Published on December 23rd, 2015 | by Molly Virello
If the Shoe Prints: 3D Printing, the Library, and Cosplay
The concept of 3D printing has taking the world by storm—they are even printing houses and food! New 3D printers are emerging all the time, with more sophisticated technology and printing capabilities. But, for the most part, individually buying a 3D printer is not on the household budget for most people; and that is where libraries come in.
I know my library has a MakerBot Replicator 2 that is open for the public to use, and it is fantastic. High Schoolers come in to use our 3D printer for science and engineering projects. We offer programs specifically geared toward using it, and making specific objects. If you haven’t checked if your library has a 3D printer, I highly suggest you do so, especially because…you can use it to create amazingly accurate props and cosplay pieces very inexpensively or for free!
Being a librarian who is invested in many fandoms, and an avid cosplayer, I am always looking to up my cosplay game. I had the chance to go to Supernatural Con in New Jersey this year (amazing), and I knew I had to dress to impress. My boyfriend was going as Dean Winchester (of course, right?) and I decided to go as a genderbent Sam. I made several flannel dresses, but knew something was missing—props. Now, if you are a Supernatural fan, you know that Sam and Dean are called Moose and Squirrel by Crowley, the King of Hell. (If you are reading this, and are wondering what the heck I am talking about…go to your library and rent ALL 10 seasons of Supernatural right now. It is worth it.)
So, being that I was cosplaying Moose, I wanted antlers. I considered making them out of Paper Mache and clay and tinfoil…but, after several prototypes, I didn’t like the results. So, I turned to 3D printing.
I scoured Thingiverse and found several moose antler designs. After downloading the file I wanted, I printed it out. I choose Enchanted Moose Head Trophy by marshmallowunicornmagic, and printed only the antler file.
I modified the antlers by breaking them in half, trimming them to the length I wanted, and sanding the rough edges down. I attached them to a regular headband via hot glue and air-dry clay for extra stability. The stability was to keep the antlers attached to the headband. The printed objects are all very sturdy and do not break easily once cooled.
After securing them, I realized I couldn’t leave the antlers bare, as they looked messy. I created a flower crown to camouflage the glue and clay, and to also give a personal and very feminized spin to my Sam cosplay—since Sam is generally a 6 foot 5 inch muscular man, and I am a 5 foot 5 inch curvy girl. (Another thing I love about cosplay! It all works! If you can dream it, you can do it!)
After finishing the antler headband, I thought about what other props Sam has. He occasionally uses an Angel Blade, so I started searching for files for that. DISCLAIMER: When printing prop weapons, be very sure about what the policy regarding printing weapons is wherever you happen to be printing. This is very important, so do not ignore it, or think you can get around it. If you are unsure what the policy is regarding fictional props, then ask. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry (and possibly banned from using the 3D printer ever again.)
After clearing the file I wanted to print with my boss, I set about it. It was in several pieces, and printed in stages over several days—since I couldn’t use the printer for 12 hours a day every day.
Once all the pieces were made, I put them together. In some cases, there is some filing work to be done, making sure that the pieces were smooth, and fit together properly. 3D printing with the machine I used, and many other machines, is not 100 % perfect. There will occasionally be rough edges, but, they are simple fixes. I found, when attaching the pieces, that I had to seal up some gaps by working clay into them, and it worked out fine, making sure to completely press out the excess and smooth the edges. To finish the Angel Blade, I spray painted a metallic silver and sealed it, making sure there was enough time for it to completely dry between coats.
At the convention, I talked to quite a few people about the antler flower crown and the Angel Blade, and I hope it inspired other people to go out and make one of their own, putting their own spin on it.
I even got to compare my Angel Blade to a replica one—and it is pretty close. I am holding the replica in the photo above. It is much bigger than the one that I printed (file that info for later!) and was cast out of real metal. But, mine looked good in photos, and was a lot lighter. The next photo is the blade I made, held by Misha Collins (!).
When printing props, you don’t have to be limited to Supernatural; there are tons of varied files all over Thingiverse. I’ve made batarangs, found Star-Lord armor and boot jets, the Ironman and Thor helmets, and Star Wars files galore—helmets, blasters, etc. and so much more. If you can think it, you can probably print it.
You can even create your own files, if you are good at that sort of thing, by designing them in specialized programs like TinkerCad, 3D Tin, or Sculptris. I do not have that kind of skill, so I work with files that have already been created.
Go forth and make that technology work for you.