sculpting a jointed bjd hand

I promised to post more or less how i’m making jointed hands for the white lady (the large torso) on a bjd artists forum i’m on – The Joint

and thought I’d make a page up here to show it too…

I really love jointed hands on figures – I saw them first years ago in Japanese doll magazines, and posted my first very rough one to DOA’s artist forum back in 2006 :

picture of first bjd hand i made

but i never did more with it. They are lots of work, and really detail-oriented and I’ve got a short attention span….. Then Soom and Unidoll came out with their very finished lovely ones and I just forgot about it.

But a series of figures i want to do right now need jointed hands so I’m starting up again.

picture of first bjd hand i made

I’m going to show how i’ve been making the hand to work with a large OOAK paperclay figure —- What I’m really hoping is that lots of you will jump in and try your own set of hands and share what you discover as you go — and maybe between all of us we can come up with better, stronger, more elegant designs….

So —- starting from the very beginning —-

1. Create a template for the hands you want to sculpt.

People’s hands vary in size, but one guide you can use is that if you align the base of your palm with your chin, the tips of your fingers come somewhere above your eyebrows. So on the figure I’m working on – this would be around 3 1/2 ” long —-

I have short dumpy hands, so I conned my daughter into letting me scan her more elegant hands….

picture of first bjd hand i made

and resized the image till it was close to what I needed. I wanted the fingers a little longer in relation to the palm of the hand, so I made the image a little larger than 3 1/2″ from tip of longest finger to base of palm, and then when I started working on the palms I made them smaller than the image.

2. Materials – Polystyrene tubes to give hollow finger units and add strength for my paperclay digits :

picture of first bjd hand i made

I’m working in paperclay — for polymer clay you could substitute in tiny straws or coffee stirrers for the styrene tubes I’m using. I got these at the University of Oregon Book store art department when I was visiting up in Eugene – but i’ve also bought them at craft and hobby stores that have airplane and model departments.

I looked on line for sources for the styrene tubes – I don’t know that these are safe for baking under polymer – pvc pipe is, but I don’t know about styrene – I’m using them in airdry clay – not in polymer.

here is the company that makes the styrene tubing – they have some incredible things……;&CCode=TBFS-3

they have a page showing retail outlets by state/city — not complete, the place I buy from isn’t listed, but its a start :

Utrecht carries them :….name=Plastruct

Hobbymasters :…OD&ProdID=9742

I use exacto knives and dremels to cut the tubes to the lengths I need, and make the balls and cover the “bones” with paperclay. I’m using tiny craft elastic to string these with – I have a tiny Dollti strung with clear elastic that seems like it would work better – does anyone know what the clear elastic is and where we might be able to get some?

Take the drawing or photo of the hands that you scaled down to be the size you want your bjd’s hands to be and divide the fingers up into 3 “bones” and 3 joint balls for each finger. Also draw in a rough approximation of the wrist ball you are going to make. It will look a little like this :

picture of first bjd hand i made

Number each individual “bone” in the hand —- if you are like me, each of them is a different size, and having them numbered will make is quicker to find the right “bone” as you put the pieces together.

Now take one of the small styrene tubes and draw lines showing where to cut it for each “bone” – remember to number the section of styrene tube, and to leave room for the balls that go between each “bone”.

picture of first bjd hand i made

Now take the long “bones” that are inside the palm – and lay them out in the proper order for the hand.

picture of first bjd hand i made

take a small amount of clay and lay it out on the drawing and set each of the bones in place, angling them so that the ends at the wrist all come together fairly closely

picture of first bjd hand i made

– i went back in after it was roughed into shape and dried, and carved out a deeper hollow, removing extra clay and tubes… the inside of the dried hand looks like this :

picture of first bjd hand i made

Lay more clay over the top of the tubes to seal them in, and then shape the bundle into a slight curve. If you look at your hand at rest, the top part where the fingers connect, is a slight curve —- your hand will look more real if it is not flat.

picture of first bjd hand i made

picture of first bjd hand i made

keep the clay thin around the tubes – this is just a rough internal structure – you will model your beautiful hand over it once it has dried. Now set it aside to dry – with premier i’ll leave it to dry until tomorrow evening, and maybe pop it into a 170 degree oven for an hour or two —- if you put the tubes in the 170 oven, be sure to have them mostly covered with clay or they will warp in the heat.

while the palm is drying – you can take the time to make the balls for the joints. I’m making these out of paperclay – and i go back and build them up or carve them down to make the joints work well once they are added to the bones. you will want them to be just a little smaller in circumference than the finger they are going into.

picture of first bjd hand i made

You will want them to be hollow with a big enough hole thru the middle to string 2 pieces of your hand elastic — After they dry, drill a slot at one end – down to about half way or more down the bead.

When they are dry – sort thru them and find ones that fit each place on the hand. Your top bone will not have a ball attached,

the middle bone of each finger has a ball at the top.

the lower bone of each finger can have 1 ball at the top, or a ball at each end. You can play around with each way and see what you like.

Take your dremel and with a ball grinder, grind a curved hollow into the bottom of the top bone, and into both ends of the middle bone and the lower bone.

Fingers pretty much just bend one way, so you need to make a curved cutaway, kind of like a half moon, in the end of each bone that will not have a ball attached to make the socket part of the joint.

The finger tip will have the curve at the base – and about half way up the tube, drill a hole from one side to the other to insert a piece of wire – your elastic will curve around this piece of wire ….. (which is a real misery to do – but do-able)

picture of first bjd hand i made

picture of first bjd hand i made

now rub a little white glue onto the top, curved surface of the second bone and nest the ball for that joint on the bone – let it dry. Repeat with the balls and bones for the rest of the fingers you are working on.

picture of first bjd hand i made

after the glue dries, start building a thin layer of clay up around the “bone” and the base of each joint to help secure the ball in place. they will start to look rather like this :

picture of first bjd hand i made

coming next : working on the joints, shaping the palm and the fingers

3 thoughts on “sculpting a jointed bjd hand

  1. Pingback: In the Shadows » Blog Archive » publishing a page on one way to make jointed bjd hands

  2. Pingback: In the Shadows » Blog Archive » making asian style ball jointed dolls

  3. Pingback: In the Shadows » Blog Archive » more asian bjd tutorials

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