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Project Lab: How to make a raised-letter sign with a 3D printer

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One of the greatest parts of making something is that feeling you get when you finally finish the project. The sanding is done, the paint is dry, and now you can sit and admire your work.

Unfortunately, I’m likely never going to get that feeling on one of my latest projects. Instead, after four months of sanding, painting, scraping, sanding and painting all over again, I boxed up my incomplete work and dropped it in the mail, to be ferried off to a land thousands of miles away.

But that’s totally OK. Instead, I get to “virtually” experience that feeling via beautiful video footage of the finished project: A 3D-printed, raised-letter sign for Piotr Tocyznski of the Cut the Point YouTube channel.

Piotr, who lives in Poland, is a video editor friend who I met through a Video Creators course online. After admiring his work for a while, I decided to pitch a collaboration project: We’d create a DIY/maker video production tips video for his channel and a Cut to the Point logo sign for mine. I’d use my new 3D printer to create the letters, both as a test of the machine’s capabilities and as a way to save weight on shipping over wood. Then I’d send just the letters to him in a small package so he could assemble the final sign himself. He agreed, and it was a blast working together.

His video turned out great, for the record. Even for those who aren’t video editors, I’d argue that Piotr makes very entertaining videos. You can find his side of the collaboration here.

Cut to the Point sign

I think my project turned out awesome, as well, though it wasn’t always that way. At one point, it was merely “fine,” largely because of the restrictions set by winter in Wisconsin. I started working on this in December, and therefore couldn’t easily spray paint in my subzero garage, so I instead decided to just use a brush, figuring it’d be good enough. But nope! The darker letters looked OK, but the lighter yellow ones had glaring brush marks.

After much procrastination, I took those figures back down to the plastic, built a makeshift spray-paint booth for my basement, and vented the fumes outside.

And it worked! Well enough for this small spray-painting job, anyway. I ended up with an impossibly smooth finish, in comparison.

Eventually, the letters made it to Poland, safe and sound. Piotr did a great job of putting it all together. And he gave me some amazing video footage out of the deal. I feel like I’ve learned a lot just from looking at the way a different artist treats my materials, making this collaboration worth it for that alone. But it’s also good to have made a friend along the way.

Maybe I’ll see the completed sign in person someday, after all.

See the full build in the video above. 

Wisconsinite Andy Reuter writes and shoots video about whatever DIY project is holding his attention at the time. For more, follow him on Instagram, find him on Twitter, or subscribe to his channel on YouTube.

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