Printing versus… Not Printing?

After I posted about my Fan Shelf Brackets I shared it on Facebook, and got the following comment from a friend:

I’ve done that with blocks of wood. I’m not sure the 3D printer adds any value over that.

I didn’t try to add value by using my method (3D printing) over another method (cutting blocks of wood) but I wanted to explain my approach, so I did. you can read my response below:

Great comment! So here’s the deal… Sometimes printing is easier for these things, at least for me. I would need blocks of wood, and I would also need to cut the wood. Now, those things should not be too difficult, but they can be. I have a miter saw in the garage, and to use it I need to open the garage door and move my car back partway into the alley, then use the saw, then move my car back. The miter saw is okay for cutting small pieces of wood, but I don’t always feel comfortable doing that. (I don’t have a real table saw, so that’s not an option for me.)

Once I make the needed cuts I probably have to glue and clamp things, or nail/screw them together. Again, not a huge pain, but it is work. Also, I do need to have wood on hand. (Who am I kidding, I always have scrap around!)

With the printed version, I printed a small test part quickly to see if it would fit, then I printed the larger versions overnight, confident they would fit right based on my test. Since the groove is 6mm wide I would either need to cut a groove that width or stack multiple cuts/pieces and glue them together to get what I needed.

There’s always multiple ways to do things, and honestly, with two 3D printers on hand and plenty of filament, this was the easiest way for me to make this thing.

I’ve been 3D printing things for over a decade now. Have I printed things that might seem silly to print? Sure, and I’m one of those people who mostly does practical printing, not fun decorative things. I once print a shim because it was the easiest way for me to get exactly what I needed. As long as I have a 3D printer I am going to use it for all sorts of things that other people might not. If you’ve got metalworking or woodworking tools and raw materials and feel comfortable and skilled working with those, you might choose to do so. For me personally, modeling and printing a thing makes good sense, and luckily, I still enjoy it.

Note: I think it’s important to pull conversations like this out of the walled garden that is Facebook, so I may do this more often if valuable insight (!?!) warrants it.


A Little Bolt Cutter

I’ve mentioned this before, but I tend to get all my metric hardware from Bolt Depot. I’ve got a good collection of bolts, mainly 3mm, 2.5mm, and 2mm, that I use for electronics projects. I tend to get a bunch of different lengths and go for higher quantities on the more common sizes I use. This means I often don’t have a ton of really short bolts. 10mm or 12mm in length, I’ve got… 4mm to 6mm, not so much.

So last year while planning for a project that needed less than 40 really short 2mm bolts I thought about placing an order for more hardware, but realized that getting what I needed (which I probably wouldn’t use for anything else) was quite expensive when shipping was factored into the cost, so instead I got a bolt cutter!

I grabbed this TEKTON 8 Inch Bolt Cutter and it’s been super handy for making shorter bolts out of the 20mm bolts I rarely use. The description says “Cuts bolts, chain, threaded rod, and heavy gauge wire up to 3/16 in. diameter”. Conversion maths says that 3/16″ equals 4.7625mm. I’ve only used this to cut bolts 3mm or smaller in diameter and honestly even the 3mm is a little tough. But 2mm/2.5mm is just right.

Right now the 8″ cutter is $13 and the 12″ cutter is $32. I’d suggest getting the 12″ if you are okay spending that much and want to cut bolts larger than 3mm in diameter, but for the smaller stuff these 8″ cutter works well. If I’m screwing the bolt into a 3D printed part I don’t even bother fixing up the threads, as they just need to bite into the plastic. If you’re attaching a nut you’ll want to thread one one or more nuts up to the head of the bolt before you cut so you can unscrew them and clean up the threads a bit. (I’m pretty sure I learned that trick from Frankie Flood.)


Wire Holder

I made a Wire Holder. It’s like a pen holder/pencil cup but for wire of a specific length. It’s difficult to tip it over, especially if you use a high infill. Just visit PrusaPrinters to grab the files for the Wire Holder. (There’s an STL file and an OpenSCAD file available.)

I printed this on my old Monoprice Maker Select Plus, which explains the (poor) print quality. If I had printed it on the Prusa, I’m sure it would look much better. It doesn’t really need to look good though… it works, that’s what matters. (The Prusa was busy printing something more important at the time.)

Also, yes, I know… but this is for wire of a specific length.


Solder Spool Holder

I got sick of the old solder spool holder I had not really doing its job. I actually designed a nice laser-cut spool holder years ago at work but alas, I left it there when I moved on. I know you can buy spool holders, and I know you can also make you own, so I made a new one.

This is a chonky spool holder for sure! I really just designed this in about 10 minutes and then hit print before going to bed. It’s a bit more chunky than I expected but I don’t mind much. It’s also not perfect, but it’ll do for now. If I didn’t make this I would have kept using the old crappy one that I’d been using for years.

Here’s what I replaced, which I call the “crappy spool holder” because it’s make from scrap, and I slapped it together in a few minutes, and I’ve had to hot glue it back together after it broke. (I still hate MDF, BTW.)

Print your own! Grab the files from


Header Pin Snapper

Things have been busy lately. I’ve been building a lot of electronic devices and since there’s soldering and assembly involved I’ve been looking seriously at my tools. In some cases I’ve bought new (and better) tools, and in some cases I’ve looked at making my own tools. Here’s a “Header Pin Snapper” that makes it easy to get a 14 pin header from a longer strip.

I used to use a diagonal cutter to snip the pins to length, and that works fine if you do a few, but if you need to do a bunch a tool is a quick way to do it. I’m not the first to make one of these, you can also check out the Header Snapper – WHSN, the BlueBreaker, this Pin Header Snapping Tool, and a parametric pin header snap fixture, among many others… including the OctoSnap!

So I spent a few minutes making this simple device that can snap pin headers to a length of 14 pins. Exactly what I need, and it works fast. Working fast is often better than working slow. I didn’t need an adjustable one, or a customizable one, so this one fulfills my needs, but might not be useful for others.

It’s just three pieces of 3mm thick acrylic, and four 3mm x 12mm bolts along with four 3mm hex nuts. I’ve got plenty of small scraps of acrylic lying around so made two just in case I misplace one.