3D Garden Ideas

Since the wildlife is abundant in my yard, and our neighborhood HOA does not allow fences, I have moved most of my gardening to containers on my deck.

While I have been able to continue to grow my onions, hot peppers, peas, and cucumbers in my planting beds, tomatoes were problem. I thought tomatoes would be safe from the critters in the yard and for years I have grown them in planting beds in my yard. However, during the summers of 2018 and 2019, the wild turkeys would peck at them and ruin the fruit. So, at the end of 2019, I purchased a couple large Lechuza planters on clearance for growing tomatoes on my deck. Each of the planters had three removable planting boxes for easy storage in the winter.

At the time, I did not purchased the trellis system that went with the planters because they were not on clearance and would have cost more than the planters cost. Plus, I thought I would just use the tomato ladders I had used in the past when I grew the tomatoes in the planting bed in my yard. Unfortunately, when I used them last summer I discovered that these ladders were too top heavy for the new planters and the planters would tip over when we had a summer storm.

This summer, I sought other ideas for supporting my tomatoes. I originally bought a couple of the smallest tomato cages that are sold at the garden centers near me. Unfortunately, even the smallest cages were too big to fit the size of the planter boxes. So, I looked on line for other ideas. Having made other garden decorations out of copper, I considered making a couple copper trellises. But, again the cost was something that I thought was more than I wanted to spend.

A couple weeks ago, while doing laundry, I walked past my 3D printer and thought maybe I could print some type of trellis. After looking at ideas on-line, I tried out a few ideas. What I finally settled on was some fiberglass garden stakes and then designed some printed connectors that snap the stakes together. So far, they seem to be working well.

While perusing different printed gardening ideas on-line, I came across some plant labels. Did I really need labels for my plants? Well, no, I do know which plant is which. But, I liked the labels and decided to print a few.

Can’t wait to see how my garden does this year.


A 3D Christmas

Now that all of the Christmas gifts that I mailed have finally arrived and been opened, I though I would share some of the fun things I made this year. Wanting to put my 3D printer to use, I looked on-line for gift ideas I could print. I found several useful ideas. My go-to source for printing ideas is Thingiverse. They have an incredible number or free printing files.

Among Us Ornament. During our Thanksgiving family video conversation, my adult sons wanted the entire family to play an on-line game called Among Us. While I didn’t really understand the game (perhaps because I became a ghost about 15 seconds into the game), the boys seem to enjoy the game. For a creative gift, I found a pattern for making the characters from this game. Thinking that they would make nice tree ornaments, I created a remix of the pattern that had a ring on the helmet to attach some ribbon for hanging.

After printing these, I found out that there are several fun “hats” that the characters can wears. So, I decided to remix some more patterns to make some hats to fit over the ring for each. These were really fun to make.

Can Holders. I would have put individual names on each of these, but the customizer in Thingiverse was not functioning at the time that I made them. There was an existing customized file for the Green Bay Packers. So, I made several of these for family members who are Packer fans. The rest were printed without a label on the handles. These are useful for several reasons (1) keeps a cold can away from your hands, and (2) helps identify which can is yours. I made 18 of these in various colors.

Battery Boxes. In these boxes, the batteries load from the top and the ramps inside feed the batteries to the opening at the bottom of each box. I made 14 sets of these in various color combinations.

Christmas Tree. These trees store flat and add a nice decoration for a small space.

I already have some fun ideas for next Christmas.


Apple Table Runner (& Checkerboard)

With fall weather settling, a week ago, I decided to make a new table runner for my kitchen. This runner was made with apples to depict the bounty of the fall harvest. The runner turned out really nice.

After it was done, I realized that the center section could be used as a checkerboard. All I needed was some checkers.

Originally I thought about purchasing some apple shaped wooden pieces that could be painted. However, when I looked at the options available at the local craft stores, I thought I would need to do some carving of a crown on one side. This, to me, seemed like a lot of work. Then I thought about engraving a crown. This also seemed like a lot of work.

One day, while I was at work, I had a great idea – I could print checkers on my 3D printer. Using Tinkercad, I designed some apples that could be printed. I did try to make the checkers interlock so that they could be stacked for designating a King. This, however, did not turn out well. So, I went back to Tinkercad and designed an indent on one side of the checker that showed a crown. Problem solved.

Having extra fabric, I decided to make a second table runner/checkerboard. This one, I have posted on Etsy. Hopefully someone will like this item.


Child and Doll Visors.

One of the joys of working with children is when they express their joy in seeing you.  That has been especially true this summer.  For many children, a visit to the dentist has been the first trip away from home and family this summer.  For that reason, some are really excited when they come to our office.

I recently saw one of my favorite patients.  While only eight years old, she has already expressed interest in being a dentist when she grows up.  She is always excited when she comes to the office.

That was no exception this summer.  Even with all of our extra protective equipment on, she was still excited for her visit.  In fact, she was so excited, that she went home and made personal protective equipment for her doll. So sweet.

Her imagination gave me the idea to make child and doll sized face shields like the ones I was making for my office.

