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. 

3D Printed Tudor Inkwell
The Finished Inkwell

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!). 

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust Inkwell
The Original Inkwell – Image Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

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. 

3D Printed Tudor Inkwell
My customised 3D Printed version of the Inkwell

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. 

3D Printed Tudor Inkwell Blender
Bringing everything together in Blender

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.

Unpainted 3D Printed Tudor Inkwell

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. 

Finishing Touches

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.

Primed 3D Printed Tudor Inkwell

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.

Painted Printed Tudor Inkwell

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.

3D Printed Tudor Inkwell

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