Thursday, April 28, 2016

Magnetic Hydraulics

Greetings plamo otakus! I've been working on a bunch of mods for my Tallgeese Boros project and a WIP post is imminent, but before that I thought I'd squeeze in a quick tutorial on how I make working hydraulics. Let's get cracking!

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A prominent feature on IBO designs such as Barbatos, hydraulic cylinders add a mechanical feel to a model and can contribute to making the machine look more realistic. They're a popular detailing feature among top tier modelers such as GBWC champ Ver. Ed

Although hydraulics are simple enough to pull off as static (meaning they don't move and are there for appearance only), the level of difficulty increases drastically when they are designed to actually work. The traditional method is to employ ball-joints on both ends of the cylinder that will allow the assembly to be bent in different directions in addition to the telescoping motion of the shaft.

Unfortunately ball-joint assemblies are not very accessible, and finding space for them within the cramped confines of a mobile suit's armor is not easy. Thankfully there is the "Magnetic Joint" method, which I'd like to believe I developed myself when I built the Renegade Freedom (though I wouldn't mind being corrected and directed to a blog post or WIP where this technique was used before). 

The first step is to build the hydraulic cylinder, same as you would in the traditional ball-joint method. Cut two small sections of styrene pipe (lollipop sticks are a favorite alternative), usually one shorter than the other, and cut a styrene shaft that fits in the pipe to your desired length. It's ok not to have exact measurements at this stage, as it is easy to trim these down later.

Next we need two small screws that also fit the pipes. Drive them into the ends of the pipes about half-way down. Screws scavenged from broken electronics are great for this purpose, just make sure they're the type of screws that are attracted to magnets. The screws will consume some space inside the pipes so trim the internal shaft as needed, but make sure there is still enough of it to slide in and out without getting dislodged.

For the "magnetic joints" you'll need strong neodymium magnets. I ordered some from Magnet Manila. They've got a wide selection of these powerful magnets in stock and at dirt cheap prices. You'll need a pair of magnets for each hydraulic cylinder you plan on making, so stock up. Simply attach a magnet to each end. These magnets are strong enough to hold the cylinders securely, allowing the shaft to slide in and out at almost any angle.

Since the magnets come in different shapes and sizes, and are much smaller than typical ball-joint assemblies, it is much easier finding space for them inside the armor. Here is how I plan on using them within the Tallgeese Boros' torso. A dab of superglue can hold them in place, or I could also drive another screw into the frame and attach them magnetically. Can't get any easier than that!

Guide both ends of the shaft to their designated magnets during assembly, and you have fully articulated hydraulic cylinders that bend and extend as you pose your kit!


  • Install the top and bottom magnets with the same pole facing each other (ie. North-North or South-South) - you want the magnets to attract the metal screws, not each other.
  • You can guide the cylinder's range of motion by adding bits of styrene inside the armor to limit how far it can bend.
  • Magnet Manila has a free shipping promo until May 13, 2016! Grab the coupon code at the bottom of their feature post here: Magnet Manila  

Stay tuned for the next WIP, until then, keep building plamo!

*sources: google images,

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