Since I didn’t have any young children, I used the average size head for an eight year old and adjusted my STL file.  The shield I made was 6″ in diameter and fits a head 16-20″ in circumference.

Not having any dolls around the house (the result of raising four boys), I went on Amazon and purchase a doll for myself.  Perhaps I just want something to play with.  Or, perhaps I am planning for future grandchildren.  In either case, I now have a Journey Girl doll that graces my sewing room.  Measuring the size of the head, I adjusted the STL file to make a shield that is 4″ in diameter and will fit the head of an 18-20″ doll (American Girl, Journey Girl, etc).

To complete the  PPE ensemble, I also printed appropriate sized ear savers.

After printing a Doll set and a Child set, I gifted these to my patient.  She loved them.  Her mom sent me numerous photos of her pretending to be a dentist, complete with her doll as her assistant.

Given how much she enjoyed the face shields, I thought maybe other children would enjoy being like their mom or dad, or the favorite health care worker.  Thus, I have posted these on Etsy.  If you have someone who might like a set, you can purchase at the link.



Over Thinking


I am an over thinker.  Anyone that know me will agree with this statement.  I try not to worry, for I know God is in control.  But I also try to think through things I am involved in to make sure everything goes smoothly.

When planning out a quilting project, a glass project, or a home improvement project, I spend lots of time thinking through each step.  The supplies needed, the best place to purchase those supplies, and the order to do the  project to optimize the outcome and my time spent. If there are pitfalls that might come up, I try to anticipate and have a solution before anything happens. Many things are considered even before I start working on the project.  Most times this is very beneficial.  By the time I get to actually doing the project, things usually go very smoothly.   But, this does mean that my mind is kept busy (sometimes even at 3am).

Dealing with a pandemic while being a health care provider has truly put my brain into hyper focus.  At first, my focus was on learning everything I could about the virus, recalling things I learned in my grad school classes, and updating my virology knowledge.

Early on, one of my other big concerns was dealing with shortages of supplies needed to run our dental clinic.  Since February, we had been dealing with a severe shortage of surgical masks and gloves.  Being a dentist, many of the procedures we perform create an aerosol.  This meant that we now needed access to N95 masks and face shields – a nearly impossible task.  Looking high and low, none were to be found when we first started looking mid-March.


In my many on-line searches for sources for masks and face shields, I read various articles about 3D printed masks and face shields.  Based upon this, as I mentioned in an early post (April 23, 2020), I ordered a Prusa 3D printer with the intent of printing things needed for my office.

While waiting for the printer to arrive, I spent time evaluating different designs to try.  Once the printer did arrived, with my prioritized list, I started printing.

Knowing that N95 masks were going to be critical, that was where I started.  Having evaluated several designs, I settled on printing one that looked the easiest to use.

This design incorporated a piece of HEPA filter cut out of a vacuum cleaner bag.  The design printed well and fit my face fairly well.  It did take nearly 14 hours to print and use a lot of filament.  My main concern was with the seal along the face.  Because the mask was rigid, it needed to be extremely tight to create a complete seal.  I considered placing some type of foam along the edge to create a softer seal.  But, ultimately decided that this design would be difficult to put into use.  Every mask would need to be custom fitted to the user.  This would have involved hours on the computer design and adapting the pattern to each face.  And, the cost for printing the mask would be about $10 each.  A lot of time and money spent.

I had also read an idea about using a vacuform machine to make more flexible mask using the 3D printed mask as a model.  A vacuform machine is used to make custom fitted mouthguards, bleaching tray, etc out of a heat melted thermoplastic material.  I decided to give this a try.  I spent a day at my office pouring up models of the mask and trying several different approaches.  Ultimately, I could not get any of the masks that I vacuformed to have enough detail to attach a HEPA filter to.  So, this idea was also discarded.

Next, I went on to a third mask idea.  This idea was to create some type of frame that could go over a surgical mask.  We use surgical masks for every patient we treat, so we have these (although they are still in short supply and are now incredibly expensive).  The difference between an N95 mask and a surgical mask is not in the filtration ability, but rather in the fit to the face.  An N95 mask is rated at 95% efficiency for particles greater than 0.1 microns.  These mask fit snugly against the face to keep aerosols from getting around the edge. A surgical mask is rated at 98% efficiency for particles greater than 0.1 microns, however they are not form fitted to the face.  They are effective against droplets (which is much of what we deal with in dentistry).  But, they are not effective against aerosols (which can leak around the edges of the mask).  So, if there was a way to make a surgical mask fit snugly against the face, that would be an excellent alternative to an N95 mask.


I search the internet and found a couple ideas.  These “face frames” were usually referred to as exoskeleton (meaning a skeleton outside the body).  I printed a couple ideas and tried them out.  The one I thought might be the best, did not work well at all. But, one of the simpler designs worked well.  The first time I printed one, the arch over the nose was too tall for my face.  I minor adjustment on the design, a second printing and I had a face frame that fit snug but comfortable (except for the pull on my ears) and sealed the mask to my face extremely well.  To test it, I pulled out several of my liquid flavorings for baking and I was unable to smell any of them through the mask.  I would love to have an official mask fit test done on the face frame.  But, unfortunately, since I am an “unauthorized manufacturer” the fit testers will not evaluate them.  I have purchase a fit test kit for my office (it’s on backorder, like everything medical is), but when the test kit arrives, I will be testing this frame!  We have received several official N95 masks that we will be using when creating aerosols.  These face frames will be for general clinic staff use when no aerosol is involved.

