Catching ideas for 3D Printing projects seems to happen when least expected (previous projects have included customised Roman coins), and this was true for my latest creation. It started on a recent trip to Stratford-upon-Avon where I fully got my Shakespeare on including practicing the art of writing with a quill at Shakespeare’s Schoolroom (an incredibly intact actual schoolroom that’s been in continuous use since the Bard’s schoolboy days).
I’ve never gotten on writing with any kind of pen with a nib before, which I always chalked up to my left-handedness. This time I switched hands and was surprised to find that not only was I able to write with the quill but that what I’d written was reasonably legible. I thought the style of handwriting and drawing the quill produced was pretty cool and wanted to experiment more. One trip to the Shakespeare’s Birthplace gift shop later and I had the necessary stuff – a quill and a pot of ink. What the shop didn’t stock was an inkwell to put them in.
To protect my desk from the inevitable splatter that would be created I thought it would be fun to design an inkwell and then 3D print it. Then I thought it would be even more fun to replicate an inkwell that was authentic to the Tudor period.
Designing the Inkwell
A quick google image search later and I found the perfect inkwell, and even better it turned out to be part of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trusts’s collection. Then when I searched for it in their archive I found a complete set of high-res images from all angles (and even some dimensions!).
All this great information formed the perfect basis for replicating the inkwell, with one small twist – I wanted to replace the name and date that was on the original with my own name and the year that I was making it in.
Armed with the images from the archive I set about creating the basic shapes of the inkwell, a conical bottom and a cylinder for the main body, plus three narrower cylinders that would form quill holders around the circumference. I then used Adobe Illustrator to recreate the decoration around the body of the inkwell as flat images which I then extruded into 3D shapes in Photoshop’s 3D mode, including my name.
I combined everything in Blender, curving the shapes created in Photoshop to fit on to the sides of the inkwell.
Refining the Model
The resulting inkwell contained a lot of complicated geometry (Photoshop’s 3D models always seem to be messy polygon-wise) and required some tweaking to make the model printable using my FlashForge printer’s software. Once it was cleaned up I tried printing it for the first time and apart from a few gaps it was a good first result.
A few more tweaks to create a top layer without any gaps and make the internal well deeper and I had a print I was satisfied with.
To finish off the model I decided not to do anything to smooth out the exterior and hide the trademark layers of 3D printing, I just sanded down some rough parts, drilled a hole for the chain, and then applied a few coats of grey craft primer paint.
Then came the fun part – painting the exterior with acrylic paint to try and get it looking as close to the original inkwell as possible.
The final touch was adding the chain, a real chain from my local hardware store, to connect the main body of the well and its lid – and add to the illusion of the Inkwell being a real metallic object.
All’s Well That’s Inkwell
The Inkwell now sits on my desk, and although there are things I’d do differently if I did it again I’m happy with it not only as a functional inkwell but also as an object which connects me with Shakespeare’s world while I sit staring at a blank page.