Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thinking About Knee Joints

There are house guests this weekend, so I haven't had much time to really work on the doll today, besides a few minutes of filling-in some parts with wax. I try to work a little bit every day on the doll. I've been thinking about the knee joints, which are the parts I'm currently focusing my energies on. I'd like to keep this first BJD as simple as possible so it will be easier to troubleshoot problems with her. The second BJD can have fancier joints that allow more poseability. I'll be very happy if this doll can sit on a chair. To sit on a chair, the knee joints will probably be cut at about a 45 degree angle, with the center of the ball joint being the pivot point. Since I don't know how this will work, I'm just going to have to make some knee joints and try them. I'll probably have to make some plaster molds and cast some parts in hollow wax to string them. Perhaps I'll add a little bit of paraffin to the pour, in order to make the joints a little bit harder? These are some things I'll think about.

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Friday, July 30, 2010

Hip Joints

I've done some work on the hip joints. Now they are both the same size, and both are made of wax. The new hip joints are the same size as the wooden knob, or about 2 inches in diameter. This photo shows the wooden knob, a wax joint that came from the first leg which has been rounded into a sphere with wax, and the wax ball that was removed from the other leg today.

The next eight photos show the doll standing on the new hip joints. There is no elastic stringing because the torso is solid wax. The torso and the head are held by gravity alone. I am experimenting with photos taken in a more natural light, from a window, rather than the flourescent light in the other room. Today is a partly cloudy day, so the light keeps changing as clouds pass over the sun. I made a stop-motion animation of these eight frames, and it appears at the end of this post.

This is a stop-motion animation of the above eight photos.

The next parts I'm going to work on will be the knee joints.

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Thursday, July 29, 2010

Torso Modifications

I am working on this doll a little bit every day. The other day I made some adjustments to the upper and lower torso on my working drawing. Today I acted on those adjustments and made some modifications to the upper and lower torso. First, I lengthened the upper torso 15mm by adding a 1.5x27cm strip of wax to the bottom edge. The strip of wax was cut from a flat sheet of wax. On the bottom torso, I cut 1.5cm off the top, then rounded the torso where I had cut it.

This is a full length view of the doll laid out on the working drawing. I think the torso has a much better shape now. I've decided to stick with a two part torso, rather than make a three part torso at this time. I was considering changing from a two part torso to a three part torso, but changed my mind for the sake of simplicity.

This photo shows the cut I made to the lower torso, and the wax I added to the upper torso.

Another view of the lower torso cut.

The upper and lower torso after being modified.

Another view of the upper and lower torso after being modified.

You will notice that there isn't any sculpting of musculature, breasts, or other details at this time. The doll is still in a very rough stage of development. I feel there is no sense in spending too much time on detail, when I might change something. Now is the time to make all the big changes I want to make. Once all the big changes to proportion and so forth have been made, I will start sculpting detail.

You can see that one hand has been worked on, but all I've done is scraped off some square corners, to make it rounder. There are still no details on the hand. It just looks less like a cardboard cutout, and a little more like a hand. I'll use the hand I've worked on as a reference to bring the other hand up to the same stage of development.

The next thing I'm going to do is work on the hip joints.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Some Wax Tools

Here are some pix of the BJD in progress. Yesterday I borrowed the elbow ball joints and put them in the feet. Today I made a couple of new elbow joints, using cereal box cardboard armatures; that is, four cardboard circles, slotted, fit together, and filled with wax. It only took a few minutes. I've also started working on the hands. I've carved off some of the edges of the fingers, making them more rounded, added some bulk to the back of the hand, and positioned the thumb somewhat better. In these photos you can see that I've smoothed the face in preparation for making eyes, mouth, and other facial features.

Since I'm modeling this BJD with wax, I thought it might be interesting to show some of my wax tools.

There are three tools shown in this photo. The tool with the brass cylinder is filled with alcohol, the wick is lit, and I blow through the tube to direct the flame for smoothing wax. This tool was fabricated in the studio. The next tool, with the glass body is a jeweler's lamp that is filled with alcohol, and the wick is lit to heat the tips of metal tools, such as dental tools, for working the wax. The tool with the red handle is a low-wattage soldering iron. The tip of this soldering iron was forged into a flat shape, which makes it better for working wax, but not so good as a soldering iron. Remember to use good ventilation when heating wax with open flames, or hot electrical tools. Alcohol flames can be difficult to see, so use tools like this with caution and awareness. The hot soldering iron can smoke when wax touches the heating element (the tube between the handle and the tip), and that smoke is not good for you.