CaptureThe next thing that I decided to print were visors for face shields.  One of my partners had received a few 3D printed visors that he and one of our assistants used when treating an trauma patient.  They both like the design, so I decided to print the same pattern.  A couple hours on-line and I was able to located a source for the clear shield material.  Problem solved – we now have a dozen shields at each of our office.  More can be printed if needed.

Thanks to the Minnesota Board of Dentistry, we were able to obtain a few N95 masks.  Because they are in extremely short supply, we will be reusing these.  To protect the exterior surface from splatter contamination, we will wear a surgical mask as an over mask.  This will allow us to reuse the mask perhaps up to 20 times (the mask will be stored for 5 day to allow the any pathogens to die).

With our protocol, all of the clinic staff will be wearing two mask – either an N95 covered by a surgical mask, or a surgical mask and face frame covered by another surgical mask.  With two masks on, there is a lot of pressure placed on the ears.  So, the final thing I printed were “Ear Savers”.  There are a lot of designs available. I selected three that I though gave a broad range of uses for the different preferences the staff may have.  One had a hole for a pony tail, one was longer for wear higher on the head, and one was a much shorter version for employees with smaller heads.

When combined as a set (visor, face frame and ear saver) the printing takes 3 hours 17 minutes for each.  I have printed 12 sets for my husbands offices, 36 sets for my three offices and 10 sets for a few dentist friends.  All together, that’s nearly 200 hours of printing.

A lot of thought, perhaps even overthinking, has gone into this endeavor.  But, it has truly paid off.  Today was staff training for my husband’s office and for small group of my staff.  Everything went really well.  Phase I of patient care also started this afternoon with two patients.

It was a successful day on many levels.  Our staff were truly wonderful in training, understanding and embracing our new infection control protocol, including using these new pieces of PPE.  Patient care has been resumed, albeit on a small scale, but today marked the return to helping at least a few kids who really needed it.  Tomorrow is another day and each day we will be slowing getting used to our “New Normal” and continue to provide dental care to little kiddos.

I am blessed also to know that I do not need to over think things that are out of my control.  I will sleep well tonight knowing that God is in control and all will be well.


Frogs – In the Garden (& Clinic?)


For those that are unaware, I am a pediatric dentist by profession.  I work with a group of seven doctors and 37 staff.  Nearly all of the procedures we perform (tooth cleanings, filling, crowns, etc) create an aerosol.  This is problematic in the current viral pandemic because the aerosol could put everyone at risk.  So, we know we will need to change our PPE (personal protective equipment) when we reopen our practice.

Because all of the PPE is being directed to medical facilities, as a dentist, it is nearly impossible to obtain face shields and masks.  In anticipation of this being a problem, when my son came home from NYC, I spent some time talking with him about 3D printers and how to use one to make our own masks and face shields.  I am very fortunate that, as an architecture student, he has lots of experience with several types of printers.

With his help, several weeks ago I purchased a Prusa printer kit. I ordered a kit for two reasons.  First, it was less expensive and I could get a better printer for less cost.  And, more importantly, the cost of the kit was just below the limit for having to pay import duties.  The kit took 18 days to arrive.  I am really glad I ordered when I did, because the estimate now is 5-6 weeks.

When the kit arrived, we needed to build the printer.  Okay, to be honest, it was mostly my son who put it together.  But, I did do a couple hours of the process.  The kit was like trying to build a house sold by IKEA!  The manual for putting it together was 225 pages long.  Fortunately the directions and photos were excellent.


It was exciting when the build was completed.  The first thing we printed was one of the sample files that came with the printer.  It was a tree frog.

Since the plan is to print things for use in my dental office, I wanted to verify that the printed items could be sterilized in our office steam autoclave.  I took the frog to one of my offices and tested it in the  autoclave.  The plastic filament was not impacted by the heat or the steam.  However, I forgot that the frog was printed as a hollow form with air trapped inside.  So, when the air heated up and expanded, it caused the belly of the frog to pop out.  I now have a pregnant looking frog!!.  This should not be a problem with the other items I plan to print because they do not have a large space with trapped air.

I am in the process of testing out different face shield and mask ideas.  I’ll give an update on those in a few days.


In the meantime, and keeping with the frog theme, I thought I would give some information about a new piece of garden art that is in my flower bed.  Over the winter, one of the glass projects I made was a really cute frog.

The construction of this was somewhat similar to the turtle that I made last summer (July 14, 2019 post). It has a copper understructure with copper wire legs soldered and the glass attached to the copper.  When making it, I didn’t want to mess around with creating a custom slumping mold to “shape” the frog.  So, I left the glass flat.  Once the flowers start growing, I think this will be really cute in my garden.

Who knew there were so many inspirational quotes about frogs (google it and see for yourself)!