Last week, I 3D printed a replica of an Arts and Crafts style art tile. At the end of that blog post, I mentioned that I was going to paint the tile and frame it, and report back to you.
That did not happen.
But, it didn’t happen because I changed my mind on how to finish the tile. I decided it would be cool to dye epoxy resin and fill the design in with that, instead. So, for starters, I sprayed the printed tile with some automotive primer. This was to help smooth out the ridges between the individual layers of plastic, and provide a flat surface to receive the resin.
While waiting for the primer to dry, my wife and I ran out to the craft store to get some resin, since we’ve never worked with it before. And then, I went in search of some knowledge. The resin we bought was clear, and we didn’t buy any dyes, having seen Peter Brown’s series of videos on homemade dye alternatives. They’re quite good, and I very much recommend them. (Side note: I also plan on trying electroforming a print, because that looks like fun too)
So, we picked some colors, smashed up some sidewalk chalk we had laying around, mixed up a small batch of epoxy resin, combined the chalk and tried pouring it into the tile. Since I didn’t know what to expect, I started with the larger areas of the tile. The results were…a result.
It didn’t look terrible, but it wasn’t the look I was going for. Fortunately, that’s the beauty of having a 3D printer; I can always try again. But, since I clearly hadn’t figured out the best way to approach the dye, I decided to keep using this tile as a test piece. The large flecks of chalk in the resin seemed to indicate that we hadn’t smashed the chalk down fine enough. In the video, Peter used a mortar and pestle, which I didn’t have. So, I went outside, grabbed a garden paver and a rock.
Unfortunately, my makeshift mortar and pestle didn’t seem to work as well as I had hoped. I was still getting large flecks of chalk in the resin, though the overall color seemed stronger.
To take my ability to grind the chalk out of the equation, we decided on a different dye the video mentioned. Cocoa powder. The setback: I was out of large areas on the tile. So, we bought some pipettes online to use to slowly dole out the resin. This worked pretty well, once we realized the first pipette had a hole in it and switched to a working one. And that’s where things are at today.
I’m pretty happy with the general look of this. Obviously there are some things to fix in the next iteration, but if you decide you want to try this yourself, here’s my current set of take-aways:
The dye powder needs to be pretty finely ground with uniform particles, otherwise it will not incorporate well
Resin runs, but not as much as you think it will
For pours this small, the working time is pretty long
The surface tension of the resin is high enough that you don’t need to prime the tile.
Finally, I did end up breaking down and buying a cheap mortar and pestle online, which arrived about an hour ago. I plan on trying it out soon and then doing a full re-cast of the tile. If anyone out there has any suggestions, let us know on Facebook. I’d love to hear from anyone who has experience with resin or suggestions for changing the print to better support a resin cast.
In general, I’m a fan of the Arts and Crafts movement style. It’s also got the added bonus of having some similarities to the maker movement: combining the design process with the creation process, ensuring that the things you have are up to your own standard of quality, and appreciating the role of the craftsperson in the design. I’ve got a few books on constructing A&C style furniture (which one day I’ll gather the nerve to attempt), and a fair amount of the decor in my home is A&C. Until I do finally build that Morris chair, I thought being able to create my own art tiles would be a cool challenge. The difficulty being, all I know about working with clay comes from trying to plant a vegetable garden in the soil around here.
What I do know something about, though, is 3D printing. So, I thought I could print an art tile, paint it to look (marginally) like a ceramic tile, and frame it. To start, I went looking for a reference image. If you’re ever bored, do an image search for Arts and Crafts tiles; there is some really amazing work out there. But, I finally found an image that would suit my needs: looked nice, but simple, since this would be my first attempt at such a thing
With that, I imported the image into FreeCAD (my design software of choice), and tried to work out how to do what I wanted. What I settled on was to draw outlines (in the Sketcher workbench) around the raised edges in the image and extrude the resulting face. And, like all good projects, I figured out a better way to do it after the fact.
FreeCAD will let you import SVG files and do the same extrusion process that I had been using. So, I could have drawn the basic shape (much more easily) in Inkscape, outset it how I needed (still in Inkscape) and then imported it into FreeCAD and used extrude. This would have made it much simpler, as the Sketch process has some limitations in terms of freeform curves, such as the dragonfly wings (it doesn’t seem to like them).
For a more in depth explanation on this process, there are any number of excellent tutorials on YouTube.
And now, the simple part! Printing! I’ve already got my printer set up, and I recently set up OctoPi, so now I can send things to it wirelessly. What could possibly go wrong?
Yeah. As it turns out, my printbed was “somewhat” out of level. A bit like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, actually. Since my printer doesn’t have automatic bed levelling, I had to adjust it by hand, which is…not my favorite job. But, once that was done, the print was on its way (okay, there was 1 more failure, but it was a fluke. Just a second try at printing fixed it.)
And that’s where I’m at, right now. I’m hoping that this week I’ll be able to try and paint it, as well as build a frame to mount it in, so I can report back to you all in the near future. If you’ve got any questions or ideas, let us know on social media.