Maker 12.5 – A 3D Printed Vintage Sailboat Floats the Filament Sea

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Photo: Paul Bunch

Photo: Paul Bunch

I love the romance of wooden sailboats. They are a wonderful marriage of art and science; each one crafted by a maker’s hands, the design influenced by scientific interaction of wind, wood, and water, creating a form mathematically and aesthetically beautiful.

There is a sailboat I have always wanted to build for myself, the Herreshoff 12 ½-footer. Originally designed by “The Wizard of Bristol” N.G Herreshoff and first built in 1914, this boat has become the archetype of small, wooden sailboat design. Inspired by the elegant lines, Joel White, a modern naval architect, developed a shallow water version with a retractable centerboard, named Haven 12 ½. Mr. White’s willingness to take a fresh look at this sailboat rekindled a huge interest in the vintage design. Soon, a new generation of professional and amateur boat builders began constructing Havens in workshops and garages around the world using modern techniques and materials, while staying true to Herreshoff’s charming daysailer lines.

Unfortunately, due to the time, materials, and cost involved in building a full-sized boat, I had accepted that my dream would probably never be realized. Thanks to inspiration from the #makeitfloat challenge on Thingiverse, I decided to put a fresh twist on this boat using desktop 3D design and printing methods. My boat dreams were going to become real, just on a smaller scale.

I started scouring the web for images to use as visual references for the printed sailboat. Not surprisingly, I had to revise the boat’s details to accommodate the size, printability, and purpose for which my design was intended in the same way Joel White reinterpreted, yet respected, Herreshoff’s classic design.

bo1

With this in mind, I crafted parts to take advantage of the surfaces created by the process of filament 3d printing. I wasn’t going to hide the filament. I was going to feature it. The arcs created by the sweep of the printer head across the layers of sail and hull echo the gently curved forms underneath. I used a translucent PLA with a natural, warm tone for the entire boat. When the light danced over the surface, the PLA took on a glow as if lit from within. Even the “wooden” parts were laid out so a grained texture would appear once permanent marker was applied.

Before the CAD process was one quarter completed, the CAM process began. I used Simplify3d 3.0, my 3d printing software suite, to begin slicing STL part files and parsing out G-code to my trusty Makergear M2 printer. As the first prints emerged, I could take them in hand to evaluate any CAD tweaking needed while the next set was printing. The printing time of a part ranged from minutes to hours depending on the size and features. Once a print started, I could keep designing other assemblies in Rhino3d. This game of CAD and CAM leapfrog repeated with design and production working in parallel until the model was completely printed and I was on to the final assembly.bo2

Quickly turning virtual designs into a physical product is one of the most rewarding aspects of 3d printing. I have a professional background as a craftsman, spending decades designing and hand making fine furniture and elegant jewelry. As a child, I was never able to create using a paintbrush, but with a ruler and pencil I was golden. Now I reach for the mouse quicker than the ruler, but any chance to push my chair away from the keyboard and stand at the workbench is a welcomed change. So with patient hands, time, tape, and superglue, a 15” tall sailboat took shape on my workbench, putting me one step closer to owning the boat I had always wanted. Even better, I managed to do it in around 1% of the time and .005% of the cost of the real thing.

With a nod to its digital heritage, I christened my vessel the ‘Maker 12.5‘ and with a steady puff of air she sailed her maiden voyage across the bathtub.

Inspired by my success, I could feel the wheels turning in my head already. Wouldn’t it be fun to detail out the interior of the cockpit? Don’t you think the rudder and tiller should move? Do you know if you sit the model on a surface without the bottom of the hull glued it looks like it is floating in water? Do you think you’ll need to print many for holiday gifts? Yes to all! The Makergear’s print head had barely cooled and already, a Maker 12.5.2 was in the works!

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