This is an electric single burner hot plate with an aluminum pot. I call this my wax pot. The heat can be adjusted so the wax just softens, without melting, or I can melt wax in it for pouring into a mold.

The above tools are the main ones I use, with the wax pot being the tool I use the most. I've also heard of wax being softened with a double boiler, a heat lamp, and with a heat gun. I've seen wax melted in a kettle over a wood fire for pouring in large molds for sculpture. Be aware that wax has a flash point. Don't get it too hot! Wax likes to be heated gently.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

More Adjustments

First of all, here's the plan for a simple ball-joint lathe. Make a wooden box. Nail a small piece of wood at each end and drill a hole through the center to make a bearing. Slide a rod through the hole. Make a template of the hemisphere of the diameter ball joint you want. Templates are easy to make from old jewel box cases. File and sand the edges of the cut hemisphere to make sure they are smooth. Place the template so it just touches the rod. I mix up small batches of plaster and dribble it over the rod as I turn the rod. When the plaster builds up to the template, the template scrapes the excess off, leaving a sphere. After it sets up, slide it off the rod, and use it to mold your ball joints. You can now make any size custom ball-joint you want to make. You no longer have to reply on wooden knobs or styrofoam balls bought at a crafts store that never seem to be quite the right size.

Today I worked on making some adjustments to my working drawing. My adjustments are in red ink. I used white-out to erase the unwanted black lines. I'm trying to figure out how to make a three part torso. Now is the time to make the big changes, when everything is still in a rough state. I'd rather not have to radically change a part that I have spent several days sculpting and detailing.

After making some adjustments to the working drawing, I cut into the foot, to make room for a larger ball joint. The other ball joint just seemed a little too small. I'm hoping this one will feel better. I'm thinking that the whole doll's weight is resting on these two joints when she is standing. I'll find out. I'm figuring this doll out as I go along.

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Monday, July 26, 2010


After posting a Work In Progress photo to The Joint, I received some excellent feedback.

First of all, it was pointed out to me that the hands were way too small! The hand on a real person will measure from the chin to the hairline of their face. The hands on this doll were too small by half. So I made new roughs of the hands.

Another helpful critique was that the torso wasn't quite right. I'm working on that by testing how a larger ball joint for the hip looks. The new, larger ball joint is the wooden knob. Since I only have one wooden knob that size, I'm going to have to fabricate a wax hip joint for the other leg and see how it looks. I'll probably use the wooden knob to make a plaster mold, then cast two new wax ball joints and add them to the upper legs. Stay tuned for more information about that. I've been thinking of making a simple ball joint lathe, so I can make any size ball joint I want to make, without having to have a wooden or plastic knob. Don't worry, it will be a hand-cranked ball joint lathe that can be built in the studio with standard materials.

Finally, the other very helpful critique was that the upper arms need some development. This photo doesn't show any work on that yet. However, it has been noted.

Many thanks to the Doll Artists at The Joint for taking the time to look at my Work In Progress, and critique it. Keep those critiques coming!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rough Head Parts Filled In

Today I filled-in the cereal box cardboard head armature I made yesterday, with brown microcrystalline wax. She resembles C3PO with the candle wax eye sockets. Photographs of the head, on the upper torso, taken from different angles, follow. There are also some pix of the rough head with the skull cap removed. The last photo is of all the doll parts I have made so far, laid out on the full-size working drawing, which, as you know if you've been following the progress of this doll, has really been working.

I'm going to start working on the joints next, and continue filling-in the roughed-out parts, in preparation for starting the sculpting of the doll.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Head Armature

Today I worked on the armature for the head. The following photos show what I figured out, using tracing paper, my full-sized working drawing, and cereal box cardboard.

Notice that the skull cap is a separate armature piece.

I also worked some on the joint of the left knee, and filled-in with wax on various other parts. I will fill-in the head next, then continue working on the joints. The head completes making the armatures for all the rough parts of the doll. Once the head is filled-in, I'll be ready to start sculpting this BJD.

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