower part of the drawing, the idea was to have a foam glove, that was wrapped in thin wire. The wire would add an interesting design to the hands, as well as allow me to manipulate the fingers into shape.

Photo Mar 29, 11 56 11 AM

First I stenciled the hand shape onto a block of polyurethane foam. I then cut out the hand shape, and continued to trim it until it looked somewhat like the gloves that Mickey Mouse wears. (Except with more fingers)

Photo Mar 29, 11 55 15 AM

Photo Mar 29, 11 55 35 AM


One the hands were properly shaped, I painted them and cut a slit in the bottom half that I could insert the metal loop at the end of the arm into.

Photo Apr 04, 5 12 39 AMOnce the hand were propped open, I applied a layer of rubber cement (seen above) to both the foam pockets and to the metal loop. Rubber cement actually adheres better when you apply it to both the surfaces you want to attach and them allow it to dry before  combining them. Thus the need for propping the hands open so that they resemble tiny monster mouths. Nom nom nom.


Photo Apr 04, 5 12 28 AM

Once dried, I attach the foam gloves to the wrist loop, and the giant foam hand was attached. Before I began to add the outer wire, I tested the flexibility of the wrist joint, and it moved fairly well, though an added washer might be useful just to give me a slightly wider surface along the loop to grab hold of. Plus, a washer would help hold a screw better, if the hands are needed to be used as tie downs.



Photo Apr 08, 6 55 13 PM


My first attempt at adding the wire in a more decorating twisting manner worked well enough for the design aspect of creating the hands. But proved somewhat useless when it came to holding the hand in place when I tried to manipulate it. I then unwrapped the first exoskeleton attempt and wrapped it in a much more messy style, but one that I hoped would hold its shape a little better.

Photo Apr 08, 6 56 04 PM


It did, actually hold the shape better, but in still wasn’t firm enough and the foam tended to resist staying in a bent position without an interior armature to hold it more firmly in place. The decorative idea might work for a later project, but for now – the foam exoskeleton glove, just doesn’t seem to be a workable idea for this piece. Plus, my experiments with head designs – has made it clear that I currently don’t have the dexterity or knowledge to manipulate the thinner wire properly to create the hand designs or the facial expressions I had hoped. For now the plan is to go back to the old paint and ink standards.

The third design takes elements from each of the first two. This time I used single strands of the 16 gauge wire for the fingers, and attached them to the circular wire loop from the second design.

Photo Mar 29, 11 55 53 AM

I attached the wire fingers to the loop, applied my usual glob of J.B.-Weld and once it dried, trimmed the lengths of the finger wires down.

Photo Oct 25, 3 32 13 AM

Over that third armature, I applied a layer of rubber cement, and this time used a different sort of adhesive bandage. I’ve lost the packaging for it since I purchased it for one of my many injuries in past years. ( I have never been known for my grace, though my lack-thereof does come up often in friendly mockery) It has a slightly more rubbery tecture to the cloth and a ribbed patten to it which allows is to attach to itself with the use of any glue-like adhesive.


Photo Apr 08, 6 53 18 PM

In many ways this looks a lot like the plaster strips people often use when building up the back of molds for pouring silicone puppet forms. I has good articulation of the joints. They are a little stiff, but this I knew to be an issue with the thicker finger wire from my movement tests earlier. Overall does seem to be a valid option, however, the texture stands out so much, that I feel it would be distractingly dissimilar from the paper mache I intend to use for the head design.

So at the end of it all. For the final hand designs I plan to work on this week, I want to use a wire loop with a washer attached for the palm section of the hands. And to that I will attach the finger sections which I will make with the twisted 24 gauge wire, cover with the adhesive bandage and painted with two coats of paint for coverage. Hand design tests complete!

See you again on Friday!


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