HackSpace magazine

New tools, old tricks

By Samantha Snyder. Posted

Humans are natural tinkerers. When we get our hands on new tech, our first instinct is to push the limits of innovation and see what novel (and often useless) creations we can make. But sometimes the best part of new tools is the ease in which they can accomplish well-known tasks. If you’ve strolled down the lumber aisle of your local home improvement store, you’ll know that the price of lumber has skyrocketed during the pandemic. As someone who is remodelling an old brick Victorian-style home, the thought of possibly wasting expensive wood on custom millwork prototypes makes me question my need to over-engineer even the simplest of projects. Instead of rethinking my life choices, I turned to my favourite cost-saving obsession – 3D printing.

While I enjoy testing prints and techniques that push the bounds of my machines, there’s a certain level of satisfaction in how well 3D printers can simply…make things. Especially familiar things. Whether I just want an uncomplicated yet unique rosette, a structurally sound corbel, or a complex ceiling medallion, it’s faster and cheaper to iterate using a 3D printer – not to mention less of a mess. Once I have the final design haphazardly balanced in place, I can decide to have it milled from wood, or be lazy and just paint and secure the print.

3D printing isn’t always the best solution to every problem, and that’s OK. Trying to print a replacement part that is inexpensive and widely available can be fun, but generally takes more time and effort than it’s worth. 3D printers have always shone brightest when rapid prototyping is needed – which is just a fancy way of saying the first attempts are expected to fail. A lot. And when I attempt home improvement projects for the first time, I tend to fail. A lot. Using my 3D printers makes those failures a little less painful. Is it a traditional solution that my local historical society would likely approve of? Probably not. Does it accomplish the goal of letting me add personal touches and hidden geeky Easter eggs to my house, without feeling like I need to invest in lumber stocks? Unfortunately for the next owner, yes, yes it does.


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