Wednesday, July 11, 2012

What Wire To Use?

What wire to use for an armature for small dolls made from polymer clay? We have found that it depends on the pose.  Here is what we wish someone had told us when we started making dolls.

·         For fixed pose dolls a single strand of wire is sufficient but you use a larger gauge (diameter) wire and it is bound together with small gauge wire. See posts on making armatures for more information.
·         For poseable dollhouse dolls, the best armature is stranded steel wire, because multiple wires twisted together have more strength before it breaks from repeated bending or becoming loose from the clay from rotating the wire as the doll is posed. We have found that 6 strands of 26 gauge wire twisted together is sufficient for a dollhouse scale doll.
·         For both fixed pose and poseable dolls the wire can be augmented with tiny brass tubes with the limb wires threaded through. The tube reinforces the armature for added strength, to prevent stress cracks in the clay and to attach the doll to a base.

Some metals are too soft or too stiff; you need one that is stiff enough for the doll’s legs to stand without flexing but soft enough to bend at the joints.  Galvanized steel and aluminum are the 'go to' wire types. Each metal wire has its own properties. Some doll makers use Fun Wire; it is plastic coated and is compatible with polymer clay.  Others choose copper or brass wire, but they are very soft.

All metals oxidize. It is a good idea to wrap any wire armature with masking tape, floral tape or aluminum tape prior to applying polymer clay because it keeps the oxidation from showing through the clay. It also keeps your hands clean because metal leaves a residue when you touch it and then transfers to your clay leaving dark marks. Some doll makers coat the wire with a white glue or corrosion resistant liquid (like Rustolum paint).

Cost  and availability are also a factor; both aluminum and galvanized steel are affordable from a home improvement type store (aluminum wire is sometimes sold as electric fence wire). Aluminum wire is also sold as armature wire from art suppliers. Hobby supply stores carry many types of wire. Tiny brass rods and tubes are available from hobby stores. 

Here is another doll makers opinion about wire:

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