As 3D printing is becoming more common, I’m tempted to buy a 3D printer for use in minis, but the technology is too new (and too over my head) for me to feel comfortable being a guinea pig early adopter. I recently bought some 1:24 scale 3D printed furniture from Pretty Small Things and Shapeways, two stores that do the printing for you, and thought I’d post about the experience for miniaturists who are on the fence.

I placed my Pretty Small Things order around Thanksgiving, when they had a Black Friday sale — discounted prices plus free shipping plus a grab bag if you spent over a certain amount. It looks like their half scale inventory is still discounted, which I hope doesn’t mean they’re trying to clear it out for good.

I bought six “Moderne Dog Bone” chairs, a console table, and a little stool. They’re all made from relatively smooth white plastic.

The grab bag included six tables made from a rougher, off-white plastic. I think these were seconds or prototypes the seller was trying to get rid of. Right after I opened the package, I dropped the coffee table on the floor and one of the legs broke off, but I was able to glue it back on. Lesson learned, though — these are delicate, especially when dropped on a hardwood floor!

I’m thinking of using the Moderne chairs in the rowhouse kitchen, but I need a table to go with them. I want something modern, maybe with a glass top. I plan to paint the chairs, maybe with green seats and backs to match the cabinets and silver “metal” legs.

And here are some of the freebie end tables in various settings. Obviously they’ll have to be painted, too. I haven’t tried painting any of this stuff yet but will start with one of the end tables as an experiment, before moving onto the chairs.

I was happy with what I bought from Pretty Small Things and will shop there again if they expand their half scale offerings. (They also have a large selection quarter scale, some of which I wish they’d bring out in half scale…)

Shapeways was a bit more daunting. Unlike Pretty Small Things, which just sells miniature furniture, Shapeways offers 3D printed items in a bunch of different categories. From what I can tell, individual designers upload their designs, which then get printed out at the time of your order (unlike Pretty Small Things which prints their furniture in small batches and sells off the inventory before printing more).

When I searched the site for 1:24 in the Miniatures category there were almost 10,000 products to look through! Not all are dollhouse furniture, but even so, there are way more options than I’m used to seeing in half scale furniture. This site also has items from Pretty Small Things, including some that aren’t on their own website.

I was specifically looking for a modern desk chair for the Rosedale’s home office. Some of the items on the site had photos of the finished product but most were renders, so I wasn’t sure what I’d be getting. I picked out three chairs, figuring at least one would turn out okay.

I selected a different material for each of them to see what the differences were: Black Strong & Flexible plastic for the office chair, Polished Alumide for the Curved Bentwood Arm Chair, and White Strong & Flexible Polished for the Plastic Scoop Chair. Shipping for the three items cost a flat rate of $6.50.

The next day I got an email saying that my Curved Bentwood Arm Chair couldn’t be printed in the material I selected. Apparently they don’t test these things before listing them and sometimes find during printing that the design isn’t sturdy enough. Shapeways removed the chair from my order and gave me a store credit with the option to write back and request a PayPal refund. I did that, then a few hours later it occurred to me to ask if the chair could be printed in a different material and added back into my order. They wrote back to confirm another material would be okay, and gave me a $6.50 shipping credit so I could re-order the chair without having to pay for shipping again. This time I ordered in Alumide (which was supposed to be like the Polished Alumide I ordered previously, but not as shiny). All in all it was a very good customer service experience that totally made up for the uncertainty of not being quite sure what I’d end up with.

(I just noticed that the Curved Bentwood Arm Chair and the Plastic Scoop Chair are no longer available in the materials I got. That makes me wonder if they realized after printing mine that they’re super delicate, but they sent them to me anyway.)

The chairs I ordered are above, along with one of the Pretty Small Things Moderne chairs for comparison. The black material has some dull spots at the corners that I could touch up with paint, but I think when the chair’s in the room you won’t even notice. I’ll probably paint the other two in some way… maybe just a black base on the silver chair… but since I decided to use the black chair in the Rosedale I’ll put those aside until I have a use for them.

My initial reaction is that these are slightly smaller than half scale. Here’s one of them next to a couple of half scale rocking chairs. Of course, since these designs are uploaded by different designers, there can’t really be an expectation of consistency from one product to the next. Next time I’ll pay closer attention to the dimensions. (That being said, all three of these chairs were from the same designer – tisch.)

All three were too low for the desk I built for the Rosedale’s office, so I had to make modifications to the desk to shorten it. I’ll post about that in another blog, but for now here’s a sneak peek.

And finally, here’s the chair next to the Playmobile office chair I was planning to use in this room. I think we can all agree it’s a big improvement!

I’ll probably order from Shapeways again — I have my eye on this Eames chair — but unfortunately most of the half scale furniture I found there are chairs and I just don’t need that many chairs. I hope their designers will branch out… I think this would be a great method to make kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures, for